The ‘coalition consumer’

What consumer behaviours should marketers be mindful of as they plan for the year ahead? Food for thought is provided by The Coalition Consumer, a recent study by HPI Research in partnership with Kitcatt Nohr Alexander Shaw.

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Richard Madden
Planning director
Kitcatt Nohr Alexander Shaw

While the recession ended officially nearly 12 months ago, it remains an ever-present reality for the majority of consumers. As the study’s author, HPI senior partner Terry Prue says: “It’s almost as if this has been the official recession of the behavioural economics movement. More than ever, consumer behaviour is being driven by perception and instinct rather than the cold logic of classical economics.”

There are four particular behaviours which are observable in all consumers who have lived through the recession, according to the study. These are:

Anxiety. Increasingly, there is evidence of consumers seeking to justify their spending behaviour, both to themselves and to their friends and family. It’s no longer just designer fashion splurges that will need to be rationalised. A pizza out becomes infinitely more permissible with a voucher, even if the saving in real terms isn’t that great.

Prioritising. Not all purchases are created equal. Consumers are more and more willing to trade-off experiences they don’t value against experiences they do. So for some, a five-star hotel is still a must, but getting there may mean a cramped seat on a budget carrier rather than the premium economy cabin. This year, marketers will need to work harder to understand where their customers are prepared to compromise and, more importantly, where they aren’t.

Information-seeking. The recession has accelerated the growth of comparison websites and other forms of online pre-purchase research. However, price is not the only thing customers are comparing. Quality and longevity are important to them too. For this reason, peer reviews and the opinions of forum ’mavens’ have never been more important in influencing customer choice. As a consequence, influencing the influencers will become a prime mission for the marketer.

Satisficing. If it ever was linear, the purchase decision process is linear no longer. Multiple influences impinge on the consumer in an increasingly chaotic ’decision zone’. As a result, many consumers are abandoning the search for the ’ideal’ choice in exchange for the one which ’satisfices’: the option which is ’satisfactory’, and will ’suffice’.

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