Strategic Futurists; Value Systems Specialists


Emerging Consumers: Fact or Fiction?

Monday 20 May 2013

As a futurist spending much of my time assessing emerging developments and their implications across an array of industry sectors, I am frequently asked for a view on 'consumer trends'. Common questions are 'what will consumers want in the future?' 'Does our product (service) have a place?' 'What is driving consumer behaviour?' 'How can we get ahead of the changing marketplace?' and so on. But what if they're the WRONG questions? For anyone who has seen me facilitate a public session, you'll know that I play part court jester, part voice of conscience to provoke they way people think. So allow me a little provocation for you:

Consumers are NOT changing. Instead what we are seeing is the removal of the 'blinkers' most organisations are wearing that have hidden from view the hundreds or thousands of potential customers within their sights. Whilst methods of information gathering are shifting for consumers, that is just a tool, not a process. The intended outcome is very much the same - find out what I need to know.

Which means that even though technology is acceleraing the speed at which a consumer can gather information, it is Companies that are emerging out of the woodwork. It is as if the smog is clearing and businesses are finally seeing that there is (and in fact has ALWAYS been) a myriad of potential consumer dynamics in the marketplace. The most significant impact of this new awareness on behalf of companies, is the collapse of the validity of A-B-C consumers, of age based demographic targeting.

These approaches still have a role to play but they are not the be all and end all of marketing activity. Instead Companies are becoming increasingly aware that some consumers prefer fast paced snippets, some in depth commentary,  and others prefer to go their own way. Some need to be guided, others prompted, some provoked. And this happens across age groups and across geographic locations and across income levels.

So are there Emerging Consumers? - kind of. And for the case of playing the Court Jester role, let me suggest that the emergence is on the part of Organisations who are at last, shaking off their delusion that you can 'cookie cutter' their marketing and branding. Sure tastes may change and for now Emerging Consumers are probably Faction than Fact

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