Every day, we are confronted with the notion of ‘consumer’. In ourselves and others. We have an idea of what the average consumer looks like and what gets them to purchase. This is supported by years of experience if you are in the fields of consumer behaviour, also by prevailing wisdom and even popular culture.
A vast amount of scholarly papers supports the evolving consumer stance. Deloitte published a study in which they not only suggest the evolving consumers exists, but in fact proposes that the modern consumer is distinct, therefore recognisably different.
I am of the Deloitte view and recognise that the differences are presented in various ways such as physically, financially, life choices, career choices etc. For us marketers, media and communications specialists, to truly add value to the brands and audiences we are responsible for, we need to rethink and update our image of the modern consumer. This challenges the very core of applying what has always worked in the past. Something that our industry finds very difficult to do.
Deloitte, very interestingly summarises their findings into three categories. I have taken the liberty to try and paint a South African view through their results:
1. Increasingly diverse
I believe that diversity is rooted in ethnicity. In today’s terms however, ethnicity is brought to the fore and challenges the notion of diversity in various ways, such as sexuality and gender identities, colourism and favouritism, privilege and non-privilege, the notion of short and tall etc. The badges are different and it is uncomfortable. For most.
We now live in the times of multi-colour and future generations are expected to be even more assorted!
For one thing, kids born today are generally taller and it is said that the person who will live to 200 years old has already been born. Do the math, when will they stop growing given they will live to 200? How tall will they be? An improvement in childhood nutrition has been credited as the most important factor in allowing humans to increase in stature. Tolerance, openness and acceptance of mixed relationships also gives rise to the 2050 human. The implications and opportunities for brands and what we sell are huge!
2. Under greater pressure
While today’s consumer is more worldly and has better access to resources, he faces more pressure than in the past and his financial burdens have increased sharply. These are often financially debilitating times and the impact on mental health is significant. The socially responsible corporate citizen needs to come through.
Making increased personal financial decisions on a regular basis and avoiding/breathing through the allure of #’s, insta lives, expensive shopping trips and the pressure of being in the circle has made today’s young person’s hussle so much harder. They must weigh the pros and cons of using financial aid for school or not going to school, of bread or data, of a job or a corner, of drugs or facing life.
Our economy is not encouraging. We have over the last 15 years had the last significant upward peak of 7.5% in 2005, before seeing a recession in 2009 and a contraction that again led us into the red in 2014. In 2019, we are still in the red and data is still to be a basic human right.
3. Delaying key life milestones
Finding South African specific information here is like searching for sanity in a ‘twar’ comment thread. The trend is the same as the US. It seems people are delaying things like getting married, having children and focusing on ‘making something of themselves first’.
The Deloitte study states that “an average person under 35-years-old has a 34% lower net worth than they would have had in the 1990s, making it harder to tackle typical adult milestones. In fact, the average couple today is marrying eight years later than they did in 1965. Meanwhile, homeownership for those aged 24-32 has dropped by 9% since 2005.”
Even more interesting is that the world is rapidly ageing, while our continent Africa is rapidly de-ageing and developing.
In South Africa, the median age for marriage for men sits at 36 years old and for women at 32. The median age for divorce in here for males is 44 and 40 for women, with over half of these divorces filed by women (Stats SA). The marketing implications are vast.
So now what?
While the modern consumer is increasingly diverse, she is faced with increased financial pressures in a world where changes are slow to come. The above factors while small for now, when taken into consideration as part of consumer targeting initiatives, will prove to have a positive contribution in how we prepare ourselves in the conversion funnel for our brands now and into the future.
Kagiso Musi is the group managing director of Meta Media South Africa, a new data-led media player in the country. She leads the Johannesburg and Cape Town offices with a list of blue-chip clients. The agency focuses on analysing and uncovering insights from the most granular forms of data and utilising that data to help clients win.
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