New Age Consumer: long – term game
Consumer is perceived as a mechanism that should be explored and could be manipulated. Any brand should push the right buttons and establish effective actions in order to reach the needed KPI. Hence, product promotion becomes the basic goal for a brand, not an interaction with a consumer.
At the moment, we identify the following key business characteristics:
- Consumer as a source of information. Observing consumer’s behavior has always been the case. Monitoring sales channels in terms of how consumer lives, what he buys and how he reacts on changes has also been a subject of interest. The whole data collection industry helps a company to create a business model, under which variables could be modified, sales could be foreseen and revenue could be consequently predicted.
- The fundamental outcome of any business operation is concentrated around financial indicators and sales figures. Target Audience satisfaction and qualitative changes within the expectations related to the product category are perceived as secondary outcomes, those who do not hold a primary importance level. Declared ethical principles and customer care programs are quite frequently not experienced by consumers themselves, especially in relation to non-standard requests and unexpected cases.
- Within the existing internal business structure, marketing department holds a lower legitimacy level in comparison to finance or sales. Amongst the central marketing objectives are operating sales and implementing a set of rules on how to promote products and services. Taking care of a client and building up a long-term relationship with him is, obviously, stated, however one cannot argue the fact that, in the majority of cases, this is just a secondary priority.
Hence, constant marketing promotion efforts are, in most cases, correlated with the consumer only when sales volume decrease is observed. Marketing research, when requested by a company, is targeted at gathering information from a ‘typical’ consumer and is primarily directed towards confirmation of already existing hypothesis, not obtaining a new information.
Consumer is generally asked about his opinion within the business discourse frame – differentiation, desire to recommend, loyalty. The customer is replying something, but he does not have a feeling that his opinion is actually valued – he is promised that it would be used in a ‘processed way’ after all.
AN ATMPOSPHERE OF DISTRUST
So, consumer is a source of income, subjected to the emotional actions of the masses. Business aims to build an interaction model based upon the goal to maximize financial results in a first place by concentrating on promotion and sales.
This approach could be very risky leading to the working team burnout and migration of consumers from one brand to another, diminishing the possibility of a buildup loyalty. Therefore, market slowly but confidently immerses itself into the atmosphere of distrust and we keep hearing the following statements:
Brand: They want to have the best for free
Consumer: They want my money with nothing to offer
As an outcome of this atmosphere of distrust what we see is business’s skepticism when it comes to the direct interaction with a consumer. Generally, we hear the following opinions:
- I already know everything about them and I doubt that I can find out anything new
- They are the ordinary people, they are not capable of creating something interesting
- I am stuck with the administration stuff and I do not have time to take part in a research field work
- Any consumer involvement is expensive and we do not have an extra budget for that
In our opinion, these concerns or suspicions come from the fear to make a mistake when it comes to service or products promotion. We believe that the determination to delegate interaction with consumers to vendors, who gather and analyse the collected data, to be one of the consequences of the distrust atmosphere.
At the moment, vendors regulate interaction and receive a feedback from the ‘typical’ consumer. However, existing searching methodology often leads to expected results based on the common sense, leaving the business in frustration – there was a plan to ask consumer, but as it appears, consumer does not really know what he wants. We believe that the actual survey methodology provokes consumer to give away socially accepted answers, instead of the authentic ones.
In 2017 Salt Company carried out an initiative project based on recovering business-consumer interactions that are implemented outside of the usual commodity-money relations. We place confidence in the concept that the consumer is interested in business promotion and, what is more important, he is perfectly capable of sharing with clarity and knowledge, which product category attributes hold an importance for him and which ones he would like to purchase.
The crucial feature of the project was to find those consumers, who are not indifferent, those who not only have an experience in being involved with the needed business category, but those who have a strong emotional involvement, both positive and negative one.
The most significant criteria of searching not indifferent and caring consumers is a high level of involvement with the category – they are happy to share all the product features, competently discuss advantages of certain brands and disadvantages of the others and capable of easily operating with facts.
