The decade of the 2020s has given businesses—and every loyal customer counting on them—quite a ride. Neither tea leaves nor the best efforts of analysts could have predicted the impact that the one-two punch of a pandemic and roller-coaster economy would have on markets – and marketplaces.
Consumers have found their pockets filled and emptied. Employers have had trouble staying open and then difficulty hiring enough staff for swelling demand. Moreover, companies have struggled to get the raw materials and transportation network needed to deliver their products to a wanting public.
In this decade, already emboldened and savvier due to a digital revolution, consumers have continued to evolve in buying habits and expectations. However, even considering the recent past events, this “evolved” consumer did not emerge overnight. Instead, this consumer has been evolving for the last two decades, maybe even more.
With so much at stake, companies that want to grow sustainably and build a loyal base of customers need to take command of market forces. And more importantly, they must deeply understand what drives contemporary consumer decision-making. Today, as in the past, the answer lies in insights, and digital has made this more efficient. However, CEOs must still have a road map to gather data that is at once actionable and on-target.
A Loyal Customer Has a Deeper Connection
Many people have heard about marketing professor Philip Kotler’s four P’s that guide every marketing plan: Product, Price, Placement, and Promotion. These four P’s call out essential aspects needed to activate marketing ideas to reach consumers in the best possible way.
However, Kotler first published his four P’s in 1967, a much more tactile and analog time when retailers had better control over their dialogue with and messaging consumers. The original four P’s are now considered Marketing 1.0, which according to the Kellogg School (with whom Kotler, 91, remains associated), are “a simple appeal to homo economicus to show that a company’s brand functionally offered the best value for that market segment.”
However, today, consumers demand a deeper relationship with the products, services, and companies they choose to bring into their lives and support with their hard-earned money (even more so in a tight economy). The drivers of this deeper relationship can be explained by the new four P’s on the block: PEOPLE, PLANET, PURPOSE, and PROFIT (yes! PROFIT).
J.W. Marriott once said, “Take care of your people, they will take care of your customers, and your business will take care of itself.”
Employee satisfaction drives customer satisfaction. A business’s customers can “feel” when employees are dissatisfied. Customers know by the tone of their voice and their energy when they call the 800 number to get questions answered when they try to have a complaint dealt with via text, chat, or by submitting questions online. The way employees feel comes across in their interactions with customers. If a company takes care of its employees, they will care for its customers.
#2 Planet-Friendly Products
Constant innovation, ease of use, clear benefits, and value propositions are all critical aspects of successful products. However, this can no longer be at the unrestricted expense of our planet’s natural resources. Wasteful products are getting ditched by consumers; gone are the days when the box within a box was perceived to be a more luxurious product. Instead, environmentally-friendly packaging is now guiding consumer decisions and responsibly harvested ingredients.
Take, for example, Natura, the Brazil-born personal care company founded in 1969. Natura’s mission is “to create and sell products and services that promote the harmonious relationship of the individual with oneself, with others, and with nature.” With this philosophy, Natura has been responsibly using Brazil’s natural resources to create its products, gathering hundreds of thousands of loyal consumers worldwide. They have become a force to be reckoned with, recently acquiring The Body Shop and Avon.
Cause marketing is not new. Recall the Dawn dish soap advertising showing that it is so mild yet effective that it can wash birds caught in oil spills. While their advertising used nature to communicate the product’s benefits (gentle yet firm), they also donated to wildlife conservation efforts. That is because of marketing.
According to a recent study, today’s consumer demands to ally with business with a PURPOSE — a company with a soul. For example, Tom’s Shoes and Bombas Socks donate a pair of their products to a child in need for each one purchased. Their mission is to help children in need of shoes and socks worldwide, and they enable their mission to sell their products PROFITABLY.
WARNING: do not pay lip service to consumers because they can see right through it; businesses must mean it.
Consumer product companies are not the only ones catching the purpose-driven business wave. The service industry is too, and perhaps the most shocking example comes from the financial sector: banking. Standard Chartered Bank launched the well-received “We Are Here for Good” campaign, which explains the brand’s position that a bank can be a force for good in the world. Two of the most potent advertisements in this campaign show how Standard Chartered is walking the talk regarding gender equality in the workplace (watch here) and how it is fighting the illegal wildlife trade (watch here).
Healthy profits are a fourth P and a natural conclusion of the 3 Ps that preceded. Nevertheless, the new economy comes with a new breed of “evolved” customers, and the priorities of those customers are not the same as those of a few decades past. In order to capture the hearts of these consumers, and retain them, businesses will need to dare to put Kotler’s old “Ps” on the chopping block and imagine focusing their strategy on a whole set of new Ps.
Satisfied employees (People), planet-friendly Products, and a clear Purpose that inspires both how employees are treated and what products are brought to market, are in our current time the necessary requirements for any company to be successful and profitable.
Make the Buying Process Enjoyable
The importance of making the in-store shopping experience as easy and enjoyable as possible cannot be overstated. However, marketing leaders often struggle to understand their target customers and what they want from their shopping experience, and AI-powered technology can help retailers solve this problem. By uncovering valuable insights about shoppers’ preferences and tastes, marketers can create targeted offers, better recommendations, and relevant messages that resonate with their target customers. These changes will help retailers work toward delivering an omnichannel environment that meets customers wherever, whenever, and however they choose to shop.
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