Sports Market Research & Business Solutions

In today’s world, it seems everyone is an athlete, an outdoorsman, and a yogi. Or wants to be. Or at least wants to look like one.

To help you win in this growing market, The NPD Group provides the broadest and deepest global view of the sports and recreation marketplace available today. With NPD you get the most complete, accurate, and comprehensive information about your products’ sales and your consumers to help you track trends, identify business opportunities, and grow sales.

The NPD Group’s data delivery tools equip you to dig into your products’ performance at the category, brand, and item levels. And you can take a step back to understand the macro view of sales trends by looking across relevant categories (apparel, footwear, equipment, and accessories), for a complete industry view.

A team of dedicated sports industry analysts will help you put the data in context. They mine our consumer and point-of-sale (POS) research to tell you who buys your products – and your competitors’ products – and where, when, how and why they use them.

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Learn more about our industry expertise



Sports
Solutions


Retail Tracking

The NPD Group has the largest POS footprint in the industry. NPD collects weekly and monthly sales data from over 30,000 doors globally, spanning all industry channels of distribution, including independent specialty stores, sport specialty stores, sporting goods, department stores, mass merchants, and ecommerce. This allows you to continuously monitor sales of men’s, women’s, and children’s sports apparel, footwear, equipment, and accessories.

The Retail Tracking Service delivers the most detailed point-of-sale information available to guide your critical business decisions. Standard measures available at the category, brand, and item levels include unit sales/share, dollar sales/share, and average selling price. Advanced measures available for specialty channels include inventory, margins, and GMROI.


Consumer Tracking

Stay on top of shifting preferences and trends with insights from consumer panelists who have agreed to provide information about their purchasing habits, usage, and attitudes.  You can use this information to analyze consumer behavior, preferences, and purchase drivers as input for product development, brand management, and marketing strategies.


Athletic and Outdoor Segmentation

Identify and reach specific consumer groups so you can efficiently target and capture your most valuable consumers. Use NPD’s Athletic and Outdoor Segmentation to drive more sales using targeted messaging. It also can help you refine your merchandising mix and assortment once you understand the differences among key consumer segments. Seven athletic segments and four outdoor segments are included.


Geo-Level Information

Assess regional strengths and opportunities, monitor competitive performance by region, and plan and evaluate effectiveness of targeted activities. Call on NPD’s insight into retail sales in specific regions or store groupings using Geo Level information from our Retail Tracking Service.


Checkout Tracking℠

Checkout Tracking℠ uses a new approach called “receipt harvesting” to help you understand and address shifting consumer tastes and changing retail dynamics. It can give you a winning advantage – access to the most detailed information about what’s in consumers’ market baskets, based actual receipts from both online and brick-and-mortar retail purchases. Its data covers purchases at the category, brand, and item levels, so you can analyze competitive shopping carts and identify purchasing patterns. Plus, you get precise purchase and demographic details linked to individual footwear buyers.



Sports
Reports


Get To Know Outdoorsmen

New consumer segmentation — the only source for insight about attitudes, behaviors of consumers who buy outdoor apparel and footwear


Get To Know Core Athletes

New consumer segmentation — the only source for insight about attitudes, behaviors of consumers who buy fitness/athletic and outdoor apparel and footwear


Footwear Brand Focus Report

How can you move up the ranks when it comes to consumers’ favorite fashion footwear brands? In both women’s and men’s, word of mouth and recommendations are major influencers on consumer purchase decisions. Our Footwear Brand Focus Report shines a light on brand awareness, ownership, perceptions, purchase intent, affinity, consumer profiles, and more.


Leisure Trends and The NPD Group — Together

Building the best-ever view of the global sports and recreation marketplace


Skiing and Skiwear

Sales performance, pricing, and brand insights for skiwear in France and Germany



Sports
Press Releases


May 17, 2017

The NPD Group Expands Retail Tracking Service to Cover U.S. Team Sports Equipment

Global information company The NPD Group today announced that it has expanded its Retail Tracking Service to provide the most comprehensive view of the U.S. team sports equipment market. Data will encompass the major categories of basketball, football, baseball, softball, soccer, hockey and field hockey, racquet sports, golf, and lacrosse.


