Understanding the Consumer of Tomorrow

Two things go into making India unique – a high growth rate outpacing other global economies and its young population with 500 million below the age of 25 and 700 million under 35. In a marked shift from the past, Indian consumers will have greater spending power, they will be more literate, tech-savvy Netizens who are wired into the global world as much as they thrive on their local environment and culture.

The single driver moving consumers and consumption will be technology as India goes through a revolution in industries such as telecommunications, internet, services, IT, media and entertainment. Almost all these will be fuelled by youth joining the workforce in large numbers.

The Indian consumers are already much like their global counterparts – self centric, ambitious, entrepreneurial, have scant respect for bureaucracy and hierarchy, and always seeking excitement, instant gratification and global connectivity .

Markets and Media

Markets that can engage, entertain and excite the consumers have tremendous growth opportunities. The new digital age will encourage consumer need for whatever-wherever-whenever. A combination of broadband and internet will provide means to download information and entertainment. The mobile phone will see convergence as a personal video recorder(PVR), a camera, a computer with access to internet, music, TV clips, films, gaming, information and e-zines. India has the fastest growing cell phone user base after China. Growing individualism will lead to fragmentation of the mainstream consumer base. The digital age will encourage cyber and these niche markets to flourish. The latter when aggregated can sometimes be bigger and more profitable than mass markets as marginal costs in cyber space are virtually zero.

The impact of technology on media exposure will be significant. Both message and medium will undergo transformation best described as ‘permission’ marketing as opposed to ‘interruptive’ marketing and whether consumers can be persuaded to seek your brand or not will spell success or failure. It is anticipated that 30% of commercials will be skipped through the PVR. Viral marketing where films are swapped on the net allows only what is entertaining to survive. This ensures that power over media rests with the consumers. Product placements in films or on site product placement as some top end car manufacturers have done at luxury hotels will gain acceptance.

Implications for Research

Mobile ownership and internet access could lead to web and text based interviewing- this would be a panacea for several problems in collecting market research data. Consumers are increasingly becoming marketing savvy and difficult to access because of privacy and security issues. With ever diminishing interest spans, researchers will have to collect information in non- intrusive ways. So even as technology is helping consumers to blank out traditional ways of reaching them (read advertising), it can also help in gaining access to them and allowing them to respond at their convenience. It will also allow online responses in real time and, perhaps, Focus Groups in cyber space.

Trend research using a panel of experts would help keep track of consumers in a fast changing environment. Information overload on the Net will see ‘curators’ who will guide consumers on lifestyle, entertainment etc will help sell the trends.

Consumer collaborative research through the Net is gaining ground with consumers participating, both on and off-line, in generating new product ideas, product and advertising development. It can be easily extended to pre testing product concepts and advertising.

Tracking buying behaviour in the absence of organized retail has led to testing hand held computerized transmitters and text messages on the mobile from households. A similar device is being developed for capturing offtake at the single outlet level. With the growth of supermarkets, data on household purchase could be stored with the swipe of the credit card. Further, credit card bills could become the best profile on a consumer if banks were to do data mining on consumer spending patterns.

If the mobile phone had a credit card embedded in it (coming soon) every swipe could mean questions for you on the mobile!

Viewership and audience measurement will have to rely on a whole host of different metrics.

Market research will have to get more eclectic using technology, behavioural and neuro sciences to get as close to the ‘real’ consumer as possible

Ethnography and observation research are gaining more acceptance as they do away with a classroom environment. And a PVR would do away with that last necessity – the researcher.

Brain mapping using neuroscience is being tested to study consumer responses to advertising.

Motivational research will become critical as it will lead to insights into brand differentiation as markets get driven by attitudes, lifestyles and values.

The challenge before market research has always been to provide information that simulates real life, in the shortest possible time and at the lowest cost. Now technology, and cyber spaces can do just that. Imagine a girl/woman gets this message on her mobile from L’Oreal ; if you have dry skin and skin eruptions, we would like you to help us develop the right cream for you, answer the following questions…………..

If this has begun to sound like doomsday, we can be reassured that in a highly diverse country such as India, the new and the old will continue to coexist.

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