Technology has changed the world dramatically
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 thirty years ago. A typical day looked much different than it does now. Our behavior has shifted over the last three decades, due in large part to the rise of technology.
The prominence of computers, the internet, and mobile devices had a massive influence 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 yore where advertisers simply needed to run slick television commercials to sell millions of products. The Information Age shattered that model forever.
As technology has advanced further, the general consumer behaves differently, and expects much more from various products and companies. Today, we have smart phones, 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 what Forrester.com refers to as the Age of the Customer.
How do we compete for time and attention as we try to do business in the 21st century? To really understand what we should do to compete, we need to understand the factors that led to current consumer behavior.
Four factors contributing to consumers’ shifting behavior
1. People are spending more 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 I would even suggest that intent is even noble.
If people are online all the time, it's important for business people to understand how that time is spent.
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 interests than a professional or a retiree. In short, different seasons of life 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 usage. Mounting evidence suggests that time spent online goes well beyond our nation's youth.
According to DMR, 30 percent of the Golden Generation visit YouTube at least monthly
12.4 million people 55 years of age or older joined Facebook in 2014, an 80 percent increase over 2013 - 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.
2. 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 all sorts of information. As we look at the numbers, it becomes clear that the mobility of our access is a big contributor to why we're online all the time.
According to Pew Research Center, 42 percent of US adults own a tablet computer
The average American spends almost two hours per day on a mobile device - Search Engine Land
According to DMR, 50 percent of YouTube views come from mobile devices
We can safely deduce that an ever growing number of people have mobile devices, and they're clearly using them.
3. People use search engines to find everything
Search engines have become widely used reference tools for anyone seeking easy access to a wide scope of information. People use 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 - comScore
When you wanted to find something in 1985, you went into the kitchen, grabbed a phone book, looked up a number, and dialed from a phone with a cord on it. You made an appointment with a live person, and you would physically walk or drive 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 just about anything, anytime, anywhere.
4. Availability of information 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! - 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, more informed buying decisions. We no longer need to wait around to be sold something. We can figure out the logistics ourselves. What this really means for businesses is that our role as business people in the selling process has shifted as well, 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.
According to HubSpot, 89 percent of U.S. internet users search online before they make a purchase, even when that purchase is made at a local business
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 and positioning is increasingly important as companies must compete for consumer attention in an online, mobile world.
Businesses Need to Catch Up with Consumers
If you've read this far, your company’s digital standing is probably not where it needs to be. If you want to compete for consumer attention in today’s digital universe, you have to develop the proper assets to get there. Your company must present well across a host of online locations. You must work to raise awareness, attract attention, serve an audience seeking instant gratification, and earn trust. You’ve probably accomplished much or all of this through traditional channels, now you need to recreate it on a digital marketing platform. If you'd like some advice, click the image below and request a strategy call.