Consumer power has been on people’s lips for a long time. Today, it’s become a reality. The digital revolution has made it easier than ever for buyers to find information about companies and their services, and then share their opinions with other users in digital channels. As a result, brands now have a more business-critical role.
With developments in digital media, traditional advertising and marketing is largely played out. Where big players have previously been able to secure their market position, there is now a new battleground. Professional buyers and consumers communicate freely about their experiences via digital channels, and they create interest forums that help them make purchasing decisions.
The power has shifted radically to the consumer
Today, consumers largely base their purchasing decisions on information they find online. And this also applies to B2B customers: 94% do some form of research online.
The digital transformation has created a market landscape where consumer power is now a reality. Buyers' needs are not just one important criteria for companies to take into account; they are now the main focus.
Moreover, customers’ decision-making processes have moved to channels where they can compare products and services, do competitive bidding and evaluate their potential purchase.
Digital channels are often, thanks to their transparency, difficult to penetrate and influence by companies. Such attempts are also usually revealed with very negative consequences. In the wake of this, transparency levels have risen dramatically and we tend to trust the opinions of people who have already bought a product or service rather than the opinions of people providing and selling them.
Social media has created a new dialogue between brands and consumers. It also provides a powerful rationale for why corporations must begin partnering with the rising tide of customers who can now demand new standards for corporate behavior and a higher commitment to purpose, not just profit.
As a result, we have seen that traditional advertising has gone from playing a key role to just becoming a way of getting someone’s immediate attention. Such advertising can also easily be avoided through premium services, recordable digital boxes or channel surfing.
Brands must be known for the right reasons
Today it has become crucial to give buyers a good reason for choosing your offering, one that other buyers can attest to. Brands can play a key role here, by differentiating offerings and creating more competitive companies.
Buyers today also want to know who they are doing business with. It is important for them to believe that a company's values align with their own, whether those values are environmental, ethical or just about anything else. In other words, customers don’t just buy a product or service; they buy the value that is associated with it.
So, making informed decisions is an important driving force for the majority of buyers in all categories. And this development is spurred by how easy it is to find information about both companies and their offerings. For brands this means that it’s not just enough to be well known. You have to be known for the right reasons.
And companies that generate a high level of added value and commitment will also rightfully earn their presence in digital channels. They will thereby secure their position in the food chain where it’s up to the consumers which brands will be winners or losers.
Conscious and well-informed buyers are one of the biggest challenges traditional sales forces will face in the future. For example, in the automotive industry sellers have to handle the fact that buyers have already gotten far in their purchasing process when they come to the showroom. They also have to handle the fact that they are significantly more informed about competing offerings than the brand representatives they encounter. This is a development that puts new demands on a whole industry. It’s a paradigm shift.
From a business perspective, brands play a key role in the new digital landscape. This means every conscious management team will have to shift their focus to this area.
The management team will also have to answer questions like: What is our company’s big idea? Who is the company for? What value can our company offer that extends our beyond products and services? And what values do we communicate?
These questions are all crucial to answer for increasing customer engagement and creating brand ambassadors. The goal is to get customers to share their experiences and to help other people make informed decisions.