5 Ways that Modern Customer Preferences are Changing

Written by
Loren Phillips

Media channels are evolving and along with that, media formats are changing to accommodate new consumption preferences. The traditional 30-minute slot is moving into more alternative short-format webisodes followed by high niche, fragmented audiences.

IndieWire listed The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo, a series about a gender-fluid individual and his relationship with the world at large, as the most successful web series of 2016.

We have also seen feature-length films, like Lights Out, having been developed after going viral on YouTube, which naturally has become a great testing ground for directors like District 9’s Neill Blomkamp to test out movie ideas and determine consumer preferences.

On the backdrop of short webisodes we see a proliferation of epic, big-budget productions envisioned beyond the capability of the feature-length film.

A notable example of this is Game of Thrones (GOT) which has amassed 247 wins from 414 nominations, spanning across the Golden Globes, the Prime Time Emmys, the BAFTA Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

GOT sees a massification of audience numbers, with Season 6 garnering 7.7 million viewers in the US alone, and passionate fans starting numerous sites devoted to news and discussions about the show.

The rise of short-form content

During the Covid-19 pandemic, a new social media platform skyrocketed in popularity. TikTok is a short-form video content platform that is adored by many for its entertainment value. 

At first, the platform limited the length of videos to just 15 seconds before expanding to 60 seconds due to evolving consumer preferences. It's been confirmed that the platform will move to include videos up to 10 minutes long in the future, which opens up new potential for marketing.

In the age where the "attention recession" is manifesting quickly in customer behavior, shorter and more entertaining videos are the best marketing vehicle.

Being overwhelmed with information for more than just 5 minutes is already becoming too much for the younger generation, so adapting to these short burst videos is crucial to keeping up with consumer preference.

The success of these short videos has also carried over onto established social media platforms such as Instagram with "Reels", and YouTube in the form of "shorts".

So what does evolving customer preferences mean for sales and marketing professionals?

It means that the channels available for communication have proliferated, leading to the way people communicate being transformed.

Businesses need to be aware of these shifts and need to approach their communications in a more crafted and increasingly targeted manner, taking into consideration where their audience is, at what time of the day, and what they are interested in.

Understanding customer preferences and how they're constantly evolving is key to consistent success.

So how do we do this?

1. Communication

The exponential opening of communication flows has resulted in the line between work and life blurring. People check their emails from home, book holidays on their mobile devices and set up business meetings via WhatsApp.

Communication is negotiated through the closest device they have on hand, typically, their mobile devices.

The knowledge workers of today are not defined by office spaces nor are they limited by 9 to 5. Being “always-on” is a sought-after state and an enviable status.

Sales and marketing professionals need to mediate their message through the customer journey in an effective way without being too pushy.

2. Cross Verticals

Businesses no longer stick to their pre-defined category, they need to remain agile in a marketplace which constantly exposes gaps between services and consumer preference.

Uber started as a taxi-hailing service and now delivers fast food, maximising its core competency which was getting something from A to B in the most efficient way. This is a clear example of a leading business adapting to consumer preferences.

Closer to home, News24 identified its physical reach as a tangible business asset and started the online clothing retailer, Spree, in order to utilise the dwindling need for print publication delivery.

Ultimately, people, customers, users, consumers, or whatever you want to refer to them as just want to be delighted - it all comes down to customer satisfaction. Most companies are no longer simply defined as specialists in a single area.

As a company, consider what it is about your product or service that has the potential to fill a person with happiness, and you have a convert. Customer feedback is One key tactic you can use to 

3. On-Demand Everything 

Literally everything. That is the new expectation. Media has become on-demand. Taxis are on-demand. Fast food is on-demand. On-demand is facilitated by technology, drone delivery and nifty apps that are easy to use and are changing the game.

Consumer preferences increasingly rely on efficiency and instant access. Those businesses that cannot keep up with agile, lean, data-hungry digital-first business models will fade into obscurity. Uber, Airbnb, and Netflix are clearing the path.

Business leaders need to recognise the disruption and pivot quickly to slough off the dead weight in their organisations that keep them slow and immobile to digital transformation. Hopping onto the latest digital trends will help your business to remain relevant in an ever-changing world.

4. Single Solution

Just as people want products and services on-demand, they also want to be able to tailor-make their packages to suit their personal needs explicitly. Products and services need to be modular in order for customers to build their own customised versions.

In the 1970s, futurist Alvin Toffler wrote about society’s need for customised products. Today, as predicted, mass production gives way to mass customisation which has become the alternate driver of demand, price, and customer loyalty.

Apple is a great example of this trend, with new colours being brought out for each new generation of iPhone. Your phone doesn't just have to be a standard colour like everyone else's, it's more suited to your personality and style.

The phone itself can be customised with different settings and features as well, which makes every iPhone on the planet truly unique - leading to customer retention and a unbreakable fanbase

All of these innovations are based on previous customer data and research on evolving customers preferences.

5. Customer Experience is Everything

In an economy shifting away from physical products and in a world where waste has become the increasingly negative by-product of brands, customer preference is to spend more on experiences and non-material goods. In a 2003 study, it was shown that as time wore on, people looked upon experiences more fondly.

The rise of experiential spending impacts brands’ share of the wallet and brands need to consider how they can continue to add real, memorable value to people’s lives to provider customer satisfaction beyond the tangible product. 

The biggest brands use emotion and storytelling to sell products. This proven sales technique has redefined how modern marketing works, and it's why consumers prefer luxury brands such as Audi, Chanel, and even Nike ensure that their products remain relevant and worthy of being purchased by their customers.

If you look at a modern Nike marketing campaigns, for example, you'll notice that they're not selling their shoes, they're selling the story behind the shoes. Their athletes are used to evoke an emotional response, and that is used to connect the customer to the product and increase consumer demand.

In the majority of cases when a customer buys a pair of Nike shoes, you're probably not buying them because they look good, but rather because their favourite athlete was used to promote them - it's an interesting insight into customer behavior.

Final thoughts

With so much to consider in ever-evolving customer preferences, marketing and sales professionals can find themselves easily overwhelmed in understanding consumer preference. The best tactic in such a dynamic environment is to stay up to speed with the trends that shape consumer preferences and adapt accordingly.

Business leaders need to keep their organisations agile and focus on data-based decision-making and customer behavior in order to propel their organisations forward.

For more intel on the latest digital marketing trends, make sure you take a look at some of our other blog posts.

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