Post-recession Priorities for UK Consumers

Writing in the September issue of Marketing magazine, Andrew Curry, a Director at the Futures Company, reports that the post-recession consumer will, for some years to come, have a very different set of priorities to those before it.

He points out a number of key changes:

– More cautious attitudes towards debt
– Social connectivity (and the support network it engenders)
– Greatly increased intolerance of “rewards for failure”
– Looking for value (not cheapness)
– Needing assurance
– Seeking “purchase decision process simplification”

In reality, though, almost all of these are not, in fact, new. They were just as present before the recession. How so? Because they are all manifestations of the five key dimensions that drive consumer preferences, namely:

Relevancy (right solution)
Identification (right image or brand identity)
Accessibility (perceived – and actual – obtainability)
Value (right cost-benefit trade-off)
Confidence (expected reliability that the brand promise will be delivered)

Most of the points Andrew identifies can be re-interpreted as examples of these five forces at play.

Seeking a simplified purchase process is a way that consumers have of making brands more accessible. And the constraints on their ability to purchase imposed by perceptions about their future likelihood to be able to repay debt is also part of perceived accessibility in the form of “perceived affordability”.

Perceived value is a perpetual driver.

Increased intolerance of institutions that reward failure is one element of managing brand image and reputation.

And seeking reassurance is the Confidence dimension.

The social network change is slightly different and especially interesting, however. It underpins all 5 dimensions by providing both an information flow and a feedback loop for all of the others. Increased and more rapid connectivity and feedback makes the probable scale and speed of consumer response on each of them much greater than ever before. Meaning that the ‘penalty you will pay’ for being out of line is going to be much sharper, deeper and more painful than ever before.

That, I believe, is the real lesson to be learned.