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Shocking News! Consumers haven't changed!

Recently I had the privilege of a visiting speaker slot with a bright and lively group of Bachelor students at the HEG in Geneva. We spoke about the changes in patterns in the distribution of products, from open markets to department stores and supermarkets right through to the rise of e&m-commerce and today’s seamless omni-channel experiences. Most of the session was as expected, drawing upon my experiences with these channels, thanks to my time in Africa and Russia and latterly running a pure-play e-commerce approach for Nestlé BabyNes.

Then I made a statement which at first surprised but was eventually appreciated. “Consumers are the same as they always were” There, I said it!

Well, “wait a second” the students exclaimed, “consumers today shop on-line, spend 35 minutes* a day on Facebook, and don’t know how to use a map – of course they have changed!”

At this point I asked the simple question; “why do you drink coffee? (having earlier ascertained most were coffee drinkers). “To wake me up, to get me going, to keep me awake when writing an essay” came their replies. “What’s changed?” I asked. The truth is that nothing has fundamentally changed. The reason why we drink coffee is the same, therefore the needs of the consumers have not changed. Sure, there is more choice, different channels from which to purchase, and delivery to your door, but the basic needs from a product remains the same.

Marketers would do well to never forget this. Your product must deliver what it does in a way, place and time the consumer wants it. Harness the technology to help you reach the consumer at the right moment with the right message; use a multi-channel or omni-channel approach but make sure you understand how your consumer is using each touchpoint in relation to your product. Never forget why the consumer wants what you sell!

Consumers haven’t changed – don’t be fooled by the technology and tools available into thinking they have.

Thanks to Mark Schumacher, lecturer in International Management at HEG Geneva for the invitation and opportunity to share experiences with the students. Always inspiring.

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