The growing awareness of consumer rights and digital engagement is creating fresh challenges for retailers, as well as creating a new type of price-conscious, savvy customer, according to Martin Lewis, founder of consumer rights website MoneySavingExpert.
“Finger’s crossed, we are in the bounce-back of the economic downturn which means consumers will have more money in their pockets and incomes are going to start growing faster than inflation,” he said.
“But the consumer now is a very different beast to the consumer in 2007. They are more aggressive, educated and more complex. They may not know the right answers but the information if there is a problem or they want to check something is vastly different.”
He said today’s bargain hunter has also changed significantly, as consumers can now compare prices and deals online more easily than ever before.
“There was a time when a person would go into shops to look for bargains or would haggle, [and] if you think about the personality type it takes to be a haggler, it isn’t just someone interested in getting a price reduction,” he told delegates at the Retail Week Live conference, which is taking place today in London.
“It is someone who has the balls to go and ask for it and that is a very narrow point on the Venn diagram of the savvy consumer. A much bigger circle around that is the consumer that is willing to do research and price compare on the internet and to go into different shops.”
He said the landscape is changing thanks to the information consumers have at their fingertips, which helps them make a discerning purchase.
“I think it is going to go further,” he said. “I think we’ve had the era of mass production and I suspect the next 20 to 30 years will be about mass customisation. Consumers I don’t think want a choice – they want what they want.”