When 'Accidental Trial' Meets Personalization

These days, consumers’ switches in brands and retailers out of necessity provide new opportunities for marketing personalization. But there are caveats to be found in pre-COVID-19 consumer research.

In February, global research provider GfK found that adults were already pretty stressed out when comparing survey data from 2010 through 2019. Their top daily concerns included constantly finding ways to simplify their lives and—when it came to personalization—having more say in how companies engage with them.

“The level of stress at a baseline was already very, very high,” GfK EVP Joe Beier tells Marketing Daily in reference to the pre-pandemic research.

A key source of frustration was a “paradox of choices running out wild out there,” says Beier. “A lot of people were telling us it’s too confusing, too hard to make choices from all these products in all these categories.”



Given the pandemic, people now find themselves thrust into situations of “accidental trial,” where they can’t always get their favorite products or shop at their usual retailers—so they change their buying habits.

Beier describes it as “this sort of great mix master of trial going on, which could really upend a lot of existing loyalty relationships.”

One of the big changes in consumers’ attitudes towards personalization—including being rewarded for certain activities—has been a desire for more control.

Nearly half (49%) of respondents had said they would be “more loyal to a brand or retailer that lets me give input or help shape the products/services I buy.”

Millennials clocked in at 66%.

Beier cites as an example of expanded consumer choice Reebok’s Unlocked loyalty program. Members gain points by creating an account, completing their profile, making online or in-store purchases and rating/reviewing products.

According to a March 18-24 survey of 390 buy-side advertising decision makers by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, 42% have adjusted their messaging amid the pandemic to increase mission-based marketing, while 41% are using more cause-related marketing messaging.

Beier sees an intersection of cause/purpose marketing and consumer-dictated  personalization, citing as an example Toms Shoes, which operates stores in California, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Oregon and Texas.

Toms gives customers a list of causes they would like to support—ranging from equality to giving shoes, promoting safe water to ending gun violence.

“They’ve done a very clever job of flipping it into a personalization play,” says Beier.

“In and of itself, just cause-based marketing doesn’t always translate into a personalized experience. But if tactically used in that kind of way, it certainly has the potential to be.”

GfK released data for a separate survey of adults conducted March 17-18. Among the respondents, 73% said the way that companies conduct themselves during the COVID-19 crisis will impact whether they do business with those brands or retailers in the future.

According to a recent survey of 150 marketers by the CMO Council and data provider Catalina Marketing, four out of those surveyed indicated they are “challenged” to meet consumer expectations for personalized engagement.

Nearly 60% pointed to inconsistencies in the level of depth and granularity of customer insights, while 36% percent noted that “they just don’t have the data to know their consumers.”<

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