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Where have all the customers gone?

Between 1995 and 2005, real disposable incomes of consumers in the United States increased by 34% while the UK, Sweden and Denmark saw an increase of approximately 25%. Additionally, countries such as Japan and Germany enjoyed a 10% increase in consumer real disposable income. As we close out 2009, we see a starkly different environment. According to the latest survey by Spend Trend, 10% of consumers said that they will spend "a lot less" than they spent last year on holiday gifts while 40% admitted that they will "definitely part with less cash" in 2009 than they did in 2008. On average, holiday gift expenditures hovered around $651.56 per gift giver. We expect this figure to decline by 14% this year and continue to decline through 2010. Clearly today's customer tastes and preferences have shifted forever. In this issue we will outline some key trend shifts that can help you plan your market strategies for 2010.

Our job as marketers is to provide insight and knowledge to our customers. Essentially, in the most macro sense, we have four key strategies to choose from in aligning our products to our market. They are:

1) Value add

2) Speed and convenience

3) Relationships

4) Share of the heart

"Value add" is typically what most marketers have decided is the holy grail of marketing strategies. This is simply not true. "Value" perceptions have always changed over the years and will continue to do so in years to come. Many marketers associate "speed and convenience" as cheap and lower echelon, to be reserved for fast food joints and discount thrift stores; this too is a common falsehood in anticipating the customer's needs. "Relationship" building is usually considered a sales function, again, this is a myth. Your relationships with your customers start well before your salesperson ever takes the floor. Conversely, "share of the heart" is misunderstood as something only attainable through decades of existence and years of history. While this is true in many cases, some very young companies have successfully harnessed the power of receiving a sizable "share of the heart" from its customers. Victors of the "share of heart" strategy are perceived as socially responsible. Below are some of the most recent global demographic shifts.

SHIFTING DEMOGRAPHICS

1) The world is getting younger

2) There is a steady increase in the number of working women

3) There is a steady decline in the middle class

4) Evolution of the non-traditional customer (ie. Single parents, same-sex households, etc... )

As a result we see opportunities emerge in the following segments:

1) Green consumer

2) Status-seeker

3) Time-poor

Simply speaking, and again in the most macro sense as an elaborate monologue on the matter is the subject of my latest book, we can choose to highlight our products through one of the following four ways. One must be careful however in pursuing a multiplicity of these approaches as a combination of either has proven extremely difficult for most companies to accomplish and in some cases has led to the collapse of some of the world's largest, most revered companies.

1) Low cost focus;
2) Product superiority focus;
3) Customer relationship superiority focus;
4) Market focus

THE NEO-CONSUMER

So what can you expect from today's consumer? Expect to have to ride the "Connectivity Mega-Trend." While recent scholarly articles have been produced on the subject, it is a brand new concept and many experts are still trying to get their arms around the shear scope and magnitude of the topic.

What this trend is essentially pointing toward is that today's customer wants to be personally reached and touched and they want to feel an association with their peers in regards to the products they buy and behavioral patterns they exhibit. Today's neo-consumer needs to be reminded how grateful you are that they have selected your product over your competitors. In addition, since confidence was so wildly shaken in today's companies, any sign of company or corporate dishonesty or unethical behavior will send your customer running to the nearest