Most compact cameras, withor without zooms, have a range of pre-set scene modes. These include things like portrait, landscape, sunrise/ sunset, macro (close up) and fireworks modes. What these modes do is to set up the camera to a preset group of settings to maximise your chances of getting a great photo - without you having to learn the best combination of settings.
Some cameras go further and have an Intelligent Auto mode which attemptst o analyse the scene and then select the appropriate scene mode for you.
When do you first go beyond the simple Auto mode and go for a scene selection?
It's when the lighting conditions get out of the ordinary. If you are in a snowstorm the camera wil probably give you a dull grey picture - so select the Snow scene mode. If you are taking a picture close up of a flower, select Macro mode. Photos taken early in the day or towards evening also demand special care.
Here's a quick primer about scene modes.
And here's a detailed guide to many scene modes.