Customers have changed. They’re now digital and demanding
Throughout over forty years of my life, I have been fortunate to witness the speed with which the world has changed. I continue to be amazed at the thought of a fax machine. Growing up, I used to marvel at how a sheet of paper entered the machine in Medellín (Colombia), and arrived in New York in less than a minute, and the truth is that I am still amazed by it today.
In light of technological developments, especially with online access to a wide range of products and services, consumers have changed their habits of urgency and necessity when buying products and services. The process that starts unconsciously with the identification of a need, the search for suppliers, and the validation of quality, price, and size (i.e. product qualities and specifications) is now done intangibly, with pictures of the product or by reading reviews from other users. We have lost contact with the product, and the emotion of feeling it; now the desire and the impulse that lead to the purchase decision are closely related to the way in which it is advertised online. Digital platform providers have developed algorithms to deliver to each individual just what he or she wants to know. This may strengthen the relationship, but it is not a guarantee of an effective purchase. I’m reminded of the age-old phrase that “offering is not selling and asking is not buying”. The virtual world makes it easier to be attracted to something, start the purchase and then leave it on pause or in the shopping cart. Only 7% of visitors make a purchase. This is because each user seeks to specialize, consults other suppliers, and only buys when they really feel they are sure it is their best option.
In light of technological developments, especially with online access to a wide range of products and services, consumers have changed their habits of urgency and necessity when buying products and services.
The most valued issues are price, quality, and delivery time. There is also information available from other users’ experiences, which may be anonymous or use fake profiles, inducing a purchase that may not be the expected one. E-commerce is undoubtedly the most “comfortable” way to access products that do not require to be tested or perceived by the senses, and for this reason, year after year, and especially during the pandemic, the increase of users buying in the marketplace has grown, so much so that 39% of the Mexican population purchases products, goods or services online: it grew by as much as 30% during the pandemic. We are facing more demanding consumers, with access to more information, who force companies to position themselves in digital advertising, with logistic schemes of home delivery and in record time. However, not everything is good, nor can it be generalized. For example, e-commerce has risks, such as inferior or counterfeit products; in some cases, after-sales service or complaints are almost impossible and there are websites with very flashy products that seek to capture your personal information to commit fraud or impersonate identities.
Creating, promoting, and advertising products and services have changed. Today, online services allow customers or users to demand higher quality and service. Everyone has one-click access to a world of opportunities. Reviews of the shopping experience help users get an almost immediate look at pricing, quality, packaging, warranties, pre-and post-sales support, and delivery time.
Creating, promoting, and advertising products and services have changed. Today, online services allow customers or users to demand higher quality and service. Everyone has one-click access to a world of opportunities.
Migration to e-commerce is inevitable. Some segments, however, still require face-to-face sales points, segments that must be aware of the importance of having a differentiating service. This is the case of fresh produce markets, where customers need to feel, touch, smell, and even taste the products. In these types of businesses, the quality of the product, the proximity, and the confidence in its production is vital at the time of the purchase decision. There is also another segment like this, the one I like the most: the retailing of fuels. In this case, of course, vehicles must be taken to the gas station, where a nearby, reliable, easily accessible service station is expected to provide optimal, efficient, and honest service. Consumers must feel at ease with no wasted time. How retailers take care of vehicles is how they take care of consumers. This is why, when they clean the glass or calibrate the tires, it feels like something extra was given, something extraordinary. When they see us off with a smile and wish us a good trip, they also make a difference. In this type of business, the quality of the establishment, the cleanliness of the station and of the attendant, and the price are factors that will undoubtedly keep consumers coming back to refuel. And there is an increasing demand for these establishments to be energy recharging points, where a good bathroom, and a good complementary business, make the difference and the user can go on his way recharged, with a little less stress, feeling better or calmer.
These types of establishments, even if at the actual moment of purchase they are outside of online commerce, must also specialize in promoting themselves digitally in a local and targeted way, “crowing” their competitive advantages. However, the warmth of the contact and the reality of the service will prove themselves to be the factors that will guarantee repurchase and user loyalty. Establishments like these exist and will exist for a long time and will be the best oasis of contact between people , of knowing that more than a service is provided, that expectations must be exceeded, and that space must be given to pleasantly surprise, with a smile, a little surprise, and a good message.
I am sure that, in a world of competitive products and prices, service, quality, and warmth will always make the difference. The human factor will always be a differentiator, regardless of any virtual processes. Users expect a friendly touch and a personal and customized response. The proximity of the sale cannot be lost, since proximity is the key to securing consumer preference.