April 17, 2017

Athleisure Trend Moves into Makeup, Beauty’s Fastest-Growing Category

Active wear today is no longer exclusive to athletic apparel; recent growth in key makeup categories coincides with the rising popularity of makeup as the latest workout essential. In the U.S., prestige makeup sales increased by 11 percent to $7.6 billion in the 12 months ending February 2017, accounting for over 80 percent of total industry gains*, according to global information company The NPD Group. Growth in foundation, primers, eye brow, and lip color products, as well as those formulated to be long-lasting and waterproof, are playing into the trend.


March 13, 2017

U.S. Climbing Industry Reaches New Heights: Sales Rise as the Outdoor Experience is Brought Inside

The urbanized and less-traditional camping phenomenon has made its way into the U.S. climbing market. Beyond the mountains, increasing popularity of indoor climbing has sparked new interest in the activity, helping the industry to grow by 13 percent in the 12 months ending January 2017, according to global information company The NPD Group. The industry has grown its sales by $52.9 million since 2014, reaching a four-year high of $175.5 million.


January 30, 2017

U.S. Athletic Footwear Industry Grows 3 Percent to $17.5 Billion in 2016, Despite Turbulence in Q4, NPD Group Reports

The U.S. athletic footwear industry grew by 3 percent in 2016*, generating $17.5 billion, according to global information company The NPD Group. Unit sales also grew by 3 percent and average selling price remained flat, at $60.81.


January 30, 2017

U.S. Athletic Footwear Industry Grows 3 Percent to $17.5 Billion in 2016, Despite Turbulence in Q4, NPD Group Reports

The U.S. athletic footwear industry grew by 3 percent in 2016*, generating $17.5 billion, according to global information company The NPD Group. Unit sales also grew by 3 percent and average selling price remained flat, at $60.81.


September 19, 2016

Bicycle Parts and Accessories Categories Influenced by Shifts in Technology and Consumer Purchasing Behavior, NPD Group Reports

Key trends within the $6.4 billion U.S. cycling market tied to technology launches and pragmatic purchasing on the part of consumers have heightened the importance of specific categories within the industry, namely tires and tubes, wheels and wheel parts, and lubes/cleaners, according to global information company The NPD Group.


August 19, 2016

The NPD Group Finds Art of Matching the Right Athletes With the Right Brands a Challenge for Marketers

Choosing Olympic athletes for endorsement deals depends on more than just aligning with the right product category; the athlete’s fan base and the brands they use are equally critical to a successful partnership between brands and athletes, according to global information company, The NPD Group.


July 26, 2016

As More U.S. Consumers Take Road Trips this Summer, Sales of Camping-Related Products Increase, NPD Group Reports

More Americans are hitting the road this summer, and as they prepare for their family vacations and outdoor adventures, sales of outdoor and camping-related products within the $19 billion industry are on the rise, according to global information company The NPD Group.


May 31, 2016

The NPD Group Expands Sports Retail Tracking Service to Offer the Broadest View of U.S. Cycling Marketplace

Global information company The NPD Group today announced that it has expanded its Retail Tracking Service to provide the most comprehensive view of the $6.4 billion U.S. cycling market.


April 28, 2016

As Warmer Weather Approaches, Recreation Kayak Sales See Double-Digit Growth, Driven By Fishing Kayaks, NPD Reports

As water sport season draws near, sales of recreation kayaks were up 21 percent, or over $42 million, and 18 percent in unit sales in the 12 months ending February 2016, according to global information company The NPD Group. Looking at the top items that make up this increase, the vast majority of those items are fishing kayaks.


Sports
Insights


June 15, 2017

Back-to-School Shopping: Looking Back to See Ahead

The back-to-school season is the second largest retail shopping season. To gauge what’s to come this year, we looked back on last year’s back-to-school shopping behavior


April 7, 2017

The Race to Bring Products to Market in Retail

From getting in and out of stores, to placing orders online, to getting products to the marketplace—everything is faster in retail today. How has this changed the retail landscape in sport, what does it mean for manufacturing in the U.S., and how will this ultimately impact the consumer?


April 5, 2017

Performance Heritage and Retro Footwear

Performance running, walking, basketball and hiking shoes are trending negatively, while retro, non-performance footwear categories remain strong. What does it take for performance footwear to make a comeback? How can these brands innovate and integrate retro elements to tap into consumers’ desire to project active lifestyles? Find out in this video featuring sports industry analyst Matt Powell.


