Evolution of consumer needs; The driving force of future marketing

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Marketing constantly evolves with contemporary societies with their needs and wants and as brands strive to better leverage the latest technologies. Thus, observing the conditions of the country and the requirements of the contemporary societies is a wise marketing act.

Identifying the purpose of marketing

At the International Conference on Management and Entrepreneurship (ICOME 2022), organised by the Open University of  Sri Lanka, Prof Philip Kotler, known as the ‘father of modern marketing’, says, the purpose of marketing is to create, communicate and deliver value that satisfies a target market’s needs or desire at a profit. He further said, the higher purpose of marketing is innovating new and better products and services and creating new markets where the supreme purpose is to enhance the wellbeing of marketing.

At present, there is a lot to accomplish in marketing, when so many consumers are preoccupied with managing the effects of the global pandemic on their lives. To reach people in this condition, vendors would be wise to leverage emerging marketing trends that promise to give them an edge in the competition.  Thus, the evolutions in consumers’ values, as well as how they interact with technology today, are among the driving forces behind 2022’s key marketing trends.

Emerging marketing trends

Along with the pandemic, most of us have been forced to adapt to change and uncertainty more than ever before. With many of our daily interactions going solely digital, purchasing of products and services also led towards a digital platform. The  pandemic transformed the way business to business (B2B) and business to customer (B2C) companies across sectors operated as people went online to research, review and purchase.

Industry leaders will need to embrace this change and invest in new solutions to keep ahead of the curve.

Social media trends

Will consumer online buying kill store based retailing? With Covid more people started to buy online. Thus, there is tendency that more and more consumers will turn to e-commerce. Besides, in a country like Sri Lanka where people are facing a huge economic crisis with shortages of fuel, more tend to turn towards online shopping rather than visiting the store physically.

It is said, social shopping or social commerce is expected to reach US $1.2 trillion globally by 2025 according to an Accenture (a research company) study – a growth that’s three times faster than traditional e-commerce. Gen Z and Millennials are predicted to be the biggest spenders as they will account for 62 percent of global social e-commerce revenue by 2025.

Alison Battisby, Social Media Consultant at Avocado Social, a social media consultancy agent in the UK sees TikTok as a platform that marketers need to take seriously in 2022 as TikTok will continue to grow with the number of users get signed in for TikTok as a leisure time activity when they work from home or just a break with all the stress at working places.

In terms of the platform’s revenue, TikTok was the top-earning non-game app in 2021 with more than US $110 million spent by users according to a research done by The Digital Marketing Institute headquartered in Australia. This just shows the earning potential of the app for marketers looking to drive sales amongst young consumers. Battisby further adds, “TikTok has enormous engagement (US users spend up to 850 hours a month on the platform) and offers individuals and brands the opportunity for their videos to go viral: no mean feat in the social media realm. Influencers have also played a role in TikTok’s rise with many earning huge amounts through sponsorship deals.” Battisby believes that brands are now taking notice of influencer marketing on the platform.

Further, during the pandemic, brands flocked to Instagram and YouTube as well. “TikTok has partnered with Shopify, Instagram is making huge developments with their shopping area within the app, so I think social shopping is just set to become absolutely huge this year,” says Battisby. “YouTube is also looking at enhancing their shoppable tags within videos and you can shop on Pinterest.”

“YouTube is going to explode in terms of investment from advertising in 2022. I feel like it’s a sleeping giant, but I think that the move away from linear TV, fragmentation with subscriptions, and streaming services all means that more advertising spend is going to move to YouTube,” says Brendan Almack, Managing Director of Wolfgang Digital, a company in Ireland.

Last year (2021) YouTube’s global revenue (through its parent company Alphabet) grew to nearly US $ 29 billion, up almost 46 per cent from 2020. This level of revenue puts the social media platform on par with Netflix and is a result of the rise in more traditional TV advertisers on the channel, direct response ads, and brand advertising.

Towards sustainability with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects

The present human behavior and acts seem to have a major impact on the nature that leads to the constant changing of the climate. Worldwide overheating of the planet, hurricanes, fires, floods reminds of the fact that companies + households must reduce carbon footprints and move to solar energy and away from fossil fuel. Besides, the present generation is concerned more about conservation of environment and they tend to go for products and services that engage in CSR projects and are environment friendly.

Today, research has shown that a majority of consumers (especially generation of Millennial, Y,Z and Alpha) will boycott a brand because of its position on a social or political issue, and it is no longer acceptable for brands to sit on the sidelines when it comes to the issues their customers care about. Hence, marketing should focus on profit + sustainability at the same time.

