Online consumer behavior is often described as the study of trends, including the influence of online advertising, consumer willingness to click on links, the prevalence of comparison-shopping, and how this differs from a customer in a physical store.
Smart-phones, tablets and laptops have put consumers ahead of the game and it’s up to retailers and business owners to catch up and to try to understand how their customers are behaving. Before customers have even seen the product in the store (whether that is bricks and mortar or online), they have developed an impression of the product. Due to increased access to technology, the moment a consumer sees an ad, they can instantly jump online, scan a barcode, search for a review, talk to their online friends about it…the list goes on. These days a prospective consumer researches a product to decide if they will make a purchase.
So, the stimulus for a consumer to buy a product is no longer just an ad on TV, a poster on the wall, or fancy packaging. Businesses now need to be one step ahead of the consumer. They need to use online and digital resources to steer brand interaction or customer engagement in their favour. There are now many channels to market, many platforms on which to engage potential customers.
Consumers are, on average, spending more time on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn than on email, despite the former only becoming mainstream in many markets over the last few years. The use of social media is very high and is utilised by customers to research and learn about products or services, however, social media usage does not necessarily translate into sales. Businesses need to think about how social media fits into their overall communications strategy, and not to rely on it as the only method of communication or expect instant click-throughs for increased sales.
Ways to influence online consumer behaviour:
- Learn how consumers search for your business or product and think about all the relative searches. Do a web search for your product or service see what the most popular searches are, and create relative search terms for your company.
- Once you understand how people are searching for you, you need to get creative! Advertise; listen to reviews and ratings and think of more ways to get your business or product promoted.
- Research where your target market is spending their time on the internet and how they currently interact with your brand. Are they having a good experience or a bad one? Then figure out what your company can do to make the experience more favourable.
- Get into VIDEO! The second most-used search box in the world is YouTube. Whether you use it to showcase your product or to show consumers what’s going on at the head office, start up your camera and get recording!
- Stay up to date! You need to constantly be ahead of new consumer searches, questions and reviews. You also need to stay fresh with your advertising and video posts.
The objective for companies should be to build a seamless multi-channel experience that connects retailers with consumers and provides relevant and factual information in the search process. Online consumer behaviour is constantly changing and as more channels of interaction open up, businesses must find ways to interact and meet the needs of the online customer.