"The world and Ireland are changing rapidly in many unpredictable ways leading to both positive and negative consequences."
The busier we are, the faster we move, the deeper our focus on action, and the less we pause to look up and sense check if our actions are effective and fit for purpose. Understanding people and marketplaces is marketing 1.0, but as we get busier are we failing to notice the shifting sands of what people really want and in turn missing the real opportunity. Insight now more than ever is a powerful engine for sustainable growth and commercial advantage.
At Ignite we see first-hand the evolving and dissolving motivations and behaviours of Irish people. We also see the pressures which are coming to bare on brands as they seek to chart a course to growth in an ever more complex landscape. In the cross hairs of this change lies a real opportunity to leverage insight as a potent fuel to deliver both clarity for marketers and growth for their brands.
Accelerated Pace of Change is Unsurprisingly Changing the Consumer
Political upheaval and social unrest, financial recession and recovery, globalisation of commerce and culture, and technological advancement. The macro axes of change are in full bloom. The world and Ireland are changing rapidly in many unpredictable ways leading to both positive and negative consequences.
Macro level volatility and rapid pace of change clearly impacts people’s world, but also importantly their world view and personal priorities. Social and cultural values have shifted (who do we trust), financial means have been upended (recession for all and recovery for some), and the ways in which we interact with people and the world around us has changed fundamentally (smartphone normalisation and all things digital).
These changes matter as they dramatically alter how people prefer to engage with various categories and the kinds of experiences and products which are sought out. We only have to look at how the relatively recent explosion of health-conscious life styles has had a metamorphic impact on the categories of food and beverage, entertainment and leisure and even clothing. A shift from pre-recession hedonistic indulgent living in the moment has been replaced by a drive for control and sustainability. 3 in 5 (59%) Irish adults exercise regularly and monitor their diet. This is just one macro shift in values which has changed the fortunes of many categories and brands. Those who were in step with this change are reaping the rewards, those who missed the moving zeitgeist are now playing catch up at best.
The Paradox of the Busy Marketer
Tangential to the changing consumer, the marketer’s toolkit is evolving at pace. The proliferation of specialities, channels, platforms and agencies feels almost exponential, and certainly bordering on overwhelming, if not having passed that tipping point. Marketers are fighting a torrent of change, trying to keep abreast of new tools and techniques whilst simultaneously under increasing pressure to do more in less time whilst driving greater commercial impacts.
With an expanding superabundance of choice, it is not surprising that many marketers focus the majority of energy on selecting the correct marketing tools to move forward. Focusing on the marketing action and not on reassessing the consumer dynamics is all too common.
There is a clamour to be fast and first to capitalise on the next emerging weapon in the marketing toolkit. However, this drive to be fast and first is becoming less effective, less controlled, ever more tactical and reactionary. It leads to missing the real opportunity to design category and brand interactions which are truly valued by your target market. This opportunity comes from being able to leverage up to date consumer insight and in short, insight is an effective engine for both strategic advantage and tactical precision which in 2017 is not being fully tapped by many brands.
Insight as an Engine for Strategic Advantage
Insight can (and should) inform and shape commercial and marketing strategic plans. Some of the fundamental shifts in the Irish consumer represent a tangible opportunity for brands to cultivate new sustainable growth trajectories if leveraged appropriately.
The key changes we are seeing in Ignite in our work to better understand people and consumers can be summarised under two key macro points:
1. Irish consumers are increasingly more fragmented and nuanced.
There is a greater number of different consumer cohorts emerging. There is also a much greater degree of distinction within, and differentiation across these groups of people. What world view do they have and bring to your category, and more pragmatically what level of financial freedom and decision making do they have. People’s priorities and financial fortunes are vastly different and more varied across Ireland in 2017 than ever before.
The simplistic view of mass segmented targets (housewives with kids, all ABC1s or similar) are no longer fit for purpose and in the past they were blunt instruments at best. However, we regularly see brands and marketers regress to the inaccurate, hackneyed and worn out “insight” into these groupings. The consumer landscape is far more nuanced than this in 2017. There is clear opportunity to be unlocked by not only appreciating the emerging tribes in Irish society, but more specifically in how this translates into your category and marketplace.
