NPD Group: 2015 Brought 'Unexpected' Lessons

CHICAGO — In 2015, the retail industry taught unexpected lessons, according to The NPD Group. While this includes a mixture of encouraging, concerning, humorous and "weird" things, learning from them should make all retailers smarter.

Amazon is part of the family now.

NPD teamed up with CivicScience to conduct a series of polls that showed one in four American households has access to an Amazon Prime account. This grants Amazon "extraordinary" penetration in a nearly endless number of produces categories, reinforces consumers' growing expectation that e-commerce orders come with free delivery, and makes Amazon a strong power in entertainment, as only Netflix has a larger number of video subscribers.

Don't touch that dial! (It's not connected to anything.)

Today, watching TV is nothing like the era of remote controls and cable boxes. TV is increasingly app-driven and Internet-delivered. As of early 2015, half of U.S. homes already owned a "connected" TV device that allowed them to stream content from Hulu, Netflix, Amazon and similar services. By November, NPD predicted 82 percent growth in such devices through 2018.

People shop for the experience.

Brick-and-mortar stores' most likely counter to Amazon's power is consumer interest in buying memories. The phenomenon of experiential purchasing allows consumers to purchase an experience instead of just an object or service, and includes everything from cooking classes at Whole Foods to fitness classes at Macy's and Lululemon, to outdoors education at retailers such as Cabela's.

It's the Kardashians' world. We just sell stuff in it.

In 2015, "selfies" were the new standard by which consumers judge beauty, and they responded by learning makeup-techniques such as strobing and contouring that are popular among selfie-obsessed celebrities.

Red state, Blue state shoppers.

Even shopping habits split along partisan lines this year. Residents of states that supported Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election and residents of supports that supported Barack Obama showed different spend patterns. Some of these findings may be due to regional differences, while others stem from a variety of factors.

Burgers and hot sauce are as American as apple pie.

Consumers' eating habits united Americans in 2015. Hamburgers had a banner year, and hot sauce increasingly became a kitchen staple, finding a place in 56 percent of households.

Kids today are nothing like kids today.

NPD spent the year trying to understand millennials, who seem to defy conventional ideas about marketing, advertising and consumerism itself. However, its ideas need some adjusting, as there are essentially two generations in one, as older and younger millennials think, behave and shop differently.

There is no joy in Mudville . . . and no joystick in Farmville.

Video gaming may have replaced baseball as the great American pastime for youth, but children are moving away from home computers for gaming, as mobile devices are now the most common platform for video games among kids ages 2-17.

Men carry stuff, too.

Sales of women's handbags slumped last year, but sales of bags to men saw double-digit growth, as they have larger items they want to carry that won't fit in even the largest wallets.

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