Monday, March 5, 2012

Are your clients thinking about how technology is affecting consumer behavior?

Mickey Alam Khan, editor in chief of Mobile Marketer and Mobile Commerce Daily, has written an excellent post on Consumer 2.0: How brands and retailers must anticipate the shopper behavioral shift in five years.

His point is that so much dialogue has been focused on new technologies, that too many marketers are forgetting to discuss the "sea-change in consumer behavior expected in the next three to five years".  I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Khan.

The traditional sales funnel has been displaced by a new brand decision model that continues in many cases right up to the point of sale.  And with the continuing impact of peer-to-peer influence and the advent of mobile shopping tools, marketers cannot afford to keep their planning focus solely on which is the best technology to use.

He goes on to say that "smartphones and smart televisions and smart cars and smart clothes and smart food will shape consumer behavior in the next three to five years where most marketing fundamentals developed even a decade ago will be rendered obsolete".

I was particularly intrigued with his identification of four growing consumer behavior trends that will greatly influence how customers interact with brands and retailers over the next few years.

Customer impatience will doom many potential sales.  With so many options, consumers will have no tolerance for anything that delays their purchase, online or in-store.  Every element of the customer service response, from page uploads to physical or online/mobile checkout will be scrutinized and only deemed acceptable if there are no delays. It is not seconds, but milliseconds that will matter here.
A frictionless shopping experience will be the goal. The entire searching, shopping, browsing or buying experience has to be devoid of hurdles or pain points. Smooth transactions will be the minimum expectation, and intuitive response to customer overtures will be the norm.
The lowest price will be the deciding factor for most purchases.   We can only blame ourselves for this expectation. We have trained most consumers to shop by price – except in the case of brands that maintained their mystique and value to customers.  Consumers will not always expect cheap, but they do expect affordable.
Brands will need to be connected 24/7. Consumers do not expect brands to have a downtime in any area – be it shopping hours, product delivery, returns, customer-service calls or email or text responses. They expect to access the marketer or retailer on their own terms – always on, always there, always helpful, always friendly, always obliging.

We've all got to keep up with technology changes, but we can't forget how those technologies are impacting the buying decision process.The launch of new devices every year – new tablets, new smartphones, new smart TVs, new applications, new smart appliances, etc. – is forcing consumers to change their ideas about how to buy, when to buy and what to buy.  Are your clients ready for this sea-change?