The Consumer Journey to 2020: Holly Jarrell, Chief Client Services Officer, GfK Consumer Experiences North America

On January 29th, Holly Jarrell of GFK Consumer Experiences North America, addressed a session of the 2013 Chief Marketing Officer Leadership Forum in New York on the subject of the changing retail environment and how consumers might be expected to behave in the near future. As a demarcation point, Jarrell used the year 2020, by which time she felt great changes would have been undertaken in the retail sector. According to Jarrell, marketing professionals in recent years had been forced to undergo incredible changes, being undertaken at an extreme pace. This meant that keeping vigilant with regards to the changing trends and data that represented consumer behavior was of the utmost importance for marketing professionals at this key juncture. Because consumers enjoyed a level of interconnectivity that was constantly changing the ways in which consumer experiences were had, it was most important to keep a handle on the ever-changing smorgasbord of social media interaction tools with which consumers were exchanging reviews, ratings, prices, and everything else that created a consumer experience: “We know that consumers are sharing information in completely different ways. They’re interacting with brands differently. They’re experiencing brands through different touch points. Of course, that creates incredible opportunity for all of us as marketers, but it also creates a great deal more complexity. You’re all dealing with that today. “

According to Jarrell, the cardinal mistake that could be made by marketing professionals in the digital age was to assume that there still existed a straight line between the firm and the consumer who was buying it’s products. This view, she says, fails to take into account the incredible amount of flotsam and jetsam that has entered into the middle of the process. By no means, according to Jarrell, was the firm the only source of information for the consumer. On the contrary, the firm was probably the last place that the consumer checked, after comparing reviews and prices using several different platforms. In the future, Jarrell was convinced, this trend would only become more defined: “The implication for us is that content marketing is huge. You have to get it right. You have to make it a priority. If you think about the next ten years, content marketing is today what direct marketing was in the 1980s. It’s gone. Does your organization make it a priority? Do they put it first?”