The Nielsen Company, the global information and measurements firm best known for the ratings system that measures what American consumers watch on TV, has recently published a paper called The Multicultural Edge: Rising Super Consumers, striving to provide “a fresh perspective on multicultural consumers as the emerging consumer force in America today.”
Nielsen defines “Super Consumers” as “the top 10% of households who drive at least 30% of sales, 40% of growth and 50% of profits.” Increasingly, these are not people who fit the familiar “general market” mold that the U.S. Census bureau would describe as “Non-Hispanic Whites;” they are people of Hispanic, African American, and Asian descent who “already make up 38% of the U.S. population”… and are projected to become, together, a numeric majority by the year 2044.
What is known about them?
- They’re Young. The median age for Non-Hispanic Whites in the U.S. is a firmly middle-aged 42. Compare that to the median ages for multiculturals: 35 for Asian Americans, 32 for African Americans, and 27 for Hispanics. Their buying patterns reflect the needs of a different demographic: they’ll spend more money on goods and services that enhance their attractiveness, their physical fitness, their ability to contact other young people and join them for entertainment. They’re starting families, buying baby products and children’s goods, shopping for healthy, organic (yet convenient) foods, and furnishing homes. They’re not yet settled, and therefore, are spending money.
- They’re Ambicultural®. Nielsen has coined this word to express the super consumers’ knack of living in more than one culture at once; while they remain faithful to the foods, music, and customs of their ethnic forbears, they also embrace the clothing, habits, entertainment opportunities, and lifestyles of other people around them, be they Non-Hispanic Whites or multiculturals of other ethnicities.
- They’re connected and mobile-savvy, using their smartphones, tablets and computers “at much higher rates and more intensely” than other consumers. They’re mad about social media, they use more apps than other groups, and they constantly access mobile entertainment. The numbers are staggering. A full 82% of multicultural heavy consumers are actively using a smartphone versus 70% of their non-multicultural counterparts; they are 32% more likely to be in the top segment of mobile users. Online, they average 73 website visits per month, and are 42% more likely to use an average of 46 apps per month. In all areas of mobile behavior, the percentage of multicultural consumers over-indexed Non-Hispanic Whites by 32% on number of sites visited and 42% on total number of apps used.
- They’re Cool. Soul food… sushi… sriracha…hip-hop…merengue…anime… Instead of being seen as ethnocentric and alienating, each group’s particular preferences are increasingly used to introduce one culture to another. Multi-ethnic friendships, business partnerships and marriages are becoming increasingly common… and hip. In Nielsen’s words, “American families across the nation have become increasingly intergenerational and interethnic, creating new links between diverse groups and accelerating tolerance and cultural plurality. As a result, the social stigma that once marginalized multicultural lifestyles is being replaced by the recognition that being different is interesting and cool.”
One noteworthy feature of today’s multicultural Americans is that they appear much less willing to lose their character as they fall into the great U.S. melting pot. Consequently, Nielsen says, “it is no longer a valid business strategy to assume that ethnicity and race will eventually become irrelevant and dissolve into a homogenous ‘general market.’ Instead, marketers should adjust and update their efforts to address a new mainstream marketplace that reflects and acknowledges consumers of all races and ethnicities as the source of new social trends and business growth and develop activation strategies based on this reality.”
The rewards are bound to be enormous. Even now, Nielsen reports, “U.S. multicultural buying power is growing at an exponential rate versus total U.S. consumers, increasing from $661 billion in 1990 to $3.4 trillion in 2014. This represents a percentage increase of 415%, which more than doubled the total U.S. buying power increase of 204%.” Given the youth and the vitality of America’s multicultural population, this buying power can only continue increasing, and should prove a primary driver of all U.S. economic growth in the decades ahead.