Friday, November 19, 2010

Foreword: Consumer landscape in transition

The world has changed, is and will be changing even faster. During the past five years, the explosion of social media has (in addition to many other big shifts in societal, political and economical level) radically changed the landscape and business environment for many consumer companies and organizations.

As a result of these recent big shifts and even transformations in the business environment, the majority of consumer companies have been forced to re-think their strategies and attitudes regarding consumers. In today's marketplace, it is not enough to develop attractive products and try to sell them to a specific target group of consumers. In order to be successful, companies need to understand the big picture and keep that in mind in each part of their processes: from ideas and product development to the marketing and building relationships with consumers.

Many companies today understand the crucial need to know their consumers. Ideally, the product or service development should be triggered by consumers, and the intention should be about creating and providing solutions to their particular needs or demands. However, it is still quite common to see companies developing products and starting to think about the target consumer afterwards. If the target group is not defined clearly enough, then it is also more challenging to plan and create successful marketing strategies that appeal to that particular group of target consumers.

Understanding consumers starts from a very grassroots level. If you are developing products or services for consumer market, it should be your "second nature" to want to learn and get to know your business and the target group. Ideally, you should have a passion for the business you are working in, so that understanding what's going on would be natural part of your everyday life. The consumer understanding is all about getting to know them (even better than anyone else) - their needs, desires, dreams, behaviors, routines, patterns and everyday life. Observing them, discussing with them, building relationships and doing any other forms of extensive ethnographic consumer research are keys to that. But the most crucial thing is to understand that consumers are constantly in transformation. If you have once learned to know them, you cannot rely on that information tomorrow any more. The world is changing and so are your consumers. In addition to current state, there is an increasing need to understand the futures as well.

Today's success cannot help us tomorrow. In order to succeed, consumer companies and organizations need to prepare for tomorrow before it is too late. In the beginning I mentioned the explosion of social media into all areas of everyday life. It has been perhaps the biggest revolution in the consumer marketplace during the recent years. The relationships between brands and consumers are now incredibly personal and unique thanks to the FB fan pages, blogs etc. where consumers and brands can interact and learn from each other. However, as the “Like” culture, recommendations, peer pressure and word of mouth are spreading incredibly fast, also the rise and fall of brands is now faster and more transparent than ever before. That is the reason why futures understanding is becoming even more critical: you have to understand where the world is going, where are your consumers going, and what will your role be in that process.

With these words I would like to welcome you to read this blog. I will be posting on societal change, mainly particularly related to my specific areas of interests: emerging technology usage, sustainable lifestyles and cities, urban living, ethical business and marketing, sometimes also family living related articles. I would appreciate dialogue with you readers - thanks for your time for leaving your comment!

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