Consumer insights: AI, Gen Alpha and overcoming uncertainty

Editor’s note: Ted Bouzakis is EVP of sales, research and insights, at DISQO, a California-based software development firm. 

Insights informing this article were sourced from 3,004 U.S. adults in DISQO’s audience, November 6-13, 2023, and balanced on age, gender, income and ethnicity.

Getting ahead of the trends that will shape consumer attitudes and behaviors is a challenging feat. Last year, ChatGPT initiated an AI revolution, Barbie redefined brand marketing and Pride Month boycotts opened an ongoing debate about the efficacy of purpose-led campaigns. These are just a few of the many marketing trends that have recently transformed how consumers experience and interact with brands. 

A volatile social media landscape, more AI innovation and the rise of Gen Alpha as a new audience promise to keep marketers on their toes in 2024. These factors will define (and redefine) brands’ relationships with their customers. Meanwhile, global conflicts and economic uncertainty will influence consumer perceptions of their financial security and ultimately their purchase decisions. 

Let’s explore how marketers can deliver consumer experiences that fuel brand growth in the year ahead, drawing on insights from a study conducted with 3,000 consumers about their 2024 attitudes (registration required).

When brands lead with empathy and reassurance

People are worried about 2024. According to our study conducted in November 2023, two-thirds (63%) reported a negative overall outlook for the year. Inflation (64%), global conflict (61%) and recession (54%) are just some of the factors influencing the negative mind-set. This comes as no surprise given the dominant headlines of 2023. People are inundated with worrying information every day, contributing to an overarching sense of uncertainty. How consumers perceive the state of the world has a profound impact on how confidently they make purchase decisions.
Marketers looking to capture consumer dollars must consider these feelings as they shape campaign messaging and determine where best to meet consumers in the media landscape. Empathy and reassurance will go a long way with consumers in a constrained economy. This goes beyond hollow promises; it requires an understanding of how consumer needs are evolving and how your brand can uniquely meet them.

Know when consumers are willing to compromise and when they are not

The good news? Consumer perceptions of personal finances are looking up. One-fifth said their current personal financial situation was better in 2023 than before, and 37% said they expect 2024 to be even better. So, what does this mean for brands? With a wary eye toward inflation, consumers predict that they’ll spend more in necessary categories such as groceries and less in discretionary ones like travel, live entertainment and clothing. They may even opt out of big-ticket purchases to stretch their dollars.

People also said they are willing to compromise on brand names to better manage their budgets in these uncertain times. Brand stewards will likely need to work harder than ever to discover new opportunities to satisfy cost-conscious consumers. For example, brands offering generic options for everyday purchases, like CPG or alcohol, may come out on top. 

A creative approach to reaching consumers, especially for nonessentials, is imperative. 

Market with intention because consumers are buying with intention

The battle for consumer attention is fiercer than ever, and consumers’ perceptions of financial security have raised the bar even higher. Streaming services are ramping up ad-supported tiers, while TikTok is introducing new avenues for in-app purchases via advertising. Consumers will likely see significantly more ads in 2024. To stand out, marketers must be even more intentional about where they market with clearly defined outcomes.

Overall, TV (43%) and social media (41%) ranked the highest as purchase influencers. Nearly half of Gen Z (43%) said that TikTok ads have influenced them to purchase, indicating just how agile brands need to be as new platforms emerge and the second digitally native generation begins to spend. However, 25% of consumers said that they were not influenced by ads on any platform. The takeaway? Ad effectiveness varies across media and audiences. Thoughtful targeting strategies are needed to capture consumer dollars.

Win over consumers with memorable brand experiences

Today, every brand touchpoint contributes to leaving an impression on customers and, importantly, determining whether they come back. Consumers reported that customer experience factors – value for the money (67%), quality (63%), trustworthiness (53%) and customer service (44%) – are the most influential brand indicators. Factors like corporate responsibility still play a role in brand building, but the writing is on the wall. Consumers will settle for nothing less than an optimal brand experience.

Approaching target audiences with the right messaging and leveraging a test-and-learn mentality is imperative for brands looking to make their mark in 2024. By understanding and adapting to consumer attitudes and behaviors, businesses can differentiate the brand experiences they deliver to consumers and provide value when it’s most needed.