Consumer Behavior with Anne Laffin and Joseph Lenard

Consumer Behavior with Anne Laffin and Joseph Lenard

The Chris Hood Digital Show, Episode 16 - Consumer Behavior
The Chris Hood Digital Show
Consumer Behavior with Anne Laffin and Joseph Lenard

Over the last 20 years, technology has significantly altered the landscape of consumer behavior, transforming how we shop, pay, and interact with products and services. The rapid development of e-commerce platforms, digital payment methods, artificial intelligence, and an overarching focus on customer convenience has primarily driven this seismic shift.

Arguably, one of the most noteworthy changes is the acceleration and convenience of shopping. As of 2023, Global digital commerce sales are valued at $6.3 trillion. It is projected to cross $8.1 trillion by 2026. 

In this week’s episode, we are joined by Anne Laffin, Founder of Fin Marketing Management, and Joseph Lenard, author, and speaker, to discuss the continuing evolution of consumer behavior due to digital disruption.

Speed and Convenience: Amazon’s Impact on Consumer Behavior

Over the past two decades, Amazon has reshaped consumer expectations by prioritizing speed and convenience. From the introduction of 1-Click shopping in 1999 to Amazon Prime’s two-day (and now often same-day) shipping, the company has set a new standard for immediacy. This paradigm shift in convenience has forced other retailers to follow suit, further embedding the need for speed in consumer behavior. In 2022, a survey found that 79% of global online shoppers abandoned their carts if the estimated delivery time was too long, underscoring the significance of speedy transactions in today’s digital marketplace.

“Amazon is just so darn easy to use these days.” – Joseph Lenard

Convenience doesn’t stop at speed, however. Hassle-free returns have also become an integral part of the modern shopping experience. Amazon’s liberal return policy, which allows most new and unopened items to be returned within 30 days of delivery for a full refund, has boosted customer satisfaction and significantly impacted consumer behavior. Consumers are more likely to purchase, knowing that returns are straightforward and uncomplicated. In 2020, 92% of consumers reported that they would repurchase something if they found the return process easy.

Digital Payments and Consumer Behavior: The Case of Venmo

On the financial front, digital payment services like Venmo have redefined how we manage and spend our money. Venmo, owned by PayPal, has championed peer-to-peer transactions, allowing users to quickly and easily send money digitally. By Q3 of 2022, Venmo had over 70 million active accounts, highlighting the rapid adoption of digital wallets. Consumers now expect seamless and instant financial transactions, extending beyond peer-to-peer payments to shopping, bill payments, and investments.

“You may not believe this, but we had an ice cream truck here and I paid with Venmo.” – Anne Laffin.

The Role of AI in Shaping Consumer Behavior

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has also indelibly impacted consumer behavior. Machine learning algorithms enable companies to provide personalized recommendations, influencing consumer buying decisions. Amazon’s “customers who bought this also bought” feature is an example of AI at work, subtly shaping consumer purchasing patterns. A study by McKinsey showed that 35% of Amazon’s revenue comes from its recommendation engine, demonstrating the profound influence of AI on consumer behavior.

Additionally, AI-powered chatbots have dramatically improved customer service efficiency, capable of resolving 80% of customer queries without human intervention. This innovation has cut business costs and increased customer satisfaction due to reduced wait times.

“I think AI & VR are really neat ways that can potentially help consumers in the future.” – Anne Laffin

Consumer Behavior in the Time of COVID-19

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic added another layer of complexity to consumer behavior. With lockdowns and social distancing rules in place, consumers flocked to online shopping, further boosting e-commerce’s dominance. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that e-commerce sales in Q2 2020 reached $211.5 billion, up 31.8% from the first quarter, marking an unprecedented change in consumer behavior due to the pandemic.

Interestingly, the pandemic also decreased traditional peak shopping periods like Black Friday and Christmas. A study by the National Retail Federation showed that holiday shopping in 2022 dropped by 14% compared to 2019. As consumers shifted to online shopping and started to spread their purchases throughout the year to avoid potential shipping delays, the dominance of these peak shopping days decreased.

