The Virtual Marketplace

In the APC March issue, I introduced the idea of creating an authentic personal brand or at least redefining your current personal brand. In April, I shared with you the importance of taking control of your reputation. In this article I would like to talk to you about the new consumer in today’s virtual marketplace. The current virtual marketplace has changed the way we do business and has generated a new consumer. The new consumer is smarter, more empowered and more demanding than previous online users. They use all the latest online tools to connect with others and gather information anytime they want. The Internet has evolved, yet much of its content is now being questioned by the new consumer.

Facts: The Internet has no centralized governance in either technological implementation or policies for access or usage; each constituent network sets its own policies.

The Internet in a very short period of time has created the new virtual marketplace of today.

  • 1960s – The U.S. government was commissioned to build a computer network.
  • 1980s – The National Science Foundation/Private Funding Worldwide participated in the development of the new technologies and the merger of many networks.
  • 1990s – Commercialization and the international network brought the Internet into virtually every aspect of modern human life.
  • As of June 2012 – 2.4 billion people (over a third of the world’s human population) have used the services of the Internet.
  • Asia – 1,076,681,059 users
  • Europe – 518,512,109 users
  • North America – 273,785,413 users

“The new consumers expect two-way, open and engaging conversations. For that reason, they pose a challenge to big brands that have a formulaic way of pushing messages to customers. Brands that can engage and be transparent and not obsess about being in control will prosper.”

— Matt Fanshawe, Managing Director, Euro RSCG Asia Pacific

There are only two restrictions pertaining to name spaces – the Internet Protocol address space and the Domain Name System directed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Also, a non-profit association of loosely affiliated international participants that may associate and contribute technical expertise in the technical standardization of core protocol. What that really means is all content on the Internet is open territory.

The new consumer researches information quicker but is more suspicious of the information being accurate, authentic and serving their needs. Personalization is now the new norm. It means that businesses must offer a more personal side of the business and offer the consumer a superior online experience to keep their loyalty. According to the Havas Worldwide New Consumer Study of 2009:

  • 69 percent of consumers say they are shopping smarter than ever before
  • 63 percent say they are more demanding and expect more
  • 62 percent say they do lots of consumer research online when seeking out services, reviews, ratings and price and they do comparisons
  • 79 percent say they read consumer product feedback/reviews online before making a purchase
  • 57 percent say they trust customer reviews more than “expert” reviews

The many studies being done globally reveal that the new consumer has changed and no longer completely trusts the Internet and its content. They are looking for total value. They want more than just service; they want an entire package. They want to be able to trust and get to know you both personally and professionally.

BRAND/MARKETING TIPS:

No doubt that the Internet has become a powerful force in the marketing equation and is one of the key elements in today’s marketing strategies. Understanding these changes and utilizing the power of the Internet to capture the loyalty of the new consumer will help build that personal and business reputation in today’s marketplace.

  1. Educate consumers by making information easily available to them, remembering that the new consumer now demands more.
  2. The new consumer now initiates interaction with your organization. The Internet has empowered them to connect through search engines anytime they want, so you better have info for them to review.
  3. Don’t overload the new consumer with push advertising. Make sure advertising is informative, simple, quick to read and interesting and please add some color or pictures or a very short video. Don’t make it only about you or your company or it will go to the trash bin quickly.
  4. Provide excellent customer service. The new consumer demands it and will be looking for it in reviews and ratings online.
  5. Personalized service is the new norm. Make the new consumer aware that you and your company are flexible, and make them feel this is unique to them. Make sure it is unique, because they will check online or with their neighbors and/or friends.

The new consumer wants a company that shares their values. Understanding the new consumer will help define your personal and professional brand, specifically when creating your marketing plan.

  • Consumers want total value. Is it practical and social (local)? Does it support the environment and connect to the community?
  • Consumers want to know what’s in it for them. Tell them how your product or service is helping them improve their lives.
  • Consumers want to take control, so help them do it. Tell stories about your interactions with clients, business connections, community, friends, family and others. Educate and share self-help tips.
  • Consumers want simplicity and meaning. You can help them by sharing information or helping them connect to you.
  • Consumers want to be part of your branding world through social media interaction, reviews and chats. Let them help co-create your brand. The new consumer is involved, so welcome them.

The consumer has information overload and certainly doesn’t need another promo offering them nothing more than a boring advertisement in a random e-mail blast. If you want to build a relationship, then start paying attention to what the consumer really needs, and give it to them.

What I was hoping to do in writing this article was to make you more aware of what has happened with the Internet and the marketplace today within the past decade. Many say the depression/recession has opened up many consumers’ eyes and minds. Most folks aren’t seeing things through rose-colored glasses anymore.

Most consumers (not all) are attempting to live within their means and looking to build relationships again with their neighbors, friends, local retail businesses and service providers who protect them, their property and their investments. Knowing this new consumer better and having a better understanding of today’s virtual marketplace will help you define and build your personal and business reputation. This will launch your marketing endeavors.

Look at your current business through the eyes of the new consumer. Go online and see what you find about yourself and your business. Is there enough information – website, stories, articles, personal interaction, reviews, etc. – to allow your prospects make a proper decision? Customers are looking for you; can they find you? APC


Darylene Dennon is co-owner of Solid Energy, Inc., in Washington state. She can be reached at darylene@solidenergyinc.com. Women in Painting is a PDCA forum created to give a female perspective of the painting industry.

 

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