What’s your customer’s psyche?

Nina Simone is one of my favourite musical artists. I love one song in particular called ‘Don’t let me be misunderstood’ where she so beautifully croons ‘… I’m just a soul whose intentions are good…Oh Lord; please don’t let me be misunderstood’.

As a consumer, it sucks being seemingly misunderstood as we all would like to be treated with respect, regardless of our class, age and/or background. If I’ve got the money to spend, please give me good customer service and as long as I treat you with respect, please do the same? Is that too much to ask? Remember the story of how the store assistant in Switzerland, or was it Sweden, directed one of the richest women in the world to a cheaper option, probably judging on the colour of her skin and not knowing who Oprah is.

Once upon a time, I worked as a retail sales assistant at a well-known lingerie store and during training it was pointed out that we need to approach and treat with respect, each customer that enters the store. No pre-judgements allowed – now that sounds about right.

You may or may not be wondering what all this talk of R.E.S.P.E.C.T. has to do with the psyche of a consumer.  When taking into consideration the psyche of a person, it makes it easier to connect because you understand them a little better. Psychological and social influences can be a good indication of which psyche your customers and/or potential customers have.

Psychological influences, i.e. aspirations, attitude, personality, self-concept and lifestyle are centred on how an individual sees and responds to the world and are born internally, rather than externally.  I’ll use myself as a hypothetical example.

There are a myriad of factors that influence and determine my psyche as a South African born during a time of racial segregation and growing up and into a ‘new’ South Africa that came with the promise of a ‘free and fair’, ‘rainbow nation’. As a young, coloured girl my perception of a future was bright as I’d now have a chance to make the most of the oppurtunities available, oppurtunities that were non-existent for the elders that came before me, elders that go as close back to my parents.  I could satisfy the need to be better and aspire for more than the limited options the previous generations in the family had to deal with.

I have a mixed personality, and not in a schizophrenic manner. I bring forth one aspect of my personality amongst my peers and another aspect amongst my family, in this way it is mixed.  I will choose deep conversations over small-talk any day and every day. My self-concept is a mix of identities, the one I was born into and the one I am discovering as I go along in this life journey. I aim to have a lifestyle that’s defined by activities and surrounded by people that are intellectual, that want to make a difference in this life that wants to live purposefully. I enjoy the arts in the form of movies, books, art galleries, and music.

The girl’s got attitude…An attitude is generally an evaluation feelings about and behaviours towards objects and ideas. If I have to choose one idea to evaluate, I’d choose the definition of success. I am very much aware of the missed oppurtunities that the majority of South Africans have at a chance of being successful due to the unfair system of how life was set up by people in power.

Psychological influences as mentioned above are more internally focused, whereas social influences represent the external world and its impact on our behaviour, i.e.  Family, reference groups, opinion leaders, social class, culture and subculture.

As the youngest daughter amongst four siblings, I have a bit more freedom and creativity when it comes to contributing to the needs and/or wants of the family.

In the coloured community, reference groups such as church, is prominent. Attending church on Sundays is quite common. Church and church activities are meant to be in praise of a creator, of God. The authoritative nature and establishment of church is therefore a strong influence for the sharing of similar practices, attitudes and values amongst people in the community.

Opinion leaders that would typically have an impact on the behaviour of South African citizens are church leaders and political leaders such as Nelson Mandela. Additionally, because of access to international opinion leaders’ people who have achieved great feats in their lives such as Oprah and Barack Obama, these could also pose as opinion leaders.

Social class is determined by the lifestyle and types of material things that can be afforded. This can be manifested in the form of current state or aspired state of being. I think many South Africans would like to climb the ladder of social class this can typically be achieved either by way of education and/or marriage.

South Africa is a multicultural society where you’ll find traditional, modern and mixed versions of culture. There’s also the existence of subcultures. I’ve been exposed to the Hip Hop subculture.

‘Hip hoppers’ dress in similar outfits inspired by artists and the music prominent in the genre. The conversations centre around the execution of the best of the best and also around the themes of music put out. It’s very much centred on the experience of life in the ghetto – relationships, struggles and triumphs as well as observations and/or complaints about the typical way of living that they observe in peers and communities. Other examples of subcultures are homosexuality, race, and religion.

How does knowing these insights help you as a fashion business owner? It can help you in defining and differentiating your brand. The clothing you’re designing and/or selling to the consumer should not start and end there. Psychological and social influences outlined above indicate that there are so many points of differentiation that can assist you in creating a voice and identity that not only caters more directly to a specific set of customers but also sets you apart from the myriad of competitors on a national and international scale.

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