In pre-digital days, face-to-face interaction ruled customer service, and businesses could close their doors at 17:30pm. Now, your customer has a 24/7 connec-tion to your business; and e-commerce and social media mean the average business needs to be al-ways-on.
Such tech-empowered customers are powerful. They’re conscious about what’s happening in the marketplace, and how your brand values fit with their own. The most innovative businesses are those that understand and actively engage with this omnipresent customer base. In a digital space that’s full of noise, such connections can be powerful enough to make or break a business.
Consumer trends online
The ‘Internet of Me’
Privacy isn’t the first thing you’d associate with the internet, especially for the generations who have grown up on devices from a young age. They’re used to sharing data freely, but what they’re not willing to give up, is control of how it’s used. It’s one thing updating three social media plat-forms with holiday pictures or a video from a birthday, but when personal data and viewing habits are sneakily taken in the background from devices and websites, it’s something completely differ-ent.
In an age of big data, it’s clear that consumers are fed up of being exploited by dodgy data collec-tion practices. New cookie laws and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are making strides in protecting consumers from unscrupulous businesses, which, in turn, is making it harder for all businesses to gain trust online. People are waking up to the fact that their data is worth something, which has seen a shift in the traditional customer/business power balance. Companies like Digi.me are empowering consumers with the tools they need to understand and control their own digital footprint and how it’s shared with businesses.
So what does this mean for you? Smart businesses have been transparent about the exchange of products and services for data. For example, apps and newspapers often allow free access in ex-change for the data on a social media log-in. While it’s not a perfect system, it’s creating a more transactional, equal relationship between suppliers and consumers.
Going forward, the biggest winners in establishing balance and data best practice will be the busi-nesses who are fully GDPR compliant. A transparent and user-friendly approach to data collection will help to create trust.
Digital payments and the automated social experience
One of the key disruptive changes to payment methods took place in 1999, when Ericsson and Telenor Mobil allowed customers to buy movie tickets from their mobiles. Nearly twenty years later, using a smartphone as a contactless payment device is fast becoming standard practice. If you’re not offering physical payment options like this, then you’ll potentially lose out on customers. Adding physical payment options through a mobile device gives you a final touchpoint in a mobile payment buying cycle.
It’s also important to remember that customers aren’t just using their mobile to pay in-store - they’re also doing their online shopping on them. While apps play a part in this, having a website that’s optimised for mobile means people have an easier browsing experience and don’t face barriers when purchasing. This might sound obvious, but the average basket abandonment rate is 69.23%, so anything you can do to encourage browsers to continue that journey will help push the odds of pur-chase in your favour.
Additionally, social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp are integrating e-commerce and money transfer options into their services - probably after seeing their popularity in Chinese coun-terparts, WeChat and Kakao Talk. It’s estimated that as many as 3.6 billion people could be registered on at least one messaging app by 2018, which shows the potential of investing in outreach to this audience. One of the easiest ways to jump on this trend is to boost your customer service team with chatbots. Some businesses have even started offering customised experiences, particularly in the travel industry, with messaging apps providing access to itineraries and boarding passes.
You might have the best product in the world, but if no one knows about it, your sales will stay low. But if you tap into the power of social media communities, you can find people to talk about your product for you. 81% of online shoppers look to reviews and ratings from other customers to inform their purchasing decisions - and 64% watch reviews of videos from other users. So when someone other than a brand talks about a product, there’s an extra level of authenticity, which creates trust.
This also manifests in influencer marketing. Influencers with millions of Instagram followers rou-tinely charge thousands of pounds to promote anything from fitness equipment to food and drink. But it becomes harder to form a relationship built on trust when an influencer has that many follow-ers – the level of interaction and engagement between influencer and followers is significantly low-er. Micro influencers might have a fraction of the followers, but they have more often cultivated trust and engagement in their niche. Specialist knowledge and a human connection could be exactly the sort of boost your business needs.
Try searching your current social media following to look for people who consistently engage or par-ticipate in the community on your pages. Forming a relationship with these individuals and thinking about how you can boost their profile could be a way to tap into their position as a digital authority. Failing that, find one in your sector by researching relevant hashtags and online communities. Tools like Buzzsumo, Klear and Ninja Outreach provide free tools that find influencers based on specific keywords.
The future of the consumer
The key takeaway from a world of tech-empowered consumers is that people are tired of being tak-en for granted by unscrupulous sellers and marketers. By providing a safe, reliable and trustworthy space on the internet, your small business could become something that cuts through thousands of inefficient and unsafe ecommerce experiences. So give your business a human touch - that’s what gets people engaged and excited.