Marco Wolters on the Power of Identifying Future Consumer Needs

Marco Wolters on the Power of Identifying Future Consumer Needs

Marco Wolters, Global Industry Lead at GfK, a provider of market and consumer information, recently presented on the disruptive shopping behavior of Generation Z at the Global eCommerce Summit in Barcelona. In this presentation, “Power to the iBrains: Identifying Future Consumer Needs to Anticipate Demand”, consumers of Gen Z, also identified as iBrains, were exemplified as key to anticipating future demand trends.


In order to attempt to capture future opportunities, there is a need to understand what the future needs and forms of communication that evolve with generations. In order to conquer the shopping market of tomorrow, there was a need to understand 4 key features:

  1. The purchasing journey has become increasingly malleable, evolving along with changing consumer behaviors.

With the rapid growth in technology and challenge to retail markets, digital connectivity can either end the retail industry as we know it or open up for immense opportunities. As online sales are growing rapidly, many retailers globally are experiencing severe declines, stores are closing, and some are even claiming bankruptcy. So does this mean that this is the end to malls and shopping centers?


Not quite.


Delivery, data, and e-fulfillment players, a prominent example being Amazon displays a once big spender is now a profit machine that benefits the most from its logistics and big data than from retail. It is about digital connectivity to evolve with seamless digital integration. There are various modes with untapped potential through mobile devices, omnichannel technologies, and embracing international markets and broad demand. It is important to try and understand future shoppers, to understand the various demands that may vary from region to region. As Wolter showed, in 2020, the iBrains will represent about 40% of consumers in the US, EUR, and BRIC countries combined.


  1. Who are the iBrains?

They are the next generation of consumers that are already influencing the future of consumer behavior. So in order to understand the future of retail shopping it is important to understand this group and take seriously what impact they are having and will have. In order to do so, we need to look at what trends we can already view.


  1. How do they shop? What are their future values and behavioral drivers?

There are 6 key insights into the impact iBrains have on retail:

  1. Mobile systems come first.
  2. iBrains like control. They want to share and be involved in the process.
  3. Stores still play quite an important role to them.
  4. iBrains are less loyal and do extensive research to always find the best deals.
  5. Social media has become a driver of decisions.
  6. Virtual reality experiences may drive preferences in their shopping decisions.

A large majority of iBrains seek personalized offers and brands that will allow for their input into services and products. There is a larger element of control, research, and making educated purchases. This goes back to the importance of mobile devices. With a mobile phone, we now have the world at our finger tips. If we are looking for a product, we can find the exact stores at which they are sold, an aspect of shopping increasingly important to iBrains.  There is a luxury and necessity in being able to compare prices at a moments notice, to be able to compare prices from different stores through various apps, forums, extensions, and search engines. Then once they’ve made a decision, iBrains go to social networks in order to allow family members, friends or colleagues, to give their input. Social networks are just as important sources of information in product decision making as design and connectivity.


  1. What are the implications for anticipating successful retail strategies?

So how does one engage this new kind of shopper that pays less attention to the modes but have a more refined eye?


  • Shift from new things to buy, to new things to do.
  • Shift from a centered focus on the retailers story, but rather engage the conversation about their expression of individuality.
  • Shift from thinking, how can I make this perfect to how can they themselves help to make it better?

They are after all the the future consumers.


iBrains with GenX parents and divergent from Millenials care less about bargain shopping but about the experience. They are more demanding, impulsive, and seek the sentiments of instant gratification, whether they be shopping more in stores or experimenting with different retail services. However, they are also feedback enthusiasts, so it may be time to listen and learn.

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