Strategic Futurists; Value Systems Specialists

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Environmental Factors and the Future Consumer

Thursday 23 January 2014

I'm part way through a small research piece for an FMCG company that is interested in exploring the future consumer and what kind of environmental factors might influence their purchasing decisions. Interestingly enough toward the end of last year I had three FMCG firms approach me about a similar challenge, so 'Future Consumers' must be 'flavour of the month' (pun intended). When talking consumers, an Environmental Factor refers to the things that influence the consumer, especially at point of sale and delving into some of the emerging developments in this space is delightfully interesting.

Without giving too much away before I hand my report to my client, there's a very distinct sense of change in the food sector that suggests a myriad of possibilities in the products space. There's examples of how data is being used to engage with customers; examples of product stewardship; examples of functionality and more. But perhaps the biggest challenge is what appears to be a shift in price sensitivity over which OTHER factors are being layered. I won't say much specific here but offer an example from a different but aligned sector: petroleum.

It appears that over the past 12 months, Petroleum has crossed the 'must have threshold'. In otherwords, regardless of current price, people were going to fill their tanks. But recent Environmental Scanning has identified that the threshold has snapped. Simply put, a confluence of factors (cost per litre, down-sizing by companies leading to job losses, increased acceptability of genuine job flexibility location options and new technology among others) now suggests that consumers are actively choosing to reduce their need for fuel. The cost has become overladen with other factors that heighten consumer sensitivity to it. Environmental Factors are shifting consumer behaviour away from the incumbent.

This has a whole array of other impacts connected to it - less consumption increases prices charged increases less consumption. Higher prices lead to fewer car sales = slump in imports and on it goes.

Building the systems map for my FMCG client is showing some glaring change over the next five to ten years that will potentially capture many current brands by surprise. In summary, the Environmental Factors that influence consumer behaviour appear to be evolving. Opportunities and Risk abound!


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