Not long ago, a customer wishing to buy a microwave would walk into the store, speak to the sales representative, and walk out having purchased the appliance. Not anymore. Today, customers not only have far more choices, but also access to more information, from more people and at more touchpoints. They are in the driver’s seat of the buying process, the shopping process.
Over the past decade, customer behavior has changed faster and in more extreme ways. There are three main reasons for this:
1. Rapid changes in technology: With internet penetration, consumers now have easy access to product information and ratings, recommendations and reviews from both friends and strangers.
2. Entry of Gen Z: This segment of the population, which will soon become the largest segment of the customer base, give high scores for sustainability, authenticity, and transparency and gives a lot of weight to recommendations by micro influencers, says a blog post by AMA New Jersey.
3. Pandemic: This has led to higher expectations of convenience, customer support and value-added offerings.
How to Understand Customer Behavior
There is a need for companies to align their offering and marketing campaigns to the prevailing consumer behavior. The first step is understanding the behavior. Here are a few ways to do that:
Collate consumer insight: You could use analytics offered by most social media platforms, like Facebook audience analytics. This gives you access to information ranging from their age and gender to their relationship status, lifestyle, and jobs. You could also use Google analytics to gain insight into the traffic to your website.
Find out what consumers are interested in: You can get a glimpse into how your target audience thinks and feels with tools that check comments on social media and classify them according to certain attributes. Check out Google Trends to know what they are talking about.
Ask your existing and potential customers: Consider conducting surveys to find out more about your target customers. It is easy to set up and distribute questionnaires via Google Surveys.
How to Alter Customer Behavior
You can either take a passive approach, adapting your offering and marketing campaign to the prevailing customer behavior, or take an active approach, shaping the customer behavior to your offers. The best strategy is a mix of both. So, how can you shape customer behavior?
Take advantage of new circumstances: The pandemic led to unprecedented circumstances. Companies that created new experiences could shape customer behavior in their favor. For instance, some stores offered curbside pickup services and customers adapted their shopping habits accordingly.
New products: New and innovative products have the power to shape customer habits, says a McKinsey report. No one needed more than 100 songs stored in a device until Apple launched the iPod. Today, listening to music on such devices has become a consumer habit.
New experiences: Live chats and, more recently, AI-based chatbots are now widely used by websites to connect with their audience. People have gotten used to asking questions about product features and getting delivery updates from these tools.
Communication: This is by far the strongest way to alter consumer behavior. Communicating and educating consumers through your website, blog, social media profiles, webinars, and emailers can influence buying behavior to your advantage.
In shaping customer behavior, subconscious drivers play an important role, says an article published by Forbes. These drivers can be influenced by making strong brand building an integral part of your marketing campaigns.
Author: Matt Gorzynski