What Do Consumers Know, And When? (Craig Douglass On Consumers)

by Craig Douglass  on Monday, Feb. 3, 2014 12:00 am  

Craig Douglass

“What did he know, and when did he know it?” These probing questions are probably asked more than any others when attempting to learn vital details about public institutions and the people who run them.

More often than not, the “what and when” application in search of transparency (from Nixon and Watergate to Chris Christie and the George Washington Bridge) seems to be what best moves forward the quest for information. (For a historical perspective, then-Sen. Howard Baker, R-Tenn., originated the famous questions during the Senate Watergate Committee hearings in the summer of 1973.)

From a consumer research point of view, the questions could be extended to “what did they know; when did they know it; how did they come to know it; what action did they take upon knowing it?” Nielsen research probes the consumer psyche based on these and other questions. In fact, Nielsen continues to be the leading consumer research company, providing clients and the public at large with an understanding of consumers and consumer behavior.

In this limited space, it might be edifying to take a look at Nielsen findings about women consumers and relate them to the projected trends for the next 12 months that were outlined in a recent column.

Consistent with the January column on 2014 predictions, it would certainly not be surprising to learn that more than 95 percent of women in developed countries own smartphones. In the developing countries, once called the “Third World,” a full 89 percent of women own mobile phones, as they rapidly transition to smartphones. Connecting with women, then, through mobile apps that convey news and information, as well as personalized retail promotions based on purchase histories, is effectively reaching women where they are.

Eschewing stereotypes, it is noteworthy that tech-savvy women in the U.S. text 14 percent more per month on their mobile phones than do men. And more than 33 percent of the audience for NFL football games televised through either broadcast networks or on cable is made up of women. The NFL itself considers more than 45 percent of its fan base to be women, informing their marketing and promotion choices. Learning more about shared interests between men and women, and how best to communicate with them in tandem, thus reinforcing co-purchasing decisions, can lower marketing costs and increase the perceived value of products and services.

Managing household budgets demonstrates the decision-making impact women have on the economy. Nielsen reports that 70 percent of women surveyed worldwide have cut household spending in the past year. Categories receiving less attention include clothes, gas, electric utilities and entertainment outside the home. If more selectivity based on limited household budgets is to occur, then the need for greater value is a must. Such things as corporate responsibility, personalization of the customer experience and increased platforms for access to the product or service will be required. These added incentives far outweigh price.

Social media enjoys 44 percent more attention from women in terms of time spent online, including mobile, than time spent by men. However, while active on social media, and online generally, only 10 percent of women are “highly influenced” by Web ads with social content. What influences women more is third-party recommendation, or advice from friends and family. Consumer research reveals women are 25 percent more likely to act on advice from others than men, fueling the importance of such things as “likes” on Facebook, and comments by satisfied consumers, or disgruntled ones, on other consumer sites.

As a consumer, what information do you receive (what you know), and when do you receive that information (when you know it)? More importantly, how does the content and timing of that content impact your consumer behavior? Inquiring marketers want to know. And they do know, through research methods including purchasing trends, surveys and tracking the ever-growing use of technology, as we respond to the pervasive stimulus of the marketplace. Transparency, indeed.

Craig Douglass is a Little Rock advertising agency owner and marketing and research consultant. He is president of Craig Douglass Communications Inc. Email him at Craig@CraigDouglass.com.



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