In most modern companies, personas are the focal point of business strategy. Companies invest time and money in identifying their customer profiles with particular relish and nuance, gathering information in four segmentation categories: demographic, geographic, psychographic, and behavioral. For these companies, pre-recession persona development surely led to uninterrupted success in understanding (and influencing) their customers.
The recession hasn’t so much put an end to the validity of these companies’ personas as much as it has influenced their psychographic and behavioral traits. At eBoost Consulting, we’ve seen some big psychographic and behavioral shifts in consumer buying behavior across B2B and B2C companies during the recession. Let’s look in detail at 5 important trends for B2B and B2C personas. We have diagrammed the trends below based on three criteria:
Size – The larger the area, the larger cross section of B2B and B2C personas it affects.
Position – Positioning on the trend on the 2×2 matrix demonstrates its current trending behavior. For instance, brand loyalty is a mature trend that requires immediate action.
Direction – The direction of the trend’s arrows illustrate where the trend’s trajectory is headed as well as the velocity of its course.
Dominant Persona Trends
Dominant persona trends should be addressed immediately in your marketing message and business strategy. The dominant persona trends are:
Simplicity – The prerecession consumer was inundated with a proliferation of high-tech choices and an almost embarrassing overabundance of options. The post recessionary consumer seeks to simplify connectivity to high-touch touchpoints. The recession has accelerated this maturing trend. This trend is not exclusive to marketing as product development has also answered the call here. Apple’s iPad, for example launches with a spare, elegant, and simple design and function.
Discretionary Thrift/Spending – It’s no wonder that sales cycles have increased in B2B sales. Penny-pinching is a no-brainer for smaller sized companies in unfavorable cash positions. Interestingly enough, even larger companies with favorable cash positions are slowing spend. Discretionary spend of customers in B2B and B2C market places is not only acceptable, it’s widely lauded as shrewd. This is particularly prevalent in B2B personas who fear for their job security and hence, are reluctant to spend in product or service providers.
Advancing Persona Trends
Advancing persona trends should be top of mind for companies. Typically, companies address these trends only when it is too late.
Brand Longevity – We are seeing customers equate the duration of a brand’s life to customer loyalty. This demonstrates a weighted shift in what contributes to customer loyalty (widely considered as the ultimate customer metric). Previously, retail structural equation models have demonstrated three factors in customer loyalty: (a) product quality (b) service quality and (c) brand image with a fairly distributed influence across all three. However, recent logistic regression studies support that brand longevity is becoming the strongest driver of customer loyalty followed by product quality and then service quality. While these models can help managers predict sales and customer retention rates, applying these findings to business operations (specifically marketing and sales) can decrease buying cycles.
Slowing Persona Trends
Green Consumerism – Paul Flatters and Michael Willmott of Trajectory, a consumer trends forecasting consultancy based in London, explain it best. To paraphrase: “Environmentalism is by now deeply rooted in the consumer mind-set and consumers have increasingly embraced green products and services over the past decade. Research suggests that green consumerism has slowed in the recession. Consumers are cutting back on pricey displays of green credentials but they’re ramping up cheap and discreet methods of reducing waste – i.e. switching off lights, recycling more, et al.” Though it is a slowing persona trend now, it will likely accelerate again in the medium term (3-5 years).
Brand Loyalty – Public association with a brand has been declining across industries, fed by consumers’ growing confidence in their buying power (highly justified) and growing need to spend less (see Discretionary Thrift/Spending). As consumer confidence returns, people will likely stick to the brands they develop an affinity to right now which is good news for high-value B2B and B2C companies who have decreased their pricing to acquire customers.
Personas are living and breathing archetypes of your customers. They are as fickle and reactionary as we are. The five trends described here bear many implications for strategic marketers looking to improve their bottom line, decrease sales cycles, and reduce resource waste. Companies who created their personas prerecession would be well advised to update their personas to reflect these shifts in psychographic and behavioral variables to prepare for the upturn.