Brands should be excited, and afraid, of the new-gen consumer

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Dion Chang, trends analyst and the founder of Flux Trends.
Dion Chang, trends analyst and the founder of Flux Trends.

Businesses looking to expand their market should consider paying attention to specific groupings of consumers, or tribes.

This was the word from Dion Chang, a trends analyst and the founder of Flux Trends, who was speaking during the third annual RCS Retail Summit 2019 at the end of June.

Chang drew from the findings of Flux’s 2018 consumer trends report New Urban Tribes of South Africa - Consciously Diverse, and added in a few additional insights based on their work in 2019 so far.

The aim of the Flux Trends study is to offer a different perspective around how brands view and target consumers. Modern consumer tribes are driven by social purpose, explained Chang, and this has a real impact on their interactions with the world they live in and on the commercial industries they choose to support.

The Preventionists

For example, one of the tribes Chang discussed is dubbed ‘The Preventionists’. They are a group of women across all life stages – from first-time moms to grannies – who are starting to take a keen interest in health and fitness.

“You must have noticed that there has be a real shift when it comes to fitness, as more and more brands start to target the female market,” he said. And this goes beyond `just shrinking and pinking’ products.

This tribe has emerged largely due to a rise in the popularity of women’s sport. In addition to this, we’re also seeing a change in how older generations of women are perceived and targeted when it comes to health and wellness.

Older women no longer want to be seen as frail, fragile and incapable, as they’re more active, fashionable and hip than ever before, he continued. If your business isn’t health- and fitness-focussed, that doesn’t mean you can’t speak to this tribe.

There are so many opportunities to target this consumer tribe in creative ways. Take travel as an example. Chang said we’re seeing more and more smart travel businesses putting together packages based on people’s fitness levels. These brands are increasingly realising that they can speak to ‘Preventionist’ customers by incorporating sport or exercise into their travel experiences. Think climbing Kilmanjaro as part of your game-viewing trip across Tanzania, or cycling segments of the Tour de France in between eating croissants and sipping coffee on the Champs-Élysées.

Some businesses may look at an example like this and think that grouping consumers into such specific tribes is actually rather exclusionary, but Chang disagrees. He said the idea is not to exclude anyone, but rather to include segments of the population that were previously ignored entirely. So, it’s a bit like the customer value pendulum is swinging in the opposite generation.

Say hello to Generation Alpha

Forget about Millennials – any conversation around consumer tribes should feature Generation Z and what Chang describes as Generation Alpha.

“Generation Z are the first true digital natives; their brains are mapped in a different way. They don’t know a world without smartphones, Google or the Internet.”

And Generation Alpha are the children of Millennials. “If we consider Generation Z to be the true digital natives, then God help us because I just don’t know what to expect from these guys,” he joked.

What consumer businesses need to remember is that these generations don’t wait around to ask questions; they’re more than comfortable just searching for the information they need online. As such, they need to be taught differently and brands need to interact with them and sell to them in a very different way.

Finishing off his presentation with a video about several child fashionistas who are using Instagram to showcase their sartorial flair and are setting trends in the process, Chang quipped: “Brands should be excited, but they also should be very, very afraid.”

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