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Marketing Viewpoint by Ruth Winett

Are Your Customers Voting with Their Feet?

Many people are giving up traditional ways of living, eating, traveling, and purchasing. These changes mean new business opportunities for some businesses and new challenges for others. As we welcome 2020, it is a good time to consider the impact of these trends on your business.

Housing: To reduce carbon footprint or to live more economically, people are living in tiny houses, sharing housing with others, or arranging short-term rentals through Airbnb.

Diet: Many are reducing or eliminating the amount of animal products they consume. They eat little or no beef and drink "milk" made from vegetables, nuts, and grains, such as oats. To replace declining profits from cereals and soups and other standbys, grocery chains are stocking more and higher quality produce. ("Grocers Pick Produce for Healthy Growth," Jaewon Kang, Wall Street Journal, 12/27/19, p. A1)

Clothing: Once men rented tuxes. Now, some people are renting ordinary clothing, reports Dana Thomas in Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes. Others are purchasing "vegan" pocketbooks and shoes rather than items made from leather.

Transportation: From all electric cars to hybrid cars, people are conserving fossil fuels or avoiding their use. Moreover, KLM is urging customers to "Fly Responsibly" and avoid non-essential air travel ("The Conscience," C. Alter, S Haynes, and J. Worland, Time, Dec.23/30, p. 62).

Distribution: Once again consumers can get groceries delivered to their homes, now through Peapod and similar services that recall the milkmen of earlier times.

Textbooks: Faced with textbook costs of several hundreds of dollars per semester, college students are opting to rent textbooks. The textbook Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior, Coon and Mitterer, costs $ 33.49 to rent, compared with $126.06 to buy on Amazon, a 73% savings.

Banking: With the availability of online banking and online mortgage lending, people can conduct their financial affairs from their homes without consulting with a banker or setting foot in a bank.

Customers are voting with their feet. Long-ingrained consumption patterns are shifting as people replace traditional businesses with online services, and as they also choose to consume less. Will people opt to rent more and more goods rather than to purchase them? Businesses must be aware of these trends. And, they must evaluate when to respond to these shifts and when to preserve their traditional ways of producing and selling goods and services.

A Happy, Healthy, and Successful New Year!

Copyright © 1/20 Ruth Winett. All rights reserved.

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