The consumer is your boss: all 7.5 billion of them

More from 2017

View coverage of, held in L.A. Sept. 25-27, 2017, on the event recap page.

Like any good employee, you want to make a good impression on your boss. And if you’re a great employee, you want to impress them so much they keep you around — and maybe give you a promotion one day. You anticipate your boss’s needs, always prepare for new tasks and do all you can to go above and beyond.

Sticking to the strategies of predecessors and keeping your head down isn’t going to make you a rising star at your company. It’s not going to get retailers — who have billions of bosses in terms of consumers — anywhere, either.

Keeping those thoughts in mind, GDR Creative Intelligence founder and CEO Kate Ancketill provided strategies for the industry to get ahead of consumer problems and the need to “surprise and delight” during a session called “7.5 Billion Bosses Consumers Are in Charge Now” at NRF’s conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Using data from NRF’s new Consumer View quarterly report on consumer trends and her own perspective into industry trends, Ancketill connected the dots on how consumers interact with retailers along their path to purchase and how they are putting themselves in charge.

For retailers to best capitalize on these trends, Ancketill said it comes down to building authentic, trusting relationships — similar to those in boss-employee situations. Ancketill’s recommendations for retailers include:  

  • Tailor products and services to the implicit needs of the consumer. Brands should consider their customers’ needs and provide offerings to solve their problems.  
  • Involve the consumer in your process. Through crowdsourcing ideas or providing opportunities to provide input or customization, consumers feel more of a connection, if not a bit of ownership, over the products and brand success. 
  • Be an authentic brand. Consumers, especially younger generations, are looking for brands that genuinely reflect their own values. Today’s consumers can see through false or forced attempts to make a connection.
  • Build trust through transparency. Consumers have the internet at their fingertips, and expect to have access to the information they want. When it comes to making a purchase, access to a retailer’s supply chain or background on the product can help spur the purchase decision. Without it, a retailer can give the impression of hiding something. 

Many brands are meeting these recommendations in innovative ways. Frilly offers shoppers customizable clothing, literally tailoring its products to the needs of its customers. Cotopaxi, which calls its business “innovative outdoor gear with positive social impact,” is taking authenticity to the core of its brand. Rather than just selling outdoor gear, Cotopaxi offers outdoor adventures and a portion of its proceeds are donated to help alleviate poverty.

Ancketill’s portrayal of this new, demanding “boss” stems from the insight that truly understanding consumers’ behavior means looking at more than their shopping habits. Consumer trust is declining in major institutions such as nonprofits, business, media and government, she said, but the trend of general distrust in these systems provides opportunities for retailers to distinguish themselves as trustworthy and authentic.