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Nielsen highlights future trends in product innovation

nielsen-profiles_0As we enter a new decade, brands, suppliers and retail industry experts are looking ahead to the innovation that will occur over the next 10 years.

“With constant evolution of channel, competitive and consumer environments, marketers are being forced to think differently in order to compete,” said Jenny Frazier, senior vice president of Nielsen BASES, the product innovation discipline within Nielsen. “Over the next decade, expect to see remarkable shifts in innovation strategies to accommodate a new age of conscious, connected and unconventional consumption.”

The next decade of product innovation will bring these trends, according to Nielsen:

Conventional product innovation is no longer about being first to market — Innovation now extends to identifying a brand’s larger purpose, for connecting with more discerning and fickle consumers. There is no single path to innovation success, and successful innovation can come in many forms: some could be disruptive game changers, some could be launched to fend off competitive pressure and some might be launched with the idea of tapping into an emerging consumer trend.

Brands will innovate in a heightened world of product disloyalty — Today’s consumers are alternatively bombarded and empowered by choice. They are also more disloyal than ever before, with one third of U.S. consumers claiming to be less loyal to products today than they were five years ago, and nearly half indicating they are actively looking for new products. This serves as a challenge for legacy brands and products, but it can be resolved by bold innovation.

Product packaging as we know it will be reimagined by 2030 — This could include refillable, dissolvable, plantable, food waste-based or other kinds of packaging. As consumers continue to prioritize sustainability, companies will remake the materials used to create their packaging, but also leverage packaging as a vehicle to reinforce authenticity. For some, product packaging will stand as a brand’s badge of commitment toward a more sustainable way of living.

Convenience with a conscience will emerge — The rise of the on-the-go lifestyle has prompted a surge in innovation within prepackaged, single-serve food offerings. More innovation is likely to occur in this sector, particularly within the fresh, refrigerated spaces, such as locally sourced hard boiled eggs for snacking. Additionally, this trend is rising parallel to the backlash against single-use plastic and a movement toward increased sustainability. Innovation will need to push convenience driven items like single serve offerings, from product formulations to packaging, to be more sustainable.

Generational preferences are breaking from tradition, marking an opportunity for innovators to rethink product norms — Interesting shifts are occurring at the opposite ends of the generational spectrum. Baby Boomers are changing the script by keeping youthful interests, staying active and taking on aging like no other generation has done before, while Generation Alpha is being raised with more mature, sophisticated tastes — at least according to foods, Nielsen found. Over the next decade products geared toward older generations will be more youthful and products aimed at the youngest generation will seem more mature.

Innovating for social commerce will rise — The era of creating photogenic products for Instagram and other social sites will continue, but the rise of social commerce will push the envelope for product innovators even further. Companies will have an increased opportunity to create limited edition, exclusive offerings specific for social commerce over the next decade. This will create new ways to engage with customers, enabling even more personalized products for targeted consumers and social communities.

Global textures and flavors will continue to inspire — Multicultural influences will guide the next decade of innovation as consumers continue to look for culinary experiences. Innovation in textures is prime for expansion, as seen with the mainstream popularity of food textures like mochi ice cream and boba drinks. Additionally, new global flavor innovations will continue to emerge, reaching new depths of spicy, savory and sour. Innovators will tap into more global tastes and trends for inspiration over the next decade, meeting the growing consumer need for experiential foods.

An increase in inclusive innovations will emerge — Product innovators will rise to the challenge to create products that are more inclusive, catering to consumers and communities across gender lines, abilities and ages. Additionally, brands will return to a more binary state, with less concentration on marketing unnecessary, genderized, household products and an increased focus on efficacy and authenticity.

Memorable mash-ups — Brand mash-ups will continue to draw attention, with some playing into the enduring appeal of nostalgia.

Products will test the boundaries of staple substitutions — Innovation in plant-based proteins has upended the protein space. As consumers continue to show interest in sustainable substitutes, companies will respond by continuing to innovate in this space, expanding to new categories across the store.

Originally published at Convenience Store News. 


How to manage assortment to cater to all generations

z-1027224_960_720Gen Z is challenging today’s product offering in convenience stores. Comprising 32% of the global population, 18- to 24-year-olds have influenced the rise in production of snack and convenience items, according to a report from Packaged Facts. However, the snacks Gen Z wants are not the products of the generations before them — they’re looking for healthy options.

As consumer consumption habits continue to shift and create rifts across generational lines, convenience store retailers should consider adjusting their product assortments to meet the varied demands of changing shopper segments.

By gaining a deeper understanding of consumer preferences to tailor assortments at individual store levels, retailers can simultaneously cater to Gen Z’s habits and meet the needs of other generations.

However for most, creating tailored assortments seems to represent more work and more effort than is feasibly possible.

KEEPING PACE WITH CHANGING CONSUMER PREFERENCES

For years, retailers have managed their assortments based on historical sales data, but this method alone isn’t conducive to making decisions that will benefit current customers and increase transaction size and profitability. Relying primarily on historical sales data inflates SKU counts, causes inaccurate forecasts and leads to inventory issues (such as overstocks and out-of-stocks), leading to decreased customer satisfaction or even lost customers.

As evidenced by Gen Z’s differing habits from other generations, retailers must also be aware of customers’ product preferences and buying behaviours now and in the future — as nuanced or fast-paced as they might be. With artificial intelligence (AI), retailers can leverage customer data, understand trends and predict future behaviors for assortments, pricing, loyalty and demand.

INCORPORATING CUSTOMER DATA INTO ASSORTMENTS

Strategically managing assortments based on consumer preferences will improve the shopping experience while growing transaction sizes and profitability. AI interprets customer behaviors to give retailers in-depth understanding of how and why shoppers choose the products they purchase.

With this insight, assortments and shelf plans can then be used to enhance the customer decision process. For example, retailers can determine if energy drinks and sodas should be grouped to match shopper preferences on price, brand or flavor, which may be completely different from how they organize candy or salty snacks. What’s more, these product assortment and layout strategies can be localized to ensure that the right balance of products are present for each store.

OPTIMIZING ASSORTMENTS AT THE STORE LEVEL

Managing assortments at the store level is essential for ensuring the right customers are served the right products. But this can be hard for retailers to achieve, as the level of data analysis and decision-making involved can be time-consuming.

With AI, retailers can manage the assortments of individual stores or store groups with similar customer behaviors. For example, stores in a certain area might see a heavy number of baby boomers in the morning, who prefer muffins or doughnuts, while stores across town near the local university might experience Gen Z and millennials choosing items like fruit or energy bars.

By incorporating behavioural-based data into the assortment process, convenience store operators can optimize their store presentations, driving more relevant item assortments to each location, while also staying aware of space and physical constraints.

ASSORTMENTS THAT APPEAL TO ALL SHOPPERS

While catering to Generation Z shoppers is important for convenience store retailers, it’s also essential to remember other consumer groups who may be outside of this rising demographic. With AI, assortments and shelf plans can be delivered to offer the optimal selection in the right quantities and, most importantly, appeal to a wide consumer base.

The balance of eliminating SKUs that are duplicative and introducing meaningful products that drive frequency and transaction size across the various shoppers of a single store, or thousands of stores, requires a fresh approach that includes the sophisticated application of AI.

Kevin Sterneckert is chief marketing officer of Symphony RetailAI, a leader in artificial intelligence-enabled solutions for FMCG retailers and CPG manufacturers. Originally published at Convenience Store News.