The age of the seller has long since came and went. What I’m talking about here is the massive shift that’s happened in the marketplace now that the Internet age is well into its adolescence.
Big corporations, like cable and satellite companies, no longer have consumers in a stranglehold they cannot get out of. Consider Netflix and all the private streaming services that exist now. Same goes for small niche specialty businesses – there’s always someone “down the street” offering exactly what you do, and doing it better!
It’s very hard to offer exclusive products and services that customers can’t just as easily and affordably source from a competitor. Massive competition has bred a new class of consumer – one with numerous choices as to where and with whom they’ll spend their hard-earned money with.
The age of the consumer is well underway
The only thing that makes you desirable in this day and age is how customers feel about doing business with you prior to making a purchase decision – and how they feel about you after they do business with you for the first time!
Make your customers feel valued and most important; happy with your service, and they’re much more likely to be loyal. However, loyalty is rarely guaranteed in the age of the consumer.
Product exclusivity is no more
In the age of mobile technology and social-media-driven consumerism, your ideal customer has more options than are possible to research and explore. It’s rare to find a business on Main Street that doesn’t have a competitor within walking distance. Forget about all the options available online for researching and sourcing specific products and services.
A simple Google search gives customers access to reviews of your business, and allows them to do side-by-side comparisons of your offering next to the competition. The good ole days are gone, consumers are no longer obliged to choosing based on price, product, and availability.
Consumers don’t have to sacrifice overall quality, features, or product support because of their geographic location or income level – the Internet is everywhere and shipping options are limitless.
Consider the Dollar Shave Club and the business they’re stealing from traditional manufactures who make premium razors. They can offer comparable shaving tools and accessories to customers at a fraction of the price, and deliver them right to the consumer’s door, and offer legendary support. The company is killing their competition on all fronts.
A few years ago, a customer would have had to buy generic, low-quality knockoffs if they couldn’t afford or even locate a Gillette Fusion with 5 blades. Now DSC and others make it possible for everyone to have such products.
You need to get and stay front and center on consumer’s minds
The minute a customer finishes doing business with you, they’re immediately inundated with offers from the competition. When they go online and visit ad-driven websites or check their emails; when they walk down the street and see ads everywhere; when they read their favorite offline publications, etc.
It’s not enough to offer the best value anymore. There’s too much noise in the commerce space, they’ll forget you even exist within a week in most cases. Companies wishing to gain customers and maintain their client pool need to use a three-pronged approach to stay on the mind’s of consumers:
- Maintain an online shop where customers can view all your products and make a purchase if they wish. No online presence means you’re stuck waiting for walk-in traffic. That’s if you even have a brick and mortar presence.
- Blogs and social accounts mean customers have a reason to think about you even when they aren’t in a purchasing mood – making it hard for them to forget about you when the mood strikes again for your product or service.
- Keeping a list and reaching out to customers via emails and newsletters has never been more important. Be respectful and don’t hammer them with CTAs all the time. Use this segmentation principle to avoid annoying your customers with information and offers that aren’t relevant to them.
Service is the real differentiator
While we’re dealing with a completely new breed of technology-driven consumers, old-fashioned customer service values have never went out of style in the marketplace.
Customers still want to feel like they’re walking into Sam Malone’s fictional bar. Most of you will remember the show and hearing “Norm” shouted by everyone whenever the character entered the bar where “everybody knows your name.”
Remember these three timeless tips for offering service that will keep customers coming back time and again:
- Always refer to customers by name in all your interactions – in person and online. Use names often.
- Always stay cheerful when delivering a message – smile often during in-person interactions.
- Always say thanks. You can’t do this too much when it comes to customer service aimed at encouraging loyalty.
Never forget: Your company is always replaceable!
Whether you’re selling razors online or running the most popular bar in the city, you’re always replaceable. Customers have options and you don’t have the luxury of blaming them if they decide to go elsewhere. All the work falls on you and your team to do whatever it takes to make sure they make their next purchase with you when they need what you offer.
The age of the consumer has arrived? Whether you survive this current revolution depends on your ability to trump conventions and rise to the occasion.