“I don’t wanna say lazy, but, we’re human, laziness is kind of a human trait at times.” – Joseph Lenard

Evolving Expectations

Over the last 20 years, technology has fundamentally transformed consumer behavior. The expectation of swift transactions, ease of returns, digital payment options, and personalized experiences are now deeply ingrained in the consumer psyche. As we look to the future, it’s clear that technology will continue to drive consumer behavior, setting the stage for the next wave of innovations that will further redefine how we interact with products and services.

Chris Hood (00:00):
Hey everyone. Thanks for listening. Over the last 20 years, technology has significantly altered the landscape of consumer behavior, transforming how we shop, pay, and interact with products and services. The rapid development of e-commerce platforms, digital payment methods, artificial intelligence, and an overarching focus on customer convenience has driven this seismic shift. Arguably, one of the most noteworthy changes is the acceleration and convenience of online shopping. As of 2023, global digital commerce sales are valued at 6.3 trillion, and it is projected to cross 8.1 trillion by 2026. In this week’s episode, we are joined by Anne Laffin, founder of Finn Marketing Management, and Joseph Lenard, author and speaker to discuss the continuing evolution of consumer behaviors due to digital disruption. To support the show, visit Subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast platform. Follow us on social media, and you can email me directly [email protected]. I’m Chris Hood, and let’s get connected.

Voice Over (01:14):
Connecting access. Granted, it’s the Chris Hoods digital show where global business and technology leaders meet to discuss strategy, innovation, and digital acceleration. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Your digital evolution starts now. Here’s your host, Chris Hood.

Chris Hood (01:46):
Consumer behaviors are constantly evolving. Let’s discuss why with our guest. Anne, would you mind introducing yourself?

Anne Laffin (01:54):
Sure. Hello everyone. My name is Anne Laffin. I am the founder of Fin Marketing Management, which is a marketing consultancy geared towards early stage startups. I help bring their foundational marketing to life, their marketing strategy systems and tools and really give them the plan that they need to hopefully be successful. So also a, a mom, a runner, and generally happy person.

Chris Hood (02:21):
We like happy people. I think our next guest is also a happy person. Joseph, would you mind introducing yourself?

Joseph Lenard (02:28):
Oh, absolutely. You’ve gotta keep a sense of humor no matter how serious things get. And yes, I am Joseph M. Lenard, a k a j, Lenard, Detroit, but last name Lenard without an O. It looks like Leonard. It’s not French . I’m an author, blogger, cancer survivor, STI institutionalist, former IT professional podcaster, political activist speaker, social media influencer, spokesperson, affiliate for American Hartford Gold vlogger writer. But relevancy today will be kind of my IT and social media, I think marketing and I, one of my books is how to Write a book and Get it published, hence tips and Techniques. There’s a marketing and promotion chapter there, obviously you want to partake and most are in the free avenues of social media.

Chris Hood (03:27):
Awesome. So much experience to cover today’s topic on consumer behaviors. And probably the best place to start, you mentioned it, it technology has had a huge impact in how we consume products, but let’s all put on our consumer hats today. We are all consumers. You are not a business owner today. You are actually a consumer first. And so the first question out of the box is simply how has technology and it impacted consumer behaviors, especially when we start thinking about buying online and e-commerce.

Anne Laffin (04:07):
I think about accessibility, right? I mean, I have a phone in my hand, I hate to say it most hours of the day, which gives me access not only to the ability to buy, but to research to get reviews, to read reviews, leave reviews. And I think about the times even I’ve been in a store looking at a product, have researched it elsewhere and then bought it online while standing in a store. So it is a crazy new world that we live in now.

Joseph Lenard (04:36):
Yeah, I agree. Being an author and a bookseller, Amazon sells 80% of all books, right? But I’m a shop local kind of guy. I really want people to still support local mom and pop shops. I’ve got a small bookstore, Brooks Books. I can literally throw a rock and hit it from my house where I’m at. So it’s, it is indeed a brave new world. And being a former IT guy, I go back to the days of 300 bo modems dialing up each other, you know, . So we’ve come a long way and yes, everybody is online, everything instant gratification there. And please, I beg of you to still shop local when and where you can, but yes, I have to admit, I’m not a big Jeff Bezos fan, but I put money in his pocket. , Amazon is just so darn easy to use these days. But as far as marketing and consumer trends, like Anne mentioned, Yelp reviews for where to find what you’re looking for potentially locally and reviews of all kinds of anything in any product, definitely to look at online before you consider buying, whether it be online or at a local shop.

