Three (3) strategies for businesses aiming to engage 21st century consumers
The majority of 21st century consumers fall between ages 20 and 35. A larger percentage of the population have spent at least 140,160 hours on video games and devoted almost as much to consuming social media. More, they grew up with single parents or parents who were always off to work; and have been told consistently that they are ‘the masters of their destiny’.
Welcome to the new generation of consumers. “Always distracted”, “question everything”, “fragmented”, “always demanding apology for any wrong”, “princely”, “technology addicts than human relations”, “always moving and ambitious” – Those are the phrases that best describe these new consumer group that is expected to keep you in business, at least for the next 30 years.
Now it doesn’t matter what you do for money – could be a grocery store down the street or multi-national drilling and dripping in oil money or telecommunications company staking claim on new territories; you even could be an artiste or a politician full of rhetoric – this new demography will make a dinosaur of you except you are prepared to meet them half-way like a bride from Lebanon.
Life experiences set generations apart. Attitudes, behaviours and society are shaped vastly by the reality of a particular time. Those who were born in the period of war won’t have the same outlook or consumer behaviours as those born during a period of peace or recession, even a technological innovations.
That is why marketing researchers and psychologists work to pre-empt the characteristics of emerging segments based on the life experiences of the actors in that market. These characteristics are PEST (political, economic, sociological and technological).
Allegorically, these external factors or macro-environmental influences, ‘pest’, can eat up a business or brand or organisation or country like they did Nokia, Blackberry, NATO, The Roman Empire or R. Kelly. Getting the message?
As a business you can influence your internal environment – talents at your disposal, machines, process – but you can do very little to offset the external environment. You can only align or adapt (whichever grammar suit your fancy between the two terms though).
Why? The external environment is a bowl of collective orientation, and deeper consciousness. Your business will do well to swim with the tide by ensuring your product development, services, process and publicity match the market realities.
For instance, if market is agitating for “a greener ecosystem”, take it as a core product and build recyclable, organic products. If they desire “self-expression”, be more sleek just as Samsung did to downgrade the sluggish Blackberry. Or do the Trump’s “America-first” thing that knocked off the Democrats who preached gender equality and put emphasis on flimsy issues like “type of healthcare” when their nation was losing relevance and might globally.
See, passion may drive new ideas but it’s the market that determines if those ideas are ever going to be profitable or stick out longer.
These are strategies to help you manage the growing band of the new generation of consumers:
- Embrace Customer Experience Management as Part of Your CRM Strategy: When you make friends and know all you have to about them, the relationship soon become predictable. Most likely boredom will set in because each action is now mechanical. At this point the relationship will lose its lustre; excitement will decline. That is the problem with CRM – Sort of nothing new to toggle the psyche. That won’t sell with these new breed of consumers who psychologically hyper-active. The solution therefore is to adopt Customer Experience Management as part of your CRM strategy. Experience Management involves a proactive approach to intentionally tap the customer for reaction, not the customer tapping the company for reaction. O, she just bought a new gown from the store – don’t wait until she calls to say something about the gown. Call her or text to say, “When you wore that gown to test fitting, you were like Kate Middleton; we hope you are enjoying it for real”. That is just an instance. There was an IBTC text that came in and says, “We will be paying you for the claim in the next 2 working days because that’s standard”. Now your mind says, “Well this won’t happen until Wednesday”. While your psyche has settled for that one-day furlong, another text came in after 2 hours reading “alert: claim paid!” Believe me that money will look like a gift. That’s an example of experience management. Such customer won’t forget for a while.
- Don’t Just Engage, Move Further to Integrate: Daily interaction with your customers through social media or newsletters can establish a level of rapport. But there will always be a level of distance, like a thin line separating the individual from the business. It’s like a husband and wife living apart – one in Paris, the other in Lagos – no amount of calls or duration of chats can erase the long distance of time and space. This can be a barrier to the sustainability of any relationship. Business organisations must step out occasionally to organise events that bring their customers together for anything worth attending. Here they can network with each other and also interact with those who provide them services or products. Coca Cola and PepsiCo survival have been partly due to this. Your business would need this occasionally to keep recharge the ‘battery’ of your generation Y and Z consumers for the long run.
- Embrace Small Incremental but Consistent Product or Service Improvement: Generation Y and Z can be snobbish. To gain their attention consistently you must always have good news. Artistes know that. Serious musical artistes keep their fans refresh by coming out with new single every 3 months. Car manufacturers have series. Beverage companies improve product packages occasionally. Retail stores add something new to the atmosphere in the stores quarterly. Staying the same for too long cause rut. If competitors make an improvement somewhere, your generation Y and Z consumers would trade-off. They are hardly loyal anyway.