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My $7 K-Mart Shoes

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If you’ve seen me in any event photos lately you’d be forgiven for thinking that I’m a bit of a high maintenance gal.

I’ve been known to buy a pair of shoes (and/or dress – likely both) for pretty much every event I go to.  Being out and about is part of my job and being “Head Flossie” I’m always “on brand” – dressing up is in my job description.  No really, it is.

Like most women I wish I could say that I have a closet full of amazing clothes ready to wear to any event I attend, but I suffer from constantly having nothing to wear.  Such is life.  Yes, it is quite the #firstworldproblem.

You would also be forgiven for thinking that maintaining that kind of freshness in my wardrobe would be a very expensive exercise.  Well, here’s a wee secret – it’s not as draining on resources as you might think – because I’m “product & look” focused, not brand driven. Actually that’s the secret.  I buy what I want – but what I want is not always a designer label.   I can achieve a designer look, without the expense.

I fall into a new category of consumer who wants a bit of everything.  I want to live in a nice house, go out for dinner, drive a nice car, go on holiday, get new season clothes (get new clothes continuously), drink champagne, attend events, etc.  There’s a lot of competition for a share of my wallet and I’m also investing in businesses and saving money.  Let’s not even get into the pesky ‘real life’ budget reality stuff of having to pay bills, feed kids, power, etc which obviously takes precedent over the aforementioned items!  Yup, the wallet gets hammered.

But I’m not alone in my desires or spending habits.  In fact, I am representative of a new female consumer that we ‘hear’ about in research, but marketers don’t think about as often as they should.  Adoptive, stylish, social and savvy – we’re juggling work, family and a social life (both on and offline).  We’ve got things we see and want, we don’t want to wait to get it, we work hard; want to feel good and look good doing it.  It’s a fine balance.

If you’re of the male persuasion, you might read this and roll your eyeballs – but look all around you.  You’ll see women like me everywhere.  We’re high achievers and want to get everything out of life that we can.  Oh and we’re prepared to work super hard to get it – we’re not expecting anything to be handed to us on a plate.

That is, with the exception of where our wallet is concerned. We want brands to make life super easy for us.  To think about how we’re interacting with you and make conscious inroads to improve service and process to make dealing with you easier.  Showcase us your products that we might like, so we can see and buy easily (you’d be amazed how many brands aren’t doing this simple thing).  We’re talkative and demanding – we don’t mind sharing experiences with our friends and giving credit where it’s due (and dissing them when it’s not).

But we’re not Kim-Kardashians-in-training.  This isn’t just a social media fuelled consumer driven lifestyle.  This is a life fulfillment exercise.  We’ve been told many times that life is short, you only get one of it, etc and we’re here to make the most of it.  We are lapping up life in every way possible.

From a consumer point of view, how does it all stack up?  How do I get everything I want?  Is it even possible?  The answer is yes.  The consumer has the upper hand.  For the first time, in what feels like forever, we have a consumer market that is dictating what they want and when they want it – and the brands not able to keep up with those demands will get left behind.  Don’t have a web presence?  We’ve moved on to someone who does.  Not in social media?  I’m not calling your 0800 number to sit on the phone for an hour listening to hold music.   Don’t allow me to buy online?  Then I’ll go to someone else who does.  No service in the store, restaurant, bar? Let me take my hard earned money elsewhere (and let me tweet about it on my way out the door).  I have plenty of choice.

What this means for a brand is that you have two key areas you MUST focus on in order to survive (and thrive).  The first one is understanding that we’re not coming in your front door anymore.  We’re looking for an experience, a product, a look, and you need to be where we are.  We’re being recommended on experience and outcome, not on how you’ve positioned yourself to be seen.  The second one is that when we find you, you better be better than anyone else at the service you provide us – or we’ll move on.  Someone better and faster will take your place.

Let’s take a reality check here, most products are not particularly unique, most brands have heavy competition (in fact a piece of data I looked at today showed little to no distinction between any of the four main brands in a category – consumers see them as  “all a much of a muchness”, so will buy whatever is on sale – which is the only distinguishable attribute at the time).  There’s a great quote, “somewhere someone is practicing and when you meet them in head to head competition, they will beat you.”  This is the mentality that brands must adopt.  We must not get too caught up on who we are and how cool we think we are.  We must focus on being the best.

A prime example for me of this is my pair of $7 heels from K-Mart.  Allured into the store for the well-priced kids clothing and shoes (well played K-Mart), I happened upon the adults shoes right next door and a wonderful pair of strappy black stiletto sandals.  I immediately picked them up, tried them on and $7 later they were mine.  I was tickled pink.

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You may think being an outwardly perceived high-maintenance gal that I would keep this little bargain to myself.  Surely I wouldn’t want to be “seen” shopping at K-Mart. Actually your preconceived segmentation modeling would be wrong – I’m okay with it.  In fact, I (and my entire new breed of female consumer who interacts like I do) are acting entirely out of segmented character.  We in fact are very proud of where we just shopped.   What a savvy wee shopper this find made me and when asked, it said a lot about how I discover things.  Instagram, Twitter and Facebook posts of said shoes have resulted in a flood of people going in-store to find the shoes.  They sold out.

Companies are used to spending significant money on ‘brand awareness’ and in doing so they have forgotten how the modern female consumer works. They’ve made up a model of how they are told she shops and they’ve worked to that.  With all due respect, you’re out of touch.  The modern female consumer is not going to be how your research company told you she’d be.  She’s actually a bit of a magpie – she likes new and shiny things.

She happily gets inspiration from other people who have done the hard yards on finding things – singular social media or blog posts on product discoveries or galleries of images focused on a certain look (like this D’Orsay post).  I’m not simply saying that I want a brand anymore, I’m saying that I have a look I want to achieve and price & brand are only some of the factors.  If the item I want happens to be at Farmers, K-Mart, Glassons, The Warehouse or Number 1 Shoes – then that’s great, more money for something else.

Don’t be fooled, we are NOT bargain hunters.  We’re not cutting out coupons, counting every penny or seeking deals.  We’re balancing out the share of our wallet to get all the things we want, need, desire and justify. We’re not as brand driven as we used to be, we changed our thinking with the global financial crisis and we don’t get status from brands like we used to.

We care about the look outcome, not the brand outcome.