During the Covid-19 pandemic with its various lockdowns and restrictions, there was a huge surge in online shopping. This forced customers to order their goods, luxury or otherwise online. In fact, it was more accessible in many cases. This shift to online was nothing new, but the pandemic restrictions and lockdowns sped up the process dramatically. Consumer behaviour was drastically changed at breakneck speed.
According to Dr. Christopher Agyapong Siaw, a lecturer in marketing at Plymouth Business School, businesses and marketers will have to understand customer value to adapt to the evolving customer behaviours. Throughout this article, we’re going to break down what this means, and how you can apply it to your own business.
What is customer value?
Customer value refers to the value customers get from using products they purchase. For example, a customer who purchases a smartphone gets value from the voice and video calls they make, the emails they send, and the camera. The way customers engage with their smartphones also can influence the evolution and structure of the market for related products such as apps and accessories, which in turn enhance the smartphone experience.
Engagement in the digital age
Customer value has driven the expansion of companies’ innovation and marketing on digital platforms. Nowadays companies can engage with their customers in multiple ways.
Traditional routes include in-store and print-based marketing. These can now be complemented through the use of digital platforms such as SMS, email, Instagram, and Facebook. As customers have adapted digital platforms, this has affected the operations and behaviour of firms. It has also shaped the market for certain products. Having a presence on these platforms allows businesses and retailers to communicate with their customers, keeping them informed of their needs and wants. It also allows marketers to follow trends, which can be used to sell products.
It is absolutely vital for a business to survive and thrive in the modern age, to be on these digital platforms. Social Media is one of the number one places to market and sell what you offer.
Data is king
Businesses are acquiring more and more data about (and from) their customers. Data is now one of, if not the most valuable element to any business.
A business should be monitoring customer behaviour and activity on various platforms to glean what customer preferences are and use that knowledge to develop or enhance products and services. A great example of this is websites such as Tripadvisor, the user-based review platform for business, mostly hospitality. The customer feedback here can transform your business for the better, not always, but it is always important to read the negative and positive to help improve your product or service.
The digital age is here but it’s not going to wipe out the high street
It’s too simplistic to say that most purchasing will move online. A lot depends on the product, how it’s normally purchased, and the preferences of the customer. There are certain limitations to online shopping. Products, such as jewellery, plants, and musical instruments, are not ideal e-commerce purchases. This is because these products require a ‘feel’, you can’t get this through a computer screen. Online purchases can often lead to mistakes, ones that the customer sometimes can’t avoid. Such as the product not fitting, the colour not being represented correctly on the image online, and more. These unknown variables make online shopping, in some cases, a risk.
Retail businesses need to ensure their customer relationship strategies and operations deliver complete online and offline (bricks and mortar) customer experiences. Both of these experiences need to operate effectively by themselves; they should complement one another so that the customer can switch seamlessly from to the other with ease. Your offline and online should be working in unison as opposed to against each other, otherwise, you will confuse and exhaust the consumer.
How offline and online can work together
Offline and online experiences can work together. ‘Showrooming’ is a growing trend. This describes the process whereby people see an item in a physical shop; try it on for size, touch it, feel it, match the colour, etc. Then they will leave and make their purchase online. Another way this happens is in reverse, so for example, you want to buy a sofa, the company has an image of it in a lounge setting, that looks similar to yours. You’ve now already seen it in the wild, and know you want it. The next step is heading to the store itself and purchasing it.
A balanced future
It is clear that technology will continue to play a key role but not every solution can or should be technology-based. We know technology fails from time to time. Some services are difficult to deliver online. Because of this marketers and businesses will need to adapt as their consumers and markets evolve. A marketing strategy is often designed for the short-to-medium term wheat strategic marketing looks at the broader societal and environmental changes that influence response. Consider having both at hand, especially during this uncertain time in history.
By exploring customer value, we try to understand why some companies have more staying power; they stand the test of time. One element that is important to a consumer today is sustainability. A customer will research your sustainability, and if you’re not reaching their standard or the societal standard then they will find someone who is.
No matter your product or service you should have a strong offline and online presence. The two should entwine and work to complete the other. But at the core should be the customer and what value they get from you as a business.
Article based on information from the Plymouth Business School.