March 28, 2017

The State of Activewear

The active apparel and footwear business is growing at a much faster rate than fashion apparel and footwear. With over 2,000 activewear brands and sales up 10 percent, what will brands need to do to stand out in this noisy marketplace? How will celebrity and performance brands fare? Find out in this video featuring sports industry analyst Matt Powell.


March 28, 2017

The Impact of the Sports Authority Bankruptcy on Retail

When the Sports Authority went under, nearly 20-30 percent of the sports business evaporated overnight. How has this retailer’s absence in the marketplace impacted other retailers and e-commerce, and what does this mean for the sports industry at large? Find out in this video featuring sports industry analyst Matt Powell.


December 15, 2016

Join us at Winter OR 2017

Going to the Winter Outdoor Retailer Show? Meet us at Market Booth #111! There’s so much to look forward to at Winter OR in Salt Lake City. See why we’re excited – watch Sports Industry Analyst Matt Powell’s new video.


October 18, 2016

The Power of Athletic and Outdoor Consumer Segmentation

Competing in the hot-and-getting-hotter U.S. athletic and outdoor markets makes it necessary to understand the purchase behavior of every kind of consumer, from core athletes to those who are barely active. You can use NPD’s segments or create your own to gain targeted insight into your consumers up close. Here’s a look at what the data can tell you.


October 10, 2016

How We Predicted Sales for the Under Armour Curry 2 Low Basketball Shoe

Want to make killer products people love? If so, you need to distinguish the winning ideas from the losers, move fast to keep ahead of trends, and prepare yourself for the possibility of a hot category’s decline.


July 28, 2016

Here Comes Gen Z

Discover how Generation Z is set to shake up the sports and outdoor retail markets in this video featuring industry analyst, Matt Powell.


July 18, 2016

The Importance of Gender in the Sports Industry

Sports Industry Analyst Matt Powell weighs in on the importance of gender in the sports space. Learn how the development of products geared specifically to women will impact the marketplace.



Sports
Insights and Opinions from our Analysts and Experts


June 26, 2017

Sneakernomics: Hispanics’ Sneaker Slowdown

U.S. athletic footwear sales have been a puzzle this spring. While I accurately predicted the weakness due to the late income tax refunds and late Easter, the expected bounce-back simply did not happen. The sales trend was below expectations in March, April, and now May.

Looking for explanations, I went back to investigate a trend that I began to see late last year, and made a startling discovery. Sales of sneakers to Hispanics in the U.S. have slowed dramatically from the previous trend. Data from The NPD Group’s Consumer Tracking Service shows that sales of athletic and outdoor footwear to Hispanics grew in 2016 in the mid-teens, and accounted for nearly all the growth we saw last year. Hispanics represented about 23 percent of sneaker sales in 2016. Since the beginning of 2017, however, sales of sneakers to Hispanics slowed to a high-teens decline. No other cohort saw this kind of slowdown.

This slowdown accounts for a change in trend that can be measured in the hundreds of basis points. The change in shopping behavior has been significant in the disappointing results so far this year.

The channel hardest hit by this change in behavior has been shoe chains, followed by sporting goods and national chains; however, no channel was immune to the slowdown.

Looking at the results by category, work/occupational footwear sales to Hispanics improved and outdoor footwear sales stayed about the same. Performance footwear took the hardest hit, especially in the already weak basketball, skate, and running categories. Sport leisure was also markedly weaker this spring than last year.

From a brand point of view, the slowdown in purchases by Hispanics greatly impacted Vans, Nike, Skechers, and Brand Jordan. Adidas and Puma (two hot brands right now) actually strengthened.

Why has this change in behavior occurred? A recent comment from Robert Kaplan, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, to USA Today, may offer a clue. He said that millions of immigrants have become “more likely to save than to spend,” and this will “have some muting effect on consumer spending and therefore GDP growth.”

Whatever the reason, this change is important. My expectations for the back-to-school season and beyond are now much lower due to this Hispanic slowdown.


June 15, 2017

Sneakernomics: Fall Sports Recap

Earlier this month, I wrote about the slow start to the spring sports season. Looking at the traditional fall season sports, including soccer, American football and basketball, I am expecting sales to move in a similar direction.  

