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4 Shopper Trends to Watch

Nielsen’s Hale tells convenience-store retailers to ‘get your apps moving’

CHICAGO -- Todd Hale, a Nielsen consultant and principal of Todd Hale LLC, doesn’t just examine the current state of the retail market, but uses the data to predict what’s in store for years to come. No surprise, Nielsen data suggests the e-commerce channel will be the “big winner” in terms of growth, growing 12% annually between now and 2020.

mobile apps loyalty

The good news is the convenience-store channel comes in at No. 2 in terms of projected growth—not exactly a leap given that convenience dwarfs other channels in growth, having added 30,000 locations since 2001.

“How well you’ve done historically suggests you’ll do well in the future,” Hale said during his NACS State of the Industry (SOI) Summit session. “But that’s no guarantee.”

Here are four shopper trends Hale suggests c-store retailers look at to better set themselves up for 2016 and beyond:

1. Wellness claims: Products featuring some kind of wellness claim are outpacing retail growth. Nielsen data shows products with organic claims grew dollar sales by 14% year over year as of December 2015 vs. 2% dollar growth across all products. Over the past year, the top five growing claims included “grain free” (up 87%), “amaranth” (up 77%), “chia” (up 59%), “grass fed” (up 59%) and “cage free” (up 44%).

That said, Hale warned: “Real growth comes from innovation, not just changing labels.”

2. Menu transparency: Chipotle, McDonald's and even Taco Bell provide consumers the opportunity to “Build Your Meal” on their websites, which provides nutritional information and even diet and allergen filters. Of all the trends, Hale was most ambivalent about what effect—if any—menu transparency is having on consumer behavior, given that it’s very easy to rack up the calories, fat and sodium at somewhere like McDonald's, but the chain is still doing very well.

“Are consumers actually paying attention?” he said. “I’m not sure there’s any harm or benefit.”

3. Click and collect: As e-commerce continues to grow “click-and-collect” programs such as Whole Foods’ Instacart and Peapod by Giant (which allow consumers to preorder and pay for their groceries, then pick them up at the store or even a metro station) have garnered quite a bit of support from busy consumers.

“There’s a lot of interest, but there’s an impact,” Hale said, noting that click-and-collect programs mean less store trips and, typically, a higher cost for retailers. “But it’s something you need to look into.”

4. Mobile apps: The biggest trend on Hale’s radar is the takeoff of mobile apps and payments, with a 2015 Nielsen survey suggesting more than 50% of consumers would be willing to use hand-held scanners, in-store computers, in-store Wi-Fi, scanned QR codes, mobile coupons, mobile shopping lists and loyalty apps.

“Interest is really high, even if usage isn’t there yet,” said Hale. “It’s a trend, it’s happening.”

And it’s going to continue to happen, with Nielsen projecting global mobile spending to grow 300% between 2014 and 2018.

“It’s really time to get your apps moving,” said Hale. “It’s the way of the future.”

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