Imagine a group of people who are totally disconnected from marketing messages. These consumers don’t like receiving communications from companies, rarely discuss brands with others and only contact firms when strictly necessary.
These people are a reality, according to a new piece of research called Pleased to Meet You from Professor Hugh Wilson and Dr Emma Macdonald at Cranfield School of Management and Dr Charles Randall at SAS UK and MESH Planning, which was revealed at a Marketing Week/SAS seminar last month.
This type of disaffected customer, termed a ’detached introvert’, is one of six new discrete consumer segments (see pages 32-33) that marketers now need to understand. This is the largest group of consumers out there, with 38% of the research respondents falling into it.
“It’s not necessarily the case that these people hate marketing but they are disengaged from it. Am I surprised? No. Open rates of emails have halved in the past 10 years and people are using the Telephone Preference Service to opt out of receiving marketing messages. This group has become self-excluding,” explains Randall at SAS.
The detached introvert does not fit neatly into any one standard demographic segment, claims the research. The group has a very slight male bias but contains members from all walks of life.
The introverts do tend to be less present online than other consumers, however. As a result, the marketing channels that work best for them tend to be those that they come across without trying as part of daily life, such as TV, in-store or newspapers. Indeed, detached introverts are 50% as likely as the average person to interact with TV content, but only 5% as likely as the average person to interact with a call centre.
“It’s odd that TV works best for this group,” notes Randall. “It isn’t usually seen as the most personalised of channels. But interactions with TV are fairly homogenous across all groups; you can’t get away from broadcast media. Although the introverts see less TV ads than other segments, they still see quite a lot.”
At the opposite end of the spectrum from the detached introvert sits what the research terms a ’lifestyle junky’. This customer segment makes up just 9% of the overall sample but has the most positive average response to brands.
Lifestyle junkies are more than seven times as likely as the average person to interact with brands through magazines and 128% as likely as the average person to interact with brands online. Newspapers do twice as well with this segment than average, as do text messages.
“This group – which is about 60% female – is the most positive in responding to marketing messages because these people are heavily engaged,” says Randall.
“They say their peer group plays an important role in their purchase decisions.”
The lifestyle junky is less interested in sponsorship with just 27% of the average number of interactions. Randall says this is because the sponsorship vehicles noticed by this group tend to be those around the consumers’ favourite TV shows, where they are seen as a hindrance to accessing the content. The segment most interested in sponsorship is termed ’dedicated fans’ and predominantly comprise employed, married men, who are only interested in interacting with marketing through such branded activities.
While making up just 4% of the overall sample, dedicated fans are 15 times as likely as the average person to interact with brands through sponsorship. Unsurprisingly, related channels such as TV (325% against the average), posters (570%), radio (388%) and cinema (433%), where sponsorships are common, also perform well.
Despite this enthusiasm for sponsorship and its related marketing, this segment is less interested in mailings or text messages. These consumers are also less likely than the average person to interact with brands online.
“Although this group is not engaged with many marketing channels outside sponsorship, marketers will still want to reach them,” says Randall. “These people are slightly older, more likely to be male and educated than other segments, which cynically means they have money.”
While these consumers are likely to complain about prices, they are unlikely to act on incentives in this area. They are also unlikely to look for better deals on the internet because they often delegate shopping decisions to their partner.
The consumer group that spends time researching deals on the internet and uses online reviews sites to influence their decisions is dubbed ’internet investigators’ and represents just 5% of consumers. This group has no gender bias but a great deal of affinity and interest in online channels.
Communication is very important to this group, members of which are 175% more likely to interact with companies online than average consumers and 274% more likely to discuss brands in conversation. Only the dedicated fan discusses their favourite brands more. They are also nine times more likely than average to interact with brands via radio.
As an age group with families, texting is less relevant for this group than others, despite its enthusiasm for everything online. In-store marketing also seems less alluring to these people than their peers. Randall comments/ “These consumers already know the best deals from their online research, so they are not going to spend time in-store.”
A far larger group, which also focuses on the online channels, is likely to be female and the main household shopper. At 23% of the sample, ’social shoppers’ are the second largest group after detached introverts. While the introverts shy away from interactions with brands, this group offers marketers many more opportunities to reach them.
Social shoppers have a 24% more positive response to conversations than the average person. They are about twice as likely to interact with brands online or through text messages as the average person. This group is also open to mailings and in-store marketing.
These consumers are also interested in having conversations with other people. However, despite their love of talking, they are also less keen to contact a call centre than average.
The last segment is an intriguing one for marketers. This largely male professional segment – dubbed ’astute alphas’ – is not necessarily much of a brand loyalist but will buy if communications are well targeted and will seek the best deals.
Unlike all the other segments, this group overindexes massively on call centre communications. These people are more than five times as likely as the average person to interact with brands in this way. They want customer service to be efficient and effective, rather than building an ongoing social conversation with brands.
“They are not too worried about getting on the telephone to brands. They are the most comfortable complaining about things. When you look at the data on call centres, it’s them phoning up. They are happy to take charge and sort something out,” explains Randall.
Aside from call centres, this group underindexes in many other areas of brand engagement aside from in-store, online, cinema and mailings.