Soccer sales overall have been as soft in the U.S. as they have been in Europe. Soccer equipment was a $700 million business in the U.S last year; and sales were down in the low single digits in 2016. Soccer balls, the largest category, declined in the low single digits, and soccer protective gear declined by a similar amount, while soccer training aids had a nice increase. Sales of soccer boots were down in the high single digits.

Both Adidas and Nike, the two largest soccer equipment brands in the U.S, had soft sales in 2016.

American football equipment sales in the U.S. grew in the low single digits, driven by a high single-digit increase in footballs, the largest category. Most other football equipment categories declined for the year, including football cleats which declined in the low teens.

Wilson held the largest share of the football equipment market, with its sales growing in the low teens. Nike and Under Armour football equipment both posted declines.

Basketball was one of the best-performing categories for 2016, with sales up in the high single digits. Hoop systems (a high ticket item) had great sales, which increased in the high single digits. Basketballs grew in the mid-singles, and accessories and training aids also grew. Basketball footwear declined in the high teens in 2016; however, we know from NPD’s Consumer Tracking Service that the majority of basketball shoes are not purchased with the intention of wearing them for sport.

The four largest basketball equipment brands—Spaulding, Lifetime, Wilson, and Nike—all grew in 2016.

Given the overall soft start to 2017 in sports equipment, I do not expect significant growth in the fall sports market.

Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Retail Tracking Service, Annual 2016



June 7, 2017

Sneakernomics: Spring Sports Have Not Yet Sprung

Unconventional springtime weather that’s more akin to the late fall season is having a dampening effect on U.S. team sports equipment sales. With the recent expansion of The NPD Group’s Retail Tracking Service, we now have a more complete picture of the nature of team sports in the U.S. This blog will focus on spring sports including baseball, softball, racquet sports, lacrosse, and volleyball. In some states soccer is played in the spring, but the bulk of sales come in the fall, so soccer is not included here. I will talk about soccer and basketball as fall sports in a later blog.

Baseball/softball is the largest spring sport in terms of U.S. merchandise sales, at about $1 billion. Sales for full-year 2016 declined in the low single digits. The largest category is baseball/softball bats, with sales being flat for the year. Gloves and mitts, the second largest category, experienced a low single-digit decline. Batting gloves dropped in the mid-singles, while balls saw low single-digit growth. Trends have not yet improved in 2017; year to date through April, baseball/softball equipment sales were down in the high single digits. The cold and wet spring has been a factor in keeping kids off the field. Also, as a result of new bat regulations going into effect next spring, retailers and brands are destocking ahead of the change. Most major brands in baseball/softball are in decline for the year so far, with Franklin as an exception.

Similarly, racquet sport sales for 2016 declined in the mid-single digits. Racquet sales were down in the mid-single digits, and continue to be down, in the low single digits, thus far in 2017.

Lacrosse equipment sales grew in 2016, as the sport continues to spread across the country. More and more schools are adding lacrosse to their sports programs. But year-to-date sales are down in the mid-single digits, again being impacted by the wet weather.

Volleyball sales also grew in 2016, and are up nearly 10 percent for 2017 to date. Since this sport is often played indoors, the weather has had little influence.

The spring sports business remains at the mercy of weather, and a lack of growth in terms of sports participation is not helping the situation. Though we cannot control the weather, it is important for industry players to garner greater interest and involvement in sports participation, for the health of our youth, and of our industry.

Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Retail Tracking Service


May 30, 2017

Sneakernomics: Golf Sales in Decline

As I wrote about here, the macro environment for golf is pretty unpleasant. Courses are closing, brands are shuttering, retailers are going out of business, and young people are not adopting the game. These are all indications of a sport in decline.

With the recent release of The NPD Group’s tracking service for team sports equipment, we can see further evidence of this deterioration. Golf equipment sales for the full year of 2016 were down in the low single-digits. Club sales, an indicator of new players adopting the game, were down in the high single-digits. Golf balls, an indicator of rounds played, declined in the low single-digits. One bright spot was growth in the accessories and grips category.

It has been a mixed bag for the major equipment brands. Callaway equipment sales for 2016 grew in the mid-teens, while Taylor Made experienced a decline, as did Nike, which previously announced its intention to exit the golf equipment business. Cobra Puma Golf experienced a low-teens increase for the year. Wilson and Titleist sales declined, while FootJoy had a low single-digit increase. Nike Golf shoe sales grew in the low single-digits for the year, with Skechers sales tripling. Nike and Adidas golf shoes both grew as well, while FootJoy had a decline.

