ONE-MINUTE BRIEFS: Report warns of consumer fluidity

Traditional marketing is no longer good enough. Retailers and marketers must adapt to the complexity of today's consumer lifestyle - or die.

Traditional marketing is no longer good enough. Retailers and marketers must adapt to the complexity of today's consumer lifestyle - or die.

This alarming warning comes from a paper called Fluid Segmentation, published by Cap Gemini Ernst & Young.

It states that one-to-one and situational marketing are a thing of the past, as consumers take on an increasing number of roles in their daily lives.

Marketing strategies, therefore, need to accommodate not only the variety of roles which consumers play but also the number of occasions to which they are exposed.

As an example, the paper points out that when a 30-year-old man goes into McDonald's for a meal with his mates on a Friday night after a few too many pints, his needs are markedly different from when he goes in with his children on a Sunday afternoon.

Here, it is not so much the situation that has changed but the customer.

Similarly, a company executive might require business-class flights to New York on a Monday, but buys a flexible economy ticket when taking her kids on holiday, and a super cheap economy ticket when going to Paris for birthday weekend with her girlfriends.

'Consumers are now wealthier, less rigidly-defined by class and have access to more information than ever before,' says David Hobbs, author of the report.

'All these drivers mean that the consumer is not 'a' consumer. We all wear many hats. Business strategy needs to recognise that people are fluid between segments - or go bust.

The report highlights various strategies to handle the complexities of buying habits. This includes the idea of collecting data from the consumer even before they start the transaction.

The flow of information generated by ecommerce - be it on a PC, digital TV or WAP phone - makes this a very real possibility.

The report highlights the Boots web site which already asks visitors how they are feeling today. A list of pull-down menus allows visitors to choose from a list of potential responses including 'I'm in a party mood', 'I want a treat', 'I feel flu-ey', and 'I feel gloomy'. The site then adapts itself to the customer's needs by taking them to the information and products which relate to the way they feel.