This article was produced in collaboration with Business Insider Australia
Today’s consumer is more researched, knowledgeable and better-informed about products and services than ever before.
Information transparency and the ability for the customer to do their own research has led to a shift of knowledge from seller to buyer with many companies having to adapt their business models in order to stay up-to-date with the needs of these prospective customers.
This change in consumer behaviour has led to an increased emphasis on personalising the client’s experience during the sales process, increased feedback channels and taking advantage of customer data to identify emerging trends within the existing customer base and industry as a whole.
We spoke to some key executives from business-to-business organisations through to the retail industry to see how businesses will be changing their strategy and buying process to accommodate for this emerging group of well-educated consumers.
Here’s what they had to say.
Curate valuable content for clients
Despite customers reading up on products and services more than ever, Fred Schebesta, co-founder and director at finder.com.au, argues there is still “an absolute cesspool of junk information they have to wade through” and that companies should adopt modern marketing strategies in order to “provide a contoured, uniquely-fitting service for each client”.
“This isn’t exactly hard to do either, you just have to target the right types of user data to then incorporate into your marketing,” he says.
“For example, where do the majority of your email sign-ups happen on site? Something about that page must be captivating your audience enough that they are sticking around and want to hear from you later.
“Further, what were the pages further up their clickstream? If a rush of people to a page is an indicator of good content, a consistent origin pattern shows why they needed your content in the first place. Once you know those two things, how do you tailor your existing efforts to suit those readers?”
Personalise the experience
Providing customers with the necessary information isn’t enough to get businesses across the line — they also needs to personalise it.
“Your customers aren’t a database, or a target market, or a demographic, they’re people. Individuals. Like me. Like you. And you have to treat everyone as individuals. You have to personalise someone’s experience,” says Andre Eikmeier, co-founder and joint CEO of Vinomofo.
“With Vinomofo, we want to be as relevant and useful to our members as we can be. So when someone joins the ‘Fo, we find out what kinds of wines our mofos like, and then we offer them those kinds of wines. That’s our starting point, and from there we try to take people on an adventure to broaden their wine experience.
“We do this with a team of personal brokers, who literally ring up and ask our customers what they like to drink, and a recommendation engine that matches customer data from an individual (preferences, purchase behaviour, etc.) with product attributes (variety, price, region, style, etc.).
“The tech is one side of this, but really it has to start as a value of your business. Be human.”
Adopt a soft-selling approach
While traditional marketing strategies have relied on inundating clients with as much information as possible and being aggressive on the selling front, Gary Tramer, co-founder of LeadChat says that a soft-selling approach can be more effective in delivering valuable information to customers.
“We all subscribe to a soft-selling approach. Our sales execs are trained to, as best they can, provide unbiased information to help prospective customers – even, and especially when there isn’t a good fit for our service.
“Our mantra is, would the customer have been willing to pay $100 for the advice given in that call? If the answer is no, you didn’t do your job.”
By actually informing and educating potential clients during the buying process, businesses are able to make the experience more “about you” — which could further lead to increased customer loyalty.
Listen to feedback
Listening to customer feedback and opening up new channels of conversation between buyers and sellers can be one of the most valuable ways a company can respond accordingly to consumer needs.
“Listen. The number one thing any company can do is to listen to their customers,” says Andy Crawley, co-founder and Director at Jack Media. “They will tell you want them want and are happy with and how you can improve.
“Ask your best clients for criticism. None of us are perfect and criticism is the only way to improve.”
Similarly, Kate Morris, founder of Adore Beauty, says that it’s important to be “receptive to feedback all the time” and that it’s not enough to settle with a survey once per year.
“We’ve had very good results in the past just from sending our best customers a personal email, presenting them with a new idea, and asking them to let us know what they think. We did this before redesigning our website and it was immensely valuable. I was amazed by how willing our customers were to provide comprehensive and well-considered feedback,” she says.
“Make sure you have as many feedback channels open as you can – social media is great for this – and be responsive.”
But it’s not enough to simply listen according to Gen George, founder of OneShift. She says there’s no point unless companies are willing to act upon customer feedback.
“OneShift uses analytics and user feedback to continuously tighten what is, essentially, the “buying journey” for getting into work or getting talent,” she says.
“We have changed our pricing model not 1, not 2, but maybe 10 times based off of feedback from users about the market and what their experience is on the site. We have also altered features that are available based on what is expected or what is new in the market.”
Stay ahead of the curve
In order for companies to stay updated and responsive to the needs of well-researched customers, George says it’s critical for businesses to stay ahead of the curve and be on the lookout for emerging markets and growing trends in their customer base.
She says that trends should not just be limited to one department in business but should also encompass “social media to user experience to development”.
“Another means is taking a look at other industries; look at what is working and what customers are looking for. It’s a way of seeing if we can take any crazy ideas from one business and replicate it in an innovative way in our own industry,” she says.
Similarly, Dean Ramler, co-founder & CEO, Milan Direct, ensures that the company site is regularly maintained to reflect the latest content on new product additions, collections, sales and events.
“We have a strong internal focus on staying on top of trends and keeping our furniture ranges updated, which ensures our customers keep coming back year after year,” he says.
Above all, embrace transparency of information
While the rise in information transparency has raised concerns about shifting the authority from sellers to buyers and increased price comparison, it is important for businesses to embrace it rather than view it as a threat.
“The key to business today is transparency. You have to be open – with your team, your suppliers and your customers. You have to listen to them, and you have to learn what they want, what they need,” says Eikmeier.
“People aren’t stupid. They know enough about businesses and advertising to know they’re being sold to. They know you’re trying to make a profit. And that’s okay, we can all operate under that premise, but you have to treat people with respect.”
Overall, George maintains that information transparency and well-informed customers are ultimately ideal for businesses.
“They cut out the middle man (essentially the ‘how to’ manual), and make the whole buying and selling process considerably easier for both parties. These customers already have the foundations covered of what your product or service is, which makes communicating with them a whole lot easier, and speeds up the buying-selling action,” she says.