Most marketing and sales teams view consumer behavior as a difficult puzzle that can never be completely solved. While they understand the basics behind influencing conversions (like offering enticing sales and promotions), there’s a whole lot more to encouraging consumers to complete certain actions — apart from badgering them with advertisements.
Consumers are smarter than ever these days, and they know they have a huge number of options as global e-commerce has expanded tremendously. Therefore, converting them is getting trickier as consumers aren’t so quick to fall for gimmicky marketing ploys.
Marketers are more focused than ever on generating sales, reaching new audience segments, and boosting engagement. But how can this be done when consumer behavior is still such a mystery?
Well, the answer is understanding what matters the most to your target customers and incorporating those elements strategically into your marketing. Consumer preferences have changed, however. Therefore, here’s what really matters to consumers in the modern digital era.
1. Social Proof
Consumers are becoming less and less trusting of businesses and the media. They’re no longer easily swayed by flashy commercials and empty advertising promises. Instead, consumers are turning to each other for product advice, recommendations and brand discovery.
In fact, 91 percent of consumers said they trust random users on the internet just as much as a personal recommendation. This is why 82 percent of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase.
Therefore, establishing social proof is one of the best ways for brands to nurture leads One way to do this is to incorporate customer reviews as a marketing strategy.
For example, The Pearl Source, an online jewelry store, did this by incorporating its Trustpilot review profile directly on its website. Not only did this help to establish social proof and build trust with its audience, it worked to boost The Pearl Source’s organic search rankings — as searches for reviews on luxury items are quite common.
Now, reviews don’t have to be your only source of user-generated content (UGC). While many businesses leverage UGC frequently on social media channels, some are expanding to include it directly on their website, too.
For instance, Abercrombie & Fitch now includes pictures of real customers wearing retailer’s items on its product pages.
This type of UGC can do a lot to make your products seem more real, as they’re being used by real people, not heavily photoshopped models.
UGC provides a raw, unfiltered look into what a business offers. This type of content does wonders to promote a more authentic image. This is a tactic that many clothing brands have been using over the past few years to better relate to everyday customers.
2. Mobile-First Design
Nearly all initial interactions and the majority of online conversions are now done on mobile devices, whether it be through email marketing, social media ads, or Google search. Therefore, businesses need to create websites and apps with this in mind.
It is time for companies to embrace mobile-first design when creating websites, rather than merely trying to shrink their desktop version down for the small screen. According to a report from SAG IPL, companies that opted for responsive designs for mobile saw a 62 percent growth in sales!
One option that businesses may want to consider is creating a progressive web app (PWA) version of its website, particularly if it includes a lot of features. This means that the mobile version of your site operates more like an app, but doesn’t require the user to download anything.
Starbucks’ mobile website is a great example of a PWA.
It has a similar look and feel to the coffee chain’s app version and operates in the same manor. This achieves a far better user experience than a minimized version of Starbucks desktop site would.
3. Sustainability and Social Stance
Consumers expect a lot more from brands these days than just quality products. This is particularly true of millennials and Gen Zers. DoSomething Strategic’s survey of consumers aged 13 to 25 found that most young consumers preferred to buy from brands that held values aligning with their own.
This survey also revealed that the majority of consumers believe businesses should take a stance on important issues and use their power to make a difference. Another study found that issues like job creation, racial equality, and environmental sustainability were some of the most important topics that consumers want companies to address.
This is why more brands are embracing sustainable practices or supporting social causes. This is not only a great thing for companies to do for social reasons, but it’s also an effective way to build a more loyal customer base and even influence brand advocacy.
Brands like TOMS and Ben & Jerry’s have become nearly synonymous with the causes they support — and it’s also why so many consumers choose to support those brands. But there are other ways that companies can take a stand for the causes that are important to their customers without switching up their entire business structure.
For example, women’s apparel retailer Aerie announced that it would no longer be airbrushing product images and would be using models with more realistic body types than the typical size 2 model.
Aerie has since expanded its efforts to include models with disabilities while promoting body acceptance. As you can see from the comments in the below post, it has helped to significantly increase engagement and brand loyalty.
4. Personalized Experiences
Personalization has become even more important to consumers, especially when it comes to communication between a brand and a customer. In fact, nearly three-fourths of consumers will only engage with a brand if its messaging is personalized and tailored just for them.
Therefore, personalization needs to be a star player in your marketing content. But what personalization strategies do customers actually want from retailers?
Well, one without a doubt is relevant product recommendations. Amazon.com has set the standard quite high in this regard, but all businesses should be tracking product views and optimizing their websites and marketing communications with customized recommendations.
Another option is to include personalization from the very beginning with interactive media. For instance, Trunk Club creates completely customized product offerings for its customers based on a style quiz for first-time shoppers.
This makes the entire experience totally tailored to the individual shopper’s taste.
At the end of the day, the best way to increase sales is to show people what they want to see. Brands need to have a deeper understanding of what motivates their customers if they’re going to grow sales. Therefore, by understanding the factors that really matter to consumers and using them to influence their buying behavior, companies can expect to see great results.
Manish Dudharejia is the president and co-founder of E2M Solutions Inc, a San Diego-based digital agency that specializes in website design and development as well as e-commerce SEO.