Telling the truth about SME life today

How to understand the way today’s consumers shop

No matter how hard a brand works on projecting itself, real success comes from understanding the factors that affect consumer behaviour at this moment, whether it’s digitally or in-store.

Technology has dramatically changed the way we shop, giving birth to a new breed of always-on, empowered shoppers who expect a memorable and meaningful shopping experience. The way they behave has changed too, shopping anytime, anywhere and through any means at their disposal.

Richard Barrett, managing director at Initials provides five practical steps to understand and influence todays shoppers.

1. Online is no longer a nice to have it’s essential to business success. Ensuring that you have made information on your product available online and in formats that are sympathetic to the devices that your customers are using is crucial.

Its not about the quantity of the content, but the quality and how it all works together so that the shopper has a relevant multi channel experience, not just the same information formatted for a different channel.

Not all businesses will want or need all-singing, all dancing websites, but they do all need relevant information to be accessible. If your brand communications is not optimised for different devices and channels, especially mobile, then you are turning away business.

2. I recently wanted to buy a new TV and was hugely frustrated because I couldnt see the connection configurations on the website. I eventually gave up and went into a store to see for myself. Online retail fail!

Sometimes as business people we can’t see the wood for the trees. Just because something makes sense to you doesnt mean thats it’s relevant to a customer. Put yourself in their shoes and look at your communications from a different angle. Better still, get an outsider to take an objective look at how you do things. Their observations may surprise you.

3. People no longer care what you say about your product, but they are passionate about what other shoppers think. They want to know what it’s like to live with a product beyond the point of transaction, so build customer review functionality into your site. This can be scary for some companies because customers are not always complimentary, but by providing a forum for peer review you can flag up good reviews and deal with poor ones. Always respond to bad reviews and look to turn the experience round. It sends a powerful message that you still care about customers after theyve parted with their cash.

4. And business isnt just about getting people to part with their money. To build a sustainable company you need to create loyalty that will bring customers back time and again.

Creating a shopping experience that provides a memorable journey to purchase can help. Whether it is in the live store environment or on-line, look to woo the purchaser. There are many low cost digital opportunities to enhance the user experience such as providing exclusive content for interested customers but look to do it before the transaction not just after it.

5. Look to build long-term relationshipsby getting customers to think about the next purchase. Not everybody will want to buy the latest model, but you can keep them onboard and interested in the developments of your brand.

There are ways of getting them involved. Wireless speaker system Sonos did this by asking customers to sign up to its Beta test of new products. Customers felt engaged with the brand and part of its journey.

They got access to cutting edge services, and were able to provide invaluable feedback to the company. It was a win-win situation for all involved.

Richard Barrett is managing director of Initials

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