Responding to the New Normal

by bradywalen on July 20, 2010

Earlier this month, American Banker published an article by Larry Cohen titled, Viewpoint: Understanding the New ‘Normal’ for Consumers.  While were  “the new normal”  has become a commonly used phrase, both within and beyond financial services,  it seems to hold a different meaning for everyone using it.  In this case, Cohen refers to the new normal as it relates to shifts in consumer behaviors.  He offers the following insights in the article:

“The last two years ended a decade that changed the landscape of financial services. Huge uncertainties exist in the economy and, most importantly, among consumers. People tend to make changes slowly, but inexorably, by almost all measures and in most areas, they are changing. Examining the shifts in the interconnected trends of demographics, products, services, channel use, goals and financial attitudes over the past two decades can yield significant insights into how and why consumers are changing — and where they are headed.

We are all entitled to our own opinions but not our own facts. Some claim that consumers have not changed, but our examination of comprehensive consumer data, integrating trends within components including demographics, financial attitudes, product incidences and use — along with life stages and triggers like life events — found significant evidence of consumer change. And based on our long-term experience analyzing these trends, the shifts pervade virtually every financial need.”

As Cohen suggests, an evaluation of shifts over the past two decades may yield significant insights.  But because consumer behaviors have been impacted so dramatically by recent shifts in the economy, an evaluation of changes and trends in consumer behaviors over the past two years is likely to yield more relevant and timely insights than one spanning decades.

Further, because we have experienced such dramatic change in the past couple years, it’s amazing to think that “some claim that consumers have not changed.”  These people are either not paying attention or are in denial; consumer attitudes and behaviors have changed.  Now, marketers are challenged with what to do next.  The new normal requires us to look at post-recession consumer behaviors (more on the post-recession consumer can be found here and here).

As Cohen suggests, demographics, products, services, channel use, goals and financial attitudes have changed.  It’s likely that they’ll continue to change.  But acknowledging these changes is only the first step.  More important than recognizing the change is the response with which that change is met.  How will you respond?

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