By Carrie Rotenberg
Insights from the most impressionable consumer in the UK
My recent move from Toronto, Canada to the UK has been expensive. I can’t think of another time I have needed to purchase things more in my life. What I thought would be a plane ride and dropping off of my bags has turned into countless days of shopping, stocking up and trekking far and wide for items I realise, many days later, were available 2 blocks away. I’ve also found myself with things I never thought I needed or wanted.
Suddenly, I own a leather skirt and am googling the price of Vejas (only to close the tab in horror when thinking about the GBP to CAD conversion). I carry a new work bag and iPhone and I just HAD TO HAVE that necklace with an elephant charm. The list goes on and on.
The phenomenon of the Fresh Start Effect (the idea that consumers are more likely to break old habits and purchase new brands during a big life event) is well known, but the underlying reasons behind WHY certain purchases are made at this time over others, is not as obvious.
So, to help try make sense of the madness and get to better target understanding, I’ve broken down three, unavoidably biased, insights into how the Fresh Start Effect impacts purchasing decisions for those who have made cross-country moves.
#1: The tension between trying to fit in and feel at home is awkward
As soon as you get off the plane, you realise you’re a foreigner. People look at you funny when you open your mouth and say that you brought two suitcases and a knapsack over. “… what is that?
It becomes a delicate dance of amusement and exhaustion. In one moment, you feel giddy because you are in a different country and living your dream IRL. In another you feel lost, homesick and tired of always being the odd one out.
In the giddy moments you buy a leather skirt and Vejas because you want to fit in. In the tired ones you buy an elephant necklace because it reminds of your 87-year-old elephant-loving grandfather who is sick back home.
It’s further proof that 95% of purchase decisions are emotional, not rational. And for a new comer, their emotional decisions are made by trying to feel whole and find harmony between these two sides.
As marketers, we can either lean into one or sympathise with the experience of battling duality altogether. Regardless of which lane you choose, understanding this struggle and being their guide to find resolution will make your brand win.
Bad ad: Tim Hortons brings a taste of home to Canadians across the UK with 12 days of Christmas gifting. Nominate a Canadian you work with today.
#2: Starting from scratch is wasteful
Back home you know where everything is. Where to get the best deal on dish soap, good value fish and whether the monthly travel pass is worth it or not. Where in a new country you are completely lost. In an attempt to make sense of it all, you use your previous knowledge and apply it to this new experience. The problem is, likely, the new one isn’t wired like the old one.
Picture yourself going to a shopping centre to get your phone setup only to realise they sell SIM cards at the grocery store. OR buying a railway ticket and a bus ticket separate only to realise there is a day pass that combines both.
The result is a lot of wasted money and “key learnings.” In fact, my partner and I do a weekly round up of things we wasted money on and new savings discoveries each week. After some trial and error, we now know to go to Iceland for frozen fruit (instead of the overpriced CO-OP) and better to buy a lock for the gym online than in a dollar store (which oddly charge £7 for a lock).
In the end, helping newbies become savvier shoppers quicker is great way to establish trust and create brand love.
Bad Ad: Selfridges collaboration with the National Railway Service to produce a commuter guide with tips and tricks, like the best rated coat for winter with a chic railway card to match.
#3: Fun money dreams become tightened purse strings, quick
Moving countries make your dreams become bigger than the sky itself. You imagine all the lavish dinners you’ll eat, places you’ll travel and things you’ll see.
Then you land and everything changes. Suddenly you are hit with a tax bill you didn’t know about. You realie a lot of things cost double or triple the price they did in your home country. And don’t even get me started about the currency conversion. A cocktail that costs $14 at home just costs £14 here. Some things just don’t convert.
The result is a moment of panic and an attempt to shut down all spending. In that very instance, all your fun money becomes functional. You realise what’s more important than a lavish trip is having food to eat and a house in order. You think, “once that’s sorted, then I’ll loosen up the purse strings”.
For marketers, it’s easy to think that in a field of new a newcomer will be attracted to shiny things, but their mindset may be completely the opposite. They are likely looking for things that will make their money work harder for them and are deemed as essential. As through these types of purchases the are closer to achieving their original goal of fun in the sun.
Bad ad: “This toaster is 50% off, so you can go to Mallorca this Christmas.”
In the end, this is just my experience and the underlying purchase drivers for anyone in a new country are varied by case. However, one thing is explicitly clear. A new comer may be a huge opportunity for your bottom line, but unless you understand the complexity of their emotions and experience, your message won’t get to the bottom of their pockets.