Today's consumer craves trust, speed and visibility

Kelly Mooney, the CEO of Resource, sat down for a chat with Kit Yarrow, PhD, consumer psychologist at Golden Gate University, to discuss the psychology behind today's shopper at an afternoon session of the Summit.

In Yarrow's recent book, "Decoding the New Consumer Mind: How and Why We Shop and Buy," she set out to uncover why there seems to be a disconnect between what retailers are offering and what consumers want to buy.

What Yarrow found is that today's consumer, living in a fast-paced technological world, responds differently to marketing cues than the shopper of 10 years ago. And what stood out is the emotional factor behind their purchase decisions, which largely plays into the issue of trust.

"Consumers become self-reliant because they don't think they can trust," said Yarrow. In fact, research conducted with millennials shows that the demographic would rather trust their own phone or Internet research than a person in a store.

Not to mention that today's consumer does not differentiate the online from offline world. Therefore, it benefits retailers to bring these two worlds together. "It's all molded together for them, but they don't have that same experience when they go into the marketplace," Yarrow said, describing millennial complaints about retail. "When consumers don't feel like a retail brand is consistent, it just compounds that lack of trust that already exists. Consumers end up feeling tricked, so integration is key."

Yarrow revealed to the audience three big, socio-cultural shifts that need to be reflected in retail. One, rewired brains that have a need for speed. Today's costumer skims more, is superficial and has less tolerance for processing. So if there is no immediate reward, the person moves on. The good news for retailers is that "shopping will always be popular because people get bored with products and want new ones quickly," she added.

The second big shift is radical individualism. "People are lonelier and less connected," said Yarrow, which leads to feeling isolated and not being seen. So retailers and brands that can make a consumer feel heard and noticed will gain market share.

The final shift is that almost 50 percent of the population reports having elevated anxiety. "The key lesson to take here," said Yarrow, "is rather than adding new products into the mix, think about what you can take away from people who are anxious and angry." Also, make sure to build trust so consumers don't feel like they're being taken advantage of.

See all of FierceRetail's 2014 coverage here.

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