by Andrea Learned
I just got back from the local natural grocery store with a bottle of bio-correct bleach, and it made me realize how significantly my personal shopping patterns have changed in the past, say, ten years. While I have long been a vegetable fan, I now take it a bit further, by trying to shop at farmer’s markets or buying mainly organic produce at traditional stores. And, with my bleach as case in point - where I had previously bought whichever brand was on the shelf, these days I seek out a very particular formula.
My story seems to reflect a larger cultural pattern connecting the dots between how/where people shop, their changing awareness of living more sustainably, and how that affects the traffic pattern of their buying behaviors in general. A good image of this change can be seen in paths consumers increasingly take in their grocery store shopping (I believe Michael Pollan mentions it in his book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, in fact). Apparently, the interior aisles include mostly packaged food products that tend to have more calories but cost less, while the exterior aisles/areas tend to have less-packaged, more expensive foods like fresh produce, bulk grains and spices, and meats. Interesting…
Over the years, a lot of us have likely evolved from a faster-paced, less health-conscious lifestyle (where we’ve eaten mainly interior aisle food and drunk a bit of beer, for instance) to a more cooking-oriented, food -educated one. Perhaps it’s the universal, encroaching sense of mortality or the addition of kids to our lives as we age (we could eat poorly, but we will never let the kids form those same bad habits!) - but we seem to find ourselves meandering to the outer aisles now. Our traffic patterns through the grocery store are, indeed, noticeably different.
Beyond the food-shopping arena, women’s daily traffic patterns are also changing a lot. They may be quitting their health clubs to save money and gas, and riding their bikes for errands. They may be grouping shopping trips more consciously, and so be out and about less often. Overall, and for a variety of reasons, a lot of men and women alike are tightening their daily living and buying paths to a more local scale.
Green interests, and the struggling economy are certainly having an effect. But, no matter what the root cause, women’s buying paths can be seen changing course mid-way, adding or leaving out stops altogether. Are we as marketers paying attention?
This traffic-affecting news just in, literally as I was write this post: Sarah Mahoney reports in MediaPost that consumers may be pausing in their rush to more “green” buying, due mainly to the struggling economy.
Overall, the 2008 Image Power Green Brands Survey, which tracks perceptions of green in the U.S. and the U.K, found that the environment has taken a back seat to the economy for more than 75% of Americans and 66% of Britons.
I’m still of the mind that shoppers will continue to veer toward green products and a more environmentally aware existence over the long haul, even if they do take this pause to re-group. The point is to learn how to keep your brand on her route, as that new traffic pattern takes shape.
As Russ Meyer, chief strategy officer of Landor Associates, one of the WPP Group agencies that conducted the study, put it at the end of Mahoney’s article:
The study results “have helped us realize that green needs to put in the context of consumer’s lives,” he says. “Whether it’s 44% of consumers or 38%, that’s still a fair amount. So it brings us back to the classics of branding–we have to ask, what is the relevance to consumers’ lives right now?”
These days, the women in your market may be staying nearer the outside aisles, and drop/add-ing some stops to their larger shopping routes. So, don’t wait until you are absolutely sure the economy is picking up in order to serve their greener take on shopping. Plenty of women, right now, would like help figuring out ways to keep doing their part toward a more sustainable buying path long term.