Thereby, marketing might have to change its purpose, Forbes Agency Council says marketing must aim to reshape and reduce consumption in advanced countries in the interest of saving the planet. Needed more de-marketing campaigns: recover, reuse and recycle existing products and resources; use water more carefully; drive less and share your driving; use public transportation more; avoid products  and brands with lots of packaging and plastic etc. seem to be the concerns of the products and services at present and then lead marketing campaigns accordingly.

Further, addressing other social responsibilities is a key driving force for effective products and service businesses. Again, the young generation is keen on these issues and tends to support such campaigns without hesitation. Prof Kotler points out that company should take a stand on social problems – poverty, hunger, poor housing, income inequality, cannot alleviate this alone, should help each other. Out of a research done, most of the companies had a cause; Kraft- reducing obesity, Levi Strauss- prevention of aids, Motorola-reducing solid waste, Pepsi cola-staying active, Shell-coastal clean, British Airways-children in need, Starbucks -tropical rain forests, Best buy- recycled used electronics.

‘Experience’ is the topmost

ServiceChannel  Chief Marketing Officer, Seema Kumar says, “People don’t just want a retail store these days, they want a retail experience. They don’t just want a restaurant, they want a dining experience. Next year, brick-and-mortar businesses will take this focus on experience to the next level, competing to provide the experiences that will be unforgettable for consumers. Experience remains one of the few things you can’t order online and get delivered: look forward to an experience renaissance next year that will be apparent in all industries from retail to banking to fitness and beyond.”

Following marketing theories

Meanwhile, following the theories of marketing is essential to compete with the rest while adhering to the current marketing trends. The tenets of marketing, buyer-needs centered; the 4A’s – awareness, accessibility, acceptability, affordability, the 4Ps –product, price, place, promotion: 4Cs –company, customers, collaborators, competitors; STP- segmentation, targeting, positioning etc. would no doubt support the required marketing plans of an organisation.

Meanwhile, marketing evolves; marketing 1.0 was meant to be the  functional marketing, 2.0 was meant to be emotional marketing, 3.0 well-being marketing, 4.0 moving from traditional to digital, 5.0 –marketing technology for humanity. A thorough knowledge on these aspects and observing the trends from time to time with the existing generations (especially the present generations of Millennial, Gen Y, Gen Z and Gen Alpha) as each generation grows up with different tastes, preferences and attitude towards work, seems to be a must strategy in the journey of marketing success.

Consumers are keen on marketing tricks

Despite all these strategies, theories and trends, still the marketers need to think beyond; as present generations are more knowledgeable and cannot be deceived easily. They are keen on marketing tricks; hence know the  product exaggerations (Ex: Lux soft touch soap ; for soft fragrant skin), deceptive practices (offer in big print and conditions in small print), timely discounts for improper products, buying options (buy now; pay later), planned obsolescence(fashion & technical products) and also confusion over too much choice. Hence, marketers should address these concerns of consumers as well and plan marketing campaigns accordingly with the product’s or service’s unique specialties.

However, in the near future the buyers will be able to select the best brands without resorting to advertising or sales people and the success will depend on smart pricing, strong branding, and owning dominant channel positions. According to industry experts’ marketers will use of Virtual Reality (VR) to gauge buyer interest in possible future products and will use predictive analytics and machine learning to identify and convert the best prospects. Marketers will use neural science tools to identify best stimuli. Thus, they will make more use of customer journey mapping; touch point marketing, personas, content and influencers. Hence, the era of intrusive, meaningless, and irrelevant advertising will be over, and marketing may fully morph into customer advocacy. As a result, marketers need to look out for customer’s best interests, and the brands, being there in the moments that matter.

Moreover, marketing in 2022 is going to require business owners who are willing to take risks, invest in their branding, listen more intently than ever before when engaging with customers online or face failure as competition continues to grow at unprecedented rates. Thus, Prof Kotler points out that marketing creativity will be crucial in the area of experiential marketing, thereby ‘within five years if you are in the same business you are in now, you’re going to be out of business.’

The writer is a former Business Journalist attached to Ceylon Today, a Visiting Lecturer at University of Kelaniya, SLIIT, SLF, a freelance Writer and a Sworn Translator. (B.A & M.A in Linguistics at University of Kelaniya, and a Postgraduate in Tourism at University of Colombo).

By Anjali Caldera