BY FIONA MURDOCK
SENIOR PLANNER, [email protected]
The past year has made it painfully clear what a divided nation the UK is, and many other countries besides. In the near future, this lack of consensus – or even a third way – will make for challenging times for brands. When targeting consumers it’s going to be increasingly important for brands to understand the mindset within which their shoppers are shopping – parent or power player, hedonist or health freak, Scot or European, Nigerian or Londoner – and to focus on how best to leverage that mindset at the pivotal moment.
Success will required understanding how your shoppers are united more by attitudes and passions than demographics: don’t think millennials, think mindset – is the digital sphere a tool or a toy? Don’t think gender, think life-stage – parents of both genders have more in common when it comes to household purchases than child-free women in their 40s. And critically – do you need to win over the ‘Brexiteer’ or the ‘global citizen’? Bear in mind that the majority of younger and more affluent consumers voted to remain, and among this audience, as the effects of Brexit begin to impact on these groups, we should expect to see a conscious engagement with products of European and global provenance. Waving ‘British origin’ status risks being perceived by these ‘global citizens’ less as patriotism and more like ‘little Britain’.
So where to turn to for inspiration? It’s not news that the always-switched-on, globally connected consumer has an insatiable need for novelty. But in 2017, conversations about trade deals will raise awareness of the global marketplace, opening up thought provoking conversations and opportunities for multinational brands to bring globally inspired products and brands to the UK, for a start. We should, for instance, expect to see a growing influence from Africa in the UK. Firstly because many manufacturers see Africa as offering huge potential for growth as Asia and BRICs slow down, and are now truly gaining actionable insights. There’s also a growing affluent African audience in the UK, both permanent and temporary, with money to spend.
International brands will be well placed to demonstrate their global credentials to the younger and more affluent UK shoppers by leveraging these globally influenced ideas, insights and products, to deliver a brand experience that’s removed from the ‘us-and-them’ EU/UK debate, which will no doubt continue to dominate the media. Furthermore, as the mainstream grocers become indistinguishable in their race to deliver ‘the best price’ and most efficient store, shoppers looking for some ‘surprise and delight’ on their store trips – whether bricks and mortar or digital – will be increasingly desirous to discover new products and brands; reconciling this desire with the grocers’ and brands’ need for ongoing efficiencies will create challenges for shopper specialists, requiring integration of commercial understanding with creative flair.
Entertainment into action
Further escapism – or at least a view from outside the EU bubble – will come from virtual and augmented reality, which in 2017 we expect to begin to find an effective role in along the path to purchase in a greater number of categories. Brands will take the opportunity to enable shoppers to steer their own, relevant path through a brand experience that can be tailored to the multiple consumer mind-sets mentioned above – and will do so with a commercial focus on delivering ROI on previous investment in VR and AR. As the drive for efficiencies continues, we expect (and hope) to see brands and agencies spending more time considering how VR and AR can be incorporated into the path to purchase, by honing the UX to convert engagement to purchase whether at home or in store.
It’s going to be key for brands and retailers to recognise that while VR-ready consoles from Playstation and Xbox will create a pool of consumers with greater understanding of this technology – but they will also demand that technology delivers more than novelty. It’s not going to be enough for brands to deliver VR entertainment: the 2017 challenge will be how to turn the deep engagement that VR provides into a sales driving force.
Bigger brand experiences
The converse side of this VR and ongoing screen-time will be a growth in desire for the tactile, emotional, and sensorial authentic experience. But it’s also financial efficiencies which we expect to drive the level of brand experiences to new heights of engagement. The UK hospitality industry will be looking at a higher cost base in 2017, as temporary EU workers begin to leave the UK, and the next wave choose other destinations on top of the effect of the minimum wage, resulting in a higher cost base. Bars and restaurants will therefore either look to reduce costs through cheaper food and drink brands (which will be hard to do as cost of imports and food production rises) or, in the best cases, to elevate the experience further so that price becomes less of a factor in choice.
In fact, consumer desire for more immersive and more shareable experiences (with a tangibility that contrasts to their always on lives) means that it’s already becoming the norm to see consumers happily paying for the chance to participate in, what is in short a sampling experience (see the popularity of the likes of London Cocktail Week and Junipalooza for evidence) and savvy brands will seize on this opportunity to get their product in to hands and hearts. Further effectiveness will be delivered through partnerships between venues and brands along the lines of the Hendricks Botanical Garden at Mr Fogg’s.
[email protected] is a joint venture between global shopper business Geometry and J. Walter Thompson.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020