Since the end of the Second World War, the US has experienced tremendous growth in regards to technology and manufacturing. These developments have resulted in the evolution of a new culture of spending in the American society. Unlike individuals in low-income countries whose expenditures are meant to satisfy basic needs, Americans spend more on goods and services that engender quality of life than any other nation on the globe. But who is to blame for this runaway consumption? Change of consumption habits, technological advancements, and seller tactics have been cited as the leading drivers of such consumer trends. The days when customers walked into a retail store, made a purchase, and left are no longer relevant to retail business owners. Customers are looking for new experiences, leading to a dramatic rise in the number of stores across the country. This competition has changed the system of selling, leading to adverse consequences on the populations and the environment.
As noted earlier, the amount of consumption has had a huge effect on the retail business practices. According to eMarketer, the total retail sales in the United States reached $4.53 in the year 2013.The online marketing platform projects that the total expenditures on retail goods and services in the US will top $5 trillion by the end of 2016.These trends represent a continued rise in the consumption habits of Americans, which translates to more business for retail businesses. Although retail business owners are employing conventional selling practices to induce more spending, additional tactics are being employed to counter competition and sustain sales revenues. Gladwell (1-9) gives a detailed account of the various approaches businesses use to encourage more sales of retail products and services. According to Gladwell, retail businesses are spending colossal amounts of money in studying the shopping behaviors of customers within their premises so as to evaluate the environmental settings that encourage or discourage customers from buying specific products in the stores. Spacing, displays, gender-sensitive arrangements, and designs, are some of the practices exploited under the premise of shopping behaviors. Also, some marketers and retails leaders use census data and results from their business surveys to predict the type of products people of a particular residence would consume. This is done through sophisticated analysis of consumers age, intellect, habits and financial statuses, among other characteristics. Duhigg (1-13) explains that some retail firms use demographic features such as age, ethnicity, financial status, employment history, family size and brand preference to manipulate the habits of consumers. Duhigg found that such tactic was exploited when some customers were going through a major life event (8).With the advent of digital technologies, Rodgers (1-2) further explains that retails businesses monitor customer movements in the stores through smartphone technologies. Monitoring assists in analyzing consumer spending habits.
The changes in capturing customers by the retailers are as a result of evolution regarding the consumption patterns. Business organizations seek to know what the dynamic customer wants and not what the retail outlets offer (Gladwell 1-9).Gladwell explains the modern shopper wants something unique and exclusive to the personal need. As a result, retail outlets offer, in addition to product displays, consultation and testing kiosks in the stores (7). Notably, women do not conform to the practices of salesclerks deciding for them on what buy. The modern women want to draw their own conclusions (4). Besides, retail owners focus on providing an environment that gives the customers an exceptional feel upon entering the stores. These marketers aim to offer the customer a new experience that muzzles the mechanical intention of coming to the store. This is done in the form of paintings, vintage photographs ,candle-lit isles, comfortable leather chairs, and decorated store walls, among others (7).The extra offers are meant to keep the pace with changes in customer tastes and preferences.
Keeping pace with customer trends requires continuous innovation. Carroll (1-7) finds that massive investment in innovation has seen millions of goods phased out of the market to pave the way for customer-centric products. According to Carroll, the ornamental and electronics products industries have been the largest beneficiary of such innovative adventures. As a result, millions of the obsolete goods are being exported to developing nations, where regulations are weak causing environmental challenges due to poor disposal and lack of recycling technologies. Carroll gives the case of Ghana where disposal of electronic material is exposing poor children to hazards as well as threatening the health of the populations due to the poor disposal of the electronic waste. For instance, disposal of lead, cadmium, and carcinogen that damages lungs and kidney (2) in this country exposes not only local communities to long-lasting health problems but also endangers aquatic life in the Atlantic. Similar environmental and human health concerns have been raised in China. As Carroll (10-13) explains, the US is exporting vast amounts of lead materials to China. This strategy of disposing of electronic waste is detrimental to the American consumer as Chinese products in the US retail market have been found be of low quality due to contamination. Although bans have been instituted to reduce environmental degradation, more needs to be done to end dumping of electronic goods to developing nations. Recycling should be given more emphasis.
In conclusion, consumerism has precipitated the retail industry into a rat race that of selling products leading to adverse consequences on the populations and the environment. Retail chains are continuously involved in studying consumer behaviors so as to come up with strategies of increasing sales revenues from their products and services. They pry on customers spending habits through store-in-built cameras to observe consumer movements in the stores. Also, mining of customer demographic information helps them to predict and induce purchases. Moreover, some are exploiting smartphone technologies to surreptitiously monitor customers in the stores as a way of predicting customer needs and trends. As the literature review indicates, consumerism will continue to expand in the coming years. Therefore, people cannot be regulated on how they spend but regulation must be done on the disposal of obsolete products not only on the US soil but also in the developing nations to avoid future environmental and health catastrophes.
Carroll, Chris. "High Tech Trash:Will your discarded TV end up in a ditch in Ghana?" National Geographic 2008: 1-7. Print.
Duhigg, Charles. "How Companies Learn Your Secrets." The New York Times [New York] 2012: 1-13. Print.
EMarketer. Data and Research on Digital for Business Professionals | EMarketer. N.p., 2016. Web. 9 Sept. 2016.
Gladwell, Malcolm. "The Science of Shopping." The New Yorker 1996: 1-14. Print.
"How Stores Track You Using Cell Phone Data." Writ. Kate Rodgers. FOXBusiness. New York. 2013.
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