The race is on…who will win the prize of $4.4 trillion US or $14.3 trillion of global retail sales?

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Everybody who shops knows that shopping is changing. Shopping has been both an entertainment sport and a necessary chore. As for entertainment, shoppers can identify with that urge to shop for “something I don’t know I need but I’ll know it when I buy it.” Usually that urge expressed itself on boring Saturday or Sunday afternoons, the two days of the week when mall shopping revenue surged.

This is why shopping malls emerged into entertainment centers. Take the Nyack, New York Palisades Center Mall for example.  Shoppers expect their immediate needs will be met by retailers who can serve up that got-to-have-it-now pair of jeans or a new school backpack. But they want to appeal more so to those aspirations like those of the wishful hiker (who uncovered their interest at the moment) and needs a hiking setup of boots, bottle, cap, hat, jacket, etc.

When shopping is not enough there’s entertainment too. One can find a skating rink, climbing adventure attraction, a mega cinema and a Ferris wheel.  Nice way to entertain the family while spending time at the mall.

Change in shopping habits is underway and evolving fast.  Fast is a relative but operational word. We all expected the world to change in the internet ramp of the millennial. That bubble burst but now promises for “a consumer in control world” are being realized.

That empowerment found in an evolving solidification of customer behavior into four broad groups. These groups are defined by their interest or dislike of the shopping experience.

Before we discuss these groups, let’s revisit what may never change.  Shoppers will and presumably will always have unmet wishes they want satisfied by the shopping experience. But, more and more, they find that an alternative to the traditional retail shopping experience eliminates long lines, wasted gas, the frustration of finding difficult to locate items (where no retail assistance is in sight), and, frankly, the unwanted markup of providing localized availability.

Why should customers bother to shop at a brick and mortar retailer? Maybe for the pure pleasure of shopping…this is the first and most dedicated segment of the customer population, the Shopping Investors.  They are willing to do the driving, spend the time and shop until they drop.  This group is also known as the traditional shopper.

The second group consider themselves to be Time Shavers. These shoppers save time acquiring necessities in the least amount of time possible, saving shopping time for discretionary or “just shopping” items. Their shopping experience consists of some online shopping. But most of all these are the “in and out” shoppers who memorize store formats, know where to go, buy what they regularly buy and rarely hang out to check new or different items.

Then there are the tough shoppers. The third group, the Time Savers order online for necessities and pick up their order where available or have it delivered.  They buy online when possible for new or desired products using research to make their purchase decision.   These shoppers are using comparison charts to locate the least expensive source for their purchase.

Finally, the fourth group may very well be the customer of the future. These are the Time Bankers who showed themselves as the 8% and growing group of customers who completed all their 2012 holiday shopping online. They didn’t even visit a store. (Cyber Monday is the highest value online day of the year.)  No fuss, no muss, no lines, no problems scanning at the register, no having to deal with barely aware retail help, no anything that interferes with their preference for lifestyle over shopping.  This is the “I’d rather spend my time doing X, than shopping…boring”.

The race is on, it’s an endurance length but it has an endpoint. It ends when entire categories are transformed. Some win, others, like Blockbuster and as reported in Forbes (Jan, 2013 based on a Pew Research Study of 1100 consumers), include venerable brands such as Sears and transformational brands such as Blackberry… will just fade away. Sears is already showing signs of a cancer brought on by a depreciation of the brand promise and lack of innovation at pivotal times in the past ten years.

There is a lot more to share in this pathway to discover where shopping is going…follow in the next few weeks…