“People are really looking for experiences over things. Compared to 2019, spending on experiences has grown at 65%, whereas on things it's just 12%,” said Julie Nestor, executive VP marketing and communications, Asia Pacific, at Mastercard, citing post-Covid research on consumer motivations.
Nestor was speaking at a panel discussion on customer experience at Campaign360. Consisting of marketers from across categories, the panel examined the shift among consumers towards differentiated experiences, and its impact on marketing. Below are some of the key takeaways.
Convenience without compromise has emerged as a new paradigm
Marketers on the panel were clear that consumers in the post-pandemic era wanted to make up for lost time. Shekar Khosla, chief commercial officer (sales, marketing & digital transformation), APAC, Africa & Middle East, at Kellogg’s said, “Quick commerce is in, and instant gratification is not fast enough. There is a trend around saving time: a new paradigm of convenience without compromise. If you can give people back time to do what’s more important to them in life, that's a great proposition.”
Consumers are placing a premium on differentiated experiences
The time thus saved was being spent by consumers in more meaningful and immersive experiences, including travel. For Mastercard, this translated into a revised and updated iteration of its long running ‘Priceless’ platform, which offered its customers unique one-of-a-kind experiences. This was particularly relevant at a time when the sheer quantum of communication was leading people to use ad blockers. “Consumers are becoming much more intentional about their experiences," Nestor said. "There’s a lot more focus on self: finding joy and wonder in the exploration of the world.” However, even with this renewed focus on the self, larger issues around the environment and local communities were also gaining ground.
Consumers prefer brands that reflect their own values
After spending several decades in improving the transactional shopping experience, Amazon discovered it needed to offer more for its customers to stay connected. Tony Yang, director of account management at Amazon Ads Asia-Pacific said, “Our customers are clear that they're looking for brands that they can relate to. It speaks to more than just product features and extrinsic values. In Asia, over 50% of our customers mentioned that they recently made a switched to brands that they believed were more aligned to their values.”
Technology is playing a vital role in this more experiential approach to marketing
At Amazon, the marketing cloud was helping to match consumers with brands that had consonance with their values. Mastercard’s digital marketing engine analysed millions of micro trends, matching online conversations to create bespoke campaigns for the experiences it had on offer on its Priceless platform across areas like sports, food, and music.
Technology was also helping marketers pick the most relevant influencers for their category. According to L’Oréal’s chief transformation officer Umesh Phadke, “The flavour for the last 18 months has been influencer marketing. Consumers want to engage with a marketing voice that doesn't necessarily come from the manufacturer but someone who looks like her. The slicker the ad, the faster the thumb flick, and the more the influencer looks like the consumer, the greater the engagement.”
However, brands could get overwhelmed and struggle to catch up given the rapidly shifting dynamics in influencer marketing. Technology was helping the brand pick relevant influencers with the largest following, while remaining on the lookout for the next big breakout key opinion leader.
Phadke also believed that generative AI was a trend to watch out for. He said, “It is better that we dive headfirst. We should obviously not treat it as the next big shiny object, but go back to consumer, understand what she wants, and if AI serves a purpose in satisfying her needs.”
The service industry has lessons in customer experience for the consumer products business
Kellogg’s Khosla was clear that consumer products goods could learn from the service industry on to improving customer experience. He said, “What makes an experience really rich and memorable are moments when somebody anticipated your need before it surfaced, or you could articulate it.” Citing an example from his own industry, he said, “Mothers are not thinking about breakfast for their child in the morning. They're thinking about it the night before. But for the longest period, breakfast has been the content and context. We have not been there the previous night, offering our consumers some interesting options.”
His recommendation was that marketers take more risks while pursuing a hitherto unanticipated need. He said, “Take the plunge. You won't get it right all the time, but you will get that one insight which is unanticipated which will deliver a delightful experience.”