Golf apparel saw a low-teens increase for the year, driven by knit shirts. Knit shirts were paced by big increases from Greg Norman and Under Armour.

For 2017 to date, sales of golf equipment are down more than 20 percent, with club sales particularly soft. Golf shoe sales grew in the high teens, while apparel declined about 25 percent.

With sales struggling, the golf business is now a market share game. Brands and retailers can win, but they will do so only by taking share from others.

 

Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Retail Tracking Service



May 18, 2017

Sneakernomics: The U.S. Team Sports Equipment Marketplace

This week, NPD reached another important milestone with the launch of its team sports equipment tracking service: we now provide the most comprehensive reporting available on the entire universe of team sports equipment sales in the U.S. With this dataset, retailers and brands will be able to track and monitor overall trends; identify areas that  are over-performing or underperforming in the market; measure lift from promotions; and use historical and current volumes to enable informed decision-making.

At a high level, the $6.5 billion U.S. team sports equipment market grew by 1 percent in 2016*. This soft overall growth comes as no surprise given the negative trend we’ve seen in terms of sports participation in the U.S. More specifically, there were healthy gains in equipment categories including basketball, lacrosse, sport bags, and protective gear, which were offset by losses in golf, baseball/softball, soccer, and hockey.

Team sports equipment is a very brand diverse market, with many small brands making only a handful of items. The top ten brands make up only about half of the market. Of the top ten equipment brands, the growth drivers in 2016 were Wilson, Callaway, and Spalding.

Given the cool, wet weather and delayed tax refunds, dollar sales were down in the first quarter of 2017. I expect sales to improve in the months ahead, as warm weather unfolds and parents equip their sports-playing children with their gear heading into the back-to-school season.

*Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Retail Tracking Service

 

Data is representative of retailers that participate in The NPD Group's Retail Tracking Service. NPD’s current estimate is that the Retail Tracking Service represents approximately 70 percent of the U.S. retail market for team sports equipment.



May 17, 2017

Understanding Seasonality in Active Apparel and Footwear

After another cold, harsh winter, the weather in Canada is starting to get warmer and the snow has finally melted away. Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s common for consumers at this time of the year to start thinking about outdoor activity again. Traditionally, there is a strong seasonal period that generally starts to ramp up in March when consumers begin to increase their spending on active apparel and footwear. This strong seasonal period tends to continue throughout the spring, peaking in August before a slowdown in the fall.

As Canadians awaken from their hibernation there is also traditionally a surge in spend on apparel and footwear for sport or exercise. This trend tends to increase as spend on athleisure (a category more typically tied to the holiday peak) slows. Sports participation is a key driver of apparel and footwear sales as participation rates for sports/exercise is nearly 90 per cent in Canada, compared to 78 per cent in the US.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, millennials have become an important underlying driver of this seasonal period of strength. Millennials have continued to slow their spend on active footwear and apparel - from +18 per cent in 2016 to +6 per cent in 2017. This decrease is largely attributed to the athleisure category, which has seen its growth drop from +20 per cent in 2016 to +6 per cent in 2017.

And while active millennials (those consumers buying for sport use) have also slowed their spend, this category is still outpacing athleisure at +7 per cent in 2017. This is far from a surprise as 95 per cent of the millennial cohort is active, and nearly 30 per cent identify themselves as a core athlete (3X that of the overall population).

Interestingly, when we look at sales for the use of an individual sport/exercise (running, working out, golfing, etc.) this spend is in decline while the spend on outdoor activities (hiking, camping, swimming, etc.) is up +10 per cent year over year. This suggests that Canadians are changing their preferences when it comes to the activities they participate in.

For example, camping is now a top activity for millennials in Canada with 36 per cent participation compared to only 13 per cent in the US. This represents the widest gap in participation rates of any sport/activity between the two countries.

So whether it’s camping, golfing, or running, be sure to get out there this spring to enjoy all that Canada has to offer!


May 8, 2017

Sneakernomics: Here Comes Gen Z, Part 2

In a recent blog I highlighted some of the major differences between Millennials and Generation Z. I get a lot of questions on how to understand the profile and values of Gen Z, and for brands and retailers it’s certainly necessary to understand this important next generation.

