Trend Watch: Are Always-On Consumers As Complicated As They Seem?

Shoppers have become savvier, and are leveraging new technologies in order to stay digitally connected at all times. While the emergence of these Always-On Consumers (AOC) presents great opportunities to engage shoppers across a variety of channels, many retailers have struggled to understand and effectively market to this consumer group.

Nearly half (48%) of the consumers are members of the AOC base, according to a recent study from Vivaldi Partners. But this group of shoppers has been a tough audience to engage — especially since only 39% are open to brand engagement and advertising.

“Nobody really gives us a segmentation of this audience, or tells us who these consumers are and why they connect in these ways,” said Erich Joachimsthaler, Founder and CEO of Vivaldi Partners. “We need some distinctive patterns — not regarding technology adoption — but how these consumers connect with brands and what their actions are throughout the buyer’s journey.”


 The growth and evolution of the AOC has accelerated significantly due to consumers’ increased use of mobile devices throughout the buying journey. Another study conducted by Experian Marketing Services segmented the AOC based around mobile usage, identifying mobile marketing as a major factor in effectively engaging this consumer base. Experian segmented the AOC into seven groups that vary in amount of time spent on mobile devices and which mobile tools were utilized most often.

The key segments included: the Browsers (24%), who are still learning the full potential of mobile devices; and Pragmatists (18%), who primarily use their mobile devices as another screen for work-related tasks.

“Mobile usage is only going to increase, and if they find a retailer’s web site not easy to use, they will find another retailer’s web site that is,” said John Fetto, Senior Marketing Manager at Experian. “The retailer is then unintentionally forcing customers away, all while providing competitors with sales.”

As AOC shoppers tap into new technologies, their trips through the buying cycle become more convoluted. While they are staying connected at all times, they are not more willing to engage with your brand.

“The mobile phone is obviously a big opportunity for retailers; but the delusion is that once a consumer downloads an app, they will instantly want to engage and shop with that brand,” said Joachimsthaler. “Consumers today are far less willing to connect with brands. Brands clearly want to connect with consumers, but it’s not a two-way street.”

Across the entire AOC audience, trust is a major factor in whether shoppers will engage consistently and buy more from a retailer. Providing opt-in options for any kind of mobile tool helps retailers build this trust, while expanding their reach, according to Fetto.

Mobile marketing is “still a new thing, and people are not as familiar with it,” Fetto added. “Companies may need to rely more heavily on incentives to get customers to opt in. But more shoppers will become more accepting once they become familiar with mobile advertising.”

Another tool that can help retailers connect with the AOC segment is social media, which has become a vital communication channel for these shoppers. Taking advantage of the overall potential of social channels not only boosts customer interaction, but it also can help retailers identify the valuable data that will help enhance their business strategy, according to Jeff Simpson, Director at Deloitte Consulting LLP.

“Thinking about how you’re using social media is really important,” Simpson said. “If you’re just using social media to post coupons and discounts, you’re missing the bigger opportunities to expand your voice and your share of the customer base — especially post-purchase.”

Breadth And Depth Of Customer Data Overwhelms Retailers

A contributor to the challenges retailers still struggle with to effectively engage the AOC audience is Big Data. Many of the complications retailers face come from analyzing and leveraging the information coming in from a growing number of sources, both internal and external.  

Data management is critical to addressing this challenge and understanding which metrics are the most valuable to the overall business. However, the overwhelming quantity of data that has been collected throughout the years is leaving retailers with a lot of work to do.

“One of the things that we’re seeing is that if you’re going to try and chase customers around the web, and identify them as a specific customer, you’re going to be disappointed in the long run,” Simpson said. “This is because many retailers chase customers from the point of sale, which only looks at a customer base and not the specific customer.”

“There is a big challenge that marketers are facing with Big Data,” said Natalie Kotlyar, Partner of the Retail & Consumer Product Industry at BDO. “In the end, how reliable is the data that they’re gathering? With new tracking technology and more digital activity, marketers can ease the burden of handling these challenges. It’s very challenging, and I’m not quite sure if there is a clear solution to these challenges yet.”

Featured Event

Join the retail community as we come together for three days of strategic sessions, meaningful off-site networking events and interactive learning experiences.



Access The Media Kit


Access Our Editorial Calendar

If you are downloading this on behalf of a client, please provide the company name and website information below: