Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Worth of Value

How does one sell in a down economy ? Given that consumers are becoming value conscious, many of the Retailers I am speaking to are seemingly trying to answer the question "How do I assess, reach out and offer what is 'valuable' to consumers contextually ?

Why is Value contextual ? Because, it is based on the end user, end-usage and the environment. This is a coarse grained dimension of Value.

Marketing gurus exemplify that other fine grained dimensions of value exists.
- Value is Relative; relative to alternatives available within the given context.
- Value is Perceptual; driven by the current senses.
- Value is Provisional; New information can change percepts.

Given these, the dimensionality of value from a economic perspective brings in the concept of the "worth" of value. The risk in acquiring a value target determines the worth of the target.

So are consumers really value-conscious or worth-conscious. I guess they are both. Once they (some how) determine that something is valuable, then they start seeking to find if its worthy. How can Retailers determine the worth of a value for the consumers? For one, the worth is driven by what the consumer perceives as intrinsic risk in acquisition of value. Mostly, the risk of "being wrong" in whatever sense it may be is the biggest risk I foresee in determining the worth.

What if I paid too much ? What if I could have got a better product at the same price ? Does this look good on me ? What does my spouse think of it ? Does this product convey a better meaning of me (Cool, Smart, Sharp) ? Is it hygienic ? Do I have place to keep it ? etc... etc... are the risk driven questions in the consumers mind.

The exploding choice of products providing same/similar value is going to add to the "risk quotient" in determining the worth of value. The lesser the choice, the higher the worth. The higher the worth, the higher the price.

In essence, it does boil down to offering value to consumers across all dimensions while making it worthy (Branding). Especially from the dimension of 'Value being provisional' where the Retailers provide differentiated clarity for the value being offered. Providing that differentiated clarity should start way early in the consumption life-cycle. Typically the consumption life-cycle from a consumer perspective (Not the retailers perspective) is across the phases of Awareness, Research, Transaction, Delivery and Consumption. It is primarily important that the clarity is provisioned through out this lifecycle.

Providing clarity requires personalized touches and individual reciprocation with each of your consumer. Knowing the consumer including likes, dislikes, opinions, past purchases, current context, psychography etc. along with the intrinsic knowledge of the product assortments offered is a requirement. Building a value/worth grid based on this knowledge is essential. Engaging the consumer interactively through differentiated (not different) marketing channels is important. I guess this is the place where technology should gear-up to enable the "Experiential Economy" to make the while worth.

Convergence of Proximity based Technologies, Social Media, Collaborative Filtering, CRM and other such Simulacrum may offer probable solution. It shall be some while before true convergence can happen. Disruptions in marketing channels, technology, loyalty programs, product management and category management may be inevitable before it gets worthy more than valuable.

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