Evolving Consumer Behavior

Raja Riachi, Contributor , Jun 01 2016

The smartphone market kicked off a revolution of consumer behavior, which has evolved and tended towards more personal interactions. Since then, services and applications have constantly iterated, based on the data gathered, to maximize the intimacy experienced when the consumer used the service. In two panels at the ArabNet Digital Summit, the topic of consumer’s evolving habits was tackled, as well as how advertisers were adapting to those behaviors to better reach them.

Khalil Jessa, Founder and CEO of Salaam Swipe, had much to say about how smartphones, specifically apps such as Tinder, evolved the online dating industry. “Salaam Swipe, a Muslim dating app exclusively for mobile, which takes the gesture based functionality which was popularized by tinder, while adding a layer to help Muslims target potential mates. Salaam Swipe benefits greatly from the stigma attached to online dating falling away, largely due to the gamified approach. According to Khalil, the percentage of those between 18 – 24 who use dating websites rose from 15 % to 30 % in the last five years. Salaam Swipe is an indicator of a growing trend towards more niche products, attracting customers, and giving advertisers very specific data on a user’s interests.  

A similar trend has appeared in the messenger space which in the last few years has rapidly become more crowded. These newcomers, from Snapchat to Slack, have also occupied a niche space. While it might be a stretch to call Snapchat, which was last valued at around $20 billion niche, it doesn’t enjoy the widespread use or appeal as a more basic service like Whatsapp. Thomas Cilius, CEO and Co-Founder of Snaplytics saw Snapchat as a more personal alternative to sharing moments. “With Snapchat, you can easily decide who a snap is going to. On the other hand, around 50 % of your followers will have eyeballs on your posts.” Snaplytics, which is an analytics and publishing service for Snapchat, sees that as a favorable bend, with the right ads. This trend towards more personal applications used, demonstrated by the likes of Salaam Swipe, open the door for more personalized advertising, fueled by the data gathered on evolving user behavior.

Aided by the massive amounts of data being gathered, as well as new evolving technology allowing advertisers to find their audience in these niche platforms, and track them across multiple screens, personalized advertising is taking over. Philliipi Macartney, VP Head of EMEA for Affinio, a marketing intelligence platform that focuses on user’s interests to understand today’s customers, emphasized the importance of personal platforms which reveal this data to optimize personalized advertising; “Affinio was born out of a need to start to engage normally to the audience, on a more personal level, what makes you tick, what you're interested in.” From a brand’s point of perspective, it is important to make this data actionable as Volkswagen Group Saudi Arabia exemplified. They focus their efforts on social media, where they can get detailed consumer data, from what they like, to what they spend time talking about, to what colors they like.

According to Adel Baraja, Marketing & Public Relations Director for Volkswagen Group Saudi Arabia, this approach has yielded tangible results, reaching people who may have otherwise not thought to buy a car at the time. Essentially, for any brand to effectively reach new consumers, it needs to do what brands do best, tell a story, or in this case, tell a story personalized to the consumer it’s trying to reach. The key to how effectively that brand can tell that story is the personal data being gathered.

It is also this data which allows major applications and services, the Facebooks of the world, to lead the way in evolution of consumer behavior, which in turn produces new data for advertisers to make use of. However, as ads become more personalized, and as more and more data is gathered, how does a brand stay on the right side of the creepy line. It is largely through policing itself. A brand must provide value, without making a customer uncomfortable. Being upfront with your customer is a great step in doing so. A great example given by Macartney is Netflix’s personalized suggestions, which specifies that it is suggesting a certain show, because you have watched shows x, y, and z.

What are the next major leaps in consumer behavior? Cilius believes that the line between hardware and software will blur, to make a user’s digital experience more personal, more intimate, and more seamless. Even though wearables haven’t quite taken off as quickly as expected, he still expects them, along with IoT and the bourgeoning AR and VR industries to augment people’s experiences, and be a consistent companion in a person’s daily life.

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