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How Millennials are influencing FMCG consumer trends

15/11/2019

Consumer trends are constantly evolving, and over time the consumer-brand relationship has experienced a marked shift. Henry Ford once famously said: “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants, so long as it is black”. Times have changed and brands have come a long way since then. Brands are adapting to consumer demands as millennials influence the way FMCGs are created, distributed and sold. 

In many cases, this change has already begun.

Millennials have been the buzzword for years now; a group of optimistic, enthusiastic, technologically skilled disruptors who are demanding more and more from the world – the marketplace, employers, you name it! In reality, they’re pushing innovation. Their voices are constantly amplified thanks to prolific social media use, and they are certainly a demographic not to be ignored! Millennial clout is only set to increase. By 2025, which is now just around the corner, they will represent 75% of the workforce

Millennials are less trusting and even less inclined to trust marketers and they are almost impossible to  extract brand loyalty from. As the FMCG consumer base has changed, so too must the operating model which kept this area successful for so long. As reported by McKinsey back in 2010, the FMCG industry was responsible for 23 of the world’s top 100 brands. However, in order for this growth to continue, we look at how the FMCG sector is reforming, in line with the changing consumer trends.

Sustainability and Ethics

In our article “The rise of the sustainable economy” we explore this theme in detail. Yet still, this theme remains top of our consumer trends. Single-use products – your time is up! It’s all about sustainability and ethics. The children of the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ generation are all grown up and ready to purchase… as long as it’s eco-friendly. 

According to a report by Nielsen, 73% of millennials are willing to spend more for sustainable products. This is transforming the FMCG space, with millennials often cited as a driving force of brands focusing on sustainability. 

For Days is a fantastic example of how brands are keeping up with this trend in the FMCG clothing industry in response to the sustainable millennial buyer. This brand offers subscriptions which allow users to be sent six t-shirts, use them, and then send them back to be upcycled anew. They will then receive the new versions of the shirts. This avoids the waste associated with producing new clothes, while reusing old ones. 

When it comes to the FMCG food industry, places like We Food are leading the charge on what the landscape will look like in the coming years. We Food sell items which would have previously been disposed of due to superficial packaging imperfections. Prices are 50%-70% lower than standard retail prices. Similarly, spikes in the sales of eco-friendly straws and cutlery are being reported from retailers like John Lewis. Restaurants and cafés are also making the switch, so that plastic straw sales have plummetted, and more sustainable options now replace them.

The way to stay ahead of the trend is to get sustainable too, much like Unilever, the FMCG powerhouse. With Unilever’s recent launch of sustainable shampoos under the name Love, Beauty and Planet, they’ve demonstrated an understanding of millennial desire for sustainable product.  

Togetherness and Sociability 

Humans are wonderful creatures, and at the end of the day, they’re just that: creatures. Like all animals, we are drawn to being social. Products and campaigns which allow us to share, create and collaborate are a hugely growing trend. Brands which facilitate this will be coming out on top. 

This trend will only skyrocket over time. Millennials are super-connected, from social media to collaboration. FMCG brands which capitalise on sociability, interaction and collaboration, will be adapting in unprecedented ways.

Inviting consumers to be co-creators is an example of this disruption hitting the market. IKEA teamed up with Off White and co-created a special homeware collection. In the production stage, IKEA customers were asked to give their thoughts on the homeware through a special online portal, before the final prototypes were created. This engaged the consumers, improved the collection before launch, and broke down the walls between the customer and the brand. 

The footwear market is also set to be influenced by millennial “togetherness”. Nike recently opened a community space in the location of their original store. This is a great example of a brand helping to support a community while creating collaboration connected to their own history. In a different way, Intersport’s Beijing store collaborates with the consumer, utilizing AI mirrors which give recommendations, and  purchases are delivered right to the buyer’s door within two hours. 

Customised and Calibrated! 

We live, increasingly, in a sci-fi world where all our gadgets and products are calibrated specifically to our needs. Brands and campaigns must cater to an individual’s tastes with customized products and experiences.  Customers are unique, and they want to be treated as such. As for millennials, “there is a premium on individuality, especially with millennials and gen Z” – Jackie Chiquoine, Racked. This trend will only increase over time.

From an FMCG perspective, Neutrogena is a fantastic example of how to incorporate this trend into a brand. With the creation of 3D printed personalised face masks, they have got  to the core of what makes someone feel unique. Customisation is due to be involved in the beauty product industry more and more. 

Another great example of offering a truly personalised experience is Looxid Labs. They use AI and face-scanning cameras to analyse customer age and gender. This creates a customer profile, from which they offer personalised tea recommendations. L’Oréal, in the FMCG space, has also jumped on this trend by creating bespoke skincare solutions from AI tools. Customers simply upload a selfie, and the tool analyses areas of strength vs areas of weakness, such as signs of ageing. Product recommendations are given from there. 

