Implications for the IR Practitioner
Social media has been around for long enough and has penetrated enough of the marketplace that researchers are beginning to study the data streams in this format to determine its level of influence. J.D. Power and Associates just released its predicted consumer trends for 2011 based on data obtained through social media. According to J.D. Power and Associates, here’s what to look for next year and implications for the investment recovery professional.
 
INFORMATION ACCESS:
Consumers now have access to more information than ever before, including unprecedented access to brands and people through social networks. This access to information will continue to accelerate through the proliferation of smartphone and mobile devices. Therefore, it becomes increasingly critical for brands to provide timely and accurate information online that can be accessed through mobile devices. 
 
Consumers continue to access more information and do it more quickly than in the past. As a result, marketers who are most nimble about making information available through their online networks, especially in a mobile format, stand to gain the most. 
 
Implications for IR: In traditional marketing circles, there used to be a clear delineation between the marketing tactics employed by consumer brands, referred to as business-to consumer (B2C) communications, and those used for business-to-business (B2B) communications. There is increasingly less distinction between the online communication efforts of organizations, regardless of the target audience. Benchmark studies—sponsored by the Investment Recovery Association—indicate an increased utilization of online tools by members to facilitate the disposition of surplus assets. If your surplus products website does not offer blogs, Facebook or Twitter links, perhaps it’s time to consider moving in that direction. These social media sites allow for dramatically improved communication speed with prospective buyers and much lower development and broadcast costs. 
 
ELIMINATION OF EXCESS:
Consumers are still reacting to the economic downturn by simplifying their lifestyles. When consumers purchase less, marketers will have to work harder to convince people that their products have value. 
 
Implications for IR: Used equipment generally provides substantially lower initial capital expenditure than new. In much the same way that consumers have changed their lifestyle, corporate and governmental units are now dealing with “the new normal” in all budgeting decisions, including capital equipment. This bodes well for the ongoing marketability of surplus equipment to outside buyers and redeployment within organizations of all sizes. 
 
THE PRICE/QUALITY EQUATION: 
Consumers are asking why “low price and high quality are mutually exclusive.” Marketers that position their products as having both qualities will succeed in the marketplace. 
 
Implications for IR: Surplus equipment can often win both the low price and high quality argument. A piece of properly refurbished equipment—while perhaps lacking in the latest technological enhancements—may actually provide significantly improved functionality over the equipment being replaced. At the same time, the surplus being marketed will likely provide significant cost savings over a comparable brand new product. 
 
CUSTOMER CONTROL:
Social media is giving consumers a sense of empowerment. Marketers that tap into the empowered stream of consciousness may be rewarded by the new consumer. 
 
Implications for IR: B2B decision-makers (corporate procurement professionals) don’t really act that much differently than B2C decision-makers (consumers). There is an all-too-accepted assumption that corporate buying decisions are fueled solely by dispassionate logic. But people are people, regardless of the setting. The same person that uses the Internet to find information and bargains for home purchases is also likely to be the corporate decision-maker scouring the Web to solve needs for her global organization. Allow happy customers to easily share their experience with others. Provide a ready means for questions or disputes to be acknowledged and addressed by prospects and customers. 
 
IDENTITY:
Traditional life stages are changing. It is no longer easy to attach specific ages to specific life stages. Consumers are marrying later in life and having children at later ages. Some consumers are no longer opting to retire but moving on to second-stage careers. Marketers that tap into these new consumer identities may seem more authentic and win new customers. 
 
Implications for IR: Increasingly, there is a blurring of lines between home and business. (We all check our email on the weekends, right?) All decision-makers (both consumer or corporate) respond positively to a sense of honest communication and readily available information 24/7. So at a very minimum for the IR department, that would translate to providing full and complete item descriptions with plenty of good quality photographs in an easy-to-utilize format that offers an easy means of customer-initiated communication to take place regardless of the setting. The bottom line from this report indicates that social media has given researchers a new and immediate way to understand the consumer mindset and communicate with prospects and customers. As a result of continued economic stress and changing communication tools, marketers may need to evaluate their marketing approach for 2011 and beyond.