The future of sales: Do you know what customers want?

In the rapidly-developing, hyper-connected and data-driven world, companies are under considerable pressure to adapt to the new market dynamics. Although Western Europe and the USA are going through big changes, nowhere is that technological revolution more prominent than in Asia – the home to many fastest-growing economies in the world. Innovations in e-commerce, online payments and communications gave rise to new business models and shifts in consumer behavior both in China and worldwide. You don’t believe it? A case in point is November 11 (Singles’ Day). Until only a few years ago, it was a local Chinese holiday famous for its shopping festivals. Today it’s a global phenomenon which generates high revenue from online sales.

What do customers want?

As a result of everything abovementioned, brands have less and less time to understand how demand works and what customers need. Companies have only one way to survive in the market, and it is by using and analyzing data in order to make sense of all the rules and find a solution.

The goal is to understand consumers’ habits better – what customers think, believe, expect and aspire to  while keeping up with the competition and changes in the industry.

In the following part of the post, we’ve singled out some of the most important trends in consumer behavior, which significantly changed the concepts of sales and marketing in 2020.

Read the analyses and examples carefully and find ideas for your new strategy!

- Connecting the online and offline world

As the line between the digital and the analog grows thinner, consumers no longer differentiate between what is online and what is offline. The only thing they are interested in is having seamless experience across all channels which combines the best of both worlds.

At first, the development seemed to be linear – customers replaced offline shopping with shopping on websites or mobiles. But that’s not all! Now we are approaching the point where every surface, device, medium or location is becoming a sales channel.

Relaxing on the couch on a Sunday afternoon is an ideal opportunity to use voice command and order groceries from a local store (voice commerce / voice shopping). Music streaming service Spotify sells cosmetics, VR technology enables customers to “try out” the products before buying them, while Muji, a Japanese household brand, launched a hotel only to be able to sell furniture to its guests. Music stars are turning into owners of fashion brands worth billions of dollars, whereas women have the opportunity to test and buy cosmetics while waiting in line for the restroom in shopping malls.

All of these ideas have in common the attempt to sell customers the experience! What is being sold is the experience, while products and services only deliver that experience.

- Limited-time offers

Now more than ever, customers are obsessed with one-day offers and content! This trend could be explained by a modern psychological phenomenon called FOMO (fear of missing out) – the fear of missing something important, which is present both in the sphere of digital content consumption and consumer habits. When it comes to digital channels, Instagram Story format, which has a 24-hour limit, has been a primary way of communication and content sharing on this network for years, because customers express higher interest in information that will soon disappear. Permanent content, accessible all the time, comes second. Whenever something is available at any given moment, it immediately becomes less fun.

The same goes for both online and offline sales. One of the leading trends in the world are one-day shopping festivals and promotional offers, such as Singles’ Day (November 11) and Black Friday. Not only do customers enjoy the anticipation of special offers, they also plan their shopping weeks in advance. The mere thought of a limited-time offer makes customers think they could miss out on a good opportunity, which is why they are ready to spend huge amounts of money, sometimes completely irrationally.

- Personalized offers

Personalized content is now the rule, not the exception because customers tend to ignore brands that don’t make personal interactions with them. Whether through digital messages or shopping experience, customers want to receive something that is relevant to their habits, lifestyle or values, because they want to see themselves in the sales and marketing activities of a brand.

The development of technology (such as automation tools, bots, and artificial intelligence) enables companies to reach customers with customized messages. Many companies still think that targeting based on location or income is good enough criteria for defining target groups. In reality, however, target groups and micro-niches don’t exist anymore, only individual customers – each of them unique, with individual needs and expectations. 

It is expected that in the future brands will even be able to offer experiences based on customers’ mood at a particular moment, not just based on their personal characteristics (e.g. age, gender), or previous insight (e.g. based on their Google searches). In other words, the goal is to offer customers what they want before they’ve realized what they want! Big brands, such as Nike, Starbucks and Fenty, already offer customers personalized products, which particularly attracts young customers who don’t even know what mass production is.

- Responsibility towards the environment

In the world which is hyper-connected, news about natural disasters, pollution and social inequality becomes viral content and spreads across the globe. Life in a “global village” made customers feel as if they were global citizens and made them empathize with people living on the other side of the planet.

Wishing to make a positive change, customers often choose companies which promote sustainable development and production. The decrease in meat consumption, recycling of plastic, clothes and cotton, inclusion and similar values are what makes brands different from their competition. A few years ago, Adidas made sneakers of ocean plastic and sold millions of pairs across the world. When McDonald’s decided to introduce salads to its menu, it got negative reviews. Today, more than a decade later, the range of salads in McDonald’s restaurants keeps extending.

The data confirm all of this. Google analysis showed that there’s been an increase in the searches of phrases such as “meatless diet”, “plant-based diet”, “zero waste” and the like. Customers believe in stories, positive change and want to be a part of something done for a good cause. When they purchase products or services that embrace care for other people, they feel good about the purchase. Besides the said changes, let’s not forget increased awareness of similar topics, like stress relief, sports, healthy lifestyle, meditation and moving out of cities. Generally speaking, customers feel a growing pressure of urban life and consumerism and they seek change.

Consumers believe the future will be revolutionary

Consumers agree that world and technological changes, such as the increase in online population, 5G, VR and AR, will have a huge impact on the way they make decisions and purchases. The future will certainly bring the increase in shopping by voice command, as well as in the number of bots and exchanged messages. In 2019 alone, customers and brands exchanged 20 billion messages, which is 2.5 times more compared to 2018.

84% of customers agree that the shopping experience is as important as the product or service.

The new, 21st-century customer will purchase experience, not products or services. It’s further important to highlight that customers are sensitive to price changes or anything they consider unfair relation with customers. They are highly likely to stop buying from a brand which has been publicly denounced for inhumane work conditions. In addition, the customers of the future look after their health and the health of the planet and are aware of the consequences of their actions. They believe in a better tomorrow and are willing to start working on achieving it.

The customers of the future, especially after the world pandemic, want a comfortable life in their home, which leads to the development of various new trends – they want stability, a life outside the city, a good work-life balance, more time for themselves, well-furnished home, time for workout and hobbies etc.

Taking into account all of these trends, it seems the world will enter a new era characterized by empathy, values and post-consumerist society that cares about the environment and humankind!

Izvori: Salesforce i Google

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