In the current complicated political and social climate, with the addition of viral boycotting and “cancel culture,” consumers’ perspectives on the world are constantly changing. Every day, consumers are faced with new information that forces them to consider the interests, alliances, and causes that matter most to them. And opinions change quickly these days – often at the drop of a dime.
To be successful, marketers must have an idea of consumers’ sentiments in real-time (or close to it). What happens if an ad that seemed appropriate a month ago suddenly feels tone deaf? You’re risking a financial hit from unnecessary ad spend and potentially damaging your brand’s image.
So, how can brands best respond to these fluctuating or nuanced consumer sentiments? The solution goes beyond strategic creative planning. To be successful, we need to truly understand consumer behaviors and patterns.
Marketers need to do more research.
How consumer data plays into a marketing strategy
As businesses start to think deeper into what the post-pandemic era will look like, more marketers are relying on data analysis to understand how best to reach and relate to the unpredictable interests of today’s consumers. The answer? First-party data.
Unlike other types of tracking data, first-party data is sourced directly from customers. It is collected and owned by the company, through a consent-based process that leverages market research tactics to aggregate and analyze the data.
First-party data is a valuable tool for marketers because it allows for the most accurate, relevant insights for understanding audiences. In today’s always-on environment, it’s important to gauge sentiment straight from consumers to inform the way marketers will engage with them.
With first-party data (above), consumers tell us exactly what their opinions, interests, and sentiments are, so we can better understand their behaviors.
Procuring first-party data: what you need to know
Ultimately, you want a first-party data source that can scale. Anyone with a basic understanding of market research knows that a large pool of survey respondents is better than a small group – especially if you need fast, timely insights. The market research industry collects and generates data by investing in new research technology that brings a greater number of vetted respondents to marketers like you.
It’s also important to use first-party data that is granular. Brands must have a thorough understanding of what their consumers are interested in, what actions they take on a daily basis, and other identifying factors that provide more personal insights. Without those identifiers, brands lose the opportunity to connect with consumers in authentic and meaningful ways.
Why do we need both of these elements simultaneously? Because authentic consumer sentiment is more important than ever. Take a look at Amazon; they know what their customers buy and when. Amazon then uses that first-party information to suggest additional purchases and serve ads to those same users on both Amazon-owned properties and the Internet at large. Gated publishers use their first-party information for similar purposes (to serve users relevant content and advertising that will resonate), allowing for a more “personalized” experience.
What will your new marketing plan look like?
Collecting real-time data to make real-time decisions is going to make or break marketing plans in the future. If marketers correctly leverage those insights, they can more effectively optimize media targeting and placements; and with consumer sentiment changing so often, purchase behavior must be tailored based on those shifts.
Marketers can use first-party data (as shown above) to gauge the performance of their campaign placement and ad creative.
You’ll also gain a stronger understanding of niche buying behaviors across verticals. Are consumers still dying to get their hands on Lysol wipes and toilet paper? Are they finally feeling comfortable enough to fly again and need new luggage? First-party insights can make you aware of changes in consumer behaviors as they happen. You can even analyze fast-changing consumption patterns by looking at industry conversations and then at your data. Is it matching up?
As brands evaluate direct consumer sentiment and consider how major changes in the world are impacting them, it’s important to recognize the similarities and differences between consumer groups. When enacting analytics, brands must integrate a diverse set of information to uncover responses that show the diversity of a consumer base.
For instance, McKinsey & Company ran a global study in 12 core countries, from India to Italy, South Africa to the U.S., outlining consumer sentiment facing the “new normal’ with regard to COVID-19. While those countries are diverse across their populations, first-party data and market research helped boil down behaviors to key commonalities. Not only does this data guide brands in their current marketing decisions to consumers in those areas, but it also provides insights for future planning.