Age of the customer

The following was originally published on ColoradoBIZ Magazine...

The online universe isn't just for kids anymore

The world as we know it is completely different than the one most of us grew up in. Anyone who was caught up in the recent hype around Back to The Future got a great reminder of what things were like 30 years ago. A typical day looked much different than it does now. Our behavior has shifted over the last three decades due in part to the rise of technology.

The rise of computers, the internet and mobile devices has had a massive effect on how we act and interact as we've gained widespread access to information. Our new access has made it easier to communicate and gain information, thus changing our behavior. Gone are the days of the Industrial Age where advertisers simply needed to run TV commercials to sell millions of products; the Information Age shattered that simplistic model.

As technology has advanced further, the access, behavior, and expectations of the consumer have grown. Today, we have smartphones, social media, apps, and 4G connections. We can have whatever we want, whenever we want it, wherever we are. It's instant gratification or bust. Enter the Age of the Customer.

So how do we compete for time and attention as we try to do business in these times? To really understand what we should do to compete, we need to understand more about the factors that have led to such behavior.

Four Factors That Contribute to Shifting Behavior

People Are Spending A Ton of Time Online

It seems that everyone is online, all the time. No matter where we go there's technology and access, and we're taking full advantage of it. The reason for so much connectivity is that people clearly enjoy being connected. All of us want to be connected with our friends, family, work, and interests as much as possible. It makes sense, and our intent is even noble.

If we're online all the time, it's good for businesspeople to understand how that time is spent. Let's take a look at where we spent our online day in 2014, (Courtesy of Statista):

  • Social Media: 37 minutes
  • Email: 29 minutes
  • Online Video: 23 minutes
  • Search Engines: 23 minutes
  • Online Games: 19 minutes
  • Blogs: 8 minutes
  • Online Radio: 8 minutes
  • Online Newspapers: 5 minutes
  • Online Magazines: 3 minutes
  • Other: 31 minutes

As you can see, there's a diversity of activity and interest reflected in these numbers. We can infer that various demographic groups spend differing amounts of time on different types of media: a teenager has different demands than a professional or a retiree. In short, there are different seasons of life that change our consumption allocation.

A prima facie conclusion would be to attribute the spike in overall online behavior to the youth movement. There are thousands of articles published about the Millennial generation and their addiction to technology. However, data suggest that youth engagement in technology is not the only explanation for this rise in online engagement. There's mounting evidence that growing time spent online goes well beyond our nation's youth alone.

 

30 percent of the Golden Generation visit YouTube at least monthly - (Courtesy of DMR)

 

12.4 million people 55 years of age or older joined Facebook in 2014, an 80 percent increase over 2013 - (Courtesy of International Business Times)

 

People of all generations are jumping at the chance to be online. It turns out we all want to be connected with friends, information, and entertainment.

People Are Increasingly Mobile

You can't look around a restaurant, park, or baseball game without seeing people glued to their phones. People take their access with them everywhere they go, and they use their mobile devices to access information. As we look at the number, it becomes clear that the mobility of our access is a big contributor to why we're online more.

 

42 percent of US adults own a tablet computer - (Courtesy of Pew Research Center)

 

The average American spends almost two hours per day on a mobile device - (Courtesy of Search Engine Land)

 

50 percent of YouTube views come from mobile devices - (Courtesy of DMR)

 

More and more people have mobile devices and they're clearly using them often.

People Are Using Search Engines For Everything

Search engines have become widely used reference tools for anyone seeking easy access to a wide scope of information. People are using search engines to find what they’re looking for, often as the entry point for their access and consumption of information.

17.8 billion explicit core searches were conducted in September - (Courtesy of comScore)

 

5.9 million searches on Google every day - (Courtesy of Rick Bates via Main Broadcast Coalition)

 

When you wanted to find something in 1985, you went into the kitchen, grabbed a phone book to find the number, and called from a phone with a cord on it. You made an appointment to go check it out the next day on your lunch break. Now you push a button and ask Google to look up your options, surf around until you find what you want, and order/call/email/chat without even putting down your foot rest. Search engines of all shapes and sizes help us find what we're looking for because, after all, we want instant gratification.

Availability of Information Has Empowered Consumers

With the ability to access information at any time, from any place, the game has changed for businesses trying to compete for consumers looking to buy. Gone are the days of potential buyer's heavy reliance on sales people. "Shopping" for cars is done online, not at the dealership.

 

The amount of new technical information is doubling every two years and 95 percent of all of the data in the world has been created in the last two years! - (Courtesy of Rick Bates via Main Broadcast Coalition)

 

That's a lot of new information; good thing we're always connected right? Because this new information is readily available to all of us, and we have options we didn't have before. That information, when accessed, empowers us to make better buying decisions. We no longer need to wait around to be sold something. We can figure it out ourselves. What this really means for businesses is that our role as businesspeople in the selling process has shifted too, whether we realize it or not. Instead of showing up at our doors asking for help, our customers are helping themselves before we even know they're interested.

 

89 percent of US internet users search online before they make a purchase, even when that purchase is made at a local business - (Courtesy of HubSpot)

 

Just because we don't sell an actual product online doesn't mean the digital landscape isn't critical to our success. People research what they buy online, even when they don't buy online. Because of the high availability of detailed online information, consumers that are passionate about the products they purchase are often more educated than the salesperson. Digital marketing has become increasingly important as companies must compete for people's attention in an online, mobile world.

 

The Age of the Customer

Topics: Web, Strategy

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