If you don’t know what the demand windows for your products are, not enough of your customers will be demanding them.
“The most predictable characteristic of today’s consumers may be their variability,” say Emre Sucu, Matt Egol, and Edward C. Landry writing for Strategy+Business. The predictable customer of a certain age, gender and postal code is a thing of a past. As the options of places, times and methods by which to consume continue to grow and change, so too do consumers’ behaviours.
WHAT IS A DEMAND WINDOW?
A demand window is a moment in time and space when a consumer might choose to make a specific purchase. The choice that an individual consumer makes won’t just depend on one dimensional demographics such as age, geography, gender, occupation etc. We need to look closer at why the consumer is making that specific purchase at that specific place and at that specific point in time. We need to understand the emotional and functional drivers pushing that purchasing choice.
Consumption is a highly complex process in today’s market, where consumers are potentially confronted with hundreds of brands available to them at a wide range of outlets, including supermarkets, convenience stores, warehouse stores, e-commerce sites, and even mobile apps and social media. Consumers will select different brands, depending on where they are shopping, when they are shopping, and why they are shopping. The demand window is the point at which the when, where and why of the consumer’s purchasing behaviours meet.
The customer who buys easy to drink domestic beer from the supermarket for consumption at home may well choose a more complex brew in a restaurant.
The customer who always buys jumbo packs of nappies at the supermarket may well steer clear of buying in bulk when nipping into their local convenience store for emergency supplies, as they know how relatively expensive they will be.
The purchasing decisions of someone shopping for sandwich ingredients for a healthy adult snack at home will be different to those made when shopping for sandwich ingredients for a child’s lunchbox.
Demand windows open and close. They are not constant features of a particular category of shopper who will act consistently regardless of context. The demand window is all about the context.
THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAIL
Getting to grips with viewing your marketing through the lens of ‘demand window thinking’ doesn’t require any ground-breaking technologies. Companies have long used consumer surveys to understand their customer’s behaviour. Now, this information can be overlaid with detailed data about consumers’ online behaviour, including their browsing history, purchases, online reviews, and social media activity, as well as metrics that track their behaviour inside physical stores.
Using these already familiar data-gathering technologies, you can apply established quantitative marketing techniques to mine that data for useful insights that will enable you to understand the demand windows for your products.
IMPLEMENTING A STRATEGY
There’s no point in gathering all that information about your customer unless it’s used to “drive better targeting and engagement along the path to purchase by more directly linking brand, consumer, channel, and occasion”.
You can do this by first identifying the windows best matched to your brand, then changing the way you market and sell your products to reflect those windows, and finally adjusting the way you develop new products in the light of what you have found out about your customers’ behaviours.
Identifying your demand windows
While it might be tempting to identify a whole host of demand windows for your product and try to target them all, that would be a mistake. Only a few of those windows will be right for your product. The first step you must take towards working out what your optimal demand windows might be, is to make a clear and honest assessment of your company’s real capabilities.
Every brand is good at some things and perhaps not so great at others. The things you excel at should be the things you are best known for. Ask yourself, what does your brand do best? Is it innovative packaging, new product development, or something else? Identifying your brand’s strengths will help you to match those strengths to the demand windows that best utilise them.
If you are a craft brewer who specialises in bringing new beers with a high alcohol content to the market, then your demand window is unlikely to be found at the convenience store shortly before a local sporting event kicks off. At that place and at that time, the beer of choice is likely to be of the canned variety. Trying to compete in that space would be a poor marketing choice. Look instead for opportunities when the time and place mean that a customer’s inclinations are a good match to your brand’s strengths.
Identifying your demand windows should cause you to change your sales and marketing strategy as you use your findings to inform your approach. Your detailed understanding of the demand window for your product will enable you to engage with your potential customers at the right places and the right times, thereby optimising your chances of translating interest into sales.
While you don’t want to chase every demand window, there may be several that best match your strengths. Your groups of potential customers might not always be in the same demand window, or in the same place at the same time. By understanding all of your demand windows, you can individually tailor your marketing for each group.
One example of this is a company that recently developed a new type of scissors. They identified three interest groups for their product: hobbyists, students and office workers. They created three separate campaigns to reflect these different groups, changing their approach to promotions, outlets, packaging, digital advertising and coupons to best reflect each market segment. Even the customer reviews were customised, so that hobbyist consumers were only exposed to the reviews from other hobbyists. “The result was a huge increase in sales compared to previous product launches.”
Innovating new products
Good analytics can help you to understand what features consumers would value in your product, and which consumers are likely to purchase a product with those features. By understanding on a deeper level what your customers actually want, you would be able to tailor your product development to meet that need or desire.
For example, if a nappy manufacturer identifies a demand window for conscientious new parents who want to reduce their impact on the environment, they should first look to their capabilities in sustainable manufacturing to see if they have capacity in that area. If they do, then they could focus their efforts on offering biodegradable or recyclable packaging, secure in the knowledge that the demand for the product is there, and that they know where and when to find it.
The more you think about your customers as individuals, with individual needs, habits, and variable preferences, the more attractive you can make your brand appear to them.
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