Product As It Goes From Workshop to Marketplace
When shopping becomes one of the major stressbusters of a majority of population, the marketplace ecosystem needs to have products to be shopped. The higher the population, the higher is the variety of the products available for a particular category. No population is ever uniform in any manner, nor is the type of products created for the populations. With a country as diverse as India, the information & need gaps for different segments of people are different in varying categories. And hence, for a particular product, you have n number of variants to choose from.
Its a basic 3 step cycle, with many sub-steps at different stages:
Product Creation –> Marketing Communication –> Consumer Purchase
Consumer insights integrates in all the 3 steps for a clearer picture & better understanding of individual and overlaying steps.
Many creators feel the need to create a perfect product failing to understand that the problem is not really with the product itself. And in this desperate need for creation and competing creation we are left with choices where there should be no choices already. Consider the simplest example, you go to buy a toothpaste and you are overloaded with a plethora of products to choose from. One has component X from brand A, another has component Y from brand B, and then you have variants within each brand itself. It leads to consumer confusion, random shopping patterns and at times a lower loyalty rating for a particular brand or variant. This is the primary reason for the sudden incoming of a number of startups & relatively newer products from relatively unknown brands. Because the consumer has gone experimental owing to end of an era of brand loyalties.
This leaves a relatively greater room for product creation itself, knowing that the consumer is experimental and wont stick to a particular product for long. Its a vicious circle which many organizations has created and are currently enjoying being in it.
Consumer insights are feeding product creators varieties of local myths and folklores which captures the eye of a more remote and previously unattended consumer, who now feels gratified that somebody is paying attention to his thought. This sparks a temporary loyalty to the brand and product itself, which doesn’t last longer. And hence the need to create a new product.
Indians have a famous saying, “Marketing Communication is about selling Comb to a Bald Man”. And at many a times, it stands true to the statement. In a shopping centre loaded with choices, how do you sell your product? You need to understand your target group better than anybody else, and consumer insights helps you accomplish that. But Thatsnot just about it. Its a mere start, you need to understand your target segment in its totality and hit them at their weak spot, wherever that may be.
Various ethnographic studies have tried to establish the same with a holistic approach to the consumer lifestyles. Trying to learn from their everyday and daily behavioural patterns. And most of them have fed perfectly into the marketing campaign of the most popular products. While some managed to catch the eye of the consumer for a good amount of time, and during the purchasing sprees in the shopping malls, some totally failed to convey the message they needed to convey and hence rendering the insights useless. Take the Kalyan jewellers ad campaign starring Bollywood biggie Amitabh himself. The Ad wherein wanted to establish trust with their consumers, somehow confuses the consumer in terms of product placement. To establish trust, they showcased Amitabh asking a trusted store owner to open his kids store at night to purchase a toy for his grand-daughter. More than trust, the Ad conveys societal dynamics and how relationships operate within society. Agreed, but the Ad misses on product placement entirely, with the name of Kalyan Jewellers being announced at the end.
Marketing Communication can extract the most out of consumer insights space when it comes to placing your product and retaining consumers. The key is to make the insights readily actionable. Hits certainly requires the participation of an ethnographer, or an anthropologist in the marketing campaign design process.
This is the most tricky & unpredictable part of the whole process. Its highly persona centric and is governed by n number of factors including the socio-economic, behavioural, environmental, informational & more.
The first step in the process, Need Recognition, is governed by the previous step of the whole process, the Marketing Communication. It helps, guides, drives, influences one to identify the need gaps within one’s daily routine. Societal dynamics play a vital role in this need gap identification by het individual. Social/Peer pressure forces many of us to buy some products/services that we might never need at the instance we bought them. Most of the times, such purchases leads to our social acceptance/inclusion in some closed groups. And hence these products play the role of enhancers.
Once the need gap is identified, it follows with an information overload of products and brands available in the marketplace today. Narrowing your choice from thereon is filtered by the factors of social acceptance, & public opinion. For example, smartphone purchases by a majority of Indian population. Many people, from all age groups, have purchased smartphones just because everyone in their social circle has one, and to own a feature phone amongst those seems to virtually outcast them while within a conversation or product exhibit. They might never use any smartphone application, and will use their smartphones only for calling and texting. And at times, taking pictures.
These various factors like social acceptance & others lead to an evaluation of the product prior to purchase.
Since most of the times, the need gap was made identifiable and wasn’t even there, it leads to a fragile user experience with the product which may go in either direction. A bad or below average experience might lead to a creation of a newer need gap identification on the part of the user and hence will form the vicious circle of product creation again. In any case, you like the product or not, it is going to lead to the product creation part inevitably, and the circle will continue perpetually forever.
THE ROLE OF CONSUMER INSIGHTS
The role of Consumer Insights in all the steps is to keep guiding the creation and the creator in a direction where only the identified need gaps are addressed in a more actionable manner. There is a thin line of difference between identification of need gaps and creating them. Consumer Insights prefers former than the latter in this category.
Exploratory studies are especially beneficial in this regard since it takes into account the holistic view of the consumer’s lifestyle, both from an individualistic & from the member of society point of view. It talks of a more broad approach than a narrow and focused one. Exploratory research need not focus on one particular set of problems, rather it focuses on the entirety of the situation and hence helps create holistic solutions.