Presented here is a guide to understanding the mindset and expectations of this newly defined consumer.
1. Authenticity Trumps Celebrity: Consumer 2.0 responds to honest, relevant messaging from peers over marketing speak and celebrity endorsement. Not surprisingly, they increasingly trust recommendations from fellow consumers. In a recent SurveyU study, only 15% of college students agreed that a celebrity's endorsement of a product would influence their opinion of that brand.
2. Niche Is the New Norm: Consumers 2.0 do not form a mass market. They relish in choices and look for products and services that speak to them personally. This is a generation that simply doesn't follow a common path - they are more committed to following their hearts than a path pre-established for them by their parents, school or community. They are a generation that doesn't feel forced to a universal definition of cool but feels free to pursue their interests. As technology continues to bring the world closer together, people will increasingly associate themselves with people and groups that share a common bond.
3. Bite-Size Communications Dominate: Consumer 2.0 digests short, personal and highly relevant messaging in bulk while growing increasingly adept at blocking out noise. While adults send three emails for every text message, teens almost completely flip the ratio with 2.5 texts for every email. Now, technologies like Twitter are transmitting these communications across groups of people. Having grown up with the Internet, Consumer 2.0 is trained to multi-task and will at best provide divided attention. Communications need to reflect that.
4. Personal Utility Drives Adoption: Consumer 2.0 chooses to consume what they find useful in their lives over manufactured marketing needs. According to a recent SurveyU study, 78% of college students feel that people place too much emphasis on brands. Certainly, the brand still plays a key role in some categories but, increasingly, that will continue to wane as customers place more importance on products that meet their needs and have many more outlets for learning about new products from trusted sources.
5. Consumers Own Brands: Consumer 2.0 will speak about, repurpose and associate with your brand as they see fit. Empowered by new technologies, they require a larger voice in the brands they champion, helping to create and reinvent products and communications. They will increasingly write about products through blogs and product reviews and participate in online discussions. Marketers must focus on reaching and impressing their core vocal consumers in order to substantiate other marketing claims and spread to new consumers.
Shifting ad dollars to "new media" is not enough and will leave marketers short of their goals. Marketers need to demand that their marketing teams and agencies answer the right questions and deliver the right results (hint: not impressions).
They should begin focusing on the number and depth of engagements they have with consumers and the propensity their consumers have for recommending their product or service to others.
Listening closely to your consumers and engaging them in deeper, two-way relationships is a great start. Paired with an understanding of Consumer 2.0, marketers will be better equipped to navigate their businesses through unprecedented change. After all, Consumer 3.0 probably isn't far behind.