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Deciphering the Fluid Realm of Consumer Behaviour in Pakistan

Alifya Sohail shares insights from the talk show 'Navigating the Shift in Consumer Behaviour', by the Pakistan Advertising Association.
Updated 24 May, 2024 04:18pm

In a realm where consumer behaviours ebb and flow like the tides, the Pakistan Advertising Association (PAA), in association with Aaj News and Business Recorder, hosted a talk show on May 15, 2024, titled ’Navigating the Shift in Consumer Behaviour.“ Held at the Beach Luxury Hotel, the event assembled a panel of senior advertising professionals to explore the intricate nuances of comprehending and adapting to the ever-evolving tapestry of consumer behaviour in Pakistan.

The panel, deftly moderated by brand architect Mahmood Nanji, included three speakers: Arfa Syed, Senior VP, Oula Pakistan, Farhan Khan, CEO, Brainchild Communications, and Fahad Saleem, CMO, Procter & Gamble Pakistan. These industry experts shared their insights on the pivotal role consumer behaviour plays in shaping marketing strategies and business success within Pakistan’s dynamic landscape.

Nanji’s opening speech underscored the necessity of dissecting the broader picture into smaller fragments to gain meaningful insight into the nitty gritty of consumer behaviour. He delved into the concept of behaviour as a response to internal and external stimuli, emphasising how factors such as social norms, emotions, and cognition can influence consumer actions. When individual behaviour is examined collectively, it unveils patterns that can guide businesses towards success in a tumultuous advertising climate.

Harnessing the Power of Data and Digital Realms

Inevitably, one cannot decipher the shift in consumer behaviour without bringing digital into the fray. Syed highlighted Oula’s usage of evolving data collection methods, emphasising the research agency’s focus on drawing conclusions from available datasets rather than relying solely on primary data collection. This approach allows for continuous contextualisation of primary data according to external and internal factors influencing consumer behaviour, such as the current geopolitical climate. Speaking of the current climate, Syed conveyed the importance of utilising data gathered from digital sources; with one smartphone in every household, internet penetration stands at 56%, positing digital as a robust medium for observing consumer aspirations.

Content is King

As the conversation continued to centre social media and the digital realm’s transformative impact on advertising, Khan stated: “We cannot change the way people consume content – we can only keep up with it by asking the right questions”. Indeed, “content is king” he continued, thus the question is: “Where and how is it being consumed? It’s a war of screens”, Khan said, before proceeding to conduct an audience exercise gauging the weekly screen time consumed: 15 hours was averaged. Unfortunately, the results of the exercise may not accurately represent the screen time consumed by the majority of Pakistan’s population. Assuming that people spend a significant amount of time on multiple applications on their phones, Khan suggests that the key for social media marketing is to be “platform-agnostic” as receptivity levels are low; however, clients remain hesitant to adapt to new digital platforms where user-generated content and influencer marketing are at an all-time high.

Source: DataReportal, MacroPakistan and BrandNib
Source: DataReportal, MacroPakistan and BrandNib

Staying Relevant in the Hearts of Consumers

Saleem shared his approach to understanding consumer behaviour by combining research and informal data findings before launching a product. He stressed that consumer behaviour is woven from multiple insights over time – it takes time for a shift in consumer behaviour to occur. Due to Covid-19 and inflation, purchasing power has severely decreased. To navigate the macroeconomic forces at hand, one only has relevance to turn to. The predilection today, in Saleem’s words, is that “demand is at an all-time high but consumers also want more out of less.” Businesses must deliver on the promise consumers seek at the right value, especially in the face of economic challenges. When asked: “Do you take the rich and the poor into consideration when selling a product?” Saleem responded with: “The consumer doesn’t buy price, he buys benefits.” Perhaps one should keep in mind, as Saleem mentioned, P&G’s focus on tier-one products. Businesses can, however, group consumers into two segments: “consumers who are brand loyal versus consumers who are willing to compromise.”

Embracing Agility and Innovation

As the discourse drew to a close, the panellists shared their recommendations for businesses to keep pace with shifts in consumer behaviour. Syed suggested making use of data sources and integrating them to understand the bigger picture. “Macro-forces are at play. We must take the youth population into account, the medium they use to consume content, and the shift from imported products to buying locally. People want inclusive communities and Gen Z spends money on experiences; we must leverage the power of experiential marketing.”

Khan stressed the need for agility and innovation in the face of people consuming 26 hours of media in 24 hours from multiple screens, reiterating the importance of staying relevant in the consumers’ minds by understanding and subsequently deploying two key ingredients for relevance: consumer habits and media habits. “Datasets must interact with one another to understand this war of screens. Data for digital and TV consumption must be consolidated because TV is here to stay and digital is only just beginning. The sweet spot on media expenditure must be found.”

Ultimately, the talk show organised by the Pakistan Advertising Association spotlighted the critical importance of adapting to the shifting sands of consumer behaviour. The insights shared by the panel of experts serve as a roadmap for businesses looking to navigate the complex and ever-evolving world of consumer behaviour. As the saying goes, “change is the only constant,” and those who embrace agility, innovation, and a deep understanding of their target audience will be the ones who thrive in the competitive landscape of today’s market.

Alifya Sohail is a content coordinator at Aurora Magazine.