Why listening to your customers really matters – in the gap between what they say and what they do, opportunity lies. By Carol McNaughton Nicholls
Over the past 19 months we have been immersed in consumer sentiment and it is fair to say it has been volatile, changing week on week. As an insight and strategy agency, we’ve spoken to thousands of people and considered the implications of their current behaviours, aspirations and attitudes for brands, their services, and communications.
We are seeing people re-considering how they live their life – their routines, habits, goals, and priorities. Sometimes these are in subtle ways (people aren’t all really moving to the country), but these are powerful forces that will impact consumer behaviours and attitudes in the years ahead and have significant impact for brands.
Over the course of the pandemic many people have reflected on the responsibility they have for their overall health, and they are striving to make changes to improve their diet or increase their activity levels. They have been able to spend more time reflecting on the activities and connections that matter most to them, with many considering what this means for their work/life/family balance.
59 percent of the general population surveyed this year stated they are taking steps to be healthier; and even more strikingly, when we asked them to rate their priorities for the year ahead, looking after their mental health and physical health ranked first and second against other goals such as seeing more of friends and family, focussing on careers and being able to engage in social activities. In recent research with Gen Z, we found most aspired to be able to spend time with family and go walking with friends rather than grand goals or conspicuous consumption.
Ensuring deep connections, forming relationships that go beyond the transactional, and understanding how brands treat their staff have become more salient to consumers.
A new age of enlightenment?
Having experienced the consequences of not prioritising planetary health, people are now thinking about how to build a more resilient, sustainable, equitable world for the next generation.
In part due to the ease of access of information, our research respondents are reporting increased awareness of sustainable food, clothing, and transport choices. We are only going to see more of this in the future as the climate emergency (and choice it raises for consumers) becomes even more pressing. 57 percent of the population in a recent survey we ran said they are willing to change purchasing habits to reduce their impact on the environment.
So, are we about to witness a new dawn – a healthy, balanced, fair society, turning the tide of environmental damage? Perhaps not. These aspirations do not always translate into easy behaviour change. But people are ‘saying’ they want to do things differently, even if they struggle to ‘do’. They are acutely aware of their own contradictions and realise they don’t always act on their intentions to be (and shop) better; and they feel conflicted by this. They are self- conscious about this ‘say-do’ gap and looking for ways to justify their cognitive dissonance.
The say-do gap shouldn’t mean what people say is disregarded. Even saying is important – people didn’t have the language for many of these concepts in the recent past. Change can take time and be gradual – to the point that people cannot tell us how their lives have changed, but we can observe changing sentiments and narratives about what they want to do and be.
In this gap between what people say they want to do and what they are currently able to do, an opportunity lies for brands and marketers – to understand these spaces in between and help your audience to navigate them with the products and services that help them do so.
Carol McNaughton Nicholls, Associate Partner, BritainThinks
Carol has been leading complex insight, research, and strategy challenges for almost 20 years – from foundational insight to reputation research, developing compelling behaviour change campaigns, to innovation, brand positioning and proposition development.