Anne Laffin (06:07):
You know what, that brings up something interesting though, which is even opportunity for a local shop. So I, I have a friend of mine who makes soap, right? And she started a social media she started an Instagram page, is what she did, and then that turned into an Etsy, like per Etsy page. And so, I mean, I think there’s still a way for technology to support the local, the local consumer and the local store, which is really cool, to be honest with you. You know, that there’s still a way for the mom and pop shop to be successful, even though it’s, there’s technology involved.

Joseph Lenard (06:40):
You mentioned Etsy. I wanna throw in Shopify, right? I’ve got a sh shop on Shopify, and of course there’s eBay. So yeah, mom and pop shops generally can’t survive alone on local sales. They often have to branch out to online sales of some sort. You mentioned Etsy, I throw in Shopify.

Chris Hood (07:04):
Both of you have great points in terms of being able to build a business and then move that business to online channels. But there are a lot of mom and pop shops. I think of donuts as a great example here. There was a time when you could not go into a donut store and pay with anything other than cash. Now I can pretty much go into almost any donut store and pay with my atm. That’s a natural evolution of technology that those stores require in order to stay in business because the consumer demands and behaviors expect it.

Joseph Lenard (07:42):
Yeah. On the consumer and the things. Yeah, not only that, now everywhere you go, you can use Google Pay or Apple Pay, or I mean, they just, in order to have the sales, they’ve got a sacrifice that, and some consumers don’t realize it. Like any credit card, there are fees involved, right? They have to either mark things up and with inflation the way it is. A lot of places you’ll see if you’re not paying with cash, we charge 3% convenience fee, right? To absorb some of those costs. But they’ve got to take on those costs in order to make the sales. Like you implied there,

Anne Laffin (08:28):
You may not believe this, but I would be, if you remember ice cream trucks, we had one last week and we, I paid with Venmo. I couldn’t believe it. It was wild, but it was great cause I didn’t have cash, so it was, was fantastic.

Chris Hood (08:42):
I love this concept of ven mowing for an ice cream off the ice cream truck. I have an ice cream truck that comes around my neighborhood every Saturday. I’m going to ask them if they Venmo the next time they’re here. I think that’s fabulous. You know, earlier Joseph, you were talking about instant gratification. And I do think that not only instant gratification, but psychologically consumer behaviors have shifted with other factors. Maybe some of that has been with C O V I D and the inherent need to stay indoors, but we do see that there are more people who are opting to basically stay home. For example, Christmas shopping, all Christmas was done at malls and in public, and now it’s all being done online. Part of that is instant gratification. Part of that is I just don’t want to be in public.

Joseph Lenard (09:32):
I don’t just blame the wuhan ter and obviously some places had lockdowns and then people’s tradition or pattern change, I don’t wanna say lazy, but you know, we’re human laziness is kind of a human trait at times. But as far as instant gratification and shorter attention spans as an IT guy and a social medias influencer, I blame Twitter and I’d say, go find me on Twitter, but I’m still suspended. You still can’t get a human being over there to talk to, to argue you need to unsuspend my Jay Leonard Detroit account. But I’m on all the other social platforms as that, but yet Twitter, Twitter attention spans, I want it in a hundred words or less, or I’m tuning out, right? Like podcasts shorter and shorter and shorter. I’ve done two and a half hour shows, but there’s likely nobody watching at that length, right?

