Yesterday and Today: The Age of the Connected Consumer
It is well established that consumers are connected more than they ever have been. This has happened in large part due to the popularity of social media, as well as the proliferation of smartphones. For example, according to a report released by the social media software company Hootsuite and the social media marketing agency We Are Social, as of January 2017, there are about 2.8 billion active social media users and 4.9 billion mobile users in the world. These are large numbers, of course, and they have grown rapidly over the last decade. As a result of the digital connectivity afforded to people around the world, consumers have become what I refer to as “always on and constantly connected.” In other words, we live in an age of connectivity where consumers can access vast amounts of information and communicate with others across massive distances whenever and wherever they like. Search costs have plummeted, individuals’ abilities to digitally express themselves and their opinions have increased, and the opportunities for superior business and market intelligence for companies have skyrocketed.
Opportunities for greater market intelligence
This last change is perhaps the most profound for the marketing profession and in this issue you find a selection of recent top research in this area. Marketers enjoy having access to more and richer data due to the rise of the connected, always-on consumer. This is fueling better customer insights and the infusion of data into all facets of marketing and brand management. Social media and word of mouth (WOM) are among the most relevant fields in this respect. In this issue David Dubois analyses what motivates consumers to either share positive or negative WOM with friends and acquaintances and comes up with interesting marketing implications. Yakov Bart investigates how product seeding not only affects the focal product but the whole category and competing brands, an effect that savvy marketers can leverage to their advantage. Another interesting phenomenon we cover is Social TV. While consumer multiscreen activity tends to be considered as a threat to TV and especially TV advertising, Beth Fossen and David Schweidel show that TV can indeed benefit from the buzz during their shows. The greater availability of connected consumer data of course has also enabled newer forms of digital marketing, such as precision targeting and real-time, programmatic advertising that shows personalized ads to consumers at, hopefully, the right moments in terms of place, time and intention. In this context, Michelle Andrews presents her findings on the effectiveness of mobile advertising in different contexts and highlights the importance of considering environmental factors to improve the relevance and hence effectiveness of mobile ads. Network analysis is the topic covered by Lev Muchnik and Jacob Goldenberg, who demonstrate that networks evolve differently than often assumed and come up with straightforward recommendations for improved social network analysis marketing. Finally, Robert Kecskes from GfK discusses how being “always on” changes brand communication.
The age of the connected consumer, in which we now live, has given marketers new types of data due to the ability for new digital touchpoints to be inserted into consumer buying journeys. An example of this comes from L’Oréal (see Box 1).