The new normal customer

You should really be excited.

The government – no matter what country you live in – recently reported that the last few unsteady years are behind us and things are better and getting better.

That’s government speak.

Actually, the downturn lasted so long it changed the consumer landscape, so the next few years deserve there own name…”the new normal”.

The new normal consumer is frugal in areas we never thought twice about before.

This is the type of person who will go “a little wild” in other product purchase areas because it will help them at work and in the home. They will look for products they find useful in managing others aspects of their lives.

Government folks focus on the less than 10 per cent unemployment figure, but keep in mind that means nine out of 10 of us are employed.True, you may not be as liquid as you were a few years ago, and you’re probably pushing your productivity past your limit, but staying above the yellow line is a good thing.

The drawn out dry spell “trained” folks that many of the day-to-day necessities – toothpaste, hairspray, towels, shirts, tacos, etc. – were all pretty much the same so what the heck buy generic or what’s on sale.People changed their buying patterns. They’re shopping more and not feeling guilty walking out of a store without a bag in your hand.There are six frugal customer segments: Laggards, Loyalists, Channel Surfers, Deal Hunters, Online Windows Shoppers, and Shopper 2.0. Before these six types of customers were spread out and would shop at a different store even if it was inconvenient just for a lower price. Today, every segment except for laggards has moved over and are willing to buy products online whenever possible, according to a Booz & Company study.

Disappearing Act

The last few years have changed the consumer’s view of his/her brand and store loyalty when they purchase.

They look for deals – super prices – and they look more closely about the company/management behind the product. The challenge is for companies/products to continually search out new, more effective ways of winning and keeping customers. We’ve discovered that the new “necessities” – smartphone, tablet, apps – can be used interchangeably at home/work, so they’re a meaningful investment.

Industry Bright Spot

That’s probably why the PC/CE/communications industry and resellers/retailers are slightly more optimistic.

For them, there seems to be light at the end of the very long tunnel as consumers move up to the new necessities.

Consumers have cut back their spending almost across the board over the past two years, but there are glimmers of optimism that people are opening up to the new computing, entertainment and mobile devices.

The challenge will be in making a profit on each sale. At the same time, the growth in the numbers of shoppers and bargain hunters has made it difficult for commodity brands to retain customers. They must re-win them…every day.

What the heck, if you’re going to go a little overboard to get the necessity, you might as well do it right.

The new necessity has to have those extra factors that make the investment even more “rational” to you.

Price Plus

While retailers and even some consumers will tell you that it’s always about price when folks make a purchase, it isn’t necessarily so.

There’s a growing laundry list of “important” features that men/women/kids take into consideration when they make their purchases. The key for successful producers and retailers is to tap into as many of these consumer features as possible. At least you’re not blowing money in a frivolous manner, ya’ know! The fact is you’re paying closer attention to your buying choices and to the companies behind the products.

As a leading-edge influence (yes you), Euro ESCG Worldwide found that prosumers considered all of the factors when making their purchases:

• 86 per cent shop more carefully, mindfully than they used to;

• 70 per cent say that it is more important to them to feel good about the companies with which they do business;

• 77 per cent prefer to buy from companies that share their personal values;

• 68 per cent of prosumers pay more attention to the environmental and/or social impact of the products they buy; and

• 79 per cent of prosumers believe they have a responsibility to censure unethical companies by avoiding their products.

None of this was a surprise to our kids who have a lifetime of apps on their smartphones.

Not a Phone – Today’s smartphone is only incidentally used to place/receive calls. All of the other capabilities, features, apps are used much more often to keep abreast of the news while on the go, stay in textural touch with friends/family/coworkers and to get the entertainment people want no matter where they are.

Daughter has her tablet and the son can’t wait to cruise the aisles and web to get his “better solution.”He’s got time since the mobile phone show (CTIA) featured a ton of new mobile devices that fit better in a backpack than in his pocket.

Not only are the smart devices with them constantly, they’ve helped make the mobile web the place to be.

They have so many links, tags, mini social groups, geo-location information out there that we sometimes worry that their lives are a little more open than we’d like.

We’re concerned about their loss of privacy, the possibility of being hacked on an unsecured network and other safety issues.

But it just doesn’t seem to bother the kids that much.

Privacy, Security

Social media and geo-location apps are raising concerns with men, women, and kids on how the mobile technology can be misused. The 360 degree life apps make people wonder if perhaps too much is being shared. Young people who have grown up on the Web wonder what all the fuss is about, according to a study done by security developer Webroot. We have to admit that the geo-location apps give us a little peace of mind and they’re O.K. with that…as long as we don’t embarrass them.We can dig that because we remember our dad following us every now and then…of course, we could see him too.

Social + Geo-location

Combine the social media tools with geo-location and you also have fantastically effective marketing tools that marketers and retailers are slowly, carefully using to reach these tech influences.

Marketers have taken notice of the fact that smartphone users are more active in the social media area and are carefully working to develop and strengthen relationships with prospects and customers.

A new breed of one-to-one and M2M communications make it possible to be very precise in your messaging, as long as the relationship isn’t abused, according to a study by the MS&L Group.

Think about it. It’s an inexpensive, easy, effective way for business to get their name out and engage customers.

Places such Foursquare, Yelp, Brightkite, Gowalla, Facebook, Google and other hard to pronounce, hard to remember services are focused on helping organizations turn awareness into long-term customer relationships.

Of course, getting them into the store is only part of the battle for manufacturers.

They want to “help” the consumer purchase the product/service once they are there.

Yes…there are apps for that.

That’s It

The focused, creative marketers are making it easy for the individual to use his/her smart device in the store to get all the information he/she wants…BAM!

You Are Here – Smart devices, social media and geo-location apps make it possible for people to quickly, effortlessly cruise through shopping malls to locate the specific store with the best price on just the product you’re looking for.

Creative marketers are also able to use the service to reach out to consumers and offer coupons, special promotions, shopping hints and more.Imagine all that marketing/sales information out there just waiting to be sent to your smart device to “help” you make an intelligent purchase.

Manufacturers and retailers are also sweetening the pie with their social media/geo-location tools to turn the shopper into a customer…regular customer.

Of course, all of these marvelous social media tools can also be used against the manufacturer or retailer that intrudes a little too much on the new relationship.

They simply express their displeasure and a whole bunch of relationships turn sour…quickly.

They Reach Back

The challenge for the online marketer is to reach just the right balance of delivering timely information, materials, fun for customers without overreaching, overstepping.

Irritate them and they have a very public means of striking back with messages across the Web.

Translation…it’s no place for amateurs.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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