A changing economy is not all an SME should be concerned about. In order to be successful, businesses of all sizes need to understand their customers’ needs and, above all, demonstrate this understanding through delivering a service that not only meets, but exceeds their expectations.
Therefore an insight into, and analysis of, consumer trends is critical in order to keep abreast of new ways in which consumers are running their lives and potentially interacting with your organisation. Not only will being aware of these trends enable you to react to changing demands, but you will be better equipped to forecast how particular products or services may be received.
Below are five consumer trends that businesses should be aware of and able to respond to, today.
1. From the High Street to online
Of the many ways consumer behaviour has evolved, the migration from High Street to online shopping is probably the most impactful. Not only has it meant that company websites have to be easy to navigate but they have had to become a platform on which to sell. The migration to online shopping is a trend that’s continuing today and one which businesses can’t afford to ignore – they have to find new ways in which to target customers i.e. improving SEO. Beyond the ease of use is the need to be able to process purchases quickly and provide relevant information to customers in order to up-sell and encourage them to buy more.
2. Consuming and sharing
Through the use of social networks the customer experience can now be rapidly publicised – both positive and negative – giving word-of-mouth a new channel. Consumers have recognised the new power they hold in sharing information about a particular business, brand or product online and are utilising blogs, social networks and forums as their platforms to do so.
While this trend has had brought both welcome and unwelcome consequences for businesses, it should be noted that customers are likely to already have formed an opinion on you or your business, despite not necessarily having any direct interaction.
3. The demand for consistency
With so many ways of connecting with a brand today, consumers demand consistency across any channel they wish to choose. This goes far beyond branding and general tone of communications,
With so many ways of connecting with a brand today, consumers demand consistency across any channel they wish to choose
instead raising the issue of ensuring that all data and information collected about a customer can be used across every single channel of communication.
Synchronising the in-store experience with the online or social media experience is the next challenge. There is plenty of opportunity to interact with customers when in store. Through mobile devices, in real-time, is becoming an increasingly popular and effective method. Based on what customers have previously purchased, either in store or online, retailers can push relevant, consistent messages about products and services, ultimately enhancing their experience. This consistency and transparency of information is vital to capturing a customer, whatever channel they are using to interact with your business.
4. The informed purchaser
Today’s consumer is more informed and connected than ever. He or she can easily collect and exchange information on products and offers through a growing number of ways, including tweets, texts, online stores and mobile applications. The growth in comparison websites, in particular, providing detailed specifications on pricing and availability for thousands of brands, products and services within second’s means consumers are becoming more informed and more inclined to research a purchase before they make a decision.
5. Reluctance to provide personal information
With a more informed customer comes greater reluctance to provide personal information. Consumers know that by supplying personal data to a brand that they should then receive relevant and timely communication and messages in return. The problem is that too many consumers have had a negative experience after handing over their valuable personal information only for it to have been passed on to third parties or to be bombarded with marketing they do not wish to receive. Therefore the increasing trend in consumers choosing to withhold data is proving to retailers that they must prove that their data can and will be used more wisely.
Today, most businesses have a plethora of data they are unable to process or use, and with customers not wanting to hand over any further information, it’s important that businesses find a way to use their existing information. Only by proving that their personal information will in ensure they receive a personal service, will customers be interested in agreeing to provide any more.
Consumer behaviour has been scrutinised ever since the dawn of advertising but today analysis of consumer activity can mean the difference between a business growing or falling behind its competitors. Ensuring that you are aware of the changes to both consumer behaviour in general and that of your customers should enable you to make more informed decisions about your business.