Commentary

Faced With Cautious Affluent Consumers, Nimble Marketing Matters

At the start of the year, it’s generally standard practice for marketing organizations to do a postmortem on the previous year and think about how they’re going to apply their learnings to the year ahead. But 2017 has the potential to be a very different year, as the U.S. undergoes a political transition that could have a wide-ranging impact on the economy.

It’s possible that consumers may take a wait-and-see approach when it comes to major purchases such as luxury goods, homes, and autos at the beginning of the year. As a result, marketers might want to exhibit some degree of restraint as well. Even if an analysis of 2016 indicates that marketers should be aggressive in their ad strategy and spending toward affluent audiences, it could be better to take a realistic approach, based on the consumer climate. That doesn’t mean abandoning any form of assertive marketing. Rather, a key for marketers right now is to take the steps that will help them to maintain flexibility throughout the year to respond to changes in the economy.

A practical assessment of existing marketing data and tools is the best place to start, as it can help illustrate any additional data and strategic resources needed to better react to, and capitalize on, change, while also potentially reducing risk. Marketers have a great opportunity to look across the landscape for multiple strategies they may want to adopt as the year goes on. This includes examining the kinds of data they already have, as well as what they’d like to have for campaigns in the year ahead.

What other adjacent data sets might be related to their business or come into play? Do they have the right tools and the right data? Collaborating with their internal analytics teams can help to hone in on flexible data and tools. At the same time, using multiple sources of data and insights may mean they can build new campaigns faster and reduce the risk of budget lost to ineffective advertising.

If marketers are to build adaptable marketing plans to stay ahead of a potentially volatile consumer market, then they need the ability to pivot quickly as clarity emerges. This requires being nimble, i.e., having quick access to data to pursue a new market strategy or specific consumer segment, and to execute the idea fully. 

Consider real estate. If interest rates go up, it is plausible that home sales will slow. That impacts the mortgage sector as well as the home improvement industry because fewer purchases could mean fewer renovations for new buyers. If you’re a home-improvement retailer, the core audience may shrink. But if the brand builds a flexible strategy, the retailer can adapt its messaging and pivot its audience targeting to another segment with more proclivity to spend. Rather than aim its messages at new buyers, these retailers can adopt messaging that says “change your home to the one you want,” to target existing homeowners. 

The same goes for the auto vertical, where an uncertain or down economy typically leads to slower sales, especially for luxury models. Manufacturers and dealers could respond to this by shifting their marketing message away from sales toward leases or by implementing more real-time financing incentives for in-market buyers. Having the right data and analytics can help provide flexibility in a potentially uncertain economic situation.

Gearing up for a successful 2017 boils down to two main strategies: exercising caution (but not too much) and aligning the backend partners and marketing tools to help ensure flexibility to respond to changes in the market. No marketer wants to get locked into a suboptimal strategy because they’ve fallen behind or are too slow to pivot.

Having the right tools, staff, and data in place will allow marketers to adapt quickly if they need to. It actually doesn’t matter which way the market goes. If it gets better, taking this approach now will put marketers further ahead. If things go downward, they can respond appropriately. The year ahead may contain curveballs, good or bad, and marketers need to be prepared.

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