The pandemic has taught us many things and has spectacularly changed the way not just Sri Lanka, but the whole world, markets and consumes products and services. Consumers and their behaviours change with time and they adapt to situations easily. With the world still recovering from the tethers of the pandemic and its aftermath, businesses and consumers have managed to evolve and have shown resilience whilst also taking into account this worldwide phenomenon and moulded their activities around it.This article will shed light on the topic of ‘Consumer Dynamics – Strategy and Innovation’ and will cover areas from consumer behaviours of today’s youth to the changing retail landscape to the way businesses were prompted to transform at the height of the pandemic.
Commencing focus on the topic of consumer dynamics, understanding demographics is a crucial part of any business, especially with regards to promoting one’s product to a target market. Taking into context the current day and age, we live in a digitally-infused society, and digitalisation has become the way forward in many aspects of the business world and beyond. Demographics are going through a consistent shift and with the digital space being a very important entity today, we have the Gen Ys or millennials as they are also called, who are tech-savvy and adapt easily to change, and then we have the Gen Zs, who were born into the digital age, making it seem as if they are far more advanced than their former counterparts.
With Gen Z being the first generation of individuals who were born into the internet age, it places that target market higher up the pedestal where digital marketing is concerned. Gen Zs have already been exposed to a considerable amount of tech from their younger days and so, they are already comfortable navigating through the digital environment and new online applications with ease.
Sri Lankans in particular, have always shown interest towards the introduction of novel changes across the business and tech landscape. The transition has been quite smooth and ambitious at times, but youth in particular, have easily embraced those changes and even baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) have evolved to meet those changes very easily. When these digital aspects are found to be exciting and worth the tie, they tend to easily grab the attention of an audience.
With globalisation competition for products and services increase. With globalisation, the evolution of technology and how it has been exploited by entrepreneurs for instance, shows how life-changing globalisation can be. The speed of technology, the way it has transferred economically into the economy and ever-evolvingtechnological enhancements has all seen an increase due to globalisation and today, customer expectations drive markets.
When it comes to the strategies that should be implemented in order to focus on penetrating those target markets, moving into digital marketing is a way forward and coming up with the ideal digital transformation is important if we are to enhance customer experience. It makes it ever more important to delve into digital marketing considering the times we are living in; the digital age as it is. SEO, email marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, search engine marketing (SEM) or pay-per-click advertising etc., are all very significant aspects of digital marketing today.
Consumers have also become very active users of new media and know what they want. When earlier, the product would go to the customer before it gets any attention, today, we have savvy and discerning customers who look for preferred or innovative products online. So, the more present and consistent the business is online, the more chances they have in attracting their crowds. Businesses and consumers both seek convenient and relevant engagement across every form of interaction that makes up part of the marketing and shopping process, respectively.Technology is no doubt greatly influencing customer engagement, more than it ever did, simply ten years ago, when the internet age began to evolve in Sri Lanka at a rapid but positive pace.
With this evolution in technology, it has also opened doors for media convergence, where people can shop from the comfort of their homes, and at the click of a button. With the level of convenience and speed, enabling online shopping and giving consumers the opportunity to view products that might be stored in a location hundreds or thousands of miles away, and have their goods delivered within days or a few weeks, is no doubt an amazing feat today. This convergence has relatively changed the retail space and the way we used to shop. Retailers have moved into the digital space and have more online presence. Especially with the introduction of concepts such as e-Commerce platforms which make it easy for retailers to be in tandem with global markets as well.
With tech advancements, come innovation. A company that is able to invest and propel the way they do business plays a huge role in retaining their customers and forming new relations. This type of evolution has paved the way for businesses to try out the wonders of artificial intelligence or AI as well as delve deeper into Big Data. For retailers today to really make their mark with consumers, Big Data is influential in helping them understand their prospective customers better, their shopping habits, preferences etc. which would then enable the business to cast a more targeted net when it comes to consumers.
A trend that has also caught on in terms of achieving customer engagement, is personalization. To achieve that effective engagement strategy, content should go through a level of personalization tailored to a customer. Innovation, again, plays a huge role here. This is where AI comes in. According to a survey by Quantcast and Forbes Insight, 51% of marketers noticed an increase in customer retention after utilizing AI into their marketing ventures. But, before getting there, it is also essential that we understand the business’s status quo and ability to make progress in personalization and the current state of customer engagement in Sri Lanka in order to see if these progressions can be made eventually.
Insights-based decision-making is also significant for a business in determining the attitudes and preferences of their consumers. However, there are some elements of a business organization who embrace this approach, and these could be elevated more towards the business segments of finance, sales, purchasing etc. Insights-based is as straightforward as it sounds; determining whether a prospective customer will go for your product and letting ones’ gut instinct to take over, hoping the customer will select your product. However, their stance on whether they should purchase this or not, is bound to change as well. This would have been a norm decades ago, when people used to do business because they had the money to invest.
However, today, with the penetration of technology, data extrapolationto determine the buying patterns of consumers is gathering momentum globally, through the use of data extrapolations software. At the same time, the gathered data would provide an idea of how to validate a course of action before going forward with it. Some examples of gathering data can also be through the conducting of surveys to collect people's responses on products and services, their likes and dislikes when it comes to price and other factors, initiating testing of products by potential users to see if they find the good useful and determine flaws, testing the waters by launching a product or service in a test market to get an idea of how it might perform in the market,analysing demographic data to locate relevant shifts etc.
The pandemic has, above all, brought the world to a halt of sorts but the crisis enabled businesses and consumers to get creative and make use of the one thing that helped drive major change within a short period of time; the internet. Many types of companies that ran from offices and outlets, went online. Due to social distancing, relevant businesses that were able to offer their services online, were driven to achieve sales that way. The pandemic did hit other industries hard, such as tourism for instance. However, it helped elevate others, such as software companies that dealt with conference calling and online meetings, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Many online users did not even realize the existence of some of these platforms until the pandemic happened. Going digital has no doubt changed the way we market our goods and shop, and it is definitely, here to stay.
CEO - Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing
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