It’s no secret that people are making more purchases, and purchase decisions, online. Consumer purchase behaviour is undergoing a dramatic shift that is getting more pronounced every day, and unprepared retailers are seeing declines as a result.
Over the course of the last week or so, there have been several revealing statistics released to support that consumers are not only spending more time shopping online, but that brick and mortar shopping behaviour is being influenced by digital interactions, which of course includes social media.
These changes are even more apparent coming out of Black Friday, which is typically the United States’ biggest shopping day, with consumers flocking to stores hunting, and in some cases fighting, to get a great deal in preparation for the holidays.
Defying the trend toward online shopping in recent years, Black Friday has managed to sustain steady growth, until now.
This year, brick and mortar retail shopping on Black Friday was down for the first time since 2009. Bloomberg reported the decline to be 3.9 percent, which seems marginal, but considering that tens of billions of dollars are spent on this crazy shopping day, is actually quite significant.
Brick and mortar shopping is down, while shopping online is up… way up
It’s no major revelation to learn that while brick and mortar retail shopping has decreased, online shopping has largely filled the void.
But, the dramatic truth of this is how sharply favour has shifted to shopping online. A recent Nielsen study revealed that nearly half of consumers – 46 percent – stated that they intended to shop online on Cyber Monday this year instead of facing the crowds on Black Friday. Now for the dramatic piece of information; that’s a 16-point increase from 2012, just one year ago, when that number was 30 percent.
You don’t need to be a statistician to see how dramatic of a shift that is.
Digital interactions are even affecting consumer behaviour when brick and mortar shopping
Digital interactions aren’t just causing consumers to make more purchases online, they’re actually affecting the way that consumers shop when they visit brick and mortar retailers. It’s worth noting here as well that social media is playing an increasingly important role in shaping even non-social experiences online, which makes it doubly important.
Around the world, shoppers are making fewer shopping trips, and when they do shop, they’re making a smaller number of purchases.
They’re visiting stores prepared, armed with the information they need to make a purchase with a very specific product in mind. The days of impulse buying might not be behind us, but that behaviour is certainly waning.
The auto industry is a prime example of this. Adweek recently reported that where car buyers used to visit 7 dealers to make a purchase decision, today they visit an average of 1.2.
That’s targeted and informed shopping, which is reminiscent of the trends observed this Black Friday. The idea of ‘shopping around’ when it comes to automobiles is virtually nonexistent, and this behaviour likely isn’t isolated to this category.
Where there is change, there is opportunity
This, of course, isn’t all doom and gloom. Not even close. In fact, these trends are hugely positive for those who are openly embracing the power of digital media channels be they owned or paid.
As you’ve undoubtedly observed, and this article has hopefully illustrated, it is no secret that consumers are increasingly making purchase decisions online. They’re researching competitive products on brand websites and comparing prices with apps like Amazon’s Price Check.
They’re also turning to social media to ask questions, discuss products and brands with their social graphs, gain unbiased perspectives, and weigh pros and cons of ownership.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to embrace digital and social media
If you haven’t already embraced the power of digital and social media for your business, now is the time to wake up and come to terms with the fact that consumer behaviour has long since shifted.
These aren’t flash-in-the-pan trends we’re observing. After all, we’re talking about the Internet and social media, which clearly aren’t going anywhere. Also, the explosive and exponential penetration of smartphones is giving consumers constant connection to both, so the influential interactions they’re having online, are also happening at shelves in physical stores.
The proof of shifting consumer purchase behaviour from this Black Friday and Cyber Monday I believe to be precursors to even more dramatic change moving forward.
Where there are rules, there are certainly always exceptions, but I believe the reality for many businesses is that if they don’t have a strong presence online and on social media, it’s not going to be long until they won’t have a presence at all.
Are you braving the crowds to do your shopping for the holidays?
Or, are you doing the bulk of your shopping online?
Are there certain categories of products that you prefer to buy in-store versus online?
It would be great to chat with you about your thoughts on this subject, and learn a little bit about your own shopping behaviour in the comments, or on Twitter @RGBSocial
‘I want to shut down my Facebook page because I don’t want to deal with all of the negative comments that people have to say about my business’
Have you ever heard something like this?
Have you ever thought this?
If you’ve thought it, please, take a moment to hang your head in shame.
I’ve recently had discussions with several friends and colleagues who have shared stories of their clients wanting to remove their business from social media because they don’t want to have to address negative comments, the headache that trolls can cause, criticism from their loyal consumers, or simply because they don’t have time to address these concerns.
The very thought of wanting to ‘remove your business from social media’ is completely missing the point.
You can’t remove your business from social media.
All you can do is remove yourself from the discussions that are going to happen about your business, regardless of whether you’re participating or not.
Just because you ignore issues, doesn’t mean they’ll go away
Consumers don’t limit their online expressions of discontent, enthusiasm, or other opinions on businesses to only those with a Facebook Page, Twitter timeline, Pinterest board, YouTube channel or blog.
They have their own blogs, their own Facebook profiles, Twitter feeds, message boards and almost numerous other options for sharing their experiences, opinions, and perspectives on your business.
