A New Standard: Behavioral Shifts in Tomorrow’s Consumer
Last month’s must have is today’s obsolete
Yesterday, I picked up a March 2020 edition of a fashion magazine while on a grocery run. After what seemed like three excruciatingly long minutes, I put it down. Overnight, the advertising and product content seemed no longer relevant, bordering on futile.
How can our prioritized interests, in such a short time become so obsolete? How is the current context impacting the way we behave, and by extension, the way we consume?
The answer lies in a forced mindset shift that is currently underway. As the various areas of the world progressively confine, and subsequently reintegrate, this shift emerges across a multitude of personality types in different ways.
As we focus on changed consumer behaviors, we hone into the Millennial generation, which marketers and sociologists have spilled much ink on in reporting and analysis. A population that quickly adapted with the rise of internet is today barely recovering from the 2008 crisis which hit as soon as they were graduating from college.
The stereotypes of instant gratification and a powerful embodiment of the “Me” persona were two main drivers that pushed us all towards consumption. Brands themselves became emblems of belonging to a global Tribe; a public affirmation of who we are and are not, transcending geography and emboldening culture. We became the strongest ambassadors of the brands we loved. What we consumed, defined us.
However, public lockdown has shifted our priorities and forced a reevaluation of what matters. So, what happens when the definition of who we are, our absolute truths, changes?
We vote with our spend
In an uncertain economic context, consumers are more selective with their purchase choices. They are less likely to try something new, and more prone to actively support the brands that they had previously built an affinity towards.
Natalia Outeda, Creative Director and Founder of Argentinian-based Frassaï perfumes, explained that amid a crisis like no other, she has found a loyal following of her brand on social media, who have continued to advocate for her business because they identify with the values of the brand. Her loyal customer base on Instagram is no longer passive in their engagement but are actively calling on their own following to “support small, independent businesses”, and sharing the scents with their respective communities.
As we become more selective about where we spend our money, there is growing awareness that a purchase is no longer simply an act of personal gratification, but has essentially become a vote. Outeda explained, “I think this is […] where you see if you built your network and your community over the past years. This is when they actually stand for you and help you.”
With acute awareness of a collective purchasing power, consumers will turn to brands that continue to represent an extension of their own value sets, an embodiment of the type of individual they strive to be.
So, how can brands harness the power of a loyal consumer during a time of crisis? First, we need to understand the root cause of the changes in observed behaviors.
A constant DNA within a changing environment
Within a short time, the global context has drastically changed, hence inducing a forced modification of the very habits at the core of our daily routines.
The first driver of change is the fact that our attention is no longer turned towards the outside world. With recreational places being closed, travel bans and other severe confinement rules, our horizon has become limited to the walls of our homes.
The second element we consider is the inherent behavioral model of major personality types. This personality related trait covers the “Why” aspect of consumption choices, the intrinsic drivers. Simply put, some personalities tend to have a more internal reasons (self-driven), whereas others feel the need to externalize and seek belonging through an external lens.
We all have an Experience Seeker in our social circles. Those tireless travelers who are always on the lookout for the next adrenaline rush or the latest food joint in town. They are down to visit cultural exhibitions and learn about a new artist or artform for self-enrichment. This set of consumers is primarily driven by a search for internal gratification. The experience can be visually shared but is lived solo by its lead actor.
On the other hand, Showcasers live a big part of their life under public eye. They document and share their purchases and excursions, and are not hesitant to provide opinions or reviews on their encounters. “Instagrammable” moments are key drivers for newness. External validation by their identified peer set can be the ultimate push for product adoption and public praise/referral.
These two elements put together provide us with a behavioral framework which enables us to visualize how the change in the overall context and environment impacts the priorities of the Millennial consumer.
With the shifting context, we observe that behavioral patterns do not change in as much as the way said behaviors are expressed. Having to translate from a lifestyle shared externally, consumers have found new ways to adapt their habits inward, from the safety of their own homes. They remain loyal to their personal behavioral DNA, amidst a drastically modified context.
Experience Seekers turn their attention towards their inner wellbeing. Mindfulness, building a home which translates into an experiential sanctuary and valuing simple, yet meaningful, gratification moments are some examples reflecting their new consumer choices.
Showcasers, on the other hand, still feel an extraordinarily strong need to share their choices with the outside world. Through online connections, they virtually continue to invite the outside world to witness their staged interiors. Brands become, more than ever, an extension of that person’s lifestyle choices and home aesthetics.
There is great opportunity for packaging to shine as a statement piece, a work of art, targeting Showcasers by giving them a means to set up their homes as a stage for another beautiful creation curated by their good taste. Outeda agrees, “Now, it is about taking care of your space, just like you take care of your physical body, your house. It's also the space that you inhabit. It's kind of a reflection of who you are.”
With these new behaviors in mind, a fast and unplanned transition will take place. Brands have an opportunity to speak the consumer’s new language and provide them with products and experiences that fulfill their latest aspirations.
Up next in our A New Standard series, we will explore brand reactions to those behavioral changes; from expression of their values and suggested responses, to reshuffled product offerings, and a deep dive into the effect lifestyle changes have made on olfactory preferences with evolving consumer tastes. Stay tuned…