We may think we understand consumer behaviour, but do we truly know enough to translate this into new products, services, or ways of doing business? This is the question KPMG International’s latest Customer Insights report wants you to consider.
Real and complex human beings
“Until now, there has not been a compelling, comprehensive account of how to understand customers or consumers as the real living, breathing, complex human beings that they are.”
This proclamation from KPMG comes as somewhat of a surprise at a time when all talk is already of the customer – power of the customer, customer focus, customer experience, and so on. You’d expect there to be a rich vein of literature mined on the topic.
In support of this contention, however, KPMG says the underlying drivers of human decision-making have become exponentially more complex in recent years and that transactional data, traditional market research and demographic profiles alone are proving inadequate to explain not just what customers are doing, but why.
We’re struggling to understand customers and their motivations
Organisations, they say, are struggling to keep up. “Many of our clients have found themselves out of step with a changing, more informed and more empowered customer. They’re struggling to understand customer motivations and how these translate into new products and propositions, new services or ways of doing business and, crucially, how they should align their organisations to keep driving growth.”
So KPMG is proposing a new approach that involves “taking an outside-in view of customer behaviour that enables companies to understand the multiple layers and related calculus of human decision making.”
This approach is set out in the KPMG report Me, my life, my wallet. The 96-page report is a mixture of findings from various KPMG surveys, anecdotes from consumers across multiple demographics and geographies, and generalised profiles of consumers in a number of nations.
The five dimensions of consumer behaviour
1. My motivation
Characteristics that drive behaviour and expectations
A customer’s best experiences have become their expectation – that is to say, it’s no longer enough to measure yourself against only your closest competitors. If a customer’s best experience to date was an excellent, fulfilling interaction with an online clothing retailer, they aren’t going to cut you some slack just because you’re a utilities provider. As a business, you need to understand what it is the customer most valued about that interaction, and apply it in your own organisation – because they’re going to expect the same high standard from you.
2. My attention
Ways we direct our attention and focus
The report states that “More media is created in 60 seconds than can be consumed in a lifetime”. How are you going to grab your customers’ attention in a way that won’t add to their information overload – and result in your communications being relegated to their mental Spam folder? And most importantly, how will you maintain value once you have captured their attention? In today’s business-saturated environment, you’ll need to “break through the noise and chaos [in order to] build deeper, more meaningful relationships” with your customers.
3. My connection
How we connect to devices, information and each other
In today’s increasingly digitally-connected landscape, “understanding the shape and patterns of [the customer’s] wide-ranging interactions and networks is central to understanding how decisions are influenced, when and by whom.” In order to stay relevant, it’s critical that your business learns to connect with customers on their terms, and more effectively grab – and keep – their attention.
4. My watch
How we balance the constraints of time and how that changes across life events
The modern consumer is time-poor; this is hardly a new revelation. But KPMG’s report urges you to consider that it isn’t a constant state. Depending on how much time they have, or think they have, the way a customer interacts with you could be short, impatient, and hurried – or they could be relaxed, receptive, and willing to listen to an hour-long sales pitch. As a business, how will you identify ‘pockets’ before significant life events, build in them as part of your segmentation strategy, and “engage with consumers at the time of greatest impact”?
5. My wallet
How we adjust our share of wallet across life events
Gen Xers and millenials are experiencing ‘life event drift’: waiting longer and longer in life to experience typical milestones in life (first car, marriage, first home, first child etc). On average, millenials are 10 years older than Boomers when they have their first child, or buy their first home. The way your demographics spend money today is no longer the way they spent money thirty years ago. Businesses which recognise this, and consider that all the other four Mys simultaneously play a role in affecting the way a consumer decides to spend, will be best poised to succeed.
Focusing on these five dimensions as a whole, KPMG says, will “enable companies to navigate the complexity of consumer decision-making, and build a richer understanding of changing attitudes, needs and behaviour.”
“Understanding the complex underlying drivers of human decision making has become exponentially more important as the disruption of the digital age accelerates.”
KPMG concludes its report by noting that the collision of three revolutions – the geographic and geopolitical revolution, the demographic revolution, and the technological revolution – is creating a perfect storm of disruption for companies of all kinds in every geography and says that organisations’ admission of ignorance about today’s consumer will stand them in good stead.
“For those bold enough to concede they just might not know as much about their customers as they’d want to, the opportunity is palpable.”