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To help make sense of some of the most important consumer and industry twists and turns poised to play out in the coming months, we enlisted Karen Fichuk, president, North America for Nielsen, to share a glimpse of what is swirling in her sagacious crystal ball for 2016.
The observations shared below are part of a longer conversation we had with Fichuk in late 2015, additional insights from which will appear in my Last Word editorial commentary in PG's January 2016 issue.
PG: What do you anticipate will be the overall most important trends – both consumer and industry – that will play out in 2016?
KAREN FICHUK: We look at trends along three perspectives: How are consumers shopping? What are consumers buying? And how can marketers stay on top of it?
From a shopping perspective, connected commerce is not something that’s new to 2016, but will play an increasingly important role in the CPG industry in 2016 and beyond. What do I mean by connected commerce? I don’t just mean e-commerce. The concept of connected commerce speaks to the convergence of bricks and clicks – be it online research and offline purchasing or offline research and online purchasing.
Even in the CPG space, retailers and manufacturers are advancing offline and online synergies, focused on figuring out how to develop strategies to make them work harder for each other. Whether it’s making a shopping list online and pulling it up on your mobile phone as you’re walking through the aisles at the store; or actually making the purchase online but picking it up curbside at the store or searching for recipes and creating a shopping list from the ingredients, all of these things converge the online and offline world into a single experience for the consumer.
PG: What are the most significant anticipated shifts you see on the front burners?
FICHUK: Health and wellness continues to influence consumer buying behavior and has served as a growth driver for many CPG categories. What we really started to uncover this year and which we anticipate will play into 2016 is the distinction between 20th and 21st century H&W trends. The shift is profound. From a mindset of low fat, no sugar to gluten-free and organic, products that were once considered healthy are now under scrutiny as being unhealthy. The scale has shifted where full fat has grown in popularity; consumers now perceive sugar as better than sugar alternatives.
In fact, products with at least one 21st century H&W attribute are growing at 5.8 percent versus 0.2 percent for those which don’t. Conventional grocers are bringing these products onto the shelves with mainstream products – not just in a separate section of the store anymore. And the drivers of these shifting trends are the changing consumer demographics.
Beyond health and wellness, Millennials also care about the environment and sustainability, and local and organic has risen in proportionate importance and thus reflects the way Millennials are shopping. In the grocery sector, this trend plays out in all aspects of the store, as affirmed by ample research, the most recent of which is a Harris Poll survey which finds 63 percent of Millennials valuing a local label in the meat department.
PG: What other critical adaptations do you foresee for food retailers in the next 12-18 months?
FICHUK: For 2016, we see a continued shift toward digital – especially as marketers figure out how to attract consumers and drive a bigger return on their investment in the coming year. Digital is able to provide the personalization that is not only desirable by consumers, but also made possible by big data and programmatic advertising.
Did you know that 67 percent of adults are now addressable online? This gives companies a chance to connect one-to-one with their consumers. At Nielsen, we are focused on not only bringing all the data together, but also on analytics and activation. It’s not about every data point available, but more about which ones matter and how to execute them.
PG: Finally, what does this mean for your organization in the coming year?
FICHUK: We’re focused on strengthening not only our measurement capabilities in this space, but digital strategies and understanding the digital path to purchase as well. We’re currently investing in technology and developing [innovative] alliances and relationships with leading companies. In fact, you’ll hear more about our e-commerce measurement [platform] which will launch in just a few weeks.