‘Super consumers’ are a boon for brands – provided they keep an eye open for such feedback. Indeed, now that Big Data and AI are on everyone’s lips, these dedicated fans of a brand are there to remind us that the Customer Experience also calls for human contact and recognition.

Super consumers are still an under-exploited ‘small data’ source

We can probably count on the fingers of one hand the contacts – whether we are talking about social networks or other channels – who are really our friends. According to Eddie Yoon, the author of Superconsumers, the same goes for the retail world: only 10% of all customers are ‘super consumers’, i.e. passionate customers, ‘ultra-fans’ of the brand. Yet these few people are expected to account for 30 - 70% of all sales, appears as the most profitable customers for the company, and post 100% of customer comments. These ‘lead users’ also provide 100% of new customer leads and come up with 80% of all new product, service or business ideas, reveals Eric von Hippel of the Sloan School of Management at the MIT. Most-of-all, they are very good at conveying their enthusiasm to their immediate circle, both personal friends and workmates.

But even though you can find such ultra-fans in all sectors, from the trendiest areas – fashion, music, travel, etc. – to the most traditional businesses such as banking, a surprisingly large number of traditional firms tend to neglect them. If company managers seize upon Big Data analysis, chatbots and artificial intelligence tools and follow them faithfully, all too often forgetting that these technologies are only a means to an end. These brands should take a moment to aknowledge super consumers, who are the best reminder that technologies ought to first focus on delivering an outstanding service or product experience to the customer. 

Super-consumers can transform a weakness into a business opportunity

It should come as no surprise to learn that Tech giants are already interacting effectively with these super consumers. These companies have armies of specialists – including data scientists, marketing people and business developers – who spend their days identifying and engaging with the super-fans. Sometimes you will even see the CEO interacting directly with them – which really serves to underline the strategic importance of this category of customer. For instance, last December Elon Musk, announced on his Twitter account (on which he has over 7.5 million followers) that he would change the business policy of his company Tesla (over a million Twitter followers) in response to the feedback received from one of his super-consumers, Loic Le Meur, who is also a famous French entrepreneur.

Elon Musk & Loic Le Meur

By responding to the super-fan, Elon Musk –  and thus Tesla as well – achieved at least three objectives. First of all, he gave credibility and recognition to the most engaged customer group by sending out a clear message to them: “You’re important to us and we’re listening to you.” – which is still not all that common among providers of goods and services. Secondly, he was able to spot a deficiency in his business model and moved to turn it into a business opportunity, which may well generate a new source of revenue: once a vehicle has been re-charged, the owner ought to be paying a parking fee if the car is still occupying the spot. Last but not least, he seized upon a single suggestion from a customer to create an entire publicity campaign around the Tesla brand, a marketing technique that we can only admire.

As we can see, by listening carefully to their ‘true friends’, companies can use them as a resource, not least as a source of data to help improve their existing products and services or create new offerings. What’s more, this resource comes free of charge!


How to recognise a super-consumer

The question now is: how can companies and brands identify such ‘lead users’? Plenty of data is probably already available for analysis and if it isn’t, you need to start looking. Super consumers are among your customer base, but they are also your team, friends, family even.

On way to spot them is to take into account that super consumers have the power to generate what is known in statistics jargon as standard deviation. The higher the standard deviation among customers, the more heterogeneous their behaviour is likely to be, perhaps with instances of exceptional behaviour. It can be very useful to look at this more closely. Another relatively simple parameter that can be analysed is the quantity of products and services consumed per capita. If you don’t have this data available at your company, that probably means you have plenty of other issues to sort out before thinking seriously about growing your business! Finally invaluable source of potential added value is the social networks. The 1% rule, posits that 90% of all consumers are passive online, never making any contribution to the brand discussion, and only 9% will make an occasional contribution. Most of the content is in fact posted by just 1% of consumers. So it follows that if one of your followers posts content relating to one of your products or services, there is a strong probability that he or she is a super-consumer…

To sum up, if you spot a customer who purchases a lot more than average, over whatever time period, who has been a customer of yours for years and is also active on your company’s Twitter account, it’s a fair bet that s/he’ll be a super-consumer. You need to learn to identify such people and listen to what they have to say as they hold considerable growth potential. So, you don’t really need Big Data or AI. Spending time analysing data is certainly useful but it will probably be more useful to spend time with your ‘super-consumers’.

By Alessandro PROMUTICO
CEO de L'Atelier BNP Paribas North America