Brands today have to compete more fiercely than ever for consumers’ attention.
When silencing a brand is as easy as scrolling past their ads or unfollowing them on Facebook, connected consumers wield an almost god-like power in the relationship between business and consumer.
In a sense, brands are no longer in the driver’s seat. Among the seemingly thousands of brands someone comes into contact with in a single day, it’s the consumer who’s deciding which ones they'll give a five-second glance.
As the head of a digital marketing agency, it’s my job to know how a brand can up its chances of standing out. And one thing is for certain: If you’re simply following the trends, you’re already too late.
In this day and age, it’s more important than ever for brands to anticipate what the consumer wants and lead the way in giving it to them.
Over the years, I’ve paid attention to the habits that successful brand trendsetters share. Here are three of the most important:
They understand the connected consumer.
It’s not just about stereotypes; it’s about empathy. At my company, we put together four key paradoxes that define the connected consumer to help brands “get it.” These paradoxes show the connected consumer is:
• "Independent, yet interconnected."
• "Digitally native, yet highly hands-on."
• "Idealistic, yet discriminating."
• "God-like, yet also all too human."
As you can see, they’re a study in contradictions — contradictions that tend to produce very specific (and problematic) gaps in the modern purchase journey. This is reflected in Salesforce's 2019 State of the Connected Consumer report (registration required), which found, for example, that while customers expect to follow a fragmented purchase journey, choosing different channels as needed, they also expect a seamless, connected customer experience based on their past interactions with the brand.
The great news is that you can successfully turn these gaps into powerful opportunities for catapulting your brand to the forefront of its industry.
Consider the “independent, yet interconnected” paradox. We arrived at this conclusion after noticing that many of our survey respondents reported spending a huge amount of time researching product options prior to a purchase; they were relying far more on their own insights than on a brand’s claims.
A study by SurveyMonkey (registration required) underscores these findings: 82 percent of people trust recommendations and online reviews over a brand's copy. And nearly 90 percent of consumers read online reviews before making a decision, a 2018 survey by BrightLocal found.
What does this mean for your brand? What we found is that consumers wanted an easier way to pull all that information together and would go to great lengths to do so on their own. They went so far as to create detailed spreadsheets and elaborate side-by-side image compilations for the purpose of comparing and contrasting product features and benefits.
Consumers are clearly doing quite a bit of “heavy lifting” to close this gap in the purchase journey, and it behooves brands to beat them to the punch. Overcome this gap by giving customers an easy, customizable way to curate and compare products and reviews, and easily save this information.
They know the difference between true innovation and mere novelty, and that what works for one brand might not work for another.
I've also observed consumers are looking for a bridge between their online and offline worlds. This presents a powerful opportunity for brands to close another gap that often exists between digital space and a physical retail place; they can essentially leverage technology in the service of the overall customer experience.
This is a growing trend among leading retail brands, as Deloitte Digital's "connected store" offerings illustrate. The goal of the connected store is to create an omnichannel digital shopping experience within a physical location.
The tricky part, however, is determining which technology will best serve this aim. For example, does your restaurant brand really need a chatbot, or would it make more sense to invest in a tableside ordering app that would give you competitive insight into your customer journey? Will augmented reality actually help you sell more shoes, or is it just a shiny new toy?
While there are many technological advancements that can potentially give your brand a boost, it makes far more sense to devote time to researching which technology will create the greatest results for your customers — and how you can use it to do that.
If you can go that extra mile by using available tech to create something unique and valuable, you won’t be bogged down by trying to outdo others. You’ll be the one leading the way.
They’re compulsive listeners and methodical observers.
It’s remarkable to me how many brands think they know what their customers want, yet have never actually asked them. We all know that failing to question our assumptions means we’re asking for trouble, but that’s what many brands are doing every day.
And while it’s true that there’s an incredible amount of data available on everything from a customer’s purchase history to how long they spend on a particular page of a website, data alone is simply no substitute for a real conversation with the people you want to serve. This is because, on its own, data gives us only the "what," not the "why." Even if you know, for example, that 1,000 people have clicked on your ad, if you don’t why, the numbers will only get you so far.
Talk to your customers, whether that’s on the phone, through surveys or face to face. That’s how you move away from following everyone else’s trends to creating a product, service or experience they’ll love.
Creating trends in today’s crowded marketplace is challenging — but absolutely doable. By becoming aware of the gaps in connected consumers’ purchase journeys, you can successfully turn problems into powerful opportunities for leading the conversation, breaking new ground and growing your brand.