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Changes in How Your Customers Choose consumption is out. Frugal is back in fashion. Whether you serve the retail market or survive in the business-to-business world, cautionary spending is the norm and value is the new black.

According to Kathy M. Kristof who writes a personal finance column for the Los Angeles Times, the shift to careful spending is significant.

“The brutal economic downturn has battered stock portfolios and home values and made easy credit tough to come by.

“All the data tell the same story. People who spent every dime of their disposable income two years ago are now saving and paying down billions in debt. They’ve shifted from shopping at luxury stores to buying from discounters. They’re scrimping with more vigor and tenacity than economists have seen in decades.”

Popular culture no longer turns up its nose at the discount shopper. For example, the Smart Cookies exhort their members (former overspenders and careless shoppers) to exploit any and every resource to avoid going into debt for holiday purchases. Cutting back is chic, with discussions of where the best deals can be found dominating the coffee talk.

According to Kristof, blogs that encourage cheap chic, written by the Web’s frugalati, abound: The Frugal Diva, Budget Fashionista, Thrifty Chick, and Frugal Fashionista (even Neiman Marcus advertises on the latter site!). These are the new tools – the new strategies – of the wise and successful shopper.

Jack Kyser, founding economist of the Kyser Center for Economic Research at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp says, “Roughly two-thirds of economic activity comes from consumer spending. If consumers are being very cautious, that’s going to act as an economic brake.”

globalsalesAnd it’s not just about consumer-focused products and services. How is the typical business’ approach to marketing, selling and decision-making changing? A review of numerous insights, commentaries, blogs and “top ten” lists about the incoming year 2010 reveals much…

About brands, from

  • Brand authenticity and brand value are key. Empty brands will not be acknowledged by those whose purchase decisions require sticking power.
  • Consumer expectations are expanding, not contracting. According to Robert Passikoff, “Every day consumers adopt and devour the latest technologies and innovations, and hunger for more. Smarter marketers will identify and capitalize on unmet expectations.”
  • Pre-purchase word of mouth and post-purchase buzz will drive changes in customer care matrices, media spend constructs and how businesses view and use social marketing and social media.

Personal branding is one of the new requirements for small business leadership. As described by Dan Schawbel in his post Personal Branding Trends for 2010 on the Small Business Trends website, “Your brand is your clear differentiator and your competitive advantage. It’s also the first impression you have with potential customers and the source of attachment you create with your current customers.”

The famed JWTIntelligence shares the top ten trends about business, the economy, culture, the aging population, and the environment:

  • Everything is in real time, thanks to Twitter, Facebook, and the digital revolution.
  • Transparency, disclosure and details are at the top of the discriminating purchaser’s list.
  • The image is more compelling than the written word.
  • How green is your packaging? Not caring about your carbon footprint may create problems for buyers.

Sales trends: Drew Stevens suggests that those who manage and execute sales will need to be more efficient and more productive in 2010:

  • Lead generation can benefit from technological advances in target market optimization.
  • Preparation by an invigorated, well-trained sales force means knowing more than the client about its challenges, the service/product being sold, and how to customize solutions.

Finally, from Geoff Ramsey, founder and CEO of, expect to see “an accelerated migration of ad dollars from traditional to digital media. According to Forrester Research, 59% of US marketers plan to increase their budgets for digital by pulling funds from traditional outlets. Other sources support this shift, including a recent survey among Association of National Advertisers members and a separate study from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.”


Bottom line: To outsmart and outsell your competition, your team needs answers from your internal and external constituencies to establish a plan to move forward on these critical issues. Do you know how your firm will position itself? What must you do to be recognized as wise yet frugal? Can your marketing and communications strategy break through the morass of messages targeting customers to secure their interest (first) and loyalty (ultimately)?

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