Drawing a Bead on Always-On Consumers

Twenty-five years ago, before the Internet ruled the world, marketers had limited opportunities to connect with target customers. They might grab a few minutes of their time via broadcast and newspaper ads while these customers showered and ate breakfast, maybe bang them with some with some outdoor branding on their way to work, and then make a big play with direct mail and TV appeals when they got home, opened the mail, and collapsed into their Barcaloungers.

Today’s Americans, however, rarely put their feet up. In fact, they’re hardly ever separated from a connected device wherever they go. About half of the Americans are what Vivaldi Partners call Always-On Consumers. Some 92% of them own smartphones and 78% have tablets, as opposed to only 55% and 62%, respectively, of the general population. More than 70% visit social networks every day, and 56% share content on a weekly basis, according to a study of 574 consumers released by Vivaldi, a strategic branding and consulting firm whose clients include Adidas, General Motors, Marriott, Schering-Plough, and Unilever.

A far cry from the TV dinner crowd of old, Always-On consumers own an average of three connected devices and regularly access the Web from at least three different physical locations. When they’re not sharing and downloading information on devices, they’re buying stuff. They are a bobbing brace of digital ducks traversing a targeted marketers’ shooting gallery on a 24/7 basis. But not all ducks swim the same way, and Vivaldi was kind enough to sort them out for us:

Mindful Explorers: At 27%, this is the most common variety of the Always-On Consumer, according to Vivaldi. They’re news junkies and gamers and they closely guard their personal data and reputations online. Explorers can quickly transform into evangelists for the right brand, however. They’re less likely than most AOCs to spend time on social networks, but more likely to take surveys and join online brand communities. They make just one online purchase a month, but they spend five hours a day online and value recommendations, customer reviews, and information received directly from brands and retailers.

Social Bumblebees (22%): They have an average of 400 Facebook friends and post up to four status updates a day, often with links. Busy professionals, they know that clients and marketers can see their posts, but they’re not overly concerned with privacy. They’re very likely to post funny video content, branded or not. iPads are their favorite shopping medium and they’re impulse buyers. If an item’s pricey, though, they’ll Google it, read reviews, and delay a decision for a day or two.

Ad Blockers (20%): To this group, social media is purely social. They pay little notice to any online content that’s not from someone they know, though they’re not overly protective of their online privacy. Ads, branded videos, and blog posts hold little interest for them. Blockers spend less money shopping than other AOCs, both on- and offline and, when they do buy, it’s practical items like household staples.

Focused Problem Solvers (18%):  Mature, upscale professionals, their online activities are business-driven—managing finances, booking flights, and making restaurant reservations. Solvers have a stable of tried-and-true brands they cling to, though customer reviews and friend recommendations can steer them on to new things. When it comes to big purchases beyond personal and household items, they prefer the hands-on experience of brick-and-mortar.

Deal Hunters (13%): Though Hunters spend more personal time online than any other AOC segments (seven hours a day) and may have in excess of 500 Facebook friends, they tend to listen more than they broadcast, and when they’re listening, they’re looking for deals. Groupon is very likely to be among their most-used apps. They spend lots of time online researching products and prices, and while they will frequently visit brand and retail websites, they’re not overly engaged with branded content.

The Vivaldi report cautions marketers that AOCs are truly a moving target, with their product preferences shifting by the day and even by the hour. While brands spent decades shaping the attitudes and perceptions of consumers, AOCs are an independent lot. To reach them, marketers have to focus on influencing their behavior and solving their problems.

In other words, unfortunately, marketers have to always be on, as well. Nike Fuel Bands just don’t wear well on Barcaloungers.

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