I was shopping for beer today after several hours of planting and couldn’t help watching and listening to the people around me. An woman of around 60 was buying a bottle of wine and I noticed she had a tattoo on her all-too-grandmotherly wrist. A small, pink star. And then there was the stereotypical suburban dad buying a six pack of Warsteiner, a six pack of Alpirsbacher and a six pack of Hofbrau. Overhearing his phone call it turned out he was a finance guy from 8:00 to 5:00 five days a week, but on the weekend he became the beer aficionado. Based on the kinds of information derived from traditional segmentation, these folks didn’t fit. And yet, they are the postmodern shopper.
The days of mass marketing may be coming to an end in many respects. The advent of social media, incredibly rapid modes of communication and a postmodern view of socio-cultural ties that allow us to largely construct our identity from moment to moment have changed the way we group, think and act. These days we’re the tribal people, not the demographic probabilities of a region or zip code. Over the past few years especially, what we do and why we do it is becoming of increasing interest to business. And while that may have always been true in a macro sense, the interest has now shifted to the multitude of grouping and sub-grouping to which we flock. It’s humans rather than numbers that they observing as we go about our daily lives and adapting their messages, products and services to fit the moment as well as the person.
For instance, how iron workers with advanced degrees in English Literature react to a mountain of texts on their phones; why retired women are using their iPads to search for shamans to help heal their ills; how we do the grocery shopping, how we pamper the cat. And it is this sort of thing that is perhaps the most relevant to both the buyer and the seller.
Why does it matter? It’s in the math. 70% of purchase decisions happen in store. 68% of in-store purchases are impulse buys. 59% of purchases are unplanned. Looking at those numbers it speaks not only to the need to develop experiences that draws people in, but ones that keep them coming back again and again. This doesn’t happen when the only choices are shades of vanilla. It happens when you start to think of marketing as an ever-shift process that speaks to the mercurial nature of the human condition.