If you’re a marketer today, you know you’re facing a new species of consumers who don’t conform to the conventional wisdom you were fed. This is the age of the consumer, who drives markets with attitudes, expectations, and behaviors that are in a constant flux. Beyond digitally-savvy, the consumer of today is dictating how brands and businesses operate on a fundamental level. In short, brands now revolve around their customers and it’s tougher than ever before for marketers to cut through the noise and make people truly engage with their brands.
Not Afraid To Experiment
In the post-digital world, consumers are bombarded with thousands of messages every day: Brands that stand out have worked into their marketing strategy the various dimensions on which the new consumer exists. Consumers are now not only more comfortable with seeing new products and brands but are equally willing to try them out and experiment. However, this is not to say that every customer is willing to experiment with new names on the market. But marketers are most interested in those who do an experiment because these pioneers who chart new courses within the market are also passionate advocates of the products and brands they love.
They are driven by a need for variety and new learning experiences that come from experimenting with new brands and products. They like being in control of their personal experiences and like brands that make them feel like they’re making the best choice possible. Don’t underestimate them as consumers lusting after the new shiny object because these people are actually in search of products that improve their lives and are extremely conscious of how a brand actually adds value to their lives. It’s the only thing they seek from their brand relationships, unlike other consumer types, who maybe looking for convenience instead.
Devices As Recommendation Engines
The next thing that has rewritten the rules of marketing is the omnipresent device. Today, consumers don’t have to look beyond their mobile phones and tablets to complete everyday tasks like shopping, learning or working. For marketers, it’s old news that consumers spend a sizable chunk of their time on their devices. But, they now need to factor in the sense of entitlement consumers feel – they now expect their phones and tabs to help them carry out those everyday tasks. It’s no secret that consumers across generations and locations are increasingly relying on peer reviews of brands and products, that they can instantly access via their devices, to make their final purchase decisions.
The ones who are the most willing to experiment, spearhead this recommendation engine by being fierce advocates or critics of the brands they encounter. A consumer now has the power to control the narrative of a brand through their online and offline interactions. They leverage other people’s experiences with a brand to make informed choices; then they share their own experiences to influence the perceptions of others. In other words, they start a domino reaction that amps up consumer empowerment.
The Online-Offline Amalgam
In the post-digital world, there is almost a seamless integration of a consumer’s digital and physical worlds. They have now merged into a single continuous experience, where consumers are adept at using digital tools to engage with and navigate their physical environment. People shop online, return in-store and demand immediate updates about the brands and products they want.
Brands that succeed in this new climate offer a consistent response to each of these customer touchpoints: The departments, communications, environments, and experiences a consumer encounters in their engagement with a brand.
Disney, with its commitment to delivering magic and being the ‘happiest place on earth’ is a fine example of a brand that’s conquered this elusive seamlessness.
The Hyper-Knowledgeable Consumer
Voracious consumption of online content is another important aspect that is redefining consumer behavior and brand loyalty. They are savvy readers, who’ve mastered the knack of skimming through troves of content to cull out information that helps them decide what to buy, which brand to join hands with or, which new product/service to throw their weight behind. This need for consumers to know everything that’s valuable about a brand can swing both ways: On the one hand, consumers go tribal with brands by being active members of communities, constantly offering experiential feedback and partnering with a brand in their own lives. On the other hand, all that knowledge, digital-savviness and empowerment also makes them highly unpredictable, prone to jumping ships at a moment’s notice.
Brands need to take note of such hyper-adoption and hyper-abandonment traits in their customers. The customers who come in waves, wanting to try your brand/ product out, will also leave you just as quickly. The traditional definition of brand loyalty will no longer hold water. Emotionally-savvy brands, that customers feel connected to, are the ones they’ll be loyal to. Of course, people do tend to stick with a particular brand or product because it’s simply convenient or because it helps them simplify a complicated everyday task. However, convenience or ease of use alone isn’t potent enough to drive customer opinion and loyalty.
Consumer Competence And More
The change in consumer mindset, that ties into all the above changes, is their belief that they’re indeed making the best decisions possible; engaging with brands that offer the most emotionally satisfying experiences; and that they are in the driver’s seat of this whole journey between window shopping and actually parting with their money. What marketers need to understand is the underlying expectation of consumers to have their decisions validated by the very brands they finally choose to champion.
Going forward, consumers are going to go beyond just feeling at home with all the technology that surrounds them, to expecting and even needing the presence of technology in their everyday lives. Consumers will soon be so conditioned to digital assistants, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence that life will seem incomplete without them.
The brands that survive in this new climate of people living in tandem with technology will be those that cater to the distinctive motivations of these empowered consumers. Alexa, Uber, and Airbnb are all great examples of brands that were once disruptors in their industries, but almost instantaneously integrated themselves into the flow of consumer preferences. They were once ideas that seemed improbable but are now an undeniable reality and this trend isn’t going to fade anytime soon.
Nimble As A Post-Digital Consumer
Marketing efforts of a company are increasingly gaining center-stage because business leaders need all the help they can get to stay nimble while engaging a consumer base that feels not only empowered but entitled to seek out the very best among experiences. They need to unlearn what they’ve always believed about consumer behavior and be as ready as their consumers to experiment, trying newer methodologies to glean actionable post-purchase feedback from their customers.
But most importantly, companies and leaders have to embrace whatever humanize their brand and products because that is the true pursuit of today’s consumer: To be emotionally enriched and motivated by everything they purchase.