Keep your finger on the pulse of emerging trends to avoid disappointed customers who are expecting an experience targeted to their evolving demands.
Think things are moving quickly? The pace of change today is the slowest it’ll ever be, experts say. If that’s frightening, knowing you’re prepared for the future customer should put you at ease. As technology advances, disrupting industries, you can’t afford to sit the revolution out – regardless of the size of your company. Put consumer needs first and you’ll be equipped for a world where new technologies are constantly created.
“Businesses need to think more like tech companies, using AI and machine learning not just to predict how to stock stores and staff shifts but also to dynamically recommend products and set prices that appeal to individual consumers.” – Amit Sharma, founder and CEO of Narvar, and former executive at Apple and Walmart.
You cannot keep the consumer from evolving as long as technology keeps advancing. But note the change in buying, interaction and other behavioural patterns, and you’ll be the top customer-pleaser industry-wide. To keep up with, and even get ahead of, the evolving customer, there are a few things you must realise:
Consumers aren’t seeing your ads
Research from the Interactive Advertising Bureau found that 26% of desktop users and 15% of mobile consumers use ad-blockers.
While this isn’t the highest percentage in recent years, these numbers signal the need for ads to become more interactive, engaging and wittier than ever. If you’re not ticking these boxes, consumers will eventually find a way to tune out marketing messages, rendering your efforts futile.
The key to optimising your advertising content and appeal to a market that gets to pick and choose their interruptions and pop ups? Get closer to their target audience. Not only will it enable optimisation of your content, but you’ll also be capitalising on the channels they use – like social media apps on their phones.
“Apps are immune from ad-blocking because they don’t work with third-party sources to display an ad,” says Matt Adkisson, president of content compensation company Sourcepoint. “Everything is handled in-house.”
Your ecommerce offering is under scrutiny
More consumers expect companies to offer free and same-day shipping, free returns and exchanges, and easier online returns.
An annual study from the PR firm Walker Sands, found that consumer expectations for seamless shipping, delivery and returns have increased in the past three years. “Retailers must now improve the end-to-end customer experience,” says Dave Parro, vice president and partner at the company. “The priority for retailers no longer lies in increasing the number of consumers who shop online, but rather improving their experience – whether it be online, in store or across different product categories.”
Understanding the entire buying journey, including what happens after the purchase, paves the way for a frictionless customer lifecycle. This can be achieved by focusing on a consistent omnichannel retail experience.
The digital revolution has provided customers with a far greater knowledge of products and services, meaning that you’re no longer in control of what product knowledge information is handed to consumers. Your customers – current and potential – are able to access information and opinions within seconds, providing them with enough facts to make informed purchase decisions.
Faster, intelligent service a prerequisite
Big data has revolutionised how you see customers. Because smart devices – and your competition – can tell where they are, what they need and where to next. Sometimes without them even knowing themselves. You’re no longer at an advantage if you’re doing this too. You just have to be better at it. Are you customising your customers’ experience to their satisfaction?
“Many of us are inclined to share personal information for experiences that are magical and valuable – and that we can’t get elsewhere,” notes Amit Sharma, founder and CEO of Narvar, and former executive at Apple and Walmart. “Retailers will need to create experiences that make this magic and value apparent. The revolution is already under way.”
As soon as tomorrow, consumers will be expecting even faster and more intelligent service than you’ve ever been able to provide. It won’t be long before the expectation shifts from on-demand to predictive commerce.
More than 200 million users have embraced Google Photos, thanks to its image-recognition and AI capabilities – that can also curate images into movie montages, animations, and collages – across hard drives and devices, as well as closet shoeboxes, thanks to the PhotoScan app.
AI comes standard
For a consumer who can call an Uber with Siri and book a flight entirely through a Facebook Messenger bot, struggling to connect to your site or app isn’t just a problem, it’s a reason to take their business elsewhere.
“Commerce is already becoming less of a deliberate activity than an organic part of how we experience daily life,” notes Sharma. “By connecting data from multiple sources and designing for the user, retailers can create more relevant experiences that pull you into a store, website, or app.”
The pinnacle of responsive retail has been reached and customers are looking for something more than getting what they want, where and when they want it. To capitalise on this shift will require you to devise experiences that combine an understanding of human behaviour with large-scale automation and data integration.
“Because change is the only constant in today’s environment, your customers expect you to respond to their spoken and unspoken needs,” says Robert Wollan, Global Managing Director of Accenture’s Management Consulting Division. Your ability to innovate in proportion to customers’ specific needs is key in attracting and retaining today’s customers.
Before you embark on developing a new strategy to appeal to the customer of the future – both current and prospective, ask yourself these key questions: