How changing consumer behaviours should shape your communication strategy
It may be a little clichéd, but the key to good communication has been, and always will be, to ensure you get the right message to the right people through the right channels. So, if we already know this, I guess the question is – and?
Ensuring you use a good spread of communication channels (print, email, web, video etc.) is often seen as the backbone to any good communications strategy, but what’s more important is to ensure you are delivering your messages through the channels your intended target audience are actually using.
Seems obvious, but it’s not always as simple as it sounds.
I’d like to quickly share with you what I picked up form a recent event, just to provide a little perspective, if a slightly unusual one.
I recently had the pleasure of attending an investment forum in London and in one particular session on Global Equities, I was surprised to find myself right in the middle of a rather interesting session looking at the changing dynamics of the Asian consumer and how this in turn was governing equity strategies (bear with me!).
The crux of the matter was this. The wealth in Asia is with the younger consumer (highly educated, immersed in western culture) and in turn it is they who are dictating where the flow of money goes – they are travelling more, they use new technologies (the statistics of iPhone use was staggering) and they are shopping online ( 77% of purchases are done online). So guess what’s driving some of the investment strategies for Asian Equities…
Ok, so this example is not really going to shape your communication strategy back home, but the lesson learned here is the same – changes in consumer behaviour are valuable triggers that you should not ignore, instead you should use them to adapt your communication strategy.
So, what do we know about UK consumer behaviour?
Well, what we do know for a fact is that it changes and the key is to keep an eye on this. You may wonder how to do this, but there are clues – you just have to look for them. Take the banks, for example. They are making engagement relevant – more digital, more online banking, more mobile banking – in essence, looking at how customers want to engage with them. Supermarkets are another example, look at how some of the lesser known brands have started to get their share of the market, just by being a little different, and look at what some of the bigger names are doing to compete – launching their own tablets, offering online streaming of videos and music and so on.
So, what of the role of technology? Well, I’m seeing a lot of conflicts about the role technology plays amongst the younger consumer, or the Generation Z as it’s become known as (16-34 year olds). Whilst you may initially think “That’s not really my client base”, the obvious answer is, “But it will be in years to come”. With this in mind, it’s important to look at what the ‘emerging customer’ is doing.
Whilst you or I may view some of the digital marketing we now have at our disposal as new, the harsh reality is, many of the consumers of the future do not. That said, there are some interesting shifts we can start to look at. Whilst its true technology is a vital component in everyday life, we are seeing a move from dependency to more of an ‘enabler’ role – consumers are demanding real life experiences and in many cases to piggy-back off the experiences of others.
Bearing this in mind, communications strategies will need to move to offer more advice, and more practical application, such as real life experiences. Perhaps videos that are designed to simply explain what you do as an adviser and how you can help them, websites that showcase your business, your credentials and the practical way you can help with savings advice, helping to get them on the property ladder etc -real life issues, real people receiving an experience they want to share (all optimised where possible for mobile of course!).
Statistics will of course show that digital media is not the sole domain of the young, but I think it’s fair to say that they are certainly the ones dictating the change and indeed the pace of that change.
So, is it technology or bust? I would say not. What we know is that consumers want convenience. If they are engaged in social media, like to look at things on their phone, then common sense would suggest that we would wish to be viewed in this arena. However, there is of course still a lot to be said of tradition, especially when it comes to finance (going back to the banks, you only have to look at some of the shift in messages we are seeing in advertising – placement on heritage, foundations, even the rediscovery of forgotten brands!).
So, with this in mind you will be reassured to know that there is still a place for the written word, a corporate brochure, a client newsletter, or even a well written letter. Remember, it’s about relevance and convenience and when you add to that the other value consumers crave, one which you’ve been adding for years – service – it all makes for a good mix and one that should steer you right over the coming months and, dare I say, years.
Richard Ardron, Chartered Marketer
Marketing Director, SimplyBiz Group