Consumers want love: Milen Mahadevan

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Milen Mahadevan, Senior VP-Client Solutions, Dunnhumby USA

Winning with customers requires that businesses move beyond building preference for a brand, even beyond building loyalty. Consumers don’t want to consume, they want to love. They want to engage on an emotional level, in a way that is relevant.

Most marketers accept the idea that personalization is the future of brand-consumer communications. That requires a fundamental change in how marketers think about their consumers and how they measure success.

By understanding what is unique to them and leveraging that knowledge to build constructive dialogue, brands can cultivate a relationship that engenders loyalty.

Many marketers already have the tools they need to realize the benefits of personalization, but most insist on using the same tired techniques when examining “average” consumer behavior. The myth persists that consumers within the same demographic will behave in identical ways.

For example, the “average 32-year-old female” evokes a snapshot image of a married mother of two in a middle-income household of four.

Picture this: Anna is 32, single and earns $90,000 a year. Her grocery trips tend to be frequent and quick, and Anna spends little time meandering through the aisles. Instead, she moves deliberately, straight from fresh produce, to cheese and wine, to frozen meals, stopping for a few items in the personal-care section as she checks off her list.

Now another picture: Julia is 32. She and her husband both pool an annual income of about $150,000. Their schedules are packed with extracurricular activities for their four children. Julia grocery shops just a few times a month. She scours aisles for new convenient but healthy products, browses the magazine aisle, and, as a treat, grabs a latte at the Starbucks kiosk.

In reality, the commonly held view of a 32-year-old female can be wildly different from how actual people in that demographic engage with a brand. Not only do Anna and Julia’s lifestyles diverge from that of the “average” 32-year-old woman, but their behavior is much different.

Consumer research often reveals a frustrating disconnect between perception and reality — what consumers claim to want and what they actually purchase.

Even if they are demographically similar, consumer needs and preferences for engagement can vary dramatically. For instance, one segment might appreciate convenient options and prefer to print digital coupons; another could seek healthier solutions and find value in health-related articles, while others may seek meal solutions through dish-pairing suggestions and recipes.

By looking at the differences and similarities in purchases and online conduct, behavioral-driven segments let communications focus on the lifestyle of the household as a conduit for delivering value and rewards.

Appealing to consumers’ unique needs and concerns enables brands to differentiate their message from irrelevant offers targeting the same demographic. It gives their audience a reason to open an email, engage with the brand and build constructive dialogue that rewards them for engaging.

Segmenting groups of subscribers according to their behavior lends itself naturally to customizing and delivering pertinent messages, and consequently, forging meaningful and enduring relationships with consumers.

When businesses turn to behavior-driven strategies, they are wisely shifting gears, moving away from relying on their communications to retain consumers and towards providing content consumers want to see.

Understanding consumers through their behaviors will more clearly separate the winners from the losers in the near future. Brands now have the power to interact directly with their consumers, and personalization can increase engagement, helping to add to a single, intimate view.

Consumers are telling us what they want. It’s our turn to show them we’re listening.

Courtesy: AdAge

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