I still remember the first time I bought a car—well, technically I wasn’t buying, but I tagged along when my dad went to buy his.
I couldn’t have been more than 12 years old. I was following my father closely as we walked onto the car lot, and it wasn’t too long until we had a salesman by our side telling us the features of the first car my father laid eyes on.
My dad didn’t really know which car he was getting; he wanted to explore his options.
We went from the wagons through the sedans and finally to the SUVs. After walking through the lot, my dad finally decided on the boxy red Jeep Cherokee.
That little SUV was the car in which we went on countless road trips, and where I learned how to drive.
Ah, the good old days.
When 2016 started, I found myself in need of a new car. The “ol’ reliable” had finally broken down, and the repair expenses were going to be higher than the actual value of the car. I had some idea of what was out there and knew I wanted a safe and reliable—but still sporty—gas saver. So I started to do some research.
A Ford Mustang? American sports car, expensive, but not really a gas saver. Volkswagen Passat? German engineering, reliable, a bit expensive, and a gas saver, but not really sporty. Honda Civic? Japanese craftsmanship, sporty, gas saver, reliable, and at an affordable price. Done.
I did my homework, went to the dealership knowing what I wanted, and did not let the car salesman upsell me something I didn’t.
I was able to learn everything from at least three brands, all from the comfort of my own home, through my phone and laptop. I no longer needed to go through every car in the lot; I had already narrowed down my options.
How The Internet Has Changed the World
The internet has turned the ways consumers engage with their favorite brands upside down. Or should I say, the way consumers go through the purchasing process? I’ll explain. The internet is transforming the economics of marketing and pushing many of the traditional strategies into obsoletion. As marketers, we know that the good ol’ way of doing business is no longer sustainable.
Think about this: Not that long ago, a car buyer would methodically narrow down his available choices with the car salesman, until he arrived at the one that best met his expectations. The salesman would finally reel him in and close the sale.
The buyer’s relationship with both the salesman and the car company usually ended after the purchase.
But today, consumers are able to connect with hundreds, if not thousands, of options and brands through new channels that are beyond the manufacturer’s and retailer’s control, and sometimes even beyond their knowledge. Consumers now analyze, list, and shift between brands, having access to a larger number of options before before finally narrowing them down.
Customers currently play a big role in the branding process of a product; they are challenging and shaping the meaning of a brand. After a purchase, these consumers can now remain actively engaged, publicly promoting or shaming the products they’ve bought.
Something that will never change is the fact that consumers will always want a clear brand promise and a proposition that they can value.
What has changed is the when and where consumers are most open to hear about your business, and how you can interact with them at these points.
There are Endless Channels Available to Send Your Message
When the way we communicate changes, marketing strategies must change accordingly. If you try to use traditional marketing techniques in today’s world, you will soon realize these are obsolete and ineffective. The reason is simple: customers have changed and their purchasing behavior has changed. Even when they are physically in a store, they go online to compare products and read reviews.
Another aspect that needs emphasis is the fact that 49% of consumers like a business’s Facebook page just to support the brand, according to Sprout Social. This literally means that customers are willing to go out of their way to follow their favorite businesses and brands, and endorse their products or services, sometimes without any type of incentive. This is all a way they get to share their interests and lifestyle with others, and these are the ambassadors you want for your business.
A conventional ad is no longer viable. You have to get creative
Only in this day and age have businesses found themselves needing to give so much to prospective customers simply to stand a chance of getting a conversion.
The places for brand visibility and customer outreach in this new digital world are shifting from billboards to the positions at which the brands appear in search engine ranking pages, organic results, as well as paid visibility, not to mention the overall brand presence in social media.
The information age has changed everything about the way businesses market themselves. It has revolutionized the reach of small businesses, and at the same time is demanding more from already established businesses. While many people complain about this new world, I like to see it as a world of opportunity.
Online marketing, for example, tends to be better targeted. You’re only paying to reach the people who actually have an interest in what you’re selling, so you know you’re getting results.
With increased marketing intelligence and insights into consumer behaviour, marketers and brand managers today are able to target their communication with an extremely high degree of precision. This ability to accurately target their messages has changed the way marketers look at advertising, forever.
Has your business adopted the new ways of advertising in the digital age?