"Consumers assume big brands (not just tech) know a lot about them and have the power to tailor and deliver increasingly personalised conversations, experiences and solutions"
2. Irish consumers have high expectations and increasingly low tolerance for brands who fail to deliver solutions which fit with their needs.
Fuelled by technology and highly tailored solutions and experience from tech brands such as Amazon, Netflix, mytaxi and many others, consumers assume big brands (not just tech) know a lot about them and have the power to tailor and deliver increasingly personalised conversations, experiences and solutions.
People have high expectations around personalised and relevant interactions with brands. There is significant frustration and dissatisfaction when these high expectations are not met and this is compounded by frustration and lack of understanding as to why brands aren’t interacting in a tailored and meaningful way. People will, and do move very willingly between brands and service providers who miss the mark. Irish consumers are becoming more vocal and more motivated to vote with their feet when expectations are not met.
Many brands are now re-calibrating assumptions around consumer needs from a category and are finding surprising movements in what people actual seek out, value, and importantly how they make their decisions between alternatives.
We are seeing a more pragmatic approach to targeting the consumers which brands specifically feel are winnable and desirable for them. Understating customer bases which are stable (loyal), vulnerable (to switching to an alternative), and winnable (open to switching to your brand), and then clashing this with what customer priorities and financial capacity is paramount for converting market and consumer insight into marketing effectiveness and positive commercial impacts.
Insight as an Engine for Tactical Precision
There are also numerous areas of application of insight to help guide and refine some of the more tactical decisions facing marketers. With the earlier touched on proliferation of marketing tools and channels, one such area is clearly the online and digital sphere.
Online and digital has a vast catalogue to thumb through, website UX, mobile, online customer journey, digital payments, conversational e-commerce and Influencer Marketing among others. This is an area where we are seeing much interest from brands and also much change occurring in how people want and expect brands to behave.
1. Breaking down cross channel silos and customer experiences
As an industry we have worked diligently to come to grips with individual components of the vastly expanding digital landscape. We have ensured our websites are mobile responsive, we’ve built online sales and payment capabilities and we have worked hard to ensure that we can capture the digital path to purchase.
What is often overlooked is the reality that people are not online or offline, they move cross channels fluidly to cater to their information or purchase needs at any point in time. We are seeing people become increasingly frustrated with siloed consumer journeys in either the online or physical environment. Increasingly people are coming to expect and demand cross channel fluidity in terms of how they want to research and purchase. Not everyone who prefers to research a product online will prefer to purchase online. The chart below indicates the proportion of people who prefer to research online in each category who then prefer to purchase through online or offline channels.
Brands need to better understand the cross-channel consumer journeys, and design solutions which are channel agnostic and leverage both the physical and digital assets of the brand in the right balance for the needs of the consumer in different research and purchase scenarios.
2. Trust in online channels
One of the newer additions to our collective proliferating marketing arsenal is Influencer Marketing. Rather than dismiss or blindly embrace Influencer Marketing we should seek to have a considered and empirical approach to how we decide to wield it. Trust in this relatively new channel/technique versus others can be seen below.
The question is not a binary one about brands being right or wrong to use influencers, it’s more about having robust insight into how and in what way influencer marketing best works and how it relates to your brands wider strategy. Clearly as people become more aware of Influencer Marketing there is a trust deficit which needs to be considered.
Insight as an Engine for Growth
Marketers need to continuously monitor the wider context of what is shaping people’s needs and motivations as they enter various category. Brands can get distracted looking downward at what they can do to win the battle against competing brands within the category. Often the real opportunity to win is to look up and out of the category to how the consumer and more specifically people’s lives are changing. Designing propositions, experiences, communications and products/services from this informed perspective will be far more fruitful in winning in your category and assisting in making effective and informed decisions on which of the many marketing tools should be used and in what way.