Meet Today’s Central European Consumer

Meet Today’s Central European Consumer

Central Europe is often viewed as a collection of similar countries, but the reality is that they each have their own unique characteristics and demographics. So in that way, companies need to have a good understanding of the region as well as the individual countries in order to achieve success with the consumers in them.

In short, Central Europe is a diverse region, whose countries are similar, but different as well. Therefore, the overarching strategies of the companies here need to be fine-tuned to the specifics of the local market.

A Closer Look at Retail in Central Europe

In Central Europe, a region with seven distinct countries, nothing is more constant than change. The region includes Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland, each of which plays a role in creating the diversity within the region.

Growth began in Central Europe about 20 years ago, but development wasn’t consistent across the region. Some countries developed more quickly than others. For example, GDP per capita in Poland grew 163 percent between 1990 and 2000, while GDP grew 15 percent in Lithuania.

In terms of retail in Central Europe, modern trade is the dominant player. In Poland and Latvia, however, traditional trade is still stronger. The retail landscape reflects consumer habits, and the differences between shoppers in the region’s seven countries shape each individual retail landscape.

As consumers, people are influenced by what they experience, hear and see. The people in Central Europe have a unique past and they carry that with them every day. During the financial crisis, many consumers in Central Europe lost their jobs, prices increased and taxes were introduced. Today, they have an abundance of choices and less time to dedicate to individual things. Compared with just a few years ago, Central Europe’s consumers are overwhelmed by brands, retailers, services and information, all of which they need to process and analyze unlike they ever have before.

A New Type of Consumer

Consumers in Central Europe are a new breed of shopper. They remember the past, were affected by the recession and are quickly trying to embrace a technological revolution.

In light of everything today’s Central European consumers are facing, Nielsen has identified five attributes that are driving their retail spending behaviors.


Today’s consumers are bargain hunters looking for value for their money. In most of the countries in Central Europe, promotions are becoming relatively commonplace. As a result, today’s shoppers will spend more time browsing in stores in search of less-expensive products and ways to make the most of their money. Consumers have even grown to expect certain stores to offer heavy discounts. But while discounts and promotions might build shares in the short term, consumers do look for good quality as well, which they are also willing to spend a reasonable price to obtain.

Today’s consumers are demanding. Today’s shoppers want to enjoy their experience. Shopping today isn’t just about the availability of the products. It’s also about the ease of navigation in the store and the overall shopping experience. The modern consumer likes when retailers precisely direct communication at them because it makes them special. They also like convenience: shopping close to home, or even online.

Today’s consumers are on the look for the latest innovation. One way to win in the long term is to be innovative. We’ve seen several examples of retail innovations in Central Europe recently, such as loyalty card terminals in Baltic countries, beer mixes, coffee pods and rye bread in Estonia, and self check-out stations at various hypermarkets.

Today’s consumers live in a technological revolution. Today’s consumers are connected in ways never before possible. Households are now equipped with an array of screens: television, tablets, smartphones, etc. Television is still the most important medium, however, as Central European consumers watch TV for more than four hours each day, on average, making it a huge opportunity for brands to reach them. This means that each person watches a huge amount of commercials and ads. Nielsen data shows that consumers in Hungary see more than 70 ads per day. In Poland, they see more than 100 each day. TV is the most efficient way to reach consumers, but consumers still value the opinions of friends and family the most when it comes to brand trust. Social media has become an important influencer as well, as it is quickly growing as a way that consumers share and talk about their favorite brands.

For more information, please click here for our recent webinar on Central Europe consumers.