In the process, we encountered consumers, who gained enough knowledge about one or the other product category so they have realized they had a potential to create a product with the higher value that already existing offers. We decided to dig deeper into that particular moment when consumer stops thinking as consumer and decides that he is ready to produce a product by himself.
We began to search for the ordinary consumers who freely share disadvantages of the existing business offers through their social networks and suggest ways to overcome these obstacles. Personal experience has pushed these people to take a step away from the typical ‘we’ll make a decision for you’ brands system and they started to take actions. What is interesting here is that manufacturers do not usually express an interest to communicate with these consumers, perceiving them to be odd or extreme and trying to avoid their opinion.
Wide access to information and infinite product choice fulfills all the consumers’ expectations and needs, however, in an ironic twist of fate, this has led to consumer being so overwhelmed by the market choice that he gets tired of consuming. As a result, he adds to the key choice criteria one additional feature – not only to maximize benefit, but also to minimize the harm. This dual wish created a minority of consumers who are ready not only to change their consumption model, but also to change the product with their own hands.
Thus, we have outlined four methods to find these not indifferent consumers, who, from our point of view, act as a vital source of information for a business development and act as a link to the wider consumer circle.
- Startups within the different categories – food industry, technology, vehicles, beauty products, home electrical appliances, homeware products, etc.
We have been interested in those who position themselves on the beginning or a medium stage of developing their product – notorious startuppers. Except classical startup stages are not entirely relevant to this category, these people are different from the typical perception of a startup phenomenon. They have a very precise recognition in terms of why they decide to take a risk and this recognition holds emotional and ideological motives first and foremost, not the financial ones. New Age Consumer is a cultural phenomenon primarily and only then a business model. This is precisely the reason for them to illustrate an effective cluster for developing a long term beneficial interaction with brands – increased loyalty to the cultural idea and commitment to the category are the assets that should not be overlooked.
Our New Age Consumer startup example within the product industry category is Anna Litvinova. Anna has begun to produce her own homemade dairy products when she came to realization that she was not able to find a natural product without any harmful supplements in a supermarket. Anna’s son has had an allergy reaction even for those products that were supposed to be absolutely natural according to the written ingredients, which encouraged her to start her own dairy products production with her own hands in order to help those who find themselves in the same situation. While making her own product, Anna transmits values connected to her own ideology in life – “you cannot inflict harm and expect to benefit from it afterwards”. She invests a maximum amount of effort not only to show the value of her products and their health benefits, but also to inspire others to take actions in their own hands. This absolute absence of indifference and desire to care is sensed even from the computer screen, which is the key criterion of the new age consumer selection process – an ability to build up the right communication for your product, desire to transmit honorable values and demonstrate high involvement into the category.
- CRM: online portals reviews
Another method of searching for these new age consumers is secondary data analysis. Firstly, it is the data that comes directly to brand owners through their internal sources and customer feedback platforms. Secondly, the customer reviews on the products that are placed on the online forums such as irecommend.ru, otzovik.com and others. What is crucial here is to find not just an unsatisfied consumer, but to distinguish an enthusiast who clearly articulates not just the reason for being unsatisfied, but also desire and capability to put an effort to change something.
- Enthusiasts: video blogs and instagram
Other valuable sources for searching new age consumers are social networks, blogs and video hostings. This is where it is possible to find those who are deeply involved in the required category and wish to share their opinions and concerns. By making a video, creating a blog or writing reviews on the noticed products, consumer expresses a desire to share his needs and values. This is a highly significant indicator of his loyalty to the overall product category – he does care, he wishes to be heard and he is ready to build relations with a brand if his ideas will be supported.
- Screening involvement within the internal base.
Lastly, clientele lists and loyalty cards are another searching engines. In this case, the tool is a discussion with consumers who made a purchase and left comments or those who stopped acquiring the product for some reasons.
