In the age of digital dominance and wicked widgets, one tends to lose the use of one’s primary senses. Lulled by the comforts of computers, one can become oblivious to one’s immediate surroundings and end up relying more on secondary rather than primary data.
By inadvertently shutting ourselves to the real world and gluing our eyes (and fingers) on our mobile computing devices, we may then rely on third party “gurus” and “experts”. We put our trust on the charts, trends, data, and analytics churned out by researchers who are often located half a world away.
This may have grave consequences for marketers. Let me explain why.
For a start, different markets have vastly different characteristics. People living in a tight, tiny, and highly connected urban environment like Singapore has very different geographic, socio-demographic and psychographic characteristics from a city in the United States, Europe or Australia.
Most homes here are also small public apartments, and are inevitably more claustrophobic than sprawling suburban houses in the West. This means that people here tend to go out of their homes a lot more than their Western counterparts. Again, this affects buying behaviours.
Asian traditions and its emphasis on frugality also exert a critical difference in our purchasing behaviours. We are value shoppers and often wait for discounts, promotions and freebies before opening our wallets. The impact of group dynamics is also stronger in Asian societies – we are a lot more communal than individualistic here and this shows in our purchase habits.
What this means is that we shouldn’t just rely wholly on digital analytics. One should be careful about confusing Facebook behaviours with face-to-face ones.
If you want to know how people are truly interacting with your product or service, go down to the shopfloor and study how they really behave. Listen to those conversations between potential customers and retail assistants. Use your eyes to see what customers actually do before opening their wallets (eg do they look at the price tag first, or the logo, or the features on the box?).
Such offline observations can also occur at the homes, offices, schools, and other places where people hang out. Eavesdrop (without appearing too rude!) if you can on what people are discussing, especially when it comes to lifestyle choices (shopping, movies, museum visits, picnics). Sense their body language and what seems to attract them more than others.
There is a time and place for secondary data and statistics. They form a useful base for us to launch new marketing efforts.
However, do not just trust in them alone. Instead use your eyes (and ears, noses, mouths and hands) to see what people are really doing instead of what they say they are doing. You may be surprised at the difference.