The advent of the internet and increased connectivity of consumers to goods and services have fragmented the shopping landscape. Consumers now have a reservoir of choices and alternatives to consider before making any purchase, and the freedom to purchase from a competitor should a shopping experience go awry, or if they are offered a better deal.
Consumer loyalty is a thing of the past, and these days, shoppers are fickle, and more than ready to make the switch to your competitor.
This trend of the fickle consumer is seem most evidently in Singapore’s bike-sharing industry. The industry started with a bang in early 2017, with 3 big players competing to grab as big a slice of the market share in Singapore as they could, offering attractive discounts and packages, even free rides for months on end at some point. However, this model is ultimately unsustainable, as consumers switch between each operator’s apps, depending on which is offering the best deal at the point in time. The ease of accessibility to the product, and the minimal differentiation between the companies’ products made the switch too simple. In the end, we see a key player lose more than S$4 million annually, eventually pulling out of the Singapore market.
What do we take away from this? It seems that in the rush to woo consumers and chase immediate conversion, the inherent strength and value of branding have been undermined and put in the back seat.
That is not to say that all hope is lost. Your brand can still thrive in a market where there are plenty of duplicates and alternatives. You just need to know how to set your brand apart, and get your consumers returning.
Exclusive, limited sales could boost brand interest just before a “drop”, but they do not sustain interest, and brands have to drum up anticipation and cue hype before each campaign, making it a rigorous effort. Similarly, loyalty programs may not be as effective as you want to believe. Surely there is a simpler way.
Pay attention to branding. To do this effectively, marketers should aim to ensure a positive brand experience for users, since this sets a precedent for consideration for future purchases. One wrong move and your consumers are off to your competitors in a blink.
To start, knowing your audience also helps greatly in this endeavour. Just who are your consumers? Are they Millennials? Perennials? Knowing their values and beliefs will provide a wealth of information on how to engage them and build up your brand in their minds. For example, research has shown us that Millennials are discerning shoppers. They are socially aware. They enjoy watching humorous videos. Having this information about them helps to guide your approach to engaging them.
It also doesn’t hurt to take the cue from the bigger players. According to Procter & Gamble’s Chief Brand Officer, only with a consistent compelling message can brands attract consumers’ attention amidst the barrage of marketing messages a consumer faces. This has seen the world’s largest advertiser shift the focus from mass ad production, to ensuring consistency in building their brand. The results? P&G reduced their adspend by $200 million, but saw 10% increased reach of their brand messages.
With a single compelling message, it does not necessarily mean that your brand only has one shot at engaging consumers. These days, it is practically a requirement to be omnipresent, but you don’t have to do it yourself. Partner strong brands that can lend their advantages to yours.
Find a brand that engages an audience similar to yours, and make use of their strong relationship with their readers to provide compelling content through an engaging topic. That way, your brand is always positively associated with quality content.
Magazines, which strengths lie in producing compelling content, and proliferating it across multiple channels, are a natural fit. Magazines have years of experience sussing out their audience’s needs, and providing the valuable information they need before making a decision. This gives them an advantage over brands promoting exclusively through deals. These brands foster a shallow, transactional relationship with their audience. Once the deal or sale ends, consumers are off to find the next deal, and never look back.
It is not wrong to say that brands have been placed in a vicious arena, duking it out with each other to find the ultimate victor. The fighting has been made more intense, and helped in no part by the disloyal consumer. If brands are counting on a transactional relationship with the consumer to sustain their business model, the competition ultimately degenerates into a price war and only the brand with the deepest pockets can survive – à la Singapore’s Grab and Uber.
To break out of this spiral, marketers must strengthen their brands, regularly engage consumers, and build a strong brand equity so that consumers are able to tune out the voice of your competitors clamouring for their attention as well.
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