When asked to describe themselves, the most used word by Gen Z is “unique.” Gen Z wants to buy unique products, from unique brands, that are sold at unique retailers. They have also expressed that they’re willing to pay more for such unique products. Taking it a step further, they also want products that are tailored “just for me.”

Gen Z also seeks meaning in their work, relationships, products, and brands. They value relationships above all else. This makes them both tolerant and respectful. Gen Z also appears to have more “old school” work ethics, and I expect they will be hardworking, determined, dependable, and independent.

Gen Z believes that the community, if it comes together, can solve all problems. “Life hacks” (meaning a trick, skill, or shortcut that increases efficiency and productivity or solves problems) are revered. This makes Gen Z intensely collaborative.

As a generation that is out to change the world, Gen Z also wants brands to take visible stands on social issues. Human rights are the primary cause for Gen Z, and equality is non-negotiable. We can also expect more social change as this cohort gains the right to vote. With that, brands can no longer claim to be apolitical. If Gen Z does not agree with a brand’s values, they will take their business elsewhere.

For Gen Z, education is on-demand. They will learn things when they need to know them. We must learn new ways to teach them. In the Gen Z world, everything is “smart,” and all objects have behaviors.

Gen Z has moved from self to selfies. They have given up virtually all concerns for privacy, and they share everything. This makes them ripe for contextual marketing.

Brands and retailers must adapt to this new generation. In order to successfully serve Gen Z, brands and retailers must again adjust the way they market.

Because Gen Z wants a relationship with brands, they will seek out brands that share their values. Brands must earn their influence with Gen Z, and earn it every day.


May 3, 2017

Sneakernomics: Why Q1 Did Not Bode Well for U.S. Athletic Footwear Sales

Contrary to the positive overall results we saw in the first quarter of 2015 and 2016, Q1 was a mixed bag that left the total U.S. athletic footwear market down 3 percent for the first three months of 2017. Unit sales were down 2 percent and average selling price was down 1 percent for the quarter.

A warmer-than-last-year January started things off on a positive note, but the delayed EITC tax refunds crushed February as I predicted, as well as colder weather for the month versus 2016. Weak NBA All-Star Game sales also hurt the month. As a result, February sales were down in the mid-teens – the worst monthly performance in memory. March started off well, as the refund checks began to flow, but Easter’s shift to April hurt the end of the month.

For the quarter, men’s athletic footwear sales declined by 3 percent, kids’ sales we down 6 percent, and the women’s market remained flat.

The casual athletic category was a big bright spot for the industry in Q1, with sales up 36 percent versus the prior year, and over 20 percentage points greater than Q1 2016. Classics experienced an 11 percent increase, but this growth was well off the previous trend. The running category struggled in Q1, with sales down 5 percent. Weather shoulders part of the blame. Spring sports were off to a poor start – baseball and soccer footwear sales were each down by more than 20 percent.

In terms of channel performance, shoe chains fared the best of any channel, with sales up in the low single-digits, but this was well off the previous trend. Athletic specialty/sporting goods was again the channel to perform the weakest, with sales down in the mid-single digits. Department stores and national chains both declined in the low single-digits.

Nike, Inc. sales declined in the high single-digits for the quarter. The brand is still facing challenges in basketball, running, and cross training. Adidas sales grew nearly 85 percent, as the brand continues to double-down in the running and casual categories. The growth rate in classics slowed on the anniversary of the big Adidas push into the market last year. Under Armour (UA) athletic footwear sales declined double-digits in Q1, though the brand’s expansion into national chains helped offset significant losses in the athletic specialty/sporting goods channel.

The top-selling styles for Q1 based on dollar sales were the Jordan VI, Nike Air Huarache, Adidas Superstar, Jordan XIII, and Jordan IV.

I expect that the second quarter will be better than the first, with the late tax refund impact over and the late Easter/spring break taken into account. The market still has some Sports Authority liquidation hurdles to overcome, which will temper results somewhat.



May 1, 2017

Sneakernomics: Here Comes Gen Z, Part 1

I’ve written a lot about Millennials, but there is another cohort, Generation Z, that’s just as large in both scope and influence. While there are similarities between the two, they are distinct enough that brands and retailers must approach them differently. 

