Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Is Frugality and Efficicency the New Status Quo in Consumer Behavior?

Frugality: I am powerful, yet I am frugal

The DIY (do it yourself) culture is a phenomenon that has overtaken the ready-to-order and ready-to-purchase behavior. While we used to prefer having things made and sent to us, somewhere along the lines the stamped on labor cost has begun to bother us. This, along with the need to express creative freedom and feel a sense of accomplishment after having completed a manual task has driven individuals to do things themselves. The success of IKEA stores is simply one example, but the flattening frequency of house help in metropolitan cities of third world countries shows how people are looking more towards their own powers and natures to completing given tasks. Frugality can be the other explanation for this, too, as individuals get slightly more sure of what they want, and how they want it. Businesses beware of the increasing know-how of consumers, and the increased pickiness, which unfortunately correlates with the increasing options that consumers face for every product they wish to purchase.

Efficiency: Factors overriding the Experience Element

For some reason, we have lost the ability to enjoy various elements of life on a standalone basis. Efficiency has caught on like a buzzing bug. Why, if you can have a phone that handles email, text messaging, entails a GPS, can play movies and stream television channels, why have a laptop, a mobile phone, a portable GPS, a Blu-ray player and a television? It is the efficiency of one product versus many more, at a reasonable cost advantage and convenience, perhaps. But does it replace the joy of cuddling up in a couch in front of a television with a bowl of popcorn? I’m not saying efficiency is a bad thing, I mean the swiftness of checking in on an airplane (lets ignore the other associated hassles of traveling these days), or the practicality of an all-inclusive printer/scanner/copier are definitely a sign of creative minds at relevant work. However, I think product managers, alongside consumers, have been taking the efficiency element too much out of reach from the human element.

Frugality again may be the cause here. Why buy six things when one can perform the same task? From an economic standpoint, it’s probably true. From a convenience one, depending on your adaptability to the sensitive touch screen phones, the response will vary. And we all ignore the satisfaction element of it. For when you have a 60 second microwavable meal, not only does the taste and nutrition compromise itself, but one also loses out on the joys of cooking and concocting an ingredient specific dish. Apt brand positioning is thus a requirement.

Sourabh Sharma, Senior Manager and Communication & Social Media Research Expert at SKIM, a boutique marketing research consultancy, has a background in engineering, marketing and finance from the University of Pennsylvania, and the Wharton School and Rotterdam School of Management. Having worked in marketing and product development at L’Oreal, followed by a stint in management consulting, he now passionately enjoys the world of social media, and can be found on every platform with his alias sssourabh. He is a food critic and a fashion writer, and documents these alongside strategy on his blog called 3FS. He may be reached at Follow him on @sssourabh.

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