Anne Laffin (10:39):
You know, I, I think being locked down it created new habits for people. And so the habits that they formed in, in regard to consuming social media or just consuming objects, right? Buying things became, it was easy to sit on your couch, easy to be on your computer. And the Amazon man, I mean, honestly, the amount of Amazon trucks that were driving down the street during Covid was embarrassing, quite honestly. So again, habit never ending. It was never ending, but it became habit. Now, I, I do feel like I see more people in stores and there are still people that are watch to go buy in person. And I mean, this may be a weird example and slightly off topic, but I’m thinking of things like, you know, you have stores like Babies R Us or Bed Bath and Beyond that have closed down, and those were places where you could look at a stroller, get a wedding registry pulled together, things that you want to see and feel and touch in person that I’m hoping we maintain those habits. But I think there’s so many things that we learned during covid, and again, being locked down that we can just, like, we can just change our behaviors from our couch and we’re fine. We don’t necessarily need to go to a store. So yeah, for me it’s, it’s the, the, the push to a new habit has potentially changed buying patterns.

Joseph Lenard (12:09):
Yeah. You, you triggered a thought in me on that. One thing to go back on the Venmo, PayPal, cash app, yada, yada, yada. I just created another cash app yesterday. App, you know, I, I’m very much, you see me, for anyone who sees me, you see me in a US Flag shirt, I’m very much a free market capitalist guy. So to hear a guy like me complaining about too many choices is, is kinda ironic. But you mentioned like, yeah, there are certain a stroller. Yeah, I, I kinda wanna see it. It kills me that Carvana is in business. I, I, I want, you know, the traditional, I want you to kick the tires, even though kicking the tires is stupid and irrelevant. But yeah, you want to sit in it, you wanna feel it, you want, you know, you to verbally negotiate. But carvana’s still around

Chris Hood (13:12):
It. It’s a great example actually, because now you’re talking about actually physically seeing something before you buy it. And consumer behaviors are adjusting to the point where we may not necessarily care as much, as long as the reviews or word of mouth, opinions, friends, references, all of that pans out. We’re like, well, maybe I’ll give this a shot. And organizations, companies like Carvana can deliver the car directly to your home. You just walk outside and drive it around for a couple of weeks. If you don’t like it, return it.

Joseph Lenard (13:48):
That that is the key. You touched on there, Chris, they kind of gotta offer a trial period for you to return for the business model to work. But I wonder, given the laws regarding, you know, sales of new versus used, then how, if within the legal limit, they can then say as long as the miles are down, or that time, I could still claim this as new. Cause even the dealerships, if they get above a certain miles or over a certain time, then they have to sell it as a demo model at a reduced cost. So there’s those factors, but you’re right, they, you make adjustments in your marketing pitch and your guarantees and the side things you can offer.

Anne Laffin (14:44):
Yeah, you gave them a get outta jail free card, right? If it doesn’t work out, you can return it. And there’s that safety net of this is a new way to buy something. It might be a little scary, there might be a hurdle, but that return makes it okay, makes it safe, feel safer.

Chris Hood (14:59):
But you know, this model of returning that has actually been around for a long time, however, Amazon has perfected that you could place an order. If you don’t like it, you return it. And in a lot of cases, the convenience of not having to go to a store, not having to repackage it, not having to do all of these typical things that we would have to do for a return have all been eliminated. Plus also changing the general demands that consumers have or expect when buying something.

Anne Laffin (15:32):
Well, I’m thinking it’s actually even changed. I’ll give you an example with Target now. I mean, I feel like you used to have, you had to make a return, you and needed to have a receipt like that always became an issue because I usually lost my receipts. So, but now you walk in with the app, they have your order on record, you show them a QR code, and you just return whatever it is. So I think it has the ease of which Amazon has allowed for with returns has spilled over into, just into, into other stores, right? And so for me, then that experience with Target has now become super easy too. So maybe that changes for the better.

Joseph Lenard (16:07):
As everyone knows from their local Kmart, all 3,500 stores gone. All Sears stores gone. They decided the land was worth more money. They wanted to get outta retail sales and use the land for other things and make more money as a real estate holding company. Now, because as an IT guy, I worked for Kmart. So yes, Ann, you’re absolutely right. You don’t need the receipt. You, you don’t need anything. The U P C code on the product itself, if as long as you’ve got that even can be scanned and immediately know whether they sold it to you or not, and what price they sold it to you or not, or not, and a lot of places waive the restocking fees nowadays, but you’re right. Cause Amazon really has modernized and taken it to another level because I myself have returned things to a local coal kohl store. There’s a list of plate, you don’t even have to send it back. I could go to Kohl’s and drop it off.

