The way we shop is changing, it’s been changing since the beginning of the internet. But in the last few years the pace of change has become so rapid that many small and medium businesses are in danger of being left behind.
For a local business in the past, it was enough to advertise in local papers & have a listing in a print business phone directory. That standard approach is no longer enough. It’s no longer enough because people make the decision to buy with the help of the internet.
Let’s look at what happens, a consumer sees or is told about a product or service. This stimulates them to either want it or to recognise it would solve a problem they have. In times past, they’d go to a shop to find out about it and, possibly ask family or friends their opinion.
Now however, they go to the internet to do research on the product or service.
70 out of every 100 will look for reviews, the question is, will they find reviews for your product or service? If they don’t you’ve instantly lost the potential to reach those 70 people. You have now effectively lost or shrunk your market to only 30 out of every 100. Put another way you’ve thrown away 70% of your potential market. You’ve given that 70% away to your competitors – for free!
This is just one way that the internet has changed the way we shop.
What else has changed? Consumers are far better educated thanks to the internet. They can research not only you, your business, your products or services. They can research your competitors, do a comparison on prices, so by the time they actually come to you, they have a lot of information.
Most importantly, they’ve done it all on line. Imagine how difficult it would be for you to be part of that research if you don’t have a web presence. Just as important is the fact that your business details can often be found on line, even where you have no web site and have in no way listed your business on line.
How can this be? Do you have a Yellow Pages listing? If so, that listing will have found its way on line.
Customers can and do enter your business details on review sites like Yelp, Qype, Epinions and so on. Sometimes because they really like you, more often because they have a complaint.
You can’t stop it, so isn’t it better to actively control it?
By control I don’t mean that you can control what others post about you, I mean control the information and be aware of what people are saying. After all if you don’t know what people are saying good or bad, how can you respond correctly?
Let’s take a look at the business information and why it’s important for you to control it.
If a customer has entered your details on a review site like Yelp or Quype (in the UK), have they got the details correct? Business name, address and telephone number, incorrect information here could lose you business (Yelp receives requests for directions every 2 Seconds)
If the address is wrong, people won’t find you. If the telephone number is wrong, how can they call you?
Remember the sheer amount of competition out there. It’s easier to move on to the next supplier than it is to search for the correct contact information.
Plus, if you control the listing, you can add things like opening times, special offers or special products and menu’s. It also helps prevent duplicate entries, where customers enter slightly different information. It also allows you to keep all your contact info up to date, change of telephone no. email, address.
So what about information pulled from printed directories into online directories?
Again it’s a matter of ensuring that all info is correct and current. Most online directories that populate themselves from ‘lists’ they’ve bought, allow business owners to ‘claim’ their listing, to edit it and keep it fresh.
So let’s go back to the consumer starting to research a product or service prior to making the decision to buy and from whom.
Something has happened to stimulate their interest. They’ve seen or heard something, or something has happened that’s caused a problem they need to solve. This is the stimulus.
The next step for them is to start their research. Even just a year ago they’d go to one or two places on line to do research. Now it can be as many as ten. If you’re not found during this initial phase, you’re unlikely to get this business.
To further illustrate how things have changed, let’s look at the standard mental model for marketing.
Stimulus-Something seen or heard.
Shelf-Go to the store, see the display, like the visuals, get questions answered, buy-
Experience-Use the product-hopefully it does what the adverts and store clerk said.
So our traditional mental marketing model has 3 points of interaction.
The new mental model has 4, a point between the stimulus and the shelf.
A mother is watching TV. She sees an ad for an educational game. The Stimulus. She reaches for her Smartphone, tablet or laptop + goes online to research (the new point of interaction (what Google calls the Zero moment of truth). She goes to Google to find the game manufacturer site, reviews and news articles. She’ll consult her favorite Mommy Blog.
She may go to Amazon to read reviews there. Once she’s got all the info, she may search local suppliers. She’ll go to Facebook and Twitter and ask for recommendations.
She may search Youtube for demo videos.
One thing is certain, before she gets to your ‘shelf’ whether on or off line, she’ll have made her decision, all without talking to you at all.
There’s something different happening after the last point of interaction (the experience) too. Now she’ll go online and add her opinion to the product reviews. Her experience will now become part of some one else’s research.
Today your marketing campaign has to address all 4 points of interaction.
You can’t control when the stimulus happens (unless you advertise – and then only control what the ad says).
- If you’re not found during the research you’ll lose out.
- Make it easy to buy (the shelf)
- Provide quality so that the experience is great not just good.