Strategy

Your customers are changing, but are you staying the same?

Gihan Perera /

In the early days of e-commerce and online shopping, businesses were asking the question: How can we make our website customer experience as good as the ‘real world’ experience?

Now it’s exactly the other way around. In the world of smartphones, social media, free shipping, online reviews, and a global marketplace, businesses are now facing the opposite challenge: how can you make your in-person experience as good as the online experience?

The fact is, your customers have changed. The question is: have you?

Here are three key things customers do differently now.

1. They do more online research

Their buying journey doesn’t start with you. In fact, you might be one of the last steps on the journey, after they have researched, reviewed, filtered, and finally narrowed it down to their shortlist. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that most customers (81%, according to SupplyChainBrain) now start their product search online.

And just because they reach you, don’t assume they are a captive market. Yes Marketing suggests 57% of customers use their smartphones in store to continue researching the products they want to buy.

This means that investing in your online experience — and more specifically, your mobile online experience — is a must. This will pay off, not just by keeping up with the competition, but by increasing loyalty, as research by Google suggests frequent mobile shoppers spend 25% more in stores.

2. They want to try before they buy

Augmented reality (AR) — where digital information is overlaid on the physical world — is playing a bigger role in the shopping experience. IKEA was a pioneer in this space, with its phone app allowing customers to ‘project’ IKEA furniture into their homes so they could see how it would fit in. Similarly, Sephora uses AR to help customers digitally ‘try on’ make-up in their stores.

AR is not yet mainstream, but that’s all the more reason to invest in it now because its novelty will attract customers. Besides, it might not be as far away as you think. According to Digital Bridge, nearly 70% of consumers expect retailers to launch an AR app soon, so it could be a very effective way to stay ahead of the game.

3. They want the personal touch again

In the ‘good old days’, the owner of the corner store knew all his customers by name and knew their quirks, preferences, and buying behaviour. Big data, AI and predictive analytics are bringing that kind of personalisation back into the customer experience — and your customers value that personal touch. Deloitte research suggests over half of consumers like personalised products and services, and one in four will pay more for them.

This kind of service relies on collecting personal data (that’s why Facebook is so powerful because its algorithms know so much about your life). But customers — particularly younger customers — are more willing than ever to disclose that personal data. Research from both Accenture and Salesforce suggests 55-60% of customers will share personal data in exchange for rewards or exclusive deals.

Whatever you’re doing to collect personal data from your customers, do even more. Even if it costs money now, it’s an invaluable investment in your future customer relationships.

Invest in your future customer

The best businesses have always understood their customer’s journey and created superior experiences at every touchpoint. But don’t forget that your customers have changed, so their customer journey has changed.

To stay ahead of the game, invest in your future customer’s journey, and you’ll be investing in your future as well.

NOW READ: Are you delusional? If you are relying on customer feedback, prepare to be misled

NOW READ: The IKEA effect: Consumers value the fruits of their labour over instant gratification

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Gihan Perera

Gihan Perera is a business futurist, speaker, and author who works with business leaders to help them lead and succeed in an uncertain but exciting future.

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