Gen Z is defined as having been born in 1997 or after, which means the oldest of this generation are in their late teens. This cohort is the most diverse ever—even more diverse than the Millennials—and they are also the most educated generation, being self-taught on the internet. Several major events have already taken place in the small window of time since they’ve been born, including 9/11, the first African American U.S. president, several instances of mass violence, and climate change.

I have described Millennials as tech savvy. Gen Z has taken this to a whole new level, which requires them to be tethered to their smartphones. They have only known a user-generated, wireless, and hyper-connected world. To them technology is invisible, but omnipresent.

This generation has never known a world without a smartphone or smart device. According to a recent NPD survey, 43 percent of parents have purchased a tablet for their children in the household*. This makes Gen Z both hyper local and hyper global; they are keenly aware of what is happening nearby and around the globe. This generation has been described as “prematurely mature;” because of the internet they know too much, too soon. This “loss of innocence” has made them pragmatic and resilient.

Like the Millennials, Gen Z is supremely confident and raised to “do anything you want,” but all the choices have made Gen Z risk-averse.

Gen Z is even more visual than the Millennials and their preference is for online information over print. They would rather watch a video instead of reading instructions. Rather than use Facebook, Gen Z views that as an “older crowd” platform and instead prefers apps like Pinterest and Instagram, as they favor pictures over text. Successful marketing will speak through images rather than words.

As with Millennials, marketers must listen rather than talk. Brands must be completely transparent, which earns trust.

Just as the Millennials changed the way brands and retailers approach the business, so will Gen Z. The business advantage goes to the retailers and brands capable of successfully marketing and catering to both groups. 

*Source: NPD Connected Intelligence, Mobile Connectivity Survey, January 2017


March 15, 2017

Sneakernomics: Marketing with Millennials, Part 2

How can brands and retailers better resonate with Millennials, who hold tremendous influence now and in the future? It starts not with knowing, but understanding them.

Millennials are focused on societal needs. They feel a great sense of community with their generation, including those around the world. Millennials tend to support progressive causes including a higher minimum wage, and are willing to pay higher prices to pay for these causes. Their beliefs are integrated into their choices as consumers.

Tying into that, Millennials feel compelled to make the world a better place. They have been described as “conscious capitalists,” and expect corporations to be “good citizens.” They believe brands should participate in causes and be a force for good.

Millennials’ shopping behavior is not passive, but it’s a social experience to be shared with friends. Millennials want to interact with brands, to co-create products and to participate in the brand experience. They want to discover new and dynamic products from a proven name, approved by their peer group. Millennials today are looking for relevance and authenticity. They want to develop relationships with brands that deliver a personalized, customized experience. Brands that don’t understand and respond to these needs will fail.

Millennials seek brands that feel unique to them, and make them feel unique. These brands have been vetted and approved by their peer set. Taught to be curious their entire lives, they are incredibly smart, savvy, and know how to research a brand. Millennials don’t see a boundary between consumers and brands.

Consequently, Millennials are more engaged with products. They want to interact with brands and want to share feedback. They want to collaborate with brands. Brands must create a feedback loop that allows Millennials to share their thoughts.

Because Millennials are internet trained, there is an expectation for instant gratification. Email is too slow and cumbersome, while text messaging is more immediate and can be used when a phone call is inconvenient. Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest share thoughts in real time.

Seeing as Millennials are so digitally engaged, and have shared so much knowledge with their peers, they are early adopters of new ideas, concepts, and products. This will drive the speed of change even faster than we’ve known. Leveraging early adopters will build brand equity.

The concept of branding has changed in that Millennials are so much more aware of a product’s attributes and issues, and therefore consumers are much less brand loyal. If a competitor’s product is perceived to be better or to perform more in line with their needs, they will change in a heartbeat. Consequently, brands must keep their consumers well-informed and up-to-date, not just on what’s in the market now, but what’s coming next.

Millennials have been hit hard by the Great Recession. Good paying jobs have been hard to find. Many are saddled with massive college debt. This has created a frugal generation, and Millennials are always looking for value; however, don’t read frugal as cheap. Millennials may be cautious with their purchases, and research them extensively, but if they decide a more expensive option is the best solution, that’s the decision they will make. Millennials want value for their hard-earned money.

In the words of Simon Sinek, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” This line captures the essence of the Millennial generation’s core values. Though diverse and complex, Millennials as a whole are connected, digitally engaged, and value conscious. Brands and retailers must market their products today in a way like never before.


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