I have an opportunity for you…

That’s something our Director of Strategy & Insights, Jon Orme, is famed for saying to my colleagues and I with, at times, what seems catchphrase-like frequency. But it’s a phrase I’ve come to reflect on as a firm retort to fellow marketers who drear at the changes experienced in the consumer sphere in recent times.

I was at the Edinburgh launch of FSS4 earlier this week (Experian’s latest guise of their financial segmentation), and duly noted some of the highlights called-out from their data-driven perspectives on consumer finances today:

  • aging population
  • move from buying to renting
  • “polarisation” of population
  • generation gap
  • tech changes and automation
  • loss of confidence in financial suppliers

When I later returned to my notes to draft this blog, at first vantage those points really did stand out with “doom and gloom” stature. But when challenging what consumer data states, I’m not hearing necessarily that the future will be worse – rather that it will most certainly be different.

Job security and pension start dates are without doubt impacting on pension contributions in younger generations. There’s a generation split emerging, and over 1 million people in the UK will never own their own property. OK, so where are the positives?

Well, it was also presented that the “average” homeowner in the UK still has c.26yrs in later life living rent free. Transposing that against c.£800 pcm national average mortgage payment, we can see the opportunity remains to bolster pension pots in later years – prior to draw down. I was pleased to see this called-out in FSS4, as it’s something we’ve been resonating with clients for some time: payment and pension contributions behaviours for many are going to be different to how the market may have become accustomed, and marketing needs to provide to that and engage customers in extended, life-long conversations.

Similarly, these wealth patterns in later years are proving to facilitate “helping hands” between generations, and newer ways in which younger generations (sometimes referred to as “the jilted generation”) are entering the housing market. Here lies another marketing challenge: engage with multiple-generational audiences and multiple consumer audiences to sell the same, single product. It means the messaging has to work harder, smarter and potentially engage for longer – but it’s still a viable opportunity to convert.

There are also many places in mainland Europe where property ownership hasn’t ever been the highest priority amongst social goals, and where the “third age” isn’t all gloomy. The obvious opportunity here is to observe and learn from those markets and adopt new ways of working and engaging with audiences.

The underlying requirement for marketing here is for data, and for strategies that reflect an understanding of life trajectories: where a customer is today isn’t necessarily where they’ll always be. The role of predictive analytics capabilities will only become more and more important – along with an ability to differentiate customers on an individual level, and far beyond selection criteria of old.

Interaction with social channels is more relevant than ever. Today the average UK consumer holds 8 connected devices, spends 3 hours per day online or on apps, and of that 25% of all time spent online on a mobile with Facebook.

But only 24% of all consumer transactions today are made online, with £170bn per annum carried out on digital devices. And that’s where I think the greatest opportunity lies: not forgetting offline – the other 76% of consumer transactions. As our Managing Director, Iain Levein, wrote last year – “Customers don’t always need what’s ground-breaking; they do always need what’s useful, intuitive, or speaks to their individual needs”. I hear the term “disruption” often proclaimed as the way forward for marketing, but I’d contest that all-to-often the most disruptive thing to do is keeping your conventional channels in at the front of the pack.

Successful omnichannel engagement is about balancing your channel mix. Beyond data, the communications challenge remains: building consistent communications throughout the path to purchase and engaging with customers across channels. The ultimate opportunity rests in engaging with your audience through the right device and channel – not just the right message at the right time.


Rob Mcleod

Head of Digital and Customer Experience

Rob leads the Digital and Customer Experience function within the Strategy and Insights practice at Comet and is Engagement Lead at Royal Bank of Scotland. He is passionate about positive customer experiences and committed to using insight to drive value and effective ROI through the marketing process. Rob has extensive cross-sector experience, including Financial Services, Travel and Tourism, FMCG and Media, with over 15 years working at the forefront of strategic communications consultancy, digital and integrated marketing.