What do I mean by the empowered user?
For the first time in the history of buying and selling…consumers, clients, customers, buyers…whatever you want to label them…are in the driver’s seat. You might be wondering why that’s news…after all they have always been the decision-makers, right? It’s their gold until they choose to part with it.
And you’re right. The choice to purchase has always been the right of the consumer. But they have other rights now.
The first significant shift: the consumer has access to information.
Last year, The Encyclopedia Britannica went out of print after 244 years of published word. Why? The instant, simple, and lightning-speed Internet (okay and Google…let’s be honest) means every question, every query, every inclination can be answered in about 0.21 seconds. I just Googled “inclination” and that’s how long it took to pull up 21 million results...
This means that the power to view opinions, comparisons, and the “all-hail” reviews have changed the way we perceive and yes, purchase, a product. According to Google’s Zero Moment of Truth, 70% of customers are looking up reviews prior to purchase. This is not exclusive to big-ticket items like cars and computers.
Everything from pencils to carpet cleaner to hand lotion makes search engines hum millions of times per day. Essentially, consumers are pre-shopping online.
What does this mean for companies? Big and small businesses must be there to engage with the customer. If they don’t, their competitors will and online presence can become a competitive advantage or a disastrous weakness. Access to information is a powerful thing.
The second shift: the consumer has a voice.
“The days of controlling the message are absolutely over. At best you’ll be invited in and you’ll get to co-create and participate with consumers.” – Wendy Clark, Senior Vice President, Integrated Marketing Communications and Capabilities, Coca-Cola
Customers now decide what makes a great brand. Reviews, blogs, forums, personal sites, and social media empower the consumer to speak out, to share information (good or bad, true or false) about their experience with a company. The days of one-way ads are far behind us and companies are finally starting to realize it.
What can we take away from this “empowered user” shift? If the consumer, let’s call her Jane, is in the driver’s seat, then we better be a passenger. We better be there to converse with Jane, help her navigate, help her feel safe, give her ideas…we better give Jane value as she is making her decision to buy.
It’s sad that many businesses are falling behind because they don’t get this. Rather than taking a seat next to Jane and engaging with her wherever she goes online…companies are setting up on the side of the road with big flashy signs (aka. banner ads, pop-ups, and discounts clogging up her Facebook newsfeed). Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for these messages, but they must be one piece in the entire strategy.
Speaking of strategy, tune in next week for the essentials of online content strategy…
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