Chris Hood (17:23):
Yeah, I’ve done that more than enough times. Just go to the local Kohl’s and drop it off, and it’s very convenient and heck, and here’s a Kohl’s gift card or certificate along your way out. And now you’re like, well, I’m in Kohl’s. Do I need a new shirt? It’s brilliant. Right?

Joseph Lenard (17:37):
Right. Exactly. That’s, that’s a very good example of a cross cooperative business cooperative example, right? I will go through the hassle of dealing with your returns, but I get their body in my store a potential shopper as my return. So yeah, that is a great example there.

Chris Hood (18:06):
Do we see any organizations, businesses, companies, local international, that struggle with adapting to consumer behaviors?

Joseph Lenard (18:15):
Well, I’m sure there are plenty of examples that we could give over time. Like you said, the donut shop even of eventually came around, so you either adapt or you die. Right, that’s part of modern life. Ever since the Industrial Revolution, you adapt or you die. The whip and buggy companies turned into Fisher Body. My father rest in peace. Dad worked for GM through Fisher Guide, which was Fisher Body, which was a buggy company way back when began designing body parts for the automotive industry. So yeah, you adapt or you die and, or you sell off your business to someone who is willing to adapt it. So yeah, you’ve got to come around eventually. And as Anne said, the, the I, we don’t have good humors around here anymore. I’m not sure if that company went under, but yeah, there are indeed ice cream trucks come through my neighborhood. I generally walk out with cash, so I don’t pay any attention, but you’re right. Have they adapted, adopted these new things or are they gonna die off too? Usually there’s kids with allowances, you know, a bunch of quarters. So the ice cream trucks should be okay, right.

Anne Laffin (19:42):
I mean, listen, I, I’m, I’m ready. I’m like ice cream at any point, so I’ll try to be ready with cash or Venmo either way. But you know, the thought that popped into my head, I can’t think of a specific company, but I think of highly regulated environments, so like financial services for instance, or even I have clients that are in the veterinary space, and there just seems to be some, seem to be some trends with those industries as a whole of being slow to adopt practices that are more common, particularly in the digital marketing space or social media, things like that. It just seems like there’s a lot more scrutiny or speculation as to whether those are safe channels to promote purchasing or to to market in. So that’s kind of, I think where I see more, maybe just certain industries are a little slow, a little slower to adopt.

Chris Hood (20:32):
I’ve consulted with a lot of financial services companies, so I completely agree with what you’re saying. And what’s fascinating to me about this is they’re hiding behind the regulatory issues and claiming that that is why they can’t transform or modify their experiences fast enough. But what we see is all of a sudden, a startup, a financial services type of startup will materialize out of nowhere, will say Venmo as a great example, which completely disrupts that industry and discounts all of the arguments that it’s regulatory in nature. And we know, just like using Venmo to pay for ice cream, consumers expect to be able to deposit their checks using their mobile device or engaging with their financial institutes in certain ways. And if the bank or the services cannot keep up with that demand, they’re going to go to an organization, a new product, a new service that will do it. The argument that there’s regulatory issues that are preventing us from changing our products to meet the consumer behaviors is ultimately going to lead them to going out of business.

Joseph Lenard (21:50):
I wanna tie two things together. You said there, stock trade is another classic example. Take opening stock trades up to everybody that the reg that the traditional old school stuffy kind of investment firms hid behind the regulation. Like you said, not wanting to open it up. They preferred to keep everything go through them as a gatekeeper, right? Stock trade blew that apart. And the other thing is, again, being an IT guy, things changed so fast. Think before the internet and post-internet, internet first coming along for the military, then expanding to universities then became available to the public, like G P s, right? That was a military application at first, and it got available publicly. Now, think of so many like the WA app that I like to use over Google Maps. Innovation comes quick. The legislation rules, regulations don’t keep up always. And you’re right, Chris, a lot of people hide behind that, oh, I can’t do that. It’s just that they, hey, this is the way we’ve been doing it. I prefer to do it this way. I’m comfortable doing it this way. That human nature thing again, right?

