Will ‘aspirational independents’ swing results for retailers and politicians?
Fifteen percent of Americans are in a position to determine 2022’s winners and losers in retail and politics, according to new research discussed yesterday on the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) “State of Retail and the Consumer” presentation.
The study conducted by SKDK, a political affairs and consulting firm, identified a group of voters it has called “aspirational independents” that is diverse and politically moderate. The group is made up primarily of people who are not affiliated with any party as well as some “soft” Democrats and Republicans.
The group is 51 percent white, 50 years or younger (43 percent are 35 or younger) and they are “exploratory” in their shopping, according to Bill Knapp, a partner at SKDK. These consumers are both middle and upper middle class and located in urban and suburban areas.
“They’re looking for new things,” said Mr. Knapp. “They like variety. They shop in every conceivable way, of course online, but they also go to big box stores, local stores, community places. They do their grocery shopping online.”
Ultimately, he said, aspirational independents don’t want shopping to turn into a chore. They want the experience “to be fun.”
Authenticity is key with this cohort of consumers. It cautioned retailers against taking positions that are not based on an organization’s core values. “That’s the hypocrisy that is kryptonite,” said Mr. Knapp.
“You have to be authentic in your positioning and you have to be true and live up to that yourself,” he said. “If you’re gonna make a case that the world should be X, you better run your store that way. You know, if you support a higher minimum wage, then you better make sure you do that. Otherwise, they’re gonna see it as just a position to curry favor with them and not true or authentic to what you believe or what you think. And that’s where you run into a big problem.”
Mr. Knapp said that the noise is loudest on the extremes of politics today, both from the left and the right. Aspirational independents, however, are looking for calm and clear thinking, focused on making progress. They see politics as too contentious, so before retailers dive in, they need to understand that to avoid creating “a lot of problems for themselves.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will catering to “aspirational independents” prove successful for retailers if also trying to appeal to consumers with less moderate political leanings? What do you see as the keys to success for retailers operating in a politically contentious age?