Brand New Year!  Predicting Changes in Consumer Behaviors

Brand New Year! Predicting Changes in Consumer Behaviors

April 8, 2015

It is the beginning of yet another new year. It is that time of the year when the pundits and gurus pull out their crystal balls and gaze into it to fore-tell the future and make their predictions. I don’t have any such intentions, but I thought that this is as good a time as any to take stock and look at what is happening around us and understand its implications for us as Marketers.
The world is getting to be at its dynamic best with consumer behavior changing at a rapid pace, and in many cases, leap-frogging several intermediate steps along the way. And at the same time, the number of new brands that are being launched is going up. What this means is that Marketers need to work that much harder to enable their brands to anticipate consumer needs and preferences and then attempt to meet them.
I have tried to outline below some of the consumer trends that are likely to be key for Marketers as we get into the New Year.
1. Rent vs Buy – I use…not own. There was a time when we loved to own things – books, music, postage stamps. No longer so – today’s consumers are happy to share space with others and thereby get better value – Kindle, iTunes are great examples.
2. House-husband – Blurring of Gender roles. Men are starting to take care of kids and look at alternate professions like writing, photography, music.And an increasing number of women are doing well in their career and earning more than men. This has implications for brands in terms of targeting.
3. Rise of Swirlers – people don’t go through traditional life stages of kids, teens, youth, middle-age, old-age anymore – kids are growing up faster, people are getting married older, 65+ people are active – leading to breakdown of classical needs segmentation basis age and life-stage. We find that kids are key decision-makers in high value purchases while older consumers are being targeted by the “cool brands”.
4. The Jekyll and Hyde phenomenon – consumers are taking on multiple personalities – so for the same demographics, we have very different psychographics – how do we then understand the consumer in their different states of mind and cater to their needs.A housewife who is extremely value-conscious in a vegetable market becomes indulgent in a beauty salon. A teenager who follows traditional customs at home wants to try new experiences with his friends.
5. I can…I will – Consumers want to co-create – how can brands equip consumers with the required set of instant skills to enable them to create value. Instagram overnight created an army of art photographers.
6. Fast laning – consumers are increasingly time-starved – they are impatient and need to be served NOW. Brands like Starbucks and Indigo airlines offer value-added services at a price. Taco Bell launched an app which allowed consumers to order and pay while they are en-route to the drive-through.
7. Branded Government – this year will see many brands initiate, support or undertake meaningful civic transformation as part of their overall CSR responsibility. One such recent example is the much talked about Dettol Swachh Bharat Abhiyan campaign.
8. Treat is in – Reward Change – brands will support consumers to overcome inertia to change their habits and lifestyle by rewarding efforts to change – brands acting as co-conspirators. Russian bank Alfa-Bank launched a special account that rewards customers who do physical exercise. Their fitness app is linked to the account and depending on the activity, the customers get special benefits.
9. Authenticity counts – brands need to be honest and say it as it is – consumers today have the ability to research, get feedback through social media and hence can’t be fooled for too long. And negative WOM spreads faster.
10. Connectivity – I am mobile and I am connected…anytime, anywhere – consumers use mobile technology for shopping, financial services, and in fact they would like to interact with the organization regarding their products and make informed decisions.

As yet another year rolls over, old paradigms change and new equations are getting formed. The consumer is charting his own course and brands need to anticipate this and take appropriate actions to understand and address consumer needs. There will be a bit of trial and error, but the brands that constantly strive to do this are more likely to succeed.

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