Chris Hood (23:21):
Yeah, absolutely. It’s not that you can’t do it, it’s, you’ve chosen not to do it.

Joseph Lenard (23:27):
Like the Rush song says, if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice, right?

Anne Laffin (23:34):
You know, I, I think too, when I, I think of some of these very large financial services institutions, they like, I think just slow, slow policy, just, it’s clunky and, and maybe, maybe unfairly so, but, so if making those changes is going to take tons of effort with lots of buy-in, it just seems like this daunting task. But to your point, at some point, consumers, if they make enough noise and are not heard, they go somewhere else. And that’s the problem. It’s interesting though. I think consumer behavior can actually be used as a, as a marketing tool in a way. Like, I think a lot about like pharma ads. So I’m probably okay, let’s say I see an ad for a medicine, right? I don’t necessarily know what the competition is. I don’t know. I might go into my doctor and ask for it by name and not necessarily know why I need it.

But if enough people go into, right, the, their doctor and say, Hey, I saw this ad for blah, blah, blah medicine, and they bother their doctor enough, the doctor’s probably going to look into it at some point again, and I, I think of this, I think I, I have veterinary service clients, and it’s the same thing, right? We have products that we would love for consumers to use or to ask their veterinary to use, but we can’t market directly to them. But if they churn up the water enough and make enough inquiries, we’re hoping that the vets will adopt. So it’s, it’s interesting. You know, what, if, if consumers get worked up enough or perhaps frustrated enough, interested enough, they can ultimately change what products get used.

Chris Hood (25:21):
And here’s another marketing example that we’re seeing actively play out as it relates to technology. You’re actually seeing ads that say you can talk to a real human, that is becoming a marketing differentiator. So I don’t think we can wrap up today’s conversation without at least touching a little bit on artificial intelligence. So a real quick final question for both of you. How do you feel AI is impacting consumer behavior?

Anne Laffin (25:50):
You know, there’s, there’s two things that stand out for me. One, I’m gonna use her name, but Alexa is great for me for research and for purchasing, although I’ve gotta make sure my kids aren’t accidentally buying things through there, which is always a little scary. But the other cool thing that I actually really like is some of this, whether it’s, you know, like an augmented or virtual reality type thing is where you can try on glasses at home without going to the doctor or see how a coffee table looks in your living room without having to get it into your living room, right? And so I think those are some really neat ways that those can potentially help consumers in the future. It’s pretty cool

Joseph Lenard (26:30):
Being an IT guy that’s obviously a touchy subject. Ai people think like, wow, it just arrived. No, it’s been, been an ongoing thing for several DA decades. And of course chat, G P T has been in the news and there’s plagiarism issues there, right? Who actually owns a copyright to something there? If you don’t properly quote and cate a source, and it’s changing movies, AI and cgi, think of a I S C G I, right? TV ads. I wanna recommend a 1970s movie called Looker with Susan Day from the Partridge Family for the older folks that will recognize that name. And also there’s a who’s the hoorah guy? Al Pacino had a movie, Simone or Sim one about ai, cgi, AI taking over the roles of people, actors, and actresses can be added to the whip and buggy companies of the past. And the st you know, the heap of history lost TV ads will be all AI generated. No actors, actresses no one involved. It will come up with its own script. So yeah, I, progress is great to some degree, but sometimes jobs are lost in the process.

Chris Hood (28:09):
Well, thank you both for this interesting conversation. I always find it fascinating to hear people’s perspectives on various topics, and you brought the perspective today. Thank you, Anne.

Anne Laffin (28:22):
Thank you so much.

Chris Hood (28:23):
Appreciate it. And thank you, Joseph.

Joseph Lenard (28:24):
Thank you, Chris, and thank you,

Chris Hood (28:26):
Anne. And of course, thanks to all of you who are listening. If you like what you heard, please subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast platform and leave a review. Your feedback helps us improve and grow. And if you have any questions, comments, or ideas for the show, you can connect with us throughout social media and online at Chris Hood Show. And please share this episode with your friends, family, colleagues, or anyone else looking to grow their business and start their own digital evolution. Until next week, take care and stay connected.
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