The Consumer of the Future

By Leon Alexander | 04/05/2013 3:18:00 PM

 

If your kids ran your salon, what would they do differently?

The heart of that question is what is going on with the next generation. Anyone born after 1994 has essentially grown up in a world only knowing the web, so their world is different to you and me. The way they see brands, the way they see content and media and even the way they see shopping is radically different than our world. When the Internet first arrived, a lot of people were saying, “That's the end of normal shopping.” What they forgot was that at the end of the day we are human beings and we are very social, and we like to be entertained. What you will see in the salon of the future is a sense of entertainment. I envision the salon of the future having social media mirrors and touch-screen entertainment as being the norm in high-end salons. Services and entertainment will be intrinsically linked.

Over the next ten years consumer attitudes and behaviors are likely to change in unprecedented ways. Retailers and service providers, including the beauty industry, will have to consider a number of questions to maximize viability:

What will consumers value?
What will they need and want?
Given what they have faced in recent years, how will their attitudes and behaviors continue to change in the coming decade?


We are moving from mindless to mindful consumption.

The front desk as we know it will begin to disappear. The pioneering salon will have support individuals that will book future appointments, re-book and check customers in and out from an iPad or similar table device. Retailing will be far more educational, experiential and visual. Additionally, call centers in their present format will not exist for much longer. Instead, what we will be seeing is more like a Mission Control Center that will focus on connecting with existing customers or pro-actively marketing through a series of social networking medias. Phones will be replaced by computers and will have a real effect on the way customer queries are dealt with.

What we are learning now about the consumer and what we will learn in the next decade about the consumer’s brain will surpass our knowledge from the preceding 500 years or so. Consumer brain research has moved beyond psychology and neurology and joined with biochemistry, physics and computer science to create advances that enable us to know more about ourselves, and our brains, in ways that were unimaginable in the past.

Not so long ago, scientists believed that the number of brain cells was fixed, and when one of them died, it was gone and irreplaceable. It turns out that our brains are not hardwired; they are changing every second in response to the environment and our experiences. New neurons continue into old age; it’s called neurogenesis. This indicates that much of our ability to have insights, be creative, and innovative is governed by controllable factors. Your brain can reinvent itself through many thought- and activity-based actions that spark the creation.

Before we go any further, let's break away from old ideas about our minds, starting with the idea that creativity is the exclusive domain of the right side of the brain. For many years, this notion was a pop psychology staple. Categorizing people as right or left-brain turns out to be inaccurate as far as identifying someone’s ability to be creative. The activity of the brain is now thought of not as a parallel, but as a conjunctive.

So what does that mean for the salon of the future?

The best way to understand the future is to focus on the people who are going to occupy it. How will the next generation change the world?

So how is all this relevant to our industry and our salon consumer? In the 90s most salons' income was from services applied. Currently the top 15% of salons achieve about a quarter of their sales from retailing. If you are still reading this article, you are probably in that top 15% or aspire to be. Over the next decade, I see salons achieving a much higher proportion of sales from retailing.

If our brains are evolving and our needs are changing, marketers, top service providers and retailers are now studying ways to entice the consumer of the future to spend more time and money in their locations. The length of time a consumer spends in a salon, equates to how much they spend. So how do we get more consumers to enter our locations and how do we keep them there longer! Salon owners have wrestled with these questions for a long time. It goes back to entertainment, education and experiences. The impact of those three dimensions, allied to great services is a winning formula for the future consumer. Entertainment will keep people in a salon longer. Education will create a higher average ticket and Experiences ensure people will connect positively with their social network.

Today’s initiatives are tomorrow’s minimum standards with increasing rapidity.

What happens in a world where all consumers are connected? In the last ten years, we have seen this progressively take place. Every consumer in the world is connected in ways they were never connected before. By email, mobile phones, Facebook, and Twitter. When you buy a book on Amazon, it recommends you similar books that other people have bought. The sum totality of all those connections is leading to a massive change in behavior. Because of the connectivity of technology, other consumers that we are connected to now influence us as consumers. How we buy brands or learn about salons are from other people in our network.

What do you imagine when you think about the future?

Cutting edge technology, advanced computers, tiny devices or intelligent robots! Have you ever considered that the most disruptive forces shaping tomorrow are in fact none of those things?  The future is not a place invented by scientists or technologists. It’s just the sum of all the things that you and I and the people we know do differently on a daily basis. It is a human phenomenon. What we should be thinking about is not technology, but the anthropology of consumer behavior! We need to understand not how things change, but how people change! Consumer behavior shapes the future. The real magic happens with people.


Summary
The most valuable asset of a salon is data. We are moving into a new world, a world where you have a generation growing up never knowing anything but the internet. They are a living challenge to all of us to change the way we do business. So think big,think new, but most importantly think quick. Because if there is one thing I can tell you with absolute certainty, it is this. “The future is now.”

 

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leon Alexander

Leon Alexander Leon Alexander is president of Eurisko, a comprehensive design, consulting and distribution source servicing the salon and spa industry. He holds a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology.

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