How External Events Shape Buyer Values & Preferences

February 22, 2018

by Carla Johnson

It’s more than one thing that makes a customer decide whether or not they’ll buy something. People are multidimensional – they respond to the combination of big and small factors.

Marketers use to be able to rely on things like demographic information and financial characteristics to predict how customers would behave. But with increasing globalization and how much we use technology, this approach is out of date.

These are some of the points that the KPMG Global Customer Insights group covered in the report Me, My Life, My Wallet.

Understanding signals

More smartphone users mean more data. It’s this data that tells complex stories of customers’ lives. But past behavior doesn’t necessarily predict the future like it once did. The authors call actions that people take on smart devices short-wave signals – they give us little information about why customers make certain decisions.

Then there’s long-wave signals, the five outside events that make a difference in how someone buys something – social, technological, economic and market, political and regulatory, or STEP. They impact people’s experience, influence values and behavior, and give brands context for what motivates a buyer. Long-wave signals are how companies can get context around how people connect to each other and the world in general. Each generation has its own STEP events and these signals shift and emerge over the life of a customer.

Same generation, different STEPs

Just because a customer base comes from the same generation, doesn’t mean they share the same STEP events.

Let’s look at an example.

Baby boomers in the United States were born under a relatively stable democracy with a booming economy and rapidly growing middle class. These were times and events that dramatically changed the way Americans lived. Families welcomed color TVs into their living rooms and an interstate system that made cross-country travel accessible and comfortable.

The following decades saw the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the feminist movement and the first man on the moon.

But youth in China during this same time had a very different experience. They grew up under the communist reign of Chairman Mao Zedong. The telephone arrived in China roughly half a century after it reached 3 million U.S. users. Zedong’s efforts to modernize the country while still maintaining communism ended up paralyzing the country both politically and economically.

Getting to the root of “why”

This is why marketers cannot use the same approach to connect with the same generation. We have to take into account the STEP events and how they impact the ways people spend money, what they prioritize and why. To be successful, we can use STEP events to get deep into the root cause of what motivates them to buy and, most importantly, why.

Download the full report.

Photo credit: Pixaby

About Carla Johnson

Carla Johnson is a world-renowned storyteller, an entertaining speaker, and a prolific author.

Over the last two decades, Carla has helped architects and actuaries, executives and volunteers, innovators and visionaries leverage the art of storytelling to inspire action. Her work with Fortune 500 brands hasn’t gone unnoticed and the latest of her seven books, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketingsets the benchmark for a new era in marketing. Named one of the top 50 women in marketing and the chair of the ANA’s Business Marketing Association, Carla regularly challenges conventional thinking.

Today, Carla travels the world teaching anyone (and everyone) how to cultivate idea-driven teams that breed unstoppable creativity and game-changing innovation.