At 14% of the sample, this group wants to have a very practical relationship with the companies that they consider should service their needs.
While all companies will find their customers have individual profiles, segmentations such as these can help marketers target large groups more efficiently.
However, Randall admits that the segments cannot be set in stone. “People do move around. If you are buying a mobile phone and going through the complex process of setting up your tariff, you may need to take charge – so you are behaving as an alpha customer,” he says. “After you have done that, you might fall back into being part of another group such as the social shopper.”
Ultimately, explains Randall, consumers are reacting to marketing messages in three ways. They are using three different ’coping strategies’ to process all the communications they receive on a daily basis. Some, like the astute alphas, are taking charge and making sure they are proactively leading their relationships with brands. Others, like the internet investigators or dedicated fans, are cynical.
They interact with adverts but they are always looking for better deals. They are hypersensitive to marketing messages trying to sell them goods or services.
The last remaining coping strategy is employed by the detached introvert – putting up their defences and opting out of consumer life. Personalisation and relevance is critical for marketing to this consumer, adds Randall, or marketers risk even more people joining this disaffected group.
Former BA marketer and Eurostar chief Hamish Taylor offers marketers four top tips for reaching all types of consumer
Innovate using customer insights, not data
Every big turnaround I’ve been involved in for brands has started with a soft consumer insight. Hard data is great but every company has that. Just having data available is not a competitive advantage.
When I worked for Eurostar, we were behaving like railwaymen, saying ours was a better, quicker route to Paris than plane journeys. The insight was that our competition was not really the other ways of getting to France, but all the other things people could do with £100. So we started selling the concept of days out in Paris, rather than a train ticket.
Consumers buy benefits, not products
At British Airways, we found ourselves hamstrung by talking about products too much – ’the widest seat’ or ’the best food’. Then we had an insight that the way business people noticed they’d had a good flight was if they arrived refreshed and ’ready for business’. So that became our strategy and we talked about how we could help customers be ready for business, which led to innovations like the arrivals lounge.
Look outside your current environment
It’s helpful to see how companies outside your area work. When looking at managing risk for a company, for example, we examined how football stadia deal with this issue. They have to think about everything from fire safety to knowing how to call for help; these things also apply in the corporate environment. Has your website got an exit route designed into it? How can people call for help?
Make your internal communications superior
Always talk about your brand in terms of its benefits internally. Use the same phrases inside the organisation as externally. At BA, some of our check-in staff took the “ready for business” mantra and suggested pre-flight dinners so people could just get on the plane and sleep straight away. At that time, we had 85% take-up. Staff don’t necessarily need the complex breakdown of your strategy, but they do need ways to make it come to life.
This research gathered consumer views on brand interactions in six steps. Consumers were first asked to fill in a survey on their brand use, loyalty and opinions.
They were then asked to track any interaction with a brand deemed of interest over a four-week period, recalling the name of the brand, occasion of interaction, impact and relevance.
Tak Ha, experience director at MESH Planning, explains that this threw up an enormous amount of data. There were more than 15,000 brand events involving 500 people over the four weeks.
“To take the experience of one person who received a good offer from a brand, on going into its store, she had a bad experience and proceeded to tell her neighbour, friends, mother and even the Avon lady about it.
“In one week, she told 14 different people about her bad brand encounter,” notes Ha (left). “And that is simply the information generated about one person and just one of the brands she encountered.”
The consumers were surveyed again after the four-week period to see how their attitudes to the brands in question had changed.
Afterwards, cluster analysis gathered consumers into groups showing their marketing channel preference.
A channel preference map was created for each cluster. The data gathered from the post-research questionnaire was then overlaid on the behavioural clusters to build up a profile of their attitudes.
The clusters were also profiled on their demographics, including age and gender. The analysis was then corrected to replicate the profile of the UK population.
Professor Hugh Wilson
The world in which we grew up saw companies firing outbound communications at consumers. People have responded by putting up barriers, such as spam filters, the Telephone Preference Service or getting their personal assistants to read their emails.
So how can we start talking again? First, make it personal. Consumers like to feel that brands are talking directly to them. We all know the example of Tesco Clubcard in creating personalised offers. The Clubcard reaches 13 million customers with around 11 million coupons. There is a 23% redemption rate when the norms in that category are more like 5%. So that’s a conversation of sorts, but it’s rather slow.
Second, brands need to be more dynamic. Take the example of O2’s Vision customer service system, which shows call centre staff what products a caller might be willing to buy.
Depending on the conversation, the offers that the customer service person sees on screen change appropriately. As a result, conversation rates are consistently above 30%. This approaches the logic of a conversation.
Third, be authentic. Think about how you reward staff. When people are on commission, consumers can smell it. They should be rewarded for having good quality conversation with customers, qualified by their line manager. Brands need to think of the lifetime value of the customer.
Fourth, be inclusive. Good conversations are always inclusive. When Pepsi crowdsourced its Super Bowl ads in the US, it received 17,000 entries and showed the best three on the night. It was not only a great way to find good ads but it created engagement leading up to the event.
So make sure you are always thinking about conversations that will motivate your staff to look after the customer relationships. If you don’t, then no one will.