Customer social identity as an indicator of purchasing behavior

If you spend much time comparing market research and comparing that data to actual customer behavior, you know that the two can vary, and in certain circumstances they present significantly divergent pictures. Many theories have been put forward regarding the cause(s) for the discrepancies, but in this months Harvard Business Review, Guy Champniss, Hugh N. Wilson, and Emma K. Macdonald outline an interesting remedy in an article titled "Why Your Customers' Social Identities Matter."
The trio conducted research that suggests that consumers hold onto multiple social identities, and the social group that a customer identifies with when encountering a product or brand influences how he or she reacts to that product or brand.
This presents a challenge to traditional market research because a customers' social identity--the one they will take on at the moment of purchase--can’t be easily captured through questions on surveys. Champniss et. al. note:


Subtle shifts in social context can dramatically change what group we identify with at any instant."

The solution proposed is that market research should take social identity into account, shaping customer responses by reinforcing a particular identity, redefining what it means to have that identity, or finding a way to change the identity. This also applies to those who desing customer experiences, and companies are also advised to create new identities that will inspire desired customer behaviors.

-- Segundo Saenz


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