The Challenge of Keeping Up with Consumer Behavior and Technology Changes

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speed blurAny casual business observer can note that consumer shopping and purchase behavior has changed dramatically with the continued maturation of online technologies.

In fact, a recent Horizon Media study 1 comparing holiday shopping behavior of Boomers (age 50-63 years old) to Millennials (age 18-34 years old) reveals some stark differences in how quickly things change. A few examples:

  1. When asked which device you use to shop online, 8% of Boomers say a smartphone, while a whopping 43% of Millennials use a smartphone to shop online.
  2. When asked if they look up information (on their mobile phone) about items while in a store, 9% of Boomers do this, while 48% of Millennials do.
  3. An item of consensus between the groups is the pervasive use of online resources to inform the shopping process. When asked about where they get information about where and what to buy, 63% of Boomers and 65% of Millennials state “”… beating out sources like “Friends and Family”, “TV” by wide margins.

The sheer amount of time that consumers spend with online media, as well as the switching behavior (multi-tasking, multi-screen) is also a force to be reckoned with. Gone are the days when you could reach an audience with a small set of print and broadcast media buys. Today’s media environment is fragmented and ever changing.


newspaperWith all that known in the major brand marketing departments around the globe, why do we still see a disconnect between brand marketing and channel marketing activities. While brand marketers often have larger budgets and exposure to top ad agency talent, the channel marketing world has often had to play second fiddle with smaller budgets (and frankly) a harder task on its plate. It’s relatively easy to place a national ad buy…while it’s much more challenging to work with hundreds or thousands of channel partners to translate the brand benefits into a retail focused message – balancing the retailer’s own brand and positioning with your own. The use of co-op or MDF funds can help ensure compliance to brand standards, but it also takes leadership from channel marketing to help partners spend money in the most productive ways. Leadership happens with equal amounts of listening to your channel partners (e.g. what is working for them, why they are spending in certain areas), absorbing new information on trends, and running or monitoring small experiments in the channel.

A recent experience highlighted this disconnect. A survey of channel partners revealed strong use of web, and social media to promote their local businesses, while no web or social media content was offered through the clients ad-builder/DAM (Digital Asset Management) system for the channel. Not surprising, almost 80% of channel partners stated that brand didn’t support them adequately in promoting their businesses.


tortoise_750x220With the environment changing so quickly, channel marketing departments need to keep up and ideally keep ahead of their channel partners. What is the result if they don’t?


Left to their own devices, the early adopters in your channel will strike out on their own to try any new thing they find interesting. If it works, they will likely keep it to themselves. If it doesn’t you may or many not know about it…but in any case you won’t be able to leverage that learning to your entire channel…either to maximize brand impact or keep other channel partners from wasting money on the same things. Amid the clamor of options in the marketplace, the later adopters (early and late majority) will be looking to you for guidance and input on how to invest to maximize business, but they won’t find anything new but the old tired choices expressed in your co-op or MDF policy manual (Yellow pages anyone?)

Dilution of the brand’s impact in the marketplace

With the chaos of channel partners each doing their own thing with little leadership, you’ll get a bunch of money spent in media and methods that worked well years ago, but not so much today. You’ll also get some money spent by early adopters in the right ways, but also money spent on the wrong things. This approach results in a dilution of your brand message and impact in the marketplace.

Lack of quality control in final outputs

Without a central point of review or oversight with respect to social media posts, print quality, images or copy…there will be a wide range of output, with lots of poor quality output in the mix. How many times have you seen a dealer pull a low resolution logo off their website for use in a print piece? How many times have you seen typo’s, small crammed graphics, or off-message copy in dealer ads? It happens on a regular basis without another option. Centralized, approved and qualified digital and print fulfillment options in your ad-builder or marketing portal can give channel partners a reliable service that controls output quality.

Missed opportunity to reduce costs through volume discounts

Along with a lack of quality, channel marketers that aren’t leading will also miss out on the opportunity to leverage the collective volume of their buying power to negotiate a great price on their behalf. Aggregating the demand of all channel partners, not only helps them, but also saves money in your co-op or MDF funds allocated to them, allowing them to spend more money on things of value to drive the business.

Declining leverage with your channel

Lastly, if you’re not being a resource to your channel with tested approaches and insights to offer, they’ll stop listening to you. Many channel partners work with multiple suppliers, so you’re always competing and those supplier brands that are offering more value will naturally win more business.


bgObviously it doesn’t have to be way. Leaders are willing to test and implement new marketing approaches with new media. Leaders are scanning available industry and trend data to glean insights for their channel. Leaders are influential internally to keep policies and processes streamlined and up to date, as well as externally with their channel partners as a resource. As a result, leaders are focusing on helping their channel partners engage and shape online consumer behavior. Brands leverage their online content because it is a benefit to both the brand and the retailer when consumer see a consistently professional brand presentation nationally and locally. Creating this influential marketing manually is costly and time consuming. Automating the process using a marketing builder to deploy creative to your channel is a smart idea.


  1. Realize consumer behavior online will continue to change as technology affects consumer behavior and teaches them new ways to solve problems
  2. Make it easy for their channel partners to reach the online consumer
  3. Understand that the sales funnel is no longer linear, and the brand needs to be strategically visible in more places than just their brand website and social media. Internet consumer behavior looks more chaotic and sporadic than a nice linear process.

The key is for the system to host the content, that will save the retailer money but, more importantly, it allows the brand to track the results and maintain control over the content. Online consumer behavior & technology changes fast, and we can help make sure your brand stays on top of the changes…to successfully grow your brand and channel partners’ business.


  1. Horizon Media, Holiday Shopping Survey of 680 respondents, Oct. 27-Nov 8, 2013
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