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What it means to be a consumer in the 21st century

Consumers of the 21st century are more informed and educated than ever before making the profile of the average Joe a bit of a conundrum.


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With the advancement in digital technology, accessibility of information and a growing global network of peers, the 21st century consumer is a puzzle that may never fit.

As the world continues to develop and new trends can come to the fore at any given moment, the picture-perfect consumer may never exist. In an ever-changing world, few consumers remain brand loyal and will tap into their digital networks seeking validation and explanation. For this reason the brand-consumer relationship extends far past the individual and brands need to include their consumer networks as part of their stakeholder base.

The consumer as Educator

Every consumer is both educated and educator. The 21st century consumer has petabytes of information readily available on the internet as well as network product experts and influencers to help make informed decisions. As consumers become more informed about products and brands they are able to themselves become educators and will use available platforms to educate others on their experiences and knowledge.

The 21st century consumer will almost feel compelled to respond to claims if they have information on the subject. Each consumer is an expert in their own realm and will use opportunity to be perceived as an educator. The accessible a brand provides information to consumers and consumer networks the better.

The consumer as a collaborator

Consumers will seek out common purpose to feel more connected with a like-minded community and will seek out information and validation from others. Click technology has enabled the consumer to gain support for their purchasing decisions and collaborating with others to gain affirmation is fast becoming the norm.

Consumers will post about their decisions on digital platforms and feel euphoria when they receive positive click responses. In addition to collaborating with others, influencers have changed the playing field for brand perception. Consumers who associate with like-minded influences will trust their product reviews and feel the need to support the products they promote.

The consumer as a researcher

Consumers are inquisitive and will seek the truth. Every consumer is a possible investigator and can easily search the internet for validation. Consider the impact that any new trend can have on brand turnover. Any negative media post can spiral into global condemnation for that brand or product particularly when it has the potential to impact negatively on health, home or nature. Brands are no longer able to make misleading claims without consumer recourse.

An information technologist

The 21st century consumer is digitally advanced and even if it is only a mobile phone, they are experts at using technology and readily available platforms to aid their decision making. At the same time, consumers are highly dependent on technology and therefore any advancement in technology or digital information can impact on consumer behaviour.

An experimenter

As a result of being collaborator, researcher, educated and digitally apt, the consumer has become an experimenter and will test new brands and products based on the opinion of others as the marketing power of a brand. Event though consumers may default back to their habitual buying patterns, they are now open minded and will test the waters of other products. Experimentation is part of the developing world especially when new products are better associated with individual values and belief systems.

The consumer is an assessor

Every consumer in the 21st century is a possible influencer and has the potential to become world famous instantly. In addition consumers will take to digital platforms to either promote or complain about a brand. Consumers want to feel heard, when a brand fails to listen consumers will turn to a network that does. This means that the average consumer has the potential to significantly impact how a brand is perceived, either positively or negatively.

The 21st century consumer has created a public persona challenge for all brands. Brands have to be responsive, intensively deliver information and be available on all the digital platforms where their consumers and consumer networks are. While digital technology can enable keyword listening and digital interface analysis for brands, an algorithm cannot respond constructively for a brand and it is the brands responsibility to maintain brand-consumer relationships amidst all the contextual and environmental impacts taking place.