Have you noticed that customers are harder to please? Whether they want faster answers or demand unique, customized experiences, it feels like a power shift has occurred.
We are in the Age of the Customer. A combination of mobile empowerment, speed, payment, and information choices has changed customer shopping trends and expectations to the point where the customer experience is now the focus—placing customers at the center of the transaction.
In the past, customers learned about a product or service from awareness advertising or company-generated information they had to seek out. Eventually, their search led them to a retail or other physical location where information was provided by a salesperson or other representative who controlled the message. The process typically ended with the customer purchasing their product/service on premises.
Even in the 1990’s, at the height of the Age of Information, customers still had to visit business or retail websites to track down information and research their purchases.
One of the biggest shifts that’s led to the Age of the Customer is how customers learn about a product or service. Customers now get information from a multitude of new sources that influence their buying decisions. Research has shown that today’s customers are more than 70% through their decision-making process before engaging with sales. That significantly impedes a company’s control of messaging about their product or service.
Technology lets customers go around the walls of company-generated messaging that used to exist. They no longer require a trip to the store or a website visit. Company-generated information is no longer at the center of the transaction. Since peer opinions and 3rd party comparison sites give customers quicker ways to rule companies out of their buying decisions, company-generated content now appears biased during the research phase.
What Can You Do?
You can do a lot! Here’s why the age of the customer can be good for your company: with so many outlets of information, there are more ways to compete! Sure, businesses still need to be competitive on issues like price and quality; however, with the customer experience as the focus, it’s also possible for a quality customer experience to justify charging a premium.
Now the challenge for marketers is more complex than just visibility. Being irrelevant is now the greatest danger to companies. With information coming directly to customers, they’re just a few taps away from buying or getting anything they need. And if companies are not making sure their goods are being considered during that short window of time, they risk becoming irrelevant.
The Age of the Customer offers numerous opportunities for customers and companies. But while customers have shifted without much effort, companies have a lot of work ahead to keep up.