This demonstrates how more and more, FMCG products will need to be perfectly recommended to the consumer, indicating a change in the way they are marketed. 2020 predictions highlight customization as a key customer experience element. 

Experiential Products 

This trend is hard to ignore. It’s all about offering an experience as well as a product. Recent research by Total Retail reveals that 45 percent of millennials look for engaging experiences with brands, as opposed to a simple transaction. 

Captain Morgan created a concept pop up which does just this. Guests are put in teams, or “crews”, and given treasure maps. They’re challenged to row around watery canals to find cocktail ingredients. This experience gives consumers exactly what we’re talking about – the product as well as the experience. From the FMCG beauty sector, Chanel is leading the charge, too. Creating interactive gaming booths which show off Chanel products, as well as having makeup stands, means that Chanel keeps brand-customer interaction high. 

For the FMCG market, these kinds of interactive experiences are set to become increasingly popular, thanks to millennial love of experiences!  Marketing teams are sure to be getting their heads together to propose new ways for their brands to interact with millennials. 

Real-Time Product Interaction 

Physical and digital retail have become two parts of a larger concept. Customers are able to shop across multiple touchpoints and tend to use different touchpoints for different things. It’s all about keeping the consumer happy with convenient, instant access to services. 

Millennials love a multi-touchpoint system. What’s more, they demand real-time, relevant information, always. The ways in which FMCG’s are sold are going to have to be adapted to deal with this, both online and in-store. 

Suning lends a hand as a shining example of this, having recently rolled out five new superpowered stores. This means they are all smart and automated. Featuring smart mirrors, which provide specialised recommendations based on customer profiles, this truly is a store of the future. Even better, clients can simply walk out of the store to purchase the item, because all products are RFID tagged, so the sale will be recorded and attributed to the customer thus profiled. 

Similarly, in order to provide enhanced customer support and data analysis, 7/11 has rolled out facial recognition in many of their stores in Thailand. The scheme gathers a range of information about in-store customer behaviour and provides them with instant, personalised support. 

In an even more futuristic way, iFashion Group and MC Payment have partnered to create an online shopping mall in Singapore which only accepts cryptocurrency. For those who don’t deal in bitcoin, the mall offers an app, in which shoppers can exchange cash for special coins. 

Innovation in the retail space is key to staying ahead of this particular trend. 

Self Improvement

From “Eat, Pray, Love” to “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo, self-love and self-care are the concepts of the hour. Products and services which promise consumers the ability to be their “best selves” are a significant current consumer trend. Now, combine that with this decade’s image and lifestyle-obsessed consumers, and you have a recipe for self-improvement products to sweep  the market. 

Millennials take it a step further by desiring overall personal wellness. Products, campaigns and services which aim to help millennials realise their goals and become better than they were before have already permeated the market. 

Olay’s new skin wand was unveiled at CES in early 2019. It uses electromagnetic pulses to identify areas where lotion is most required and then deposits the correct amount onto the face, precisely, in that location. The idea is to replace the many different lotions that millennials currently purchase, with one lotion applied in a customised way. 

This hugely disrupts the way that personal beauty FMCG products have previously been marketed and sold. It’s now about finding one self-improvement product which is right for you and creating a personal relationship with that, based on wellness. 

Another millennial-wellness-driven example from the FMCG market is the  packaging revolution. Kolibri is an example of this by creating a drink into which the consumer can release their desired amount of sugary flavouring via clever packaging. This means that the  customers control how much sugar they’re consuming. 

Super-connected 

The world is becoming increasingly more connected. Every gadget and device should now be synced and smart. Empowered shoppers want to see that companies are offering them all that is available at the cutting edge of technology and platforms. 5G will be a huge retail disrupter. It’s a whole new kind of connectivity which will revolutionise the market in the offerings and innovations it will promote.

Millennials have always been the consumer base which is the most tech-obsessed. High tech connected products are what make this group get spending. With revolutions like 5G just around the corner, products are already  being adapted to suit the trend. 

Companies like BASE hologram have used 5G to produce hologram shows featuring Amy Winehouse and Maria Callas. They are able to do this thanks to the ultra-quick connection which 5G allows. 

In terms of the FMCG market, this will change the way that consumers interact with the products. Predictions of being able to instantly order  groceries, and many other household items, mean that producers of these products need to link up their existing production processes with what is yet to come. 

Conclusion

With so many trends vying for attention, it’s important for FMCG brands to innovate, whilst also remaining true to their core values. Millennials’ spend is only set to increase. It is estimated that soon they will represent 30% of total retail sales. These are numbers which cannot be ignored. Brands  which stay ahead of the curve will be those  which go through unexpected and cutting-edge revolutions. The world we live in is becoming more connected, and success looks more and more like plugging in and engaging with millennial consumer trends. The EFMP Group of partner agencies work with leading brands across Europe running FMCG campaigns to engage with millennials. To find out how we could help you get in touch today.

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