My good friend (and fellow competitive swimmer, back in the day), Dina Mehta, wrote an insightful post based on her research work around the topic of product durability. Though she refers to her findings based on the Indian market and the changing nature of durability, locally, there’s no question that this is a global phenomena.
The central theme of the research is that consumers value product durability less and less as time goes on. It used to be that when we bought products and services, life of the product was an important consideration and products were advertised as such. In Dina’s post, Stuart Henshall provides the most well known example:
When I think durability I think of Maytag – the washing machines that go forever here. Yet today that “durable” isn’t expected to last 20 years and new features, energy efficiency etc are changing the definition
Dina provides some great local examples of how consumers look at durability today. Based on her research, she concludes:
Thinking thru current Ads on tv – only the infrastructure and paints guys seem to talk about Durability in their communication today.
As Dina points out, its obviously not the case that customers don’t want products that last; it’s just that the markets in India finally afford choice. When I grew up there, you could only by one of 2 types of cars, a handful of electronic or appliance brands or for that matter, chocolate (yes, a travesty). All that’s changed now. And with choice comes the desire and willingness to swap for newer, shiny models at a more frequent pace.
There’s plenty of parallels to be drawn in the rest of the world where choice has been standard for decades. However, the marketing approach to this was to turn up the volume when it comes to badgering the customer with more marketing emails. Or to throw in the towel and compete on price with promotions that were often loss leaders or just a way to empty out the warehouse.
The truth is that in this age of transparent and open marketing which is moving to influencer and peer to peer modes, one sustainable approach to respond to this consumer trend is to focus on building durable relationships with customers. Existing customer relationship programs and enabling technologies (CRM) often enforce a fenced-in transactive model where its about that individual sale. That needs to move to a relationship model that can outlast that single transaction. And with the proper strategic planning, create an interaction environment that results in durability. Choice is here to stay. All you can do it make the customer comfortable with the notion that your first in line when they are looking to exercise choice. And one way to do that is to preemptively help them understand exactly why and when you should be in consideration. Thats done through effective customer Networks.
From a programmatic stand point, the answer is not jut Social Media or some other over intellectual way of looking at public or consumer relationships. Social Media is part of the larger tapestry. The answer lies in reworking the process of building and sustaining relationships with customers via social and collaborative forms of engagement. That comes from revisiting the mode of engagement that extends far beyond the nominated “social media leads” but permeates the walls that today, omit interaction with traditional sales, marketing, internal and partner experts who truly have the most substantive knowledge. Anything less will come of as plastic.
In turn, from an enabling technology standpoint, that means rethinking how your Social Media, CRM and so called ‘SocialCRM" and ‘Enterprise 2.0‘ efforts come together to build and foster genuine, durable relationships.
I highly recommend you read Dina’s original and follow up post on the implications of durability taking a back seat in the context of purchasing behavior. She’s got a very passionate community of intelligent folks that have provided comment.