Tuesday 21 May 2019

Irish consumers are moving away from influencer culture, according to this retail science expert

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Dr Paul Marsden, retail psychologist
Caitlin McBride

Caitlin McBride

Irish consumers are moving away an influencer-led consumer culture, according to new research.

On a global scale, influencers across Instagram and YouTube hold significant clout in creating a worthwhile dialogue between brands and consumers, but Ireland is bucking this trend with our shopping habits. In a new survey, conducted by TK Maxx, just 7% of Irish shoppers say they were influenced by social media and only 1% considered celebrity endorsements before purchasing, in comparison to the 65% who say they are mainly focused on friends and family.

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Dr Paul Marsden, a consumer psychologist and lecturer at the London College of Fashion, said this is reflective of a change in trust, set in motion by Generation Z shoppers.

"Consumers are digitally savvy and they are mostly digital natives," he told Independent.ie Style. "We know that when we see a celebrity wearing a brand, more than likely they've been paid to do that. There's a shift away from the believability of what you see on Instagram and a shift towards word of mouth recommendations. It's part of a general trend, but I was surprised to see that it was so extreme in this study.

"Millennials are so passé now - it's Generation Z who hold the cultural mantle and they're very different from millennials. Gen Z'ers are more cautious and savvy in terms of how they interact and shop. While millennials are more influenced by someone like Kim Kardashian, Gen Z'ers are more skeptical and distrustful: they are smarter and less gullible.

"They own the cultural reigns and are influencing other generations' shopping habits as a result. There is a new generation of smart shoppers who grew up with a smartphone in their hands and they're looking for quality at best prices."

Dr Paul Marsden, retail psychologist
Dr Paul Marsden, retail psychologist

Gen Z'ers are are arguably the original influencers, they represent the youth market and have their fingers on the pulse.

They don't follow trends, they dictate them. This includes frequent visits to non-seasonal stores like TK Maxx that don't operate under the same roll-out of seasonal styles as traditional retailers do.

This generation in particular, who are among the politically active and harbingers of transparency, are on a quest for truth and that also applies to their shopping habits.

In 2019, shopping is not only more accessible in terms or price, but also in sizing and brands have an increasing amount of respect for its shoppers. Dr Marsden referenced the ARC theory which drives our satisfaction in life - a sense of Autonomy, Relatedness and Competence.

"It's a value equation," he explained. "There are price comparison engines, we can research online and buy offline and vice versa, we’re becoming professional shoppers looking for absolute value. Value isn't always the price you pay, but a combination of the quality you get and the price you pay.

"From a retail psychology perspective, the more we put the ARC into the shopping experience, the happier people are going to be. These are the new rules of retail."

Irish shoppers are shun brand loyalty more than their global ounterparts. Only 9% of Irish shoppers say they are loyal to their favourite fashion brands, in contrast to days gone by when consumers identified with one shop in particular and remained there.

"There is a challenge in what is happening in that people are moving from different channels called omni channels to shop online and shop offline. What we're seeing is a realisation that shopping is fun. People like going on a hunt and finding that hidden gem," he said. "It’s a matter of finding a place - for your pleasure and for self esteem. People mange their mood with the fashion they buy and so there’s a realisation that you can shop for your own wellbeing.

"People talk about retail armageddon but I think we have a future ahead."

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