Navigating today’s complex consumer

How can brands best harness the necessary data to adapt their marketing to provide a relevant and highly personalised customer experience in a time of constant change?

Sam Richardson, Customer Engagement Consultant at Twilio, explores what steps marketers can take to truly understand consumer purchasing decisions and create accurate, real-time customisation.

In today’s incredibly competitive landscape, marketers have their work cut out for them. While several factors have made doing business more challenging, ultimately consumers have never been more difficult to predict. For an industry whose entire purpose is centred on understanding their audiences to maximise sales, this is clearly a significant barrier for marketers to overcome.

‘Polycrisis’ has become the word of the moment, used to describe multiple crises taking place at once. With cost-of-living pressures, rampant inflation, environmental turbulence, political instability and the global pandemic, it’s hardly a surprise that it’s had an impact on the purchases consumers are making, and the decisions they make leading up to them.

So, how can marketers navigate a world where polycrisis is the norm and consumers are more complex than ever?

The correlation between ‘polycrisis’ and purchasing decisions

The impact of uncertainty and unpredictability over the last few years has filtered down to spending patterns and habits. With budgets tightening and wider priorities shifting, consumers are likely to be more discerning and cautious in where and how they’re spending their money – and rightfully so.

Twilio’s recent research suggests behaviours and buying choices have undergone a massive shift in a short space of time, with over half (58 per cent) of UK adults saying they are more complicated than three years ago. Almost a third (30 per cent) also agreed that the pandemic specifically shifted their behaviours and the way they think. Shoppers have also become savvier during this period, with two-thirds (66 per cent) saying they now look harder for better shopping deals.

Within just three years, marketers have a whole set of consumer pressures and motivations to understand. Is it any wonder then, that it’s getting harder to work out why consumers make the choices that they do?

Predictions and generalisations just won’t cut it

With this level of unpredictability, making predictions and generalisations based on demographic data alone is no longer enough. Shoehorning consumers into broad classifications for marketing and targeting strategies cannot account for all the nuances and contexts involved – not to mention any data consumers might have already shared with a brand. 

Our modern world, both on and offline, is also incredibly saturated, with consumers bombarded by brands countless times in a typical day. And it’s not just a case of drowning in content – consumers are drowning in generic content. Marketers therefore need to go above and beyond to stand out. The most successful marketers have caught onto this fact. In fact, almost half (48 per cent) are now questioning the value of traditional customer segmentation through demographic data.

With demographics on their way out, how else can brands accurately target every customer?

The opportunity amid the challenge

While there are no doubt countless evolving challenges for marketers to grapple with, it does pose an opportunity for brands to show that they really ‘get’ their customers. Indeed, almost three-quarters (71 per cent) of marketers are placing renewed importance on real-time personalisation. Instead of placing a consumer in a broad category (with considerable scope for inaccuracy), brands can build detailed profiles for each and every individual based on their past purchases, engagement, and communication preferences. While this may sound like a huge manual task, Customer Data Platforms can automatically pull this data to build these unified customer profiles. This intelligence can then inform everything from offers through to the data customer service teams have while on a call or chat, creating relevant and accurate personalisation in real time.

Not only can these customer profiles be built with more granular detail, but most importantly they can also adapt to the reality of today’s consumer – including their constantly shifting preferences and changing circumstances. From personalised product recommendations and carefully considered email marketing, through to dynamic pricing and customised web pages and mobile apps, tailored marketing strategies are most certainly “in”. In fact, 86 per cent of consumers say personalised experiences increase their loyalty to specific brands, according to Twilio’s State of Customer Engagement report – so the payoff for brands should not be understated.

Here are some key steps for marketers looking to create these personalised experiences and successfully navigate today’s complex consumer:

  1. Shift to first-party data. First-party data is consensually given to brands by their customers or generated by their interactions with them. It’s safer to collect and provides the most valuable insight when building personalised experiences. It’s a win-win for brands looking to better understand their consumers and win their trust at the same time.
  2. Don’t exist in a silo. Nowadays, there are so many touchpoints where brands can engage and learn more about their customers. Ensure you aren’t stuck in a silo, and that you’re optimising the goldmine of data that consumers are willingly giving to you. Consider implementing a customer data platform and AI capabilities to collect and interpret the swathes of data at your fingertips, to turn the insights into meaningful personalisation tactics.
  3. Open your eyes to AI. Very few have ever reaped the rewards of the ‘spray-and-pray’ marketing technique. With generic marketing campaigns based on demographics on the way out, AI has stepped in. AI has the capacity to run potentially millions of campaigns all at once that are hyper-targeted to the intended recipient. While this may not have been anywhere near feasible just a few years ago, AI is changing the game in automating personalised, data-driven marketing campaigns for the masses. With AI freeing up time, marketers also have greater capacity to think differently and creatively about how they can deliver original, targeted marketing, rather than relying on generic, overused content that fails to resonate.
  4. Empathy and understanding are non-negotiables. The various wider pressures over the past few years have unfortunately led to considerable changes in circumstances for many consumers. Brands need to listen, learn, and show empathy and understanding for their customers’ evolving circumstances, rather than always opting for the ‘hard sell’ tactics. Demonstrating this will pay dividends in terms of how consumers view and respect you as a brand.
  5. Value agility over everything. In a world where we’re in a permanent state of polycrisis, agility is a marketers superpower. Brands need to be prepared to quickly pivot in response to emerging trends and global pressures to avoid being tone-deaf or insensitive.

The takeaways

Society has faced no end of challenges and shifting circumstances over the past few years – and brands need to react accordingly. While there’s ample opportunity to jump on new prospects from customers, brands also need to be cognisant of the pressures faced at the other end of the spectrum.

Ultimately, it’s a fine balancing act either way, and brands must be equipped with the means to harness the insights at their fingertips, so they can better connect with and understand the intricacies of today’s complex consumer.

Sam Richardson 

Sam Richardson

Customer Engagement Consultant