The daily decisions of today’s shoppers are guided by many factors with which today’s marketers look to align. However, one key element in consumer decision-making is still being largely overlooked: consumers’ personal values. In today’s digitally connected, choice-saturated world, understanding a person’s basic demographics and online behaviors is not enough to forge a real connection with consumers that will motivate them to choose your brand over the many others that are at their fingertips. It’s only through understanding a person’s internal motivations – the true why behind what they do — that marketers can hope to make those long-lasting connections.
OK, so how does a brand incorporate personal values into their broader understanding of consumers? Brands can use consumers’ personal values to impact their decisioning across all aspects of the customer relationship, from the design of resonant products, services and experiences to the development of content, creative, offers and messaging. In order to gain deeper insights in this regard, we recently used the Resonate Consumer Intelligence platform to break down the U.S. adult population based on their personal values, based on the Theory of Basic Human Values by professor Shalom H. Schwartz. His research identified 19 personal values that are cross-culturally stable and vital to predicting purchasing behaviors, and these personal values in the Resonate platform are organized into four categories:
- Openness to change: This group of consumers is willing to consider novel experiences and fresh ideas. They seek personal growth rather than self-protection and the avoidance of anxiety. They have a personal focus rather than a social focus.
- Self-enhancement: The self-enhancers prioritize their interests above those of others. They seek self-protection and avoid anxiety rather than personal growth. They may have a personal focus rather than a social focus.
- Conservation: This group emphasizes social order and stability, together with safety. They seek self-protection and avoid anxiety rather than personal growth. They likely have a social focus rather than a personal focus.
- Self-transcendence: These consumers rise above their interests and emphasize those of others. They seek personal growth rather than self-protection and avoiding anxiety. They likely have a social focus rather than a personal focus.
We analyzed these four sets of consumers and how their personal values affect their purchasing decisions. Here’s what we uncovered.
1. Openness to Change
Consumers whose top values revolve around their openness to change make up about 53 percent of the U.S. adult online population. They take care of their physical health by eating well and exercising and take care of their mental health by keeping work and life separate. Creativity is important to them as a personal value and as a psychological driver. They also seek out an exciting life, and they celebrate their individuality and enjoy having the freedom to determine their own actions.
This core value affects the content to which these individuals will respond, the products they buy and the retailers they seek out. This group is more likely than the average U.S. consumer to engage with content that inspires them, seek out products that are produced sustainably and buy products that are unique. They also want a seamless customer experience and prefer to shop with retailers that have fast and responsive staff and convenient locations.
Consumers most focused on self-enhancement values make up the smallest percentage of the U.S. population at 15 percent. They prioritize acquiring wealth and influence, and their social and professional status is important to them. They like being in charge and being admired for what they do. They value their work beyond the income, and they value their athletic accomplishments. They also take care of their health.
When it comes to products, they’re more likely than the average consumer to seek products considered luxurious and popular. Pulling in well-known influencers to endorse your brand would resonate with this group. They also over-index for seeking out retailers with fast and responsive staff and loyalty programs.
Consumers who value conservation make up a large portion of the U.S. population at 63 percent. This is a shopper who lives a straight and narrow life. They’re focused on fulfilling their obligations and obeying laws, and they avoid upsetting other people. Religion is an important part of their life. They also seek trust and respect from others, and feeling safe is an important value for them.
This group gravitates to products they consider dependable and would respond to messaging that includes endorsements from well-established authorities in your space. They are cost-sensitive and are more likely than other consumers to seek out retailers with the best prices and sales and that offer the most generous loyalty programs.
People who fit into the self-transcendence category represent the largest of the personal values at 80 percent. They have an optimistic outlook, accept people who are different, and they want people to trust and respect them. Family is also important to them; they focus on being a reliable and trusted family member and friend. They’re also humble and keep their work and personal lives separate.
More than any other consumer, you’ll find the self-transcendence shoppers are very pragmatic. They research the best prices and sales and tend to look for convenient locations. They also want products that are cost-effective and dependable.
Putting Personal Values into Action for Results
Your current and future customers’ core values are an inherent human state, not something your brand can change. However, by tapping into a deep understanding of the “why” of the people in your audience, your brand can better engage with them and thus strengthen your connection with them, yielding increased revenue and lifetime value. Personal values play a significant role in their decisions, so your product or solution, content, creative, messaging, offers, and experience should speak to those values throughout the customer lifecycle:
- The Openness to Change consumer responds to messages of living an exciting and healthy life and celebrating their individuality and creativity.
- The Self-Enhancement shopper is all about success and luxury, so they gravitate to brands and retailers that help them fulfill those goals.
- The Conservation consumer is a traditionalist, so focus on dependability and safety.
- The Self-Transcendence consumer is the humble optimist, so connect with them through messages about family and friends and celebrating and accepting people’s differences.
Consumers are driven by deep personal values, which underpin their decision-making and even their emotional response. For those looking to drive better engagement and increase customer lifetime value in their marketing and business decisions, it’s time to think through the personal values that guide people’s decisions and to put those insights into action.