Savvy business owners recognize that the sales landscape is in the midst of a major shift. Sellers no longer have complete control over their product or their message. Social media and online conversations mean that consumers are getting more information about products than ever before. This has generated a new kind of sales relationship – one where the prime driver of the sale is the consumer, not the salesperson.
This doesn’t make sales skills obsolete. In fact, as we really understand how the 21st Century buyer functions, we realize that sales and service are paramount to financial success. By empowering your buyers, managing your perceived brand values, and utilizing training and technology tools appropriately, science shows you are more likely to capture the attention (and business) of this new breed of buyer.
Due to the “always-on” model of the current shopping experience, consumers feel more confident that they’ll make the right call when it comes to making a purchase. In a recent study from AOL.com and InsightsNow, the largest demographic of consumers (67%) browse online daily. This same group of shoppers is more likely to know what brands it will buy before it makes a purchase, and is far less likely to make a shopping decision while in the store.
What’s the reason for this brand confidence? Dimensional Research presented a study that showed 90% of online buyers are influenced by either negative or positive brand reviews. An additional paper published by Stephen Ludwig et. al in the Journal of Marketing showed that, while positive reviews eventually lose their effectiveness in increasing conversion rates, negative reviews continue to compound over time.
Emotionally-Driven Brand Values
While many marketers believe that customer interaction is the key to increasing brand loyalty, research from the Harvard Business Review shows that consumers don’t want a personal relationship. Of the 7,000 consumers polled in the study, only 23% had a “personal relationship” with a brand.
But, these relationships weren’t built on an influx of social sharing or email marketing. Instead, 64% of consumers stated that “shared values” was the driver. Compared with the 13% that cited frequent interactions, it’s clear that managing how your brand’s values are perceived is far more lucrative than increased social media spending.
It is within this framework that businesses must learn how to monitor and facilitate the types of conversations that show buyers you share their values. Ludwig et. al showed that online reviews which matched the linguistic style and interests of the target demographic lead to higher conversion rates. This means you need to use the language of your people to prove that you care about what they do. Only then can you create the emotional connection with your brand that turns customers into brand fanatics.
Fast, Transparent, and Flawless Service
Online shopping cart abandonment rate is over 68%, even among best-in-class businesses. Unfortunately, this is a by-product of the 21st Century consumer’s need for instant service and transparent business interactions. In data compiled by Statista, 56% of shoppers abandoned their carts because of unexpected prices at checkout. And, in a 2013 Jumio report, 66% of customers failed to complete a transaction due to problems with the checkout process.
Still, the purchasing point isn’t the only place where 21st Century buyers demand better service and transparency. Research from The Social Habit shows that 42% of consumers expect a 60-minute response from a social media complaint. In addition, one of the major frustrations for 84% of consumers is dealing with companies that say one thing and do another. The lack of transparency and mixed media messages are two of the main reasons that brand loyalty continues to drop across all sales organizations.
In order to meet customers’ increased demands, it is vital for your organization to create consistent branding messages and simplify the checkout and service processes. Best-in-class producers, like Amazon, make it simple to buy with just a click. Today’s buyers won’t tolerate hidden fees at the checkout stage, either. Instead, make it clear what their costs are up front, streamline checkout processes, and then respond to complaints quickly — both online and in person.
Inside the 21st Century Buyer
As buyers become increasingly open about their personal information, the best-in-class organizations are able to gather and analyze that data to better understand how their personal prospect base thinks. The most effective businesses are realizing that they can also use customer relationship management (CRM) software to help standardize their marketing messages and maintain omni-channel consistency to build brand trust.
Organizations that use a CRM more effectively see increased sales, but also see better long-term relationships with their customers. Why is this? According to Avanade, businesses where sales reps use a CRM 80% of the time have better information-sharing, more personalized sales proposals, and better response times for customer complaints. This means that a CRM intrinsically allows organizations to meet many of the 21st Century buying needs.
With a better understanding of your buyer, you’ll be able to meet their particular needs faster and with better results for long-term customer relationships. By creating opportunities for consumers to feel empowered by the buying process and connected to your brand values, you are much more likely to develop a loyal following for your organization. And, through a CRM’s heightened analytics, you can continue to connect with consumers, share consistent branding messages, and build their trust in your company.