Consumer Culture: Online Influence & How It Affects Your Business Sales Pt.1
Since the introduction of e-commerce, consumer culture has slowly shifted towards a high level of research due to the availability of endless information throughout the entire purchasing process, creating a complex situation for businesses trying to adapt. This slow shift sped up dramatically with the popularity of mobile devices. Now, even with brick and mortar retail sales, the customer can price match and read customer reviews which directly affect their decision making process. With the ever growing availability of information to consumers, it’s vital that your product or service is properly represented online in order to close sales without losing your customers to competitors. In part one of this two part series, we’ll look at the process of buying a product for a customer in 2016.
The main aspect of the consumer decision making process which we need to focus on is the research stage. Consumers used to have limited resources, usually limited to flicking through a few catalogues and making a decision. This has dramatically shifted with international stores available at the consumers fingertips on their mobile devices.
Online Reviews and How They Affect Your Business
When researching a product or service online, consumers will often search for reviews and feedback from previous customers to see if the product is right for them. These review sites are quite popular with consumers and give your business a local SEO boost while providing more information to your potential customers.
With 86% of consumers making decisions based on negative reviews, it’s vital that you read through your reviews and most importantly your competitors reviews to find what your customers are looking for in your product and how they feel about you and your competitors. It’s like running a focus group, judge their experiences and reactions and shape your service or product to meet their expectations.
Your main focus should be on your Facebook page, as once you find your audience you can market to them specifically using Facebook’s advanced audience settings with your boosted content. As well as Facebook, look at your Yelp! rating as well as any relevant directory to your industry, e.g. Zomato for hospitality.
Make Yourself Easily Found Online
This is where a strong SEO strategy comes into play. By seeking online advertising services that can allow you to rank well for your desired keywords, you are putting yourself infront of potential customers. Sites to be aware of apart from Google include: Yelp, Bing, Foursquare, Facebook, and Yahoo which are all popular with consumers looking for product information.
If you decide on implementing an SEO strategy, you should consider a Microsite(link) which has your basic business information, optimised to rank for your keywords. There you can highlight your strengths and direct potential customers to positive reviews and give more information about your product or service.
Stay On Top Of Your Competitors
If customers are looking through your reviews when trying to make a decision, then they are looking at your competitors as well. They can only go with the information that they’re give, so if your site has a lower rating or worse reviews they will lean to your competitors.
It’s common to have the odd negative review although it’s vital to not ignore these reviews. Try and communicate with the unhappy customer and find the issue with an attitude to resolve it. At this point your online reputation is all you have to convince a future customer that you are right for them, so be sure to deal with negativity professionally, always seeking for a positive outcome.
Reviews used to be just one of many factors when it comes to a consumer’s decision. Although, with sites like Facebook, Google Business and Yelp! having tremendous SEO capabilities, many consumers are getting the first look at a business through theses outlets as they have all of the information they need in one place and from third party sources which are likely to trust in comparison to the business itself.
How Mobile Devices Have Changed The Way We Buy
Mobile devices have completely shifted the way that consumers buy products. Now instead of physically going to multiple stores to find and compare prices for a certain product, consumers can now conduct simple searches on their device to price match even when they are in the store. A consumer may see a television in JB-HIFI for $600 and after googling the model, find a cheaper price advertised online or at another brick and mortar store.
This exposure to information now forces a large amount of competition. By having an online store for your products or a price guide for your services, you allow your customers to compare you to your competitors.
It’s vital that when you are building your online presence that you optimise your microsite to be responsive to mobile devices as many consumers will be researching your product on the go, or even in a competitor’s store! While apps like Facebook and Yelp! are optimised for mobile devices, your own site may look unprofessional and turn a customer away.
Be sure that if you invest in online advertising that you ensure your agency specialises in mobile responsive websites that are extremely user friendly with a clear Call To Action button to connect your customers to you as soon as possible.
Of course all consumers are different, making it even more important to research your reviews and mentions on directories and social media outlets to find your exact audience and how they use the internet.
In the next part to this article, we continue with consumer culture and go through the direct processes in which you should take as a business owner in Australia to be a part of their decision making process and have the best chance of making sales in a highly competitive market.