Changing Seasons, Switching Gears
It's summer! And I know this not because its the annual family gathering down the Shore next week, nor because of the (very changeable) weather in NYC (or New Scotland as it has been renamed in our house), but because I felt compelled to compile my first summer playlist of the season. There are usually a few iterations across the summer months but this first one is the one that sheds (most of) the darker indie skin and gets into brighter beats. For those who care to listen the link is below.
The point of that preamble is that summer is the season where, for a lot of us, our regular habits, behaviors and interactions change for the 3 months or so of the season. This may be the most sustained change in at any time away from major life events. As American author and investigative journalist, Charles Bowden once said "“Summertime is always the best of what might be.” And this projection, I believe underpins the change in many consumer's behavior. Now in some sectors and verticals, the summer brings a natural change to uses and products;
Cosmetics shifts into a more skincare orientated approach with sunscreen at the heart of it.
Drinks turn to iced anything.
Candy and snacks become ice cream and yogurt.
Socializing and experiences go outside (and on the roof in NYC).
Travel for weekends, for longer and farther.
More family and friends time = more sharing.
Fitness, Health and Eating moves outdoors.
Some media reports cite increased sharing and screen time because of the two points directly above.
And so on.....
This raises these questions - what changes are your customers going through this summer? Do you know? What part does your business/brand/service play in that? Is this your peak or your slow period and what should you do about it?
I wonder how many product subscriptions will be cancelled over the coming months, not to be renewed later? How many brands took that regular interaction for granted and are now vulnerable to the change in the season and the change in optimism that Mr. Bowden referred too.
Think about the food industry, and not to pile on Blue Apron (the meal kit brand), but summer of 2018 really showed a slow down in their ability to keep customers and gain new ones. And who knows what new food fad will be waiting for us in September. Or think of it in these terms: how many people do you know are eating the same type of diet, or in the same way as this time last year? Enough change to cause a bump in the road for any business.
The real danger lies in businesses who are reliant on created demand and regular behaviors. If your business is not based on knowing the 'who and why' of your customers you will quickly become a spectator as part of your market switches gears.
Your first party data will largely explain what your customers use you for, but not necessarily how you fit into any regime or routine. And so when that routine changes then this is where the more advanced of you will be using ML and predictive models on your customer's next move.
This view isn't advocating a 'filler' proposition, but if your customer is going to shift, and you know it, what part can you play in supporting that shift? Partnerships, pop-ups, collaborations and short term releases are all tactics that can be used to connect your business to a brand or business who will take the spotlight over the coming months.
It may be too late for this year, but the preparation for next summer should start now. And if you have 'one season' markets, they represent the perfect test bed for an offseason summer. Food for thought.
The second link is my favorite summer movie of all time. Set in the hottest summer of my childhood in 1976, it has a great story and soundtrack. Enjoy!