Enlightened marketers are now referencing the “Age of The Customer”, which is defined by consumers holding all the advantages as they have real-time information about pricing, product features and competitors. The “Age of The Customer” has promoted the everyday consumer to the role of an empowered customer where not only consumer shopping behavior has changed, but also the way we market to these consumers. Empowerment, as a direct result of technology adoption, has given a single individual, your customer, the power to choose how, when, and what they desire in terms of marketing.
How – In which channels does the empowered customer choose to be reached? Email, Social Media, Telephone, Direct Mail, or all of the above?
When – How often does the empowered customer choose to be reached specifically related to the cadence and frequency of marketing messages? One email per day vs. one per week or one SMS text message per day vs. one per week?
What – What type of marketing content does the empowered customer choose to receive? Plain text vs. HTML emails, a printed catalog vs. a dynamic online catalog, printed coupons vs. electronic coupons vs. emailed coupons vs. location-based coupons?
While customers have always had choices, it’s never been a more powerful time for the average consumer. The Internet has been around for many years now and personal computers have long been a common household staple for most families. Avenues for customer empowerment have existed for decades since the first online bulletin boards and online chat started to take a grip on our modern computing society. What has specifically evolved us into to the “Age of The Customer” is hands down widespread technology adoption. Without the proliferation of both the Internet and advanced hand-held, always-connected, technology devices such as smartphones and tablets into the hands of nearly every consumer, there would never have been this massive shift of empowerment toward the consumer.
Today we take it for granted that we’re able to sit in front of a computer or better yet, pick up our latest and greatest smartphone or tablet and quickly do just about anything we need. All in the palm of our hands, the empowered consumer can search for a specific product, find retailers who carry that product, research those retailers and their reputation, conduct a price comparison, read product reviews from other consumers and ask specific questions about that product, and finally buy that product. Customers are no longer blinded by false or improper product claims and misleading marketing because they have a global community in which to converse. They can research and determine if a company is not only reputable but also if their product claims are true and if they do right by their customers in the event of a problem.
Additionally, as a direct result of technology adoption, a single consumer, with the power of a mobile device paired with the Internet and the long reach of various social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, YouTube or Google+ for example, now has the ability to create a collective opinion or voice, which rivals even the reach and voice of most commercial organizations and governments.
Customers are indeed empowered and learning to use this power to not only buy exactly what they want, but to force companies, who want their business, to become “customer obsessed” and create an engagement strategy to help build relevant, timely and valuable customer interactions. Continued technology adoption will continue to make the empowered customer the new ‘norm’ and drive marketers to find new and innovative ways of customer interaction.