Q&A: The Conscious Consumer's Hierarchy of Needs

Apr 05, 2018


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Consumers are changing—and so too must marketing strategies. Research from Blis exposed new “conscious consumers,” and shares data-informed insights and recommendations about how to build loyalty with them. EContent interviewed Alex Wright, head of insights at Blis, about these consumers and what marketers need to know to reach them.

Q: The report describes a hierarchy of customer needs. Can you sum that up for us?

A: In our research, we found that consumer purchasing behaviors have shifted so dramatically since the 2008 recession that it has created a new, and seemingly lasting, hierarchy of needs for brand/consumer relations. The Conscious Consumer was formed as a result of enforced spending changes coming out of 2008 and he/she now has different requirements from the brands with which they engage. At the foundation, we have the basics--the quality has to be enough to do the job for them and brands need to offer competitive pricing to appease these bad economy survivors. The middle tiers are more choice-based, reflective of the digital age and convenience-based consumer preference. And at the top is the consumer ideal which sees consumers making purchasing decisions based on shared trust or affinity.

Q: One of the most important factors for shoppers seems to be product quality. Are brands with a problematic reputation for quality suffering? Are there other brands, which have historically concentrated on quality that are seeing improved results now?

A: This was not a part of our research, but the success of the DNVB (digitally native vertical brands) such as Dollar Shave Club and ThirdLove where traditional retail is struggling would seem to bear out our findings. A focus on quality--of service and product--is bearing fruit for these newer brands that respond precisely to the Conscious Consumer.

Q: How can digital marketers craft messages that meet the "hierarchy of needs"?

A: Digital marketer messages will need to simultaneously address the different needs outlined in the hierarchy to develop meaningful relationships with the Conscious Consumer. Quality and price are most important and that messaging needs to be the first things that consumers see or eyes will go elsewhere. Next most important, is the convenience factor. Amazon Prime and their two-day shipping rule have capitalized here and been rewarded kindly. And then finally, once all those other needs are met, trust and authenticity messaging will build longer-term engagement and keep consumers converting.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about the content customers prefer?

A: According to the research, 55% of consumers prefer being served content that is promotional, functional, or rational. Brands need to be perceived as offering the Conscious Consumer value to see success, for example, offering them in-aisle deals, coupons, exclusive access, maps to get to a store location, or product details. These consumers want deals with brands they buy from often--they expect to be rewarded for loyalty with 30% of consumers putting unrewarded loyalty at the top of their turn offs. Targeting consumers with content perceived as valuable at the right time and place will help brands find success with the Conscious Consumer.

Q: 55% of consumers asked said that they give brands only one chance for a mistake before moving on. Can you give us an example of a "mistake"?

A: Mistakes can be as simple as shipping the incorrect product or size, an out of context advertisement, or an experience with a rude or unhelpful customer service representative. High-profile examples like United’s recent furor grab headlines but what this research suggests is that even small slips from brand promise can have a long-lasting effect on the brand relationship.

Q: Can you give us an example of a brand that handled a "mistake" well?

A: There are many examples of brands that have handled mistakes well. What these brands that have overcome these mistakes have in common is that they tend to immediately listen to the issue and react by issuing an apology. Additionally, these brands usually have invested years in developing their consumer/brand relationship with positive messaging and therefore can rest on the strength of the relationship to fix the trust breached.


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