Humans are born curious. We spend our lives building relationships with others, wanting to know what makes our peers act the way that they do, and why they make the choices that they make. Shouldn’t companies be doing the same with their customers?
Fully understanding consumer preferences begins with understanding the situations they are in. Will they act with reason? Or will their irrational thoughts overpower their rational mind? While both situations can be identified with analytics, there is more to the consumer than what the data reflects. With different situations impacting their purchase behavior, here are three ways to get a better hold on the consumer’s decision-making process.
Understand their environment
Who are your consumers? And where exactly do they come from? These are questions that Campari America intimately knows the answers to. A change in drinking culture came as a result of economic struggles brought on by the recession several years ago. Using rational thought to make the most economic choice, consumers changed when their environment changed, and they began to drink at home. Campari America used available data to understand this environment and react to it. With its creative team on board, Campari America was able to focus its marketing efforts in a way that encouraged the new behavioral trend and embraced making cocktails at home. Instead of trying to force its consumers out of their environment, Campari entered it and was welcomed.
Be their emotional compass
Most times, we don’t even know what we want. What drives our purchase decisions when our rational minds are elsewhere? Emotional purchases or “impulse buys” cannot be predicted by any algorithm, but they can be skewed. Making an emotional buy is easy for consumers as they don’t need a “reason” to justify their purchase. These choices are simply based off of feelings. But how can the wine and spirits producer react to and influence these decisions?
One of the most prevalent emotional buying behaviors stems from nostalgia. We all know the feeling of longing for something that existed in our past. Although it is not in our life now, we force its existence by bringing it back to life.
According to Gregory Carpenter, professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, “It works well for brands that have an authentic connection with the past, especially some powerful associations with it (e.g., the VW Beetle). It can work for brands without an authentic connection to the past if the brands can create that familiar feeling without. This is tricky but can be done. It is aspirational for some but at the same time nostalgic.” By guiding consumers using familiar feelings from their past, wine and spirits companies can provide some influence on this form of irrational purchase behavior.
Consider old habits
As living beings, our senses often make choices for us. We rely on this intrinsic form of decision-making when confronted with a challenge that our rational mind is struggling to process. In a recent study from Sonoma State University, researchers wanted to know if consumer preferences changed as they aged. Do our tongues mature?
From a survey of 422 men and women from multiple generations (Baby Boomer and older, Generation X, Millennials, and iGeneration), they asked “Have your wine preferences changed since you first started drinking wine?” Data showed that 31% answered that their preferences did not change, while 69% said they did change. From this, came the second question of, “How did your preferences change over time?” The data showed that the people who did say that their taste has changed gradually preferred dry red wines in their later years of drinking, rather than when they began drinking sweeter wines. Whereas those who answered no generally will always prefer sweeter wines.
So, how can companies make use of this information? With data showing that only a slight majority of consumer preferences matures over time and that others believe to have stubborn taste buds, companies can only continue to offer a variety of choices. By limiting their options, not only would there be an elimination of “entry-level” flavors, but an entire consumer group would vanish. However, companies can also segment audiences. This way they can figure out what their target markets are, and which types of wine those target markets prefer, and adjust their offerings to match.
When a consumer picks up any bottle of wine or liquor, that person is instigating a lifelong relationship with the brand. And like every relationship, it takes time, consistency, and sometimes failure to fully understand the other person. With the bottle in hand, consumers already have expectations for the brand. The question for companies is: how well did you set those expectations?