How to Use Consumer Power to Your Advantage
Consumer ability to influence what they buy and what others buy has thrown a monkey wrench in the traditional purchase process. We share techniques to ride the wave, maximize this power shift, and exceed expectations.
Why the tables have turned
A shift in power is happening due to increased access to information, influx of choices, and a digital opportunity to share and read product experiences. These technological factors have compelled consumers to be more demanding and more distrustful of Bigco’s ability to keep promises. The first task required for savvy businesses to grab hold of this power shift, is to change their definition of “consumer”.
Let’s set a new definition for “consumer”
Historically, consumers consumed — it was as easy as that. One party did the selling and the other party did the purchasing. Thanks to social media, online opinion platforms, and the rapidly evolving market, consumers do much more than simply consume. Consumers have become critics, co-creators, important stakeholders, and an extension of sales teams.
Consumers have a voice and they expect to be heard
Now more than ever consumers are sharing their purchase opinions and experiences with others, causing a disruption in the traditional purchase process. As a result, a gap has emerged between consumer expectations and businesses’ ability to meet them. It has become an intense struggle for food businesses to keep up with the increasingly fickle customer (a critical factor to the innovation dilemma we are facing as an industry).
According to a Deloitte study on the growing power of consumers, “This gap can be closed by rethinking how companies engage with consumers. Businesses not only need to gain a deeper understanding of consumer behavior they also need to allow for more open and transparent relationships.”
How to appease consumers and meet high expectations
Optimizing products to meet new consumer expectations requires a business model that can support innovation processes. Setting up a user-centric business helps companies address the new consumer power shift by staying attuned to consumer demands and expectations.
Establish more consumer touch points
Important types of consumer touch points
Listen More - Add in more open consumer communication and feedback loops that allow for more listening and deeper understanding;
Co-Create - Adhere to a process that allows consumers to take part in the iterative design of your product as early and as often as possible;
Encourage Influencers - Develop tools that empower and encourage consumers to promote your products;
Full Disclosure - Develop transparent product (ingredients, processing, etc.) content to inform and educate consumers, allowing them to independently transition through the decision process — developing critical trust and positioning the purchase to be one of careful consumer choice.
Why this matters
Embedding more consumer touch points in your processes helps to ensure:
Relevant product design that meets or exceeds consumer expectations;
Knowledge of evolving attributes that drive purchase decisions;
Increase early-influencers and feeling of “crowd-sourcing” because of co-creator relationship with consumers;
Earning brand trust is more likely by openly working with consumers as co-product developers, instead of launches only be tied to giant Bigcos and lab coats.
Use it to your advantage
A lot of food brands are shaking in their boots trying to address this new shift in consumer power. The fear of getting lost in the dust as an irrelevant brand with indifferent products is one that keeps many CEOs up late at night. But by listening more, co-creating with consumers, encouraging influencers, and providing full-disclosure, food manufacturers can maximize this power shift to their advantage.
So while your competitors are chasing shiny objects and falling down tangential rabbit holes, you could be embedding more consumer touch points that help you dominate the market and pull the rug from underneath them.