A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending and speaking at the NRF’s Retail Innovation & Marketing Conference in San Francisco. Not surprisingly, everyone was talking about the tremendous impact the digital world has on retail marketing (and marketers). I addressed this topic in my presentation, “Tomorrow’s Customer – How Will You Win Them Over?” The presentation was a frank discussion about how today’s customer is evolving and what to expect from them in the future. In my speech, I used the metaphor of an 800lb gorilla – I call him Igor – to identify the real issue facing marketers today.

Who is my customer and how can I serve them better? The digital world is changing how we deliver experiences and how we innovate. It is also changing our customers. Their expectations are changing and evolving very quickly. Given this, is there a way for us to understand them and do it before Igor becomes a menace?

At Euro RSCG , we have developed an algorithm that enables us to identify a group of consumers we call Prosumers. They are “professional consumers” who have the ability to provide us a view of where categories and brands will go in the next six to 18 months.

In the presentation, I shared five key insights that come out of our understanding of the Prosumer:

1. Deliver value & values

Tomorrow’s customer consumes more and more based on their conscience. That’s why successful brands of the future will be the ones that not only deliver value, but also align with consumers’ values. Rational signals of value have evolved from just low price to also include some added values – quality, customer service and experiences. Brands have to deliver good value, but they also have to stand for something more meaningful in terms of the values they support.

And it’s easy to do – just find real issues that consumers care about and align with the ones that your brand can credibly and genuinely deliver against. I shared the example of a program we at Euro RSCG developed and led on behalf of the next generation of leaders. Take a look at the One Young World Global Youth Summit on YouTube.

2. Build brand momentum

Tomorrow’s customers will align with brands that are moving forward – brands that have momentum. In order to do this, brands need to build trust and show dynamism. Trust is delivered by consistently delivering on the core brand promises. Dynamism is created by innovations and new ways of serving your customers’ needs. Also, for this group of customers, the drivers of brand momentum have changed. The digital environment and experiential engagements are becoming important replacing traditional channels.

3. Edutain, don’t just educate

Remember the importance of entertainment. Due to time starvation and the tremendous amount of content available to them, tomorrow’s customer struggles to consume all the content. Due to this, they now process this in “sound bites”. To ensure they can engage with your brand, you need to create entertaining content with a single-minded value proposition. A great example of this is Evian Rollerbabies. This video created by Euro RSCG in Paris has become the biggest sensation on the web with over 45 million views. It is now in the Guinness Book of World Records. Take a look and see how to engage tomorrow’s customer.

4. Piss people off at your own peril

Tomorrow’s customers are very distrusting of brands and are quick to react. Top notch customer service is an important part of the added value equation. Brands who don’t deliver this kind of service will not be successful.

A great example of this is the infamous United Broke My Guitar video. Dave Carroll, an amateur country music singer, uploaded a video to YouTube after United Airlines smashed his guitar and it turned into an internet phenomenon. Since its debut, the video has been viewed over 8 million times and has definitely affected United’s brand in a negative way.

A critical lesson to all of us. Make sure that the brand delivers on the promise across the value chain. If not, pay the price.

5. Focus on behaviors and not just attitudes

Marketers should be focusing on customer behaviors, in addition to changing attitudes. The environment has become a hot button recently. With all the devastation in China, Haiti, Sudan, Indonesia and Chile to name a few, tomorrow’s customer believes in the need for change.

Euro RSCG was asked to help drive public opinion to provide a clear POV to politicians for the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009. We came up with an initiative called Tck Tck Tck to communicate the ticking clock of our environmental problems. We created a completely unified campaign centered on the idea that the time has come to join the fight against climate change. The website, tcktcktck.org, allowed people to upload their own tcks. Today, over 15.6 million people have signed up. Take a look at the music video created for this program by a number of musicians on You Tube.

The key takeaway from the five insights above… we can no longer ignore Igor.

Yes, digital channels move fast – social media in particular – and you lose some control. But, when you boil it down, the rules are similar to traditional channels – listen to and learn from the consumer. Digital media provides us with other channels to create consumer behavior. But, we need to first identify and understand our customer of tomorrow.

Meet, and embrace, Igor. He could be your new best friend.

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