Before the pandemic, who could’ve imagined that QR codes would replace paper menus? Or that picking up online-ordered groceries curbside would become more popular than going into the store? Or that people would buy a car without ever stepping in a showroom or test driving it?

We’ve lived—and are still living—through a time of profound change to everyday existence. As a result, people’s motivations for purchasing and their expectations of what a great brand experience should be like are shifting more than we’ve seen at any other time in history.

But just as the race to keep up with changed customers is accelerating, marketers are tapped out. Shrinking budgets, the proliferation of channels to manage, and endless streams of data to analyze are only adding to the exhaustion. If marketers can cut away distractions and busy work to focus on connecting with customers where they are, though, they can revive—and even thrive.

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So, why is this change important for the industry and for you?

The past two years have brought great change to daily life: in how we dine out, shop and otherwise make our way through our to-do lists. In response, people have been compelled to shift their expectations about brand experiences more rapidly and completely than we’ve ever seen before.

In our recent survey of over 25,000 consumers across 22 countries, we found that an astonishing 50% of customers worldwide say that the pandemic has caused them to rethink their personal purpose and reevaluate what’s important to them in life. We call them the “reimagined” consumers.

With these new priorities and expectations come new motivations for making buying decisions. Specifically, the same research found that five new consumer motivations beyond the traditional ones of price and quality now factor into how, why and from whom people purchase goods and services. These are: ease and convenience, service and personal care, trust and reputation, product origin, and health and safety. Some of these motivations have been percolating for a while, and others are brand new. But all have big implications for marketers.  

What are the foundations you need to have in place before you take on this challenge? 

The changing buying habits of reimagined consumers don’t just require new ways of connecting and communicating with them, but also how marketing teams are organized and work. Your team should be set up to listen and adapt to what customers need. Here are foundational steps to take:

  • Listen and learn: You absolutely need to understand your customers on a deeper level and the larger contexts they care about. This requires a combination of human and machine ingenuity. Also, are you working with the right partners?
  • Clear the clutter: What are the essentials for you and your team to do your job well and have an impact? Often, this can include assessing what marketing activities to NOT engage in as you simplify your strategy for reaching customers where they are.
  • Give permission to change: Innovation and creativity should be the cornerstones of how you work. Give yourself and your team members space and time to think differently. One way to do this is to simplify processes and consider who you really need to collaborate with to make things happen.

What do people typically neglect to think about before they attempt this type of change?

That complexity is here to stay, so you must be comfortable with it. The usual ways of doing business won’t work. Consider the shifting mindsets of reimagined consumers over fixed demographics. This is where your opportunities lie.

But it’s also about changing your own mindset (and those of your team members). How is every action you take (or don’t take) helping reach your customers?

And it means thinking beyond specific tools, assets or channels. Teams need to cultivate the soft skills—deeply human qualities—that can’t be automated. Do you have the right people on your team?

Who are the teams/people you need to align with and bring along with you on this journey?  

In this new world, you can’t go it alone. Every function in the business has a role to play in defining and delivering the brand experience to discerning customers. This requires deft stakeholder management and a collaborative outlook. For example, someone might think an outdated metric is crucial, even though it’s no longer relevant. You need to bring that person along for the ride.

One easy way to do this is work with people in your company outside of the marketing space. Where are the white spaces that deserve your attention and efforts?

How do you make the case for change? 

Customers have shifted their mindsets and motivations rapidly and massively; marketing is familiar with quick change, but the speed, scope and scale of what we’ve seen over the past 18 months is new territory. So, how can marketers expect the status quo to suffice when the people they serve are transforming so definitively?

The reality is that as people’s mindsets and buying patterns transform, marketing must follow. To reach people where they are, marketers must deeply understand new customer motivations and expectations and respond to them. If they don’t, people will vote with their feet and wallets, choosing to buy from someone else who better aligns with their new values.

Amid this ongoing change—and a plethora of shiny new marketing tools that are constantly being touted—less is so much more. Lead the change by simplifying and focusing on what your customers really want.

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Nevine El-Warraky

Managing Director – Interactive, Marketing Advisory

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