As it appeared in the Daily Nation on February 27th, 2018
Every day, we choose what to buy, when to buy, where to buy from and how often to buy among other purchase decisions. Over the years, consumers have changed how they make these choices and what informs their decisions. Today, the Kenyan consumers are very enlightened and demanding. More than ever before, they respond to products and services in a different way from their parents or grandparents. Though I am not a consumer psychologist, I believe that the changes in consumer behaviour have resulted from many stimuli. Access to information, availability of options, changes in technology especially the digital revolution, and consumer rights advocacy are some of the stimuli that many of us have witnessed here in Kenya.

These days, consumers are more informed when making purchase decisions. Some of us turn to online search engines before buying a product. We compare product specifications and read product reviews. Sometimes, we seek recommendations from friends and from online communities via online platforms. We trust our friends and even strangers more than we trust adverts. I recall recently being in a physical store and comparing the price of a similar item at an online store before making the purchase decision. All this change in behaviour is aimed at making an informed purchase decision and getting the best value for the money we spend.

The digital revolution is at the centre of changes in consumer behaviour not only in Kenya but globally. The invention of mobile money has changed how Kenyan consumers make payments. When organizations make simple decision such as how customers will make payments, they need to take into consideration local consumer preferences. Many consumers today walk away from stores that do not accept mobile money. The ability to transact through mobile apps, the advancement of social media as a customer interaction channel and adverts are some of the other factors influencing how consumers behave. Smart companies have made advancements in responding to changing consumer behaviour brought about by digital revolution.

In addition, consumer rights have evolved and this has influenced consumer behaviour. As consumers, we have a better understanding of our rights. We know that we have a basic right to quality products and quality products. As a result, we return unsatisfactory products back to the seller for an exchange. Unfortunately, we cannot return unsatisfactory handling of our face-to-face interactions, telephone, email and social media enquiries but we can choose to file a complaint or to move on to a different service provider.

Because the choices that individual consumers make differ from those they made in the past, organizations must pay more attention to changing consumer behaviour. Growing up it was unlikely to find a coffee shop, a drive through fast food, a digital teller, Pizza but that has all changed. Organizations that ignore changing consumer behaviour risk perishing. Globally, we have witnessed organizations such as Kodak and Sears dwindle. These organizations were left behind as consumer behaviour changed. Locally, many organizations are struggling to keep up with changes in consumer behaviour. Many times, I hold conversations with organizations that are lagging behind adjusting to the changing customer needs. Many are willing to change their ways but a few resist and start moving closer to extinction.

Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy