The tech-empowered consumer rules the world

Tech-empowered consumers are helping businesses become bigger, better and more responsive. Here’s how to make the most of them.

Consumers aren’t what they used to be. In pre-digital days, businesses only needed to be public-facing 9-5:30 and face to face interaction ruled customer service. Now, your customer has a 24/7 connection to your business; ecommerce and social media mean the average business needs to be always-on.

The tech-empowered customer is powerful. They’re conscious about what’s going on in society and how your brand values fit with their own values.

So, the most innovative businesses are those that understand and actively engage with their omnipresent customer base. If you look your customer in the eye and communicate with them in an open and transparent way, you gain the benefit of being approachable and trustworthy. In a digital space that’s full of noise, powerful connections like that can make or break a business.
 

Consumer trends online

The ‘Internet of Me’

 
Privacy isn’t the first thing you’d associate with the internet, especially for the growing generations who grow up on devices. They’re used to sharing data freely. What they’re not willing to give up, however, is a lack of control of their data. It’s one thing updating three social media platforms with holiday pictures or a video from a birthday, but when personal data and viewing habits are sneakily taken in the background from devices and websites, it’s something completely different.

In an age of data, it’s clear that consumers have been exploited by dodgy data collection practices. New cookie laws and the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are making strides in educating and protecting consumers from unscrupulous businesses, which, in turn, is making it harder to gain trust online. People are waking up to the fact that their data is worth something, which has seen a shift in the traditional customer/business power balance. Companies like Digi.me are empowering consumers with the tools they need to understand and control their own digital footprint and how it’s shared with businesses.

Smart businesses have been transparent about the exchange of products and services for data. For example, apps and newspapers allowing free access in exchange for the data on a social media log-in. While it’s not a perfect system, it’s creating a transactional and more equal relationship between supplier and consumer.

Going forward, the biggest winners in establishing balance and data best practice will be the businesses who are fully GDPR compliant. A transparent and user-friendly approach to data collection will help to create trust. Check out our data debate with our team of GDPR experts.
 

Digital payments and the automated social experience

 
One of the first disruptions of payment methods was in 1999, when Ericsson and Telenor Mobil allowed customers to buy movie tickets from their mobiles. Cut to nearly twenty years later and people are able to use their smartphones as contactless payment devices.

This is fast becoming standard practice for people, so if you’re not offering physical payment options like this, then you’ll potentially lose out on customers. Adding physical payment options through a mobile device gives you a final touchpoint in a mobile payment buying cycle.

It’s important to remember that ecommerce on mobile is expanding. While apps play a part in this, having a website that’s optimised for mobile means people who browse have an easier experience and don’t face barriers when purchasing. The average basket abandonment rate is 69.23%, so anything you do to encourage browsers to become customers will help push the odds of purchase in your favour.

Additionally, social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp have started integrating ecommerce and money transfer options into their offering. Likely, after seeing the popularity in Chinese counterparts, WeChat and Kakao Talk. It’s estimated that as many as 3.6 billion people could be registered on at least one messaging app by 2018, which shows the potential of investing in outreach to this audience. One of the easiest ways to jump on this trend is to boost your customer service team with chatbots. Other businesses have started offering customised experiences, particularly in the travel industry, with messaging apps providing access to itineraries and boarding passes.
 

Micro influencers

 
You might have the best product in the world but if no one knows about it then your sales won’t reflect it. By tapping into the power of social media communities, you can find people to talk about your product for you.

This trend currently appears in two main ways. One is the fact that 81% of shoppers online look to reviews and ratings from customers to inform their purchasing decisions. And 64% watch reviews of videos from other users. When someone other than a brand talks about a product, there’s an extra level of authenticity, which creates trust.

The second way in which this manifests is through influencer marketing. Influencers with millions of Instagram followers routinely charge thousands of pounds to promote anything from fitness equipment to food and drink. But it becomes harder to form a relationship built on trust when an influencer has that many followers – the level of interaction and engagement between influencer and followers is significantly lower. So, the trend is turning toward micro influencers, who might have a fraction of the followers of larger social figures but have cultivated trust and engagement in their niche. Specialist knowledge and a human connection could out perform in certain sectors.

Try searching your current social media following and look for people who consistently engage or participate in the community on your pages. Forming a relationship with these individuals and thinking about how to boost their profile could be a way to tap into their position of trust. Failing that, find one in your sector by researching relevant hashtags and online communities. Tools like Buzzsumo, Klear and Ninja Outreach provide free to use tools that find influencers based on specific keywords.
 

The future of the consumer

 
The key takeaway from a world of tech-empowered consumers is that people are tired of being taken for granted by unscrupulous sellers and marketers. By providing a safe, reliable and trustworthy space on the internet, your small business could become something that cuts through thousands of inefficient and unsafe ecommerce experiences.

It’s time to give your business a human touch, because that’s what gets people engaged and excited.

Read our latest articles on how to be a successful small business.