By not engaging in social media, you’re willingly being ignorant to these discussions and removing your ability to participate, make things right, and in some cases, defend yourself.
You can learn from negativity and apply it to improve your business
Consumers complain and spread negativity for a reason; they’re unhappy with your business. Sure, trolls exist, and some people are just inclined to complain, but most consumers have legitimate criticisms when they take their frustrations online.
Even when consumers are being negative, this is can be positive for your business. For every single person who expresses their criticism online, how many consumers are biting their tongue, vowing to themselves that they’ll take their business elsewhere in the future? It’s worthwhile to listen to what they have to say, and to view this as an opportunity to improve your business.
You can set the record straight
On occasion, there are consumers who express concerns on social media who are doing so unjustly. Maybe their negative experience was an anomaly, maybe they used your product improperly, maybe they didn’t set your service staff up for success. Whatever the issue, being able to receive these complaints also gives you opportunity to set the record straight and help those consumers out with their problems.
This will not only help the consumers you’re directly connecting with, but future consumers will be able to see these interactions and have greater faith that you are going to support your product or service, which can positively influence their purchase decisions. You might be able to avoid these issues or complaints in the future by creating record of your interactions, as a sort of FAQ or troubleshooting guide.
In my opinion, there is exactly one reason why engaging in social media could be viewed as a negative, and that one reason is that you no longer want to be in business, or no longer care about the future success of your business. This isn’t to say that the success of your business is entirely dependent on social media, but the perceived downsides are actually incredibly positive in most situations.
Have you ever been frustrated by complaints or negativity expressed on your social media properties? If so, how did you handle that situation?
If you have anything you’d like to add or discuss further, please feel free to do so in the comments, or on Twitter @RGBSocial
Photo Credit: Veer
When planning your social media activity, it is critically important to understand your consumers’ natural behaviour on social media, with technology, and in the offline world to maximize the effectiveness of your efforts. Hands down, the most successful activity on social media taps into consumers’ natural behaviour while adding real value.
Trying to get consumers to adopt a behaviour that is foreign to them is like pushing water up hill. You’ll be met with great resistance, engagement will be low, and you’ll be left wondering why your innovative new use of social media was a complete flop.
Natural Behaviour on Social Media
There are a number of key behaviours you are going to want to identify to maximize your social media marketing efforts. If you can get a handle on what types of content they are creating, what they are sharing with their social graphs, how they engage with brands, and what platforms they use and why they use them, you’ll be well equipped with knowledge to apply to your social media and content strategies.
Natural Behaviour with Technology
Consumers’ natural use of technology is also important to consider when planning your marketing programs. People use technology in different ways, and knowing what pieces of technology they use, why they’re using technology, their varying levels of comfort with basic or advanced functionality, times of day that tech gets used, and so forth, are very important insights to have on your targeted consumers.
Natural Behaviour in the Real World
Some of the most powerful uses of social media and technology are achieved when they serve to enhance a consumer’s life in the real world. Having a deep understanding of how your consumers live, what is important to them when they aren’t online, and identifying opportunities to enhance their lives is important insight to have.
When you gain a thorough understanding of your consumers’ natural behaviour on social media, with technology, and in the real world, there are a number of ways this information can be applied.
Following are a few examples:
Level of Involvement
Whether you’re deciding on an entry mechanic for a social media promotion or crowdsourcing content, factor in the level of involvement that your consumers will be comfortable with. For some people, uploading a photo will be second nature, for others, it’ll be seen as being a lot of work. Don’t ask people to do anything they’re not comfortable with, or won’t be excited to participate in.
Don’t waste your time developing an innovative new program for Pinterest if your target demographic isn’t already engaging on the platform. Select the platforms to engage on based on what your consumers are currently using.
Use your deep understanding of natural consumer behaviour to develop your KPIs. Commonly, I’ll see KPIs that in no way, shape or form align with consumer behaviour, and then the success of a program or content gets called into question when they aren’t met. At the end of the day, not every measure is going to be meaningful and relevant, so choose the ones that are, and measure success based on those.
Just because you’ve produced a killer podcast on a highly relevant topic doesn’t mean your consumers are going to want to listen to it. If they aren’t prone to downloading and listening to podcasts, don’t waste your time producing them. When you’ve learned what formats of content are most frequently engaged with, focus your efforts in those areas.
There is a reason why QR codes never took off. The tech is pretty cool, but they require consumers to use their mobile devices in an unnatural and cumbersome way. By the time a consumer downloads a special app to scan the QR code, or finds it on their phone and launches it, they probably could have opened their mobile browser and typed in a URL. Always think about how your target demo uses technology and what they’ll be comfortable with, and stick with that for your marketing efforts.
I always find it to be a shame when I come across an innovative new social media program, or use of technology, that I know is going to fall on its face because it is asking consumers to do something, engage or behave in an unnatural way. Pushing limits and innovating are things that I’ll always endorse, but I highly recommend spending time figuring out not just how you can innovate, but how you can do so in a way that will be meaningful, useful and natural to your consumers.
If you have any thoughts or experience on this subject that you’d like to share, it would be great to hear from you in the comments, or on Twitter @RGBSocial
Photo Credit: Veer