We have further analyzed selection criteria within the clientele lists of current or perspective consumers:
- Those who describe the reasons of why the purchase has not been made or interest for a product decreased (‘our consumer’ is always ready to share thoughts)
- Consumer should show a high level of competence and intelligence when speaking about category (to be involved within the category, to have an experience connected to the product and to be able to identify with clarity and justification what are the most elements of the choice process and why)
- Consumer is aware of his needs (he might express a protest or desire to transform existing product, he is open about it, not afraid to declare his statement and wants to be heard)
- Consumer just not ready to put up with what the market is offering (he has thoughts and he is ready to fix the problem of disparity between his needs and offered solutions)
In comparison with the ‘typical’ consumer to whom the project goal is declared in a very broad simplified manner (gathering feedback, creating of a more appealing communication), new age consumers strive to accomplish a clear and coherent proposition of an interaction goal. They care not only about the brand itself but also all the goals that the brand will meet based on interaction with consumers, therefore the they are interested in all the future development and implementation steps.
This type of consumers wish to rate the value of this interaction not only based on incentives for taking part, but first and foremost based on all of the potential improvements for a larger audience – a sense of being part of a positive change.
We highlight the two basic methods of constructing an interaction model with these not indifferent consumers:
- Projects. Engaging not indifferent consumers in a short-term project with a concrete task: writing a brief for a communication or a product development, for example. Engagement period can last from a short 2-hour session to the 2 week online forums.
- In-house long term. Creating an interaction system with the interested consumers that is based upon involving them into all the development and promotion processes on a permanent base. Gathering an initiative group and giving them an opportunity to interact further with an access to company’s resources (needed space, event management, sponsorship of collaboration with initiatives within the similar categories). This consumer club goal is not only to gather feedback, but also to create an effective communication channel with a larger audience.
Implementing selection system and involving not indifferent consumers will allow to achieve the following:
- Creation of ethical and long-term relations, oriented towards health and longevity.
- Marketing and logistics budget economy – consumer would be ready to make a product/service purchase by himself.
- Creation of an additional value, high loyalty and high NPS are amongst the most evident consequences.
- Opportunity for a long-term operations planning and a constant source of inspiration for any business development.
The table below shows a comparison analysis of a business operation in present times and with implementing “New Age Consumer” approach.
|PRESENT||NEW AGE CONSUMER|
|§ Profit. Business is started as a movement towards profit accumulation and an opportunity to gain more for investors. Even if initially business is oriented towards usefulness for its target audience, eventually profit becomes a superior argument in the decision process.
§ Flexibility. Market is a constantly changing structure where all the players should catch up with the times and never stand still. That is why we conduct rebranding and attract the most professional specialists on the market.
§ Too much information. Business is filled with the large data volume that is gathered by sales channels, marketing and finance. All of the data should have brought clarity into the quicker decision making process, but in fact business keeps postponing the process and tries not to drown in data.
§ Distance. Head team is in charge of information analysis and managing internal conflicts within the company and outside of it with the third parties. Meanwhile the actual interaction with the consumer goes on hold. Eventually, perception of a consumer gets lost and in order to get it back, newer and newer specialists are keep being invited. As a result, business moves away from the consumer and creates a product for a virtual image that is accepted in the company.
|§ Focusing on the consumer. Consumer as the main source of ideas and development, direct communication. Moving away from declaring the principle to the concrete moves for its realization. Profit becomes a criterion for a value creation, not the most important goal.
§ Business Structure. Postponing internal processes in order to create value for the consumer. Moving away from an entropy towards the conscious value creation movement.
§ Clarity. Concentration on value creation allows to pull out only the most significant information which speeds up the decision-making process. This transformation will inevitably lead to internal changes within the organization and external expectations from partners.
§ Family. Involving consumer into a business as an essential working tool, shaping trustworthy relations with the business structure and creation of a long-term working requirements.
We are in a complete awareness that a rapid business shift from the existing system of values towards the consumer is impossible. We believe the process to be a gradual transition. To start with, we offer our clients to begin the process with the smallest things and slowly involve the new age consumer to solve concrete and narrow tasks.
We offer the most common list of tasks that we suggest to work on with a help of not indifferent consumers:
- Value proposal development – the structure is illustrated on the picture below.
- Innovations development within the product proposal department.
- Business involvement and its adaptation.
- Communications development or composition of a creative brief.
- Building a team of brand ambassadors with their involvement in products and services promotion.