Sunday, January 28, 2007

Postmodern shopper

In the Dec. 19th edition “The Economist” writes about how today’s shopper follows the postmodern paradigm of leading postmodern philosopher’s like Derrida, Lyotard, or Foucault. The “postmodern” shopper deconstructs any pattern of old shopping behavior and erases any strict boundaries of price, image, brand, and location. One shopper might “perform” the following activities during one day: Buy cheap socks at Wal-Mart, and an expensive iPod at the Apple store; Eat lunch at McDonalds, and dinner at a five start restaurant; browse online for the best flat panel TV at Circuit City’s peer review site, and buy it at Best Buy at the nearest store, eat cheap white “Wonderbread” and drink a $100 bottle of red wine to go with it.

We marketers need to much better understand the foundation of a postmodern society and its inhabitants to do our job. There are three key elements for a postmodern shopper society:
  • It’s not just a fragmentation of our society into numerous groups and segments; it’s about the fragmentation of one consumer into a multitude of personalities. These personalities are more and more difficult to cluster and segment into marketable groups. They segment themselves into one person units. It’s the potential nightmare of 1:1 marketing that can not be executed due to the inconsistencies of the “1” element.
  • It’s not just about more diverse value and belief systems, it’s about the ever shifting values and criteria for a purchase and consumption decision of one consumer. Any traditional research to understand the long obsolete “purchase funnel” will have less and less value. Consumers don’t move down logically the purchase funnel but are jumping back and forth without regards for our nicely designed funnel programs.
  • Its not just about the loss of control of brands for us marketers, it’s about the lack of understanding how a brand interacts and can influence any consumer. It is not a marketing strategy to just accept the loss of control and hand over the brand to consumers. It’s more about enabling the consumer to experience the brand in his or her way, and to enhance this experience by any form of participation.

I have seen glimpses of postmodern marketing but our marketing community is far away of setting a standard in postmodern marketing. But it might be that the pure lack of this standard is one of the enduring sides of today’s marketing discipline in a postmodern world. And still, we have to understand how to build the underlying marketing science and derived marketing strategies in a post modern world.

14 Comments:

Blogger Kevin Hillstrom said...

Well written!

Does anybody do a good job of attacking the problem you identified, and what ideas do you have for attacking it?

I tend to agree with what you wrote, and I don't think marketers can ever aspire to use any 1 to 1 marketing techniques for this type of customer behavior.

11:46 AM  
Blogger Michael Fassnacht said...

Thanks for your comment. That's the challenge with the hype around 1:1 Marketing over the last 10 years. Our consumers might have already moved beyond 1:1 marketing (before it was even well executed by marketers) and created behavioral clusters within themselves.

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good stuff.

Here's what it got me thinking: Is this *really* a change in consumer behavior (i.e, Mickey D's for lunch, 5* for dinner)or simply a slap upside the head to marketers' traditional ways of segmenting consumers?

Not only are there marketer-perceived anomalies in consumers' behavior across product lines, but based on the consumer research I've done over the past few years within financial services, I've concluded there are differences within categories.

Specifically, what I'm referring to, is that consumers will delegate decision making for their insurance policy to their agent...yet are soloists, doing it all themselves, when it comes to their investment portfolio. Now, how in the hell do you figure out the best way to market to that consumer if you're a financial services marketer?

6:42 AM  
Blogger Michael Fassnacht said...

That's a very good question. Segmentation in the financial industry can be one of the tougher ones, although most of the companies have the significant advantage of owning more personal and transactional information on existing consumers than most other categories.
I believe that segmentation in this category need to include differnet degrees of agent focus versus self reliance, enhanced with product and price affinities. This approach has given me the most actionable guidance and success over the last years. If one understands these dimensions for the existing consumer base, then one can build proxies for acquisition targets, most likely further enhanced with life stage and event triggers. These can identify the best opportunities to motivate someone to switch from a current provider. Thoughts?

7:38 PM  
Anonymous Ron Shevlin said...

I think you're right on -- segmentation approaches should capture some sort of "agent focus vs. self-reliance".

The challenge becomes "how do you know?" You can survey some customers, and apply the predictive demographic factors to categorize the entire customer set, but when you go back to your original point -- that there are differing behaviors (in this case, rely on agent for insurance, self-directed for investments) the predictive power diminishes.

Based on the research I did when I was at Forrester, I came to the conclusion that what was underlying the behavioral differences you point out was a difference in the preferred "type of relationship" a customer wanted to have. I defined three: 1) interpersonal (dealing with people), 2) objective advice and guidance (tell me what's best for me), and 3) convenience (don't screw up and just make it easy for me to deal with you).

I think this captures something more basic and fundamental that helps explain the observable behaviors you described.

p.s. I was the "anonymous" poster. Didn't mean to be -- I was just coordination-challenged.

6:58 AM  
Blogger Michael Fassnacht said...

I very much like your differentiation between the 3 relationship types, sounds appealing. Keep me posted when you learn something interesting in this field of postmodern segmentation.

6:43 PM  
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