Live from NEMOA: Keeping Up With The Changing Consumer

Boston—The consumer is changing—are you? That was the title of Wednesday’s opening session at the NEMOA conference. Marketers need to keep up with the ever-changing consumer landscape. Lois Brayfield, chief engagement officer for consultancy J. Schmid & Associates, outlined five key points on how to do this.

  1. Align your marketing initiatives at all touch points, both consumer and company drive.
  2. Intimately know your customer.
  3. Closely manage the customer experience.
  4. Understand what it means for your brand.
  5. Demonstrate value.

Given the bad economy and the abundance of information combined with scarcities of attention, time, and trust, society is going through a chaotic and confusing period. And it’s going to be reorganized in ways marketers can’t predict or anticipate.

“The best we can do,” Brayfield said, “is be persistent, change, and move with it. Consumers don’t trust companies like they used to. The new consumer’s path is no longer linear.”

Five areas of alignment for marketing activities are: prioritize your marketing by stage; target your message appropriate to the decision path; invest in consumer driven vehicles (new ways to show products, testimonials, interactive); make the decision stage easy with right information; and provide a seamless brand experience. If you don’t, Brayfield cautioned, your company will waste money and alienate consumers and possibly customers.

Companies who actively manage the customer experience are twice as likely to exceed profit targets, Brayfield said. Research is an integral part of understanding the customer, along with one-on-one interviews, reading what they’re saying, and using psychographic overlays.

Merchants also need to focus on acquisition and retention programs. “It’s all about staging that experience at every point of contact,” Brayfield said. “We all come with a certain frame of reference, and your customers do too.”

There is a demand for authenticity, Brayfield said, which not only means not false or copied, but trustworthy and genuine. This is where brand building and recognition begin.
“We have to be trustworthy,” Brayfield added. “Be what you say you are.” Three rules of authenticity are: don’t claim to be authentic if you’re not; it’s easier to be authentic if you don’t say you are; and if you so say you are authentic, then you better be. “Perception is everything,” she said.

Brayfield borrowed a quote from John Lansing, president of Scripps Networks: “We don’t have a different audience, but an audience that’s acting different. Their value system is shifting from aspiring to material wealth, to aspiring to a life better lived.”

She also cited some statistics that revealed more about the new consumer:

  1. Americans cut daily expenditures by more than 40% in the past year.
  2. In 2006, savings hit a negative and recently hit 4.2% of disposable income.
  3. Many expect savings to stabilize near 5%.
  4. Consumers are more careful, practical, more socially conscious and more embarrassed by flashy shows of wealth.

Brayfield said value is a word that gets thrown around a lot by marketers, but it has to mean something to customers. Demonstrating value provides real solutions; the product lasts longer; it gets the customer more for her money; creates an amazing experience; fits better; treated better; it’s easier; creates lasting memories; and aligns with her values.
Remember that value does not equal the lowest price, Brayfield said: Value equals price and quality.

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