Stacy Bingle
Stacy Bingle is Senior Consumer Trends Consultant at Mintel. She engages clients in meaningful discussions around the consumer trends that will propel their businesses forward.

As I explored last month, brands of all sorts and sizes have been making bigger-than-ever waves with initiatives to display values, take stances and operate ethically. While values are growing in importance,  it’s crucial to note that value is as well. Mintel’s 2018 North America Consumer Trend ‘The Value Equation’ shows that consumers are more carefully weighing a product or service’s value – from both price and quality standpoints – before spending their hard-earned money.

It’s also crucial to note that this intensified scrutiny isn’t only coming from lower-income households – those who perhaps have to seek the best value – but from all income levels. Mintel’s research on marketing to middle Americans found that many upper-income consumers consider themselves to be a part of the middle class. With this, even brands that target more affluent individuals may want to consider how they can cater to the ‘budget mindset’ that Americans of all income levels have developed.

Thus, the value war is heating up as brands find new ways to give consumers more ‘bang for their buck.’

Competition in every category

As consumer expectations for options that are both low-price and high-quality deepen, brands in every category need to stay diligent in tracking the competition.

  • Big-box stores are making bold bets on new premium private label lines, as evidenced by Walmart’s fresh forays into fashion and home décor.
  • Discount grocery retailer ALDI ended 2017 with an “unprecedented” 200 awards for its private label products. In addition to developing the quality of ALDI-exclusive packaged goods, the chain also began selling organic produce last fall to compete with outlets on the higher end of the spectrum like Whole Foods.
  • McDonald’s is making strides to improve both price and quality in its menu items by expanding its fresh beef initiative to 3,500 US restaurants and by launching the $1 $2 $3 Dollar Menu.

Give them a taste

With consumers more carefully weighing a product’s value before making a purchase, methods of trial are growing in importance.

  • To let consumers confirm that they like the taste of KIND snack bars before spending their hard-earned money on one, the brand placed an ad during the 2018 Super Bowl to give away 3 million bars.
  • Popular beauty brand Glossier announced a unique month-long takeover of a San Francisco restaurant to encourage would-be purchasers to get acquainted with – and see the value in – Glossier’s lipsticks, lotions, and more before whipping out their wallets.
  • OWME is a new Brazilian shoe brand that will allow consumers to “test-walk” their shoes for up to two hours so they can check if they feel comfortable.

Proof of value

Ahead of trial, proofs of efficacy can give consumers sought-after confidence in the value of an offering and even help justify paying a higher price.

  • At CES 2018, Neutrogena unveiled its SkinScanner, a dongle that attaches to an iPhone and connects to the brand’s Skin360 app to help users assess their skin and find the right skincare products from home. In this case, personalized data backs the shopper’s purchase decision.
  • In China, luxury automotive brand Infiniti and question-and-answer website Zhihu jointly hosted a 10-hour livestreaming event, dismantling an entire car so that viewers could actually see, and learn more about, the car’s outstanding technology.

Consumers have always sought value in their purchases. But with the competition heating up – and with values weighing heavily on a company’s perceived quality – it’s time to make sure your brand is meeting consumer expectations in this way.