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New America. New Consumers.
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New America. New Consumers.

While 2000 didn’t bring us the end of the Internet predicted by Y2K, technology has transformed dramatically in the intervening years. We’ve gone from the earliest smartphones to roughly three-quarters of Americans owning a smartphone. And technology isn’t the only thing that’s changed. The composition of the country is shifting: 92% of the total growth in U.S. population from 2000 to 2014 came from multicultural groups. With these changes, our lifestyles and consumer habits have also evolved.

These trends raise the question: America is changing, are you?

“The world has changed and continues to evolve, permanently forcing companies to adjust even their most abiding assumptions of how they do business,” Monica Gil, ‎senior vice president and general manager, multicultural growth and strategy at Nielsen, explained during a panel on the changing American consumer at this year’s Consumer 360 conference in Washington, D.C., last month.

“The challenge to marketers now is to think about their own organizations, ask themselves how ready their internal organizations are to reflect this change,” Gil elaborated. “Identifying the complex dynamics and rapid pace of the changing consumer will allow marketers to apply multi-dimensional thinking and to think differently about their marketing approaches, as well as connecting authentically with shoppers and viewers.”

According to Gil, brands need to remember four rules:

  1. Restructure your business to deliver on multiple groups at the same time.
  2. Know how to be relevant to new consumers, yet remember to keep the core.
  3. Be more proactive in real-time, less reactive. 
  4. Discuss organizational structures, and assure they are equipped to deliver on this changing consumer.

By understanding the cultural essence that drives consumer behavior today and adjusting to meet these new needs, marketers and advertisers are getting a glimpse of future market trends and forging a long-term relationship with the most dynamic and fastest growing segment boosting the U.S. consumer economy.

So what does the new American consumer landscape look like? 

Connected and Distracted
In the rapidly changing digital environment in which we live, the new American consumer is both connected and distracted. Americans on average own four digital devices: 78% own smartphones and nearly 50% own tablets. We continue watching TV and listening to the radio, but at the same time, we interact on social media, stream videos or music: 85% of U.S. consumers use a mobile device while watching TV.

Multicultural Consumers
Multicultural consumers are the growth engine of the future in the United States. Hispanics, African-Americans, Asian-Americans and all other multicultural consumers already make up 38% of the U.S. population, with Census projections showing that multicultural populations will become a numeric majority by 2044.

Multicultural shoppers will likely be the key to the future, not just because of their numbers, youth and economic clout, but because their unprecedented influence on the attitudes and consumption habits of non-multicultural consumers is upending outdated assumptions and enlarging and expanding the multicultural market opportunity. But reaching these consumers could become more challenging, as the lines between different groups are blurring—one in five newlyweds marry across racial and ethnic lines.

Diverse Family Forms
Families are changing and are less traditional than ever before. Women are the sole breadwinners in 40% of U.S. households with children, controlling 4.3 trillion (73%) of U.S. spending. LGBT families are on the rise and hold significant weight with an estimated $830 billion in spending power. And nearly half of households are multi-generational.

Healthy Habits
According to Nielsen’s Global Survey of Consumer Confidence, for first time, the main concern for U.S. consumers after the economy is health. However, the Nielsen’s Global Health & Wellness Survey found that half of the world think’s they’re overweight. As a result, sales of produce and health and wellness-oriented categories are growing stronger than center store sales. The way we eat is permanently changing: 47% of consumers snack as a meal replacement, and Americans spend more at restaurants and bars than grocery stores.