Customers of all ages, in all industries, both B2B and B2C, (Business-to-Consumer), are spending more and more time online. But what is driving these trends, and what does this tell us about the way businesses and consumers behave online? Versio2 Managing Partner Stephan Burckhardt explains.
There is a huge shift towards not only researching but also purchasing online (including mobile). Today, 79% of online shoppers spend at least 50% of their purchasing time researching products online (Internetworldstats.com). With 61% of users worldwide researching products online, 44% of online shoppers begin by using a search engine (Interconnected World), while 67% of B2C and 41% of B2B companies have gained customers through Facebook alone (HubSpot).
Direct producer-consumer interaction means that producing companies can no longer afford to simply have a one-way “push” communication channel to the consumer, such as with advertising or direct mail. Communications with target customers now have to be two-way and interactive. Not only that, producing companies need to provide useful, in-depth information to consumers. Why is this change so important?
Consumers are more demanding, much better informed, and more sceptical and savvy than they used to be. Because they are overwhelmed by irrelevant messages, they are looking for trustworthy information and brands they can rely on to consistently deliver the value they are seeking at the lowest possible price.
“People don’t trust businesses the way they used to … For the first time we found that the most trusted sourceswere ‘a person such as yourself or a peer’.” – Steve Rubel, Chief Content Strategist, Edelman
This is why branding is still very important, and not just in B2C. It helps customers sort through the information jungle to find the sources that truly help them, that those they can trust and base purchasing decisions on. Customer behaviour today is such that consumers are far less tolerant of disruption, such as from banner ads or pop-ups and spam, and they are looking for useful, informative, educational and entertaining marketing they love to receive on YouTube, their Facebook feed or in their inbox.
“The best way to sell something: don’t sell anything. Earn the awareness, respect, and trust of those who might buy.” – Rand Fishkin, Founder, SEOmoz
Trust is essential in this equation and online brand building is a core element for companies in order to build strong and enduring relationships with their audiences. As we are becoming an increasingly global marketplace, that trust is no longer easily built person to person but increasingly online.
Stephan Burckhardt is author of the Executive Guide to Online Marketing – A Lean Business Perspective out soon from Versio2 (click to reserve your copy). He was CEO and owner of a CHF 12 million Swiss communications agency and worked as a consultant for financial, technology, healthcare and other clients in North America and Switzerland.
He was a TV journalist and PR consultant in Silicon Valley, group manager at Trimedia, Zurich, and member of senior management at Landis & Gyr. He sees a great future for inbound marketing and is excited to pioneer this promising methodology in Switzerland.