The New Consumer Path

Last week we looked at ways to integrate Traditional & Digital Marketing Today we are going to look at how this impacts the new consumer path.

With increased mobility and connectivity, consumers already have limited time to consider and evaluate brands. As the pace of life accelerates and their attention span drops, consumers experience difficulty in focusing. But across multiple channels—online and offline—consumers continue to be exposed to too much of everything: product features, brand promises, and sales talk. Confused by too-good-to-be-true advertising messages, consumers often ignore them and instead turn to trustworthy sources of advice: their social circle of friends and family.

Companies need to realize that more touchpoints and higher volume in messages do not necessarily translate into increased influence. Companies need to stand out from the crowd and meaningfully connect with consumers in just a few critical touchpoints. In fact, just one moment of unexpected delight from a brand is all it takes to transform a consumer into the brand’s loyal advocate. To be able to do so, companies should map the consumer path to purchase, understand consumer touchpoints across the path, and intervene in select touchpoints that matter. They should focus their efforts— intensifying communications, strengthening channel presence, and improving consumer interface—to improve those critical touchpoints as well as to introduce strong differentiation.

Moreover, companies need to leverage the power of consumer connectivity and advocacy. Nowadays, peer-to-peer conversation among consumers is the most effective form of media. Given this lack of trust, companies might no longer have direct access to target consumers. As consumers trust their peers more than ever, the best source of influence is the army of consumers turned advocates. Thus, the ultimate goal is to delight consumers and convert them into loyal advocates.

One of the earliest and widely used frameworks to describe the consumer path is AIDA: attention, interest, desire, and action.

Unsurprisingly, AIDA was coined by an advertising and sales pioneer, E. St. Elmo Lewis, and was first adopted in the fields of advertising and sales. It serves as a simple checklist or a reminder for advertising executives when they design advertisements and for sales executives when they approach prospects. The advertising copy and sales pitch should grab attention, initiate interest, strengthen desire, and ultimately drive action. Similar to the four P’s of marketing (product, price, place, and promotion), AIDA has undergone several expansions and modifications.

Derek Rucker of the Kellogg School of Management offers a modification of AIDA that he calls the four A’s: aware, attitude, act, and act again.

In this more recent framework, the interest and desire stages are simplified into attitude and a new stage, act again, is added. The modified framework aims to track post-purchase consumer behavior and measure consumer retention. It considers an action of repurchase as a strong proxy for consumer loyalty.

The four A’s framework is a simple model to describe the straightforward funnel-like process that consumers go through when evaluating brands in their consideration sets. Consumers learn about a brand (aware), like or dislike the brand (attitude), decide whether to purchase it (act), and decide whether the brand is worth a repeat purchase (act again).

When it is treated as a consumer funnel, the number of consumers going through the process continues to decline as they move into the next stage. People who like the brand must have known the brand before. People who purchase the brand must have liked the brand before. And so on. Similarly, when treated as a brand funnel, the number of brands that are being considered along the path continues to decline. For example, the number of brands people recommend is less than the number of brands people buy, which in turn is less than the number of brands people know.

The four A’s also reflects a primarily personal path. The major influence on consumers’ decision making as they move across the path comes from companies’ touchpoints (e.g., TV advertising at the aware phase, salesperson at the act phase, service center at the act again phase). This is within a company’s control.

Today, in the era of connectivity, the straightforward and personal funnel-like process of the four A’s needs an update. A new consumer path must be defined to accommodate changes shaped by connectivity.

In the pre-connectivity era, an individual consumer determined his or her own attitude toward a brand. In the connectivity era, the initial appeal of a brand is influenced by the community surrounding the consumer to determine the final attitude. Many seemingly personal decisions are essentially social decisions. The new consumer path should reflect the rise of such social influence.

In the pre-connectivity era, loyalty was often defined as retention and repurchase. In the connectivity era, loyalty is ultimately defined as the willingness to advocate a brand. A consumer might not need to continuously repurchase a particular brand (e.g., due to a longer purchase cycle) or might not be able to (e.g., due to unavailability in certain locations). But if the consumer is happy with the brand, he or she will be willing to recommend it even when currently not using it. The new consumer path should be aligned to this new definition of loyalty.

When it comes to understanding brands, consumers now actively connect with one another, building ask-and-advocate relationships. xxx, in particular, have very active connections in consumer forums. Consumers who need more information will search for it and connect with other consumers with better knowledge and more experience. Depending on the bias shown during the conversation, the connection either strengthens or weakens the brand’s initial appeal. The new consumer path should also recognize this connectivity among consumers.

Based on these requirements, the consumer path should be rewritten as the five A’s: aware, appeal, ask, act, and advocate.

CMO Perspective: Seth Farbman – Spotify

We’re including Spotify’s 2017 New Year’s campaign because, honestly, it’s too good not to talk about. The popular music-streaming brand took things we love—hard data (remember Patrón’s incredible data driven campaign?), witty commentary, and personalization—to craft their forward-looking “2018 Goals” campaign.

The ads appeared outside on billboards and as paid social ads in nine markets and were, often, hyperlocal, like this politically-minded ad for US audiences:

Spotify leaned in hard to the fact that services like theirs pay attention to our data and they crafted that info into revealing, fascinating tidbits.

The Takeaway: Spotify’s clever campaign is right in line with the desires of today’s social media audiences: it surprises, it’s inclusive (even if anonymously), and it’s fact-based.

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