Consumers’ changing habits are at the forefront of digital advertising and marketing trends and are driving a significant impact on the direction of the industry. As marketers, it’s our job to stay competitive and ahead of what’s circulating inside the revolving door of digital trends. I have spent the duration of my career heavily involved in the world of digital marketing and customer acquisition. I’ve created a successful track record of helping brands connect with prospective customers and in doing so, have really become a scholar of consumer behavior.
We’ve watched the evolution of the digital world expand rapidly over the last several years, from chatbots to home devices to the ever-growing social media platforms. All of these great inventions and marketing tactics are centered around one thing: what the consumer wants. What’s the next great idea that will catch the world’s eye? How do brands stay relevant when customers yearn for constant improvement? While we’ll always ask these questions, and trends will never stop changing, there are two key consumer behaviors and marketing tactics to keep in mind: how we shop and how we consume content.
How We Shop
In my experience, today’s consumers know what they want — and they want it now. An efficient ordering process and quick delivery have become two necessities for brands and marketers. The speed of your customer service and overall order process can be the biggest distinction between a good company and a great one. The real challenge to pay attention to: balancing quick service while still delivering high-quality products.
Once you move past the speed at which consumers shop, it’s important to note the platforms customers are drawn to. People don’t have to go to stores to shop. In fact, eMarketer predicts that ecommerce will surpass 10% of total retail sales in 2019. According to eMarketer, “In 2019, U.S. consumers will spend $586.92 billion online … By 2023, spending will reach $969.70 billion.”
One craze that doesn’t seem to be disappearing is the subscription model. Whether signing up for big-name brands like Netflix and Hulu or testing out the latest offerings from HelloFresh and Firefox, customers seem to want the option to subscribe. According to a survey from the Harris Poll and Zuora (via eMarketer), the average U.S. consumer subscribes to three subscription services, and 34% of U.S. respondents stated they’d use more subscription services within the next two years.
With more and more of these shopping avenues available for consumers to make purchases, buyers have the luxury of choosing brands that offer exceptional experiences, so customer experience is a competitive differentiator. Competing on price alone doesn’t always do the trick. I’ve found that buyers want to engage with brands they feel they can trust and that have a history of treating them fairly. It’s just as important to invest in exceptional customer experience as in the products themselves. One way marketers can raise the bar in customer satisfaction is through the use of tools like AI and automation — something we use at my company but that marketers can also implement independently. AI text chat like that used by Amazon, for example, can significantly enhance the consumer experience for online inquiries. Marketers can also use AI to gain feedback on their audience responses and target specific audiences with personalized messages.
How We Consume Content
Many consumers enjoy, and almost expect to see, brand messages targeted specifically toward them. As soon as we hop in our car, our GPS is quick to suggest a location based on our driving habits. Social media platforms place ads based on our past searches, web browsing habits and the content we share. Gartner notes that marketers’ investments in personalization technology have drastically increased since 2016. While the increase in available user data is a luxury for digital marketers, it also means consumers may expect personalized content based on information stored. For marketers, the strategy should not be to collect every piece of data out there, but rather to collect high-priority, valuable data and use it well.
Where exactly consumers are seeing targeted ads is the next point marketers should focus on. Mobile marketing isn’t going anywhere. It has, however, become the norm. Consumers have moved past just staring at computer screens, and brands should seek out innovative ways to connect with their target audiences and grab consumers’ attention.
IoT products have given consumers more control over a variety of appliances, including lights, door locks, home thermostats and smart refrigerators. The Amazon Echo and Google Home devices have become additional members of the family for many households. These systems shape our lives by tapping into the everyday gadgets, environments and people we’re surrounded by.
Wearables, like the IoT, have expanded exponentially over the last few years. According to a study by Technavio (via MediaPost) the global wearable electronics market is expected to grow more than 15% between next year and 2023. Devices like smartwatches have become day-to-day necessities with surprising benefits, from tracking your health to giving consumers text and email alerts on their devices.
The outbound “spray and pray” approach just does not work anymore. Whether they’re in advertising or telemarketing, marketers should have a strategy and toolset to adapt to changes in consumer habits. Marketers must give the power to the consumer to engage with brands in the forum and on the device of their choice, on their time. For example, using data to understand consumer behaviors, including how and when they want to be messaged, could become essential in our IoT-filled world. Brands that create seamless experiences by connecting with consumers at home, at work, on the go and in retail establishments with valuable and relevant content — including life hacks, geo-targeted promotions, time-sensitive offers and helpful reminders — can become part of their customers’ lives.
Digital marketing has always been a fast-paced industry influenced by thoughtful innovations and an overarching goal to create a better experience for customers. As marketers, our opportunity to win stems from the efforts we put forth to cater to our audience and deliver valuable, relevant content.