“Millennials are the most diverse generational cohort in US history,” according to a Deloitte report. Consumer diversity is an inescapable reality for most companies. Brands that recognize this the most make all efforts to understand the heterogeneity of their audience and tailor their strategy to the needs of their customer base.
In this time of diversity, inclusiveness is an important factor in growth and also serves as a risk mitigation strategy for companies. To successfully leverage consumer diversity for success, companies must seek to understand their audience base and put the customers before their strategy.
Benefits of Diversity
- Growth: Millennials are the generation that values inclusion the most and is influenced by a brand’s display of diversity and inclusion. And Gen Z on a fast track to more variety than the generation immediately preceding them. The rising generation consists of conscientious buyers who are ready to amplify brands that create a positive experience for diverse customers while avoiding and dissuading others from organizations with a negative reputation of diversity.
- Inclusiveness: These days, you don’t need to be a global brand to have a diverse customer base. Everyone is different in some way, and acknowledging those differences is good for business. If you keep targeting a narrow set of people, you would lose the goodwill of the minorities. A diversity marketing strategy signals to your customers that you care about them, no matter how different they may be from the other customers.
- Risk Mitigation: From a purely business perspective, diversity can be a risk mitigation tactic. Having a diverse consumer base shields your company from the consequences of the economic challenges of one customer segment. While it is great to maintain a focus when targeting prospects, hyper-concentration might have you using less of your potentials.
Because of the apparent diversity in today’s market, a multipurpose strategy can no longer work for reaching your growing customers. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, you need a marketing model that acknowledges diversity without differentiating your audience, and that personalizes customer experience while communicating inclusiveness.
- Customer Segmentation
The purpose of segmentation must be to understand your customers better rather than to amplify stereotypes. In fact, what you deem important to learn about your customer base would inform the segmentation method you adopt. This may be geographic (location-based), demographic (features-based), behavioral (habit-based), or psychographic (personality-based).
In an impressive example of psychographic segmentation, the marketing team at GoFare, a travel app, ran a campaign that targeted people in each category with an upgrade offer, determined based on their lifestyle information. But this was not until they had identified their most frequent travelers, segmented them according to their attitudes, and created multiple buyer personas to clarify their targets.
By finding common attributes between groups in your customer base, you can serve hyper-targeted ads with direct messaging that would attract more leads.
- Uniformity vs Differentiation
PepsiCo’s Lady Doritos gaffe is still fresh in the memory of marketers, serving as a reminder to never confuse diversity marketing with necessary differentiation. CEO Indra Nooyi sparked controversy when she hinted at the introduction of new versions of its chips that matched female snacking preferences, which she described as different from men’s.
But what was the problem? Was it that there were no gendered products at all? Of course, there are. But according to business lecturer Jill Avery, “consumers are generally open to gendered products and brands when they can perceive real, meaningful differences in how men and women consume a product.” Therefore, the real problem was that PepsiCo assumed stereotypes about its audience base.
A major key to maneuvering diversity is to let the data speak for itself and involve the customers in your marketing strategy. Collecting information directly from the consumers ensures authenticity. Regular engagement with your customers makes them know that they have a voice. But engagement isn’t just saying and doing what your customers want; it includes communicating with them how they want.
- Omnichannel marketing
Companies have many digital channels to interact with consumers. On the other hand, consumers, particularly millennials, want companies to focus on seamless cross-channel service delivery, rather than needless expansion. This is the age of omnichannel marketing, a strategy that ensures an integrated customer experience across multiple means. The average internet user has 8.5 social media accounts. And with the majority of people now owning numerous devices, cross-device shopping is much more common, impacting sales by up to 31%. It only makes sense that companies target consumers via multiple channels, and while at it, maintain a uniform CX.
The omnichannel model is an upgrade to multichannel marketing, which only extends the mediums of communication but without focusing on delivering cross-channel consistency. While multichannel marketing puts the medium first, omnichannel marketing puts the consumer first. Hence, greater customer retention; marketers using three or more channels to interact with customers record 90% higher retention rates.
The most common examples of successful omnichannel strategies are Disney, with its My Disney Experience, Virgin Atlantic’s personalized customer experience, the Bank of America’s dynamic experience, and Starbucks rewards app, among many others.
- Brand Communications
“One in three customers from diverse backgrounds say their needs were often unmet over the past 12 months. Further, they were three times more likely to avoid an organization and dissuade others from their potential interactions, because of an organization’s negative reputation on diversity.” So says a Deloitte report, which underscores the fact that, more than ever, a company’s reputation depends on how they embrace their diverse customers.
The most foundational marketing strategy today is customer-centricity. When a company that serves a different customer base alienates a group of its audience, it affirms that it does not put customers first. Elevating minority voices, in particular, shows that a company holds every customer in esteem. And according to a survey by Google, 64% of consumers took action after seeing an ad it considered diverse or inclusive. The report concludes, “if you seek to enter diverse markets, your organization must become the market you seek.”
The beauty company, Dove has won hearts by embracing the diversity of its customers in an industry infamous for reinforcing stereotypes. Through its multiple campaigns, Dove exemplifies an understanding of the varied psychological needs of their market. A worthy throwback is the Ad makeover campaign in which they let their customers choose their ads messaging themselves, challenging the negative ads messaging that the industry had promoted over the years.
On the one hand, there is the idea that businesses should differentiate themselves by focusing on specific market segments. And then there are buyer personas which are templates for marketing targets. On the other hand, there is diversity to deal with. Unless you are planning an expansion, diversity marketing does not necessarily mean expanding your target. Rather, it is recognizing the differences in your existing customer base and leveraging that to connect with your customers better.
Multiple studies have established a strong link between consumer diversity and brand performance. Today, the talk is not about whether you have a diverse customer base or not. The major question is on how you tackle diversity in your customer base.
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