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The Biggest Misconception About Connected Consumers

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The Biggest Misconception About Connected Consumers

When you hear the term "connected consumer" a vision of a young shopper glued to their smartphone probably flashes through your mind. But is there more to these connected consumers than just scrolling through social media and taking selfies? Yes. 

At the upcoming in-cosmetics North America, to be held on October 17-18, 2018, in New York City, Sarah Jindal, senior innovation and insights analyst – Beauty & Personal Care, Mintel, will speak to attendees, during her session "The C Generation," about the actions and lifestyles of these consumers and what it means for brands to leverage this consumer data. 

Global Cosmetic Industry caught up with Jindal to discuss how connected consumers have changed the way beauty brands market their products, the blossoming co-creation trend, the misconceptions surrounding "Generation C" and what attendees can expect to learn during her session.

Global Cosmetic Industry (GCI): How have connected consumers changed the way beauty brands market their products? In your opinion, how will it continue to change?

Sarah Jindal (SJ): One of the biggest shifts we've seen is the increase in interaction between consumers and brands. If you go back five or 10 years, brands were making the products they wanted to make and were creating the need or driving the trends in the market. Now with social media, consumers have this direct line of contact with brands and we're seeing more of the consumers' thoughts, wants and needs driving what brands are doing. Everything sort of flip-flopped in a way. I think it is only going to continue as we see more engagement with and reliance on consumers sharing what kind of products they're looking for, what products they are missing and how a brand can improve.

It has also created a much stronger need for an understanding of different groups of consumers. People don't really fit into demographic boxes anymore. Brands can't necessarily say, "Oh, well they're 15 to 25 years old so we already know what products they want." If you look at the composition of Generation C, it spans from Gen Z all the way up to baby boomers. Historically, when brands would focus on younger consumers as the digital natives/connected consumers, they were missing a massive segment of the population by not catering to older consumers as well. By focusing more on behaviors, lifestyles and how people are engaging, brands can expand their horizons in terms of groups of consumers that can be reached with messaging, rather than alienating certain generations. 

GCI: Co-creation between brands and consumers has become increasingly popular, is that primarily driven by the emergence of Generation C? Or was this kind of product development inevitable? 

SJ: It may have been inevitable, but the rate at which we've seen technology change, advance and become integrated into consumers' day-to-day lives has certainly sped up the time frame. So, would it have happened? Probably. Would it have happened at the rate and scale that it has? Probably not. 

For example, Pinterest has so much involvement and engagement on its platform that it can mine data in really interesting and unique ways to utilize that information to help brands figure out what they need to be doing and where they need to be moving to. There has been a major change in the resources available to brands that can link them directly to the consumer and give them interesting insights. Even less than five years ago, they wouldn't have been able to get their hands on or take advantage of such information. 

GCI: What are some common misconceptions about Generation C?

SJ: A majority of brands, not just in beauty, assume that it is only younger consumers that are fully engaged with technology, but that's actually not that case. The connected consumer is not just your late-teens or early-20s consumer, even though it's natural to think that they are.

If you look at the break down of Generation C, it's split almost evenly across all the demographics, including baby boomers. There's been a shift with older consumers really starting to engage with technology—thanks to multi-generational households—and beginning to integrate it into their lives because it makes things easier for them. We're seeing a very broad group of consumers adopting technology at a faster rate than ever before; it's not just teenagers that spend their lives sharing selfies on Instagram, it goes much further than that. For some brands, realizing this misconception will change the focus or the scope of how they're going to be positioning themselves. If they keep a very narrow focus in terms of who that consumer is, they're certainly missing out on a large portion of who they could be targeting. 

GCI: What can attendees expect to learn during your presentation at in-cosmetics North America?

SJ: There will be a focus on understanding the mindset of this kind of consumer, including how they're using technology and the different things they're exposed to. Attendees will receive a more 3-dimensional image of who the consumer is. The session will bring a lot of nuances to light that people may not be thinking about or cover different platforms that are being utilized that give brands potential new outlets for connection. I'm hoping to get deeper than just scratching the surface and give attendees some insights that will provide them with the information that drives them to action.