Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

It’s getting harder for chief marketing officers to influence and impress consumers, despite new technology and experiences that should be inspiring awe. Businesses are struggling to find a path to innovation because so many innovations don’t actually change consumer habits or spend, and marketers are still falling short when it comes to identifying the true needs of their consumers.

These are the views of Anjali Lai, a senior analyst at Forrester, in a recently published blog. She believes too many innovations don’t gain traction with consumers and end up being ditched.

Lai says that throughout history, innovation has driven the rise of living standards, and encouraged competition while driving economies, but recent innovations have failed to increase productivity in healthy economies such as the US – in fact, it is at its slowest pace since World War 2. Added to this, consumers feel that the quality of their experiences has plateaued.

There is so much data available around behaviour, social sentiment and consumer demand, but these factors don’t indicate how well consumers will adopt a new product or experience, she says. She adds that consumers’ lukewarm reception to product innovation is not a cultural phenomenon; indeed, people have never been as willing to try new things as they are today.

Forrester has spent the past few years doing research on this consumer condition – what makes consumers ready to engage with innovations or closed to brand offerings and how brands can deliver measurable value to their consumers.

Lai reports that Forrester’s research has unearthed the essence of consumer energy – defined as the “emotional and innovation embracing force that drives behaviour and attitudes”. The research outlines four key dimensions of consumer energy and says that consumers swing between them, much like a pendulum.

According to the research, the first dimension is identity versus isolation: those consumers moving towards identity want to be associated with their communities or tribes. Those who are moving to isolation want to be alone in their own worlds.

Trust versus distrust is the balance between consumers who want to believe that brands have good intentions, while those moving towards distrust have no confidence that brands will deliver on their promises.

The big take-out

Forrester’s consumer energy index is a dynamic framework which provides a spectrum indicating consumers’ readiness to embrace innovation.

Novelty versus comfort is the opposing state between those consumers who have an appetite for new experiences and risk-taking and those who are looking for safety in the familiar.

Finally, there is the efficacy versus vulnerability dimension: consumers experiencing high levels of efficacy feel empowered to get what they want; those who feel vulnerable are experiencing a loss of control, the research states.

Lai says these findings have driven the establishment of Forrester’s consumer energy index. This is a framework which shows how ready consumers are to engage with innovations, based on their movement along the four key dimensions. She says that if they score on the right (identity, trust, novelty and efficacy) they are ready to engage, while those who scale left (isolation, distrust, comfort and vulnerability) will not be open to new experiences.