It is certainly not so easy to know what the target customers wish or desire. But it is not impossible.
--BY SANTOSH SHRESTHA
In order to sell goods and services, the first and foremost requirement is consumer demand. Here, demand means that consumers want the goods and services and also have purchasing power. In other words, consumers must have the financial capacity to buy their preferred goods and services. If any one of these two things is lacking, there will be no demand in the market and therefore no sale will happen. In a simple sense, when the seller makes goods and services available in the market according to the taste, desire and wish of consumers, it is necessary to determine the right price according to their purchasing power. It may look easy at first glance. But it is easier said than done. If it were that easy, every seller and producer would have dominated the market!
Consumer behaviour is the study of all activities related to the purchase and use of goods and services by consumers and everything in between. Consumer behaviour relates to how consumers' emotions, attitudes, and preferences impact their purchasing behaviour. The study of consumer behaviour formally examines individual characteristics, attempts to understand people's wants and consumption patterns. It also examines the influences on consumers, and social groups such as family, friends, and society in general (brand influencers). Consumer behaviour is difficult to predict. So, how do consumers then decide about purchasing goods and services?
It is certainly not so easy to know what the target customers wish or desire. But it is not impossible. To be a successful seller, one has to constantly keep track of consumer behaviour and work out the moves accordingly. We find sellers, who continue to invest in market research, are more successful than others who ignore this important aspect. Understanding the changing needs of consumers, the experiences and learnings of salespersons and the important information obtained from market research help to a large extent. If one knows what is in the mind of the consumer, s/he can easily win their hearts by providing the corresponding goods and services in the market.
It is evident that big multinational companies have been dedicatedly investing a big chunk of their budget in market research for a long time. Of late, some local business houses too have started to realise the importance of market research and are allocating a budget for this. But too many producers and sellers are still not paying full attention to market research. It may be due to ignorance or some other factors. But lack of adequate market research data can adversely affect a business.
It would not be an exaggeration to state that most Nepalis still make business moves based on their religious belief, and their trust and gut feeling. This is one of the reasons why we are lagging behind most countries in business. This fact is evident when we analyse the kind of advertisements that we see in the Nepali market. Nepalis are attracted by power. Even the gods we believe in are endowed with supernatural powers.
When we visit shops that are running well, we get influenced by the owners and seldom make choices on our own. We just go with the flow. When anyone shouts that the crow has taken our ears, we blindly run after the crow without actually checking our ears.
The dynamics in the market are such that there are services ranging from ordinary local eateries to five-star hotels. If we want to buy a pack of noodles, there are 50 different brands to choose from. But we need Wai Wai. We need Coke for cold drinks, and most of the time go to Bhat-Bhateni for shopping.
These examples also confirm that we tend to make most of our choices based on popular demand. Let's talk about another amazing habit of ours. If we have to buy vegetables, fruits or other groceries items, we head towards the local city market even though it may be overcrowded. We do not go there just because products there are good and cheap. We go there because we can bargain and negotiate with the sellers.
But when we buy items like household appliances, furniture and electronics etc, we visit well-known malls, branded stores, and we also brag about this with our friends, neighbours, and relatives. It is a common habit among Nepalis to buy certain products from the same place. We have the perception that if you buy something from an expensive outlet by paying a good price, the product must be good. Even if we find the same product in small shops at a much cheaper price, we still prefer the expensive outlet because paying more gives us an assurance of quality and trust. If we get the same product for a cheaper price in a smaller outlet, we start doubting the originality and durability of the product. Our behaviour of sending children to an elite private boarding school, visiting an expensive nursing home when sick, and wearing expensive clothes and jewellery during festivals or special occasions further confirms how much we still have to learn. Also, seeing that the same candidate and the same old party are elected again and again in the election, it would not be wrong to assume that our ability to make logical decisions has not matured enough.
Let's also talk about the purchasing power of consumers on the other side of demand and sales. It seems that you have to determine the price of your goods and services or look at the purchasing power of the target consumers. In order to have a demand or a sale, it is very necessary that the targeted consumer has the ability to purchase these products and services. There might be a limited number of consumers that can buy luxurious items. What is surprising is that we have a habit of spending more than our income, if we like something. The habit of pretending to be richer than we actually are has not left us yet. We often compare ourselves with our neighbours or friends, brothers and relatives. Due to this habit of Nepali people, it seems that we do not believe in the sale of some premium or luxury items. Even in a cold place like Kathmandu, the business of air conditioners (that should not be an essential) is rapidly increasing, expensive mobile sets are flying off shelves with ease, expensive cars have populated the streets, expensive hotels and party palaces are doing good business, expensive restaurants and lounges, discos, are flourishing, and boutiques and beauty parlours can be found in every nook and corner. Expensive beauty products easily enter our homes. Examples such as the proliferation of expensive private schools and hospitals, and high spending on internal and external tourism also confirm this.
Due to this habit of ours, pride (ego), the urge to make a good impression on others, not thinking about the future etc, the trade of some luxury goods seems to be increasing surprisingly. We are more swayed by emotions. We do not care about the fact that it is beneficial to make logical decisions to run our life. We do not seem to be aware of the future; we say that it goes on without the need to make concrete plans. Due to the decrease in foreign exchange reserves, import restrictions on many goods and services have been in effect for a long time. Online marketing has been growing tremendously throughout the globe and Nepal is also witnessing a boom in the sector. Most of us spend a generous amount of time on the Internet and pay attention to online advertisements as well. We have a positive attitude towards online marketing which would increase the digital purchase of products.
The business will flourish if we use some other methods and tools of marketing. But, in a simple sense, if you closely observe the behaviour and habits of the target consumers and work accordingly, you can become a successful seller by meeting their true needs and expectations.
(Shrestha is the former president of Advertising Association of Nepal. He can be reached for comments at [email protected])