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Retail: Get ready for the blue dot consumers!

Oct 19 2018 10:48
Carin Smith, Fin24

Consumers have become even more demanding over the past five years, according to Ken Hughes, an international expert on consumer and shopper behaviour.

He was one of the opening speakers at the annual congress of the SA Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC) taking place in Durban this week.

Hughes explained that consumers – especially the younger generation - want everything immediately and seamlessly.

It is forecast that Generation Z (those born between 1995 and 2009) will be the biggest consumer group by 2020. This is the first “purely digital” generation and the retail race is about competing in terms of relevance to these consumers. 

“Don’t think technology is driving the disruption in retail," said Hughes. "Actually, [it is] the consumers themselves who are the disruptors."

He refers to them as “blue dot consumers”.

This is because “each individual stands perfectly still in the centre of their world”.

Retail is, therefore, no longer something they have to go to. The consumer is at the centre and expects the retail product they want to be in step with them, wherever they are. Uber is a prime example, he said.

Four important things to know about blue dot consumers:


This is the “me” generation, the selfie-generation. Each person wants it his or her own way – almost to such an extent that it becomes about the immediate hyper-personalisation of products – even hotel rooms.

“The last thing retailers should do is treat their consumer as a number or as footfall. Consumers in retail spaces expect personal interaction with the retail offering. To get scale from such an approach is, of course, the problem,” said Hughes.


Blue dot consumers only want retailers to talk to them in the context in which they are interested.

“You must know where these consumers are, what they are doing and what they will need next. Stop ‘shouting’ at consumers. Most will filter your ‘noise’ out in half a second anyway,” said Hughes.

“Deliver context. Make the customer feel special, but learn when to talk to them. Add value to them before, during and after engagement with your retail space.”


Consumers increasingly value something that is authentic.

“People do not want to buy mass market stuff anymore. They want to know the story and purpose behind a product or service. It is about being boutique, funky and real,” said Hughes.

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consumer  |  shopping centre  |  retail  |  sacsc

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