We are now used to hearing that with digitalization Internet has become a huge, inimaginable shop window where we can find everything and anything. On the web we can look for any product or service and even compare them with ease before buying. But this novelty and the enthusiasm it brings is starting to dwindle.
Now that it’s become a part of everyday life, we take it for granted: we expect everything to be online. Not only we buy, we also do many things on the internet. A great example of this would be home banking, where we manage our bank account, make transactions, payments, deposits, etc. Just the kind of errand that would have taken all morning waiting in lines, can now be done online in pajamas.
Consumers = students
Recently I was having a conversation with a friend when he said defiant: “Not everything can be found on the internet.” He had been looking for a natural handmade skincare product he had bought once at a fair, that fits his skin needs, but when he went online to buy another one the brand’s website was offline. He then embarked on a research worthy of a private detective to buy it again. But this is quite uncommon. Most people simply give up and buy any other product. Having a presence online is just the first step but no matter how small our business is, it needs to have a web page. This is exactly what my friend told the seller once he found it.
But thinking about the Internet only as a window shop would be negligent and risky for our business. Although we may think online behavior varies wildly from one consumer to the next, there are some patterns to watch out for. When consumers want to buy a product or get a service online, they behave like students. Before opening an account in any retail bank, people do their homework and take it seriously: they would not only check the bank’s website but also search for newspaper articles, forums, customer reviews, professional reviews... Just as if they were about to invest on their stock (which they might one day!) Nor banks, nor any company should ever underestimate their audience.
The last Euromonitor International research points out that the main thread that links 2019’s global consumer trends is intelligence. Why did my friend want that skin care product so bad that he took so much trouble to find it again? He knew what he was buying. The product was exhaustively labeled. He knew exactly the components it was made of. He knew that its formula was the right one for his skin problems.
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He went into forums where other consumers confirmed with their positive reviews the quality and uniqueness of the product. He became an expert on the matter. This new attitude towards the simple task of buying something is what retailers should take very seriously. It expresses the switch in power between retailer and consumer. Especially in developed economies, consumers today are empowered by knowledge. Before acquiring a product or a service people expect to know as much as they can about it to make an intelligent decision, a result from their personal research.
The rise of this “expert consumer” demands personalization: customers know what they want and what they don’t, and that’s why it’s very important for a company to thoroughly know its target audience. This could turn out to be a very interesting opportunity for banks and financial institutions because they have much more information about their customers than any other business. This means they can know better and come closer to what each of their customers want. A good use of this information can deliver the right offer to the right customer in the right time. Is your bank ready to give a premium personalized service? A customer who is informed won’t doubt a second if the deal is right.
In this era where consumers are thirsty of information, retailers should be the first ones to inform about their products. To create a transparent and reliable image is what every brand should aim for. Consumers don’t rely anymore in the good name a brand has built. Instead, even good names are constantly challenged by very aware consumers whose main source of information is more than ever “the word of mouth”, mainly expressed in social media.
There are many ways to create trust and fidelity for the new “expert” consumers, from exhaustive and clear labeling to content share. There are many brands that are adding forums to their webpages where customers exchange their opinions about the products the brand is offering, blog articles that are interesting and updated, the choice to consult an expert online and in real time.
Consumers are challenging the market to be creative and honest. That’s why even established brands should not rest on their laurels: if consumers are studying before buying, brands should study twice as much to sell their products. Let’s say that for an “expert” consumer nothing is better than to show that ours is an “expert” brand in the matter.
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