It’s the surest insult to hurl at a fledgling writer, caught up in the ecstasies of pouring their inner world onto paper.
It’s the quickest way to dismiss a generation of college students first embarking on their journeys of self-discovery.
And it’s perhaps one of the best ways for businesses to truly understand and effectively reach today’s connected consumer.
Of course, narcissism isn’t going to win you many customers – let’s call it self-awareness, or mindfulness, instead. But whatever you call it, a bit of self-reflection is key for anyone in business today.
Because consumers have changed. The world has changed. YOU’VE changed.
Seriously, put down the phone you’re reading this on and look around. It doesn’t even matter where you are. Home….work….a café….the subway…the sidewalk… Everyone around you is on their phone, right? Just like you are.
Much is made of analyzing today’s consumers: breaking them down by generation, by device use, by shopping habits. As if they were some exotic beast in a zoo, utterly foreign, and with habits and proclivities previously unheard of, to be studied and exclaimed over.
You guys! YOU are today’s consumer. Your parents are today’s consumer. Your kids are today’s consumer. Heck, we are today’s consumer!
And every one of you, and every one of us, is a connected consumer.
So let’s do a navel-gazing deep dive. You may not even realize how your expectations and behavior have evolved. What do you look for when shopping? How do you consume content? What makes you stop and say wow, that’s cool? What makes you share – or stops you from sharing – on social media? What makes you loyal to a brand, brings you into a store, or gets you talking to your friends about a business?
‘Connected’ means much more than just ‘mobile’
For the connected consumer – for YOU – it’s not just about mobile-friendly websites anymore. Right? Being ‘connected’ means so much more in today’s world: your 24/7 connection to the internet, sure – but through that, your 24/7 connection to your entire network of friends, family, colleagues, customers…your 24/7 connection to brands and influencers….and your 24/7 connection to the wider world. It’s about social connections and the online image of yourself that you express and curate through your interactions with them.
Self-reflection time: What makes you share something on social media? What thoughts go through your head before you post? What will my friends say? Maybe: What will my boss think? Or my mom? And maybe without consciously realizing it, what image of me will sharing this create?
If it’s a piece of content that enhances your personal self-image, or the image you present of yourself online, then you’ll share it. If not, you won’t – even if you actually do like it. Right? And according to a recent Salesforce report, a full 43% of consumers say they use social media to voice their opinions about brands and products. Brands that recognize this, and create content that their target audiences will want to share in order to enhance their online image or personal brand, will find much more organic success.
The other side of the connected consumer coin is the fact that we’re more likely than ever to rely on our social connections for guidance and inspiration – on everything from Pinterest recipe ideas, to which company to buy makeup from, to what to do about an issue with our kids. Think about it – you’ve probably looked to an online friend or influencer for ideas on something this week, haven’t you? Motivating people to share your business content thus has a much more powerful impact than you might imagine.
The physical and virtual are melding.
More and more, the connected consumer is looking for online connections to extend into the real world, too. What’s more exciting than finally meeting an online friend in person, and hitting it off IRL just as well as you did behind your respective screens? And what’s more jarring than having one experience with a brand online, and a completely different one in-store?
Seamless is the key word here. Our lives have evolved, from a strict delineation between online and real-world activities to a seamless blending of the two, and we expect all our experiences to fit this new reality. Don’t you feel most comfortable with a business – and most inclined to buy – when their brand experience is consistent across the board? 75% of consumers state that they expect companies to provide a consistent experience wherever they engage with them, in the virtual world or the physical world.
And that seamless experience means that connected consumers are more empowered than ever. They can stand in your store and look up your competitors’ prices on their phone before they buy. They can post a review of your customer service as they’re waiting in line to be helped. They can enter your store for the first time already knowing exactly what they want or need from you, how you’ve helped others, and what it cost.
Be honest – you’ve done each of these yourself, as well.
70% of consumers agree that technology has made it easier than ever to take their business elsewhere. Bam. Empowered.
Cool tech and innovation win.
Finally, connected consumers expect both people and businesses to keep pace with the state of technology. C’mon, how annoyed are you at that one friend who’s not on Facebook, or that weird aunt who still emails you in Comic Sans? And businesses whose only nod to technology is a kiosk where you can order their stuff online if you can’t find it in-store are way behind the times. You can do that on your phone more easily and quickly, anyway.
But a cutting-edge home improvement store where screens abound, giving shoppers access to how-to videos or creative project ideas near the supplies for them? Or an augmented reality app that allows you to see how new furniture pieces would fit your home décor? Cool, right? And more than cool – effective. 57% of consumers say it’s important to them that the companies they purchase from are innovative.
Innovative tech integrated into the brand experience appeals to the connected consumer, no matter what their demographics.
See? A little navel-gazing doesn’t hurt – and in fact, it can be hugely beneficial. Understanding your own changed behaviors and expectations as a connected consumer takes you miles down the road to understanding what will resonate with your target audience. Because the connected consumer isn’t some strange unknowable creature – it’s you.