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The Isolated Consumer

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The Isolated Consumer

By Claire Murray, Brand Innovation Supervisor, The Marketing Arm

The world in 2019 is a paradox of extremes where consumers are more digitally connected and empowered than ever before yet feel constantly time-starved, isolated, and alone. Yet it may not be the case that consumers are connecting less, but rather that more and more of consumers’ connections are through technological and brand intermediaries. This presents a wealth of opportunities for brands to connect consumers in meaningful ways.

Despite there being an endless stream of restaurants, museums, parks, and unique experiences available, consumers are pursuing more home bound activities – opting to participate and connect through screens. This digitally driven decision point often results in a feeling of false connection and inauthentic community. In addition, basic life necessities have become effortless to acquire with a click of a button, or better yet, with an automated subscription service and as a result, the occasion to leave home lessens. These are just a few of the many causes that when combined, have resulted in this current state of an isolated consumer.

Matthew Crabbe, a trend director for Mintel, recently stated, “Consumers increasingly live their lives through smartphone screens, and although connected electronically, they are becoming isolated from each other physically and emotionally. Societies are also aging and becoming more singular. Brands can step in to help consumers stay in touch with each other, forge stronger social bonds and create communities in which they can express themselves and feel less isolated.”

While technological advancements of our evolved society have no doubt given the world so much in terms of information, opportunity, and safety… there are massive consumer behavior shifts. And as a result of these shifts, millions of people across multiple demographics are socially less connected than decades before, feeling lonely and unsure about how to authentically connect with those around them.

We are living in an era of isolation and loneliness, while also living amongst hyper connectedness and constant social noise. Within this paradox, consumers are seeking balance, authenticity, and truth.

Let’s look at some numbers:

  • 21% of UK consumers who have cut down their social media usage or taken a break from it in the last year say they have done so because they were worried about their mental health. (Mintel)
  • 32% of Chinese consumers (aged 20-49) who play online games say they do so in order to make more friends. (Mintel)
  • Loneliness appears to be widespread among Americans, affecting three out of every four people, researchers have found.

While much of this can seem a bit gloom and doom, the opportunities it presents for brands to meaningfully connect with consumers and better their lives is truly exciting. More so than with other opportunities, this social moment in time gives marketers a chance to offer up creative ideas that matter on a deep human level.

Ask yourself the question: How can you as a marketer/brand show up for the Isolated Consumer?

A Mintel report recently stated that, “constant digital connectivity, where people are replacing physical interactions with digital updates, can increase feelings of loneliness, social isolation and depression, creating a demand for products and services that help consumers learn to disconnect and resolve health-related issues.” This demand is the opportunity. Brands have two opportunities with this trend…

1. Create Connections

Through unique spaces, events, apps, and even content, brands have the unique ability to create connections among consumers. Think about Starbucks: a core principle to their store is to not only serve coffee but to provide a space in the community where connections can be built and all the while consumer loyalty is growing as the community grows. The creation of these connections can happen on a large scale with a physical space or on a medium scale through a common interest event. Ultimately, creating a meaningful connection with consumers makes their lives better.

Here are a few examples of this in action:

2. Empower Alone Time  

Consumers are fatigued and do need a healthy amount of alone time. Instead of treating it as unhealthy, support consumers through self-care and delight in their need for JOMO (the joy of missing out). Through meditation, delivery products, or at home content and products, the opportunity to bond with your consumer in their alone time is high.

Here are a few examples of this in action:

There are endless avenues for a brand to meet the Isolated Consumer where they are, either in empowering them to make meaningful connections and/or to support them in their much needed self-care/alone time. What’s essential though is beginning from a place of empathy and asking the question: How can I as a marketer or brand make their lives better?