Online Consumer Behavior in a Word: CRAZY!
The Latin phrase "Caveat Emptor" meaning "Let the buyer beware" was consumer watch phrase for a very long time, but since nobody speaks Latin anymore there is a new phrase "Wooo Hoooo let's spend like drunken sailors!" In the last few years there have been many changes in how consumers can buy goods and services. Amazon and E-bay broke the mold of conventional retail and brought online purchasing and direct to door delivery to the everyday experience. Nowhere has this seen the biggest change as in China. Of course this has to be taken in context. It wasn't long ago that China didn't have a pot to piss in and now that pot is overflowing with cash. China is breaking records for online sales and some examples boggle the mind like spending US$100 million on real estate through a website and QQ*.
But it is not all as crazy at it seems. What has happened is that the purchase cycle has changed. The internet and social media has greatly increased access to product information and product reviews. The term used is ROPO or research online purchase on/off line. The emphasis on online research is at an all time high with between 50% (U.S.) and 80% (China) not making a purchase without researching online in which UGC is an important component. UGC is user generated content, meaning comments left by people you likely do not even know. However, doing a personal evaluation of brand truthfulness, and legitimacy they are an increasingly valuable in creating brand trust; think bloggers. So what does this mean for brands? It means that more than ever they need to be less concerned with hard core sales techniques and advertising in social spaces and more on answering and addressing customer questions and concerns. This is critically important for online Customer Service. Many brands have cosmetically perfect social profiles, but they lack depth, customer engagement, comments and other factors that contribute to authenticity. More than ever customers are looking for real information about brands, not the carefully crafted advertising campaigns of past. If you are a brand ask yourself what is the most important component of your social media strategy. If you say, it is communicating about your brand, chances are you are doing a shit job.
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