The digital marketing industry is growing at some 22 percent per annum worldwide. With the explosion of online retail and digital marketing at the helm of its success, we thought it would be good to reflect on our changing consumer behavior and society.
Read on as we deep dive into 8 key changes in behavior that have transformed the everyday consumer into a savvy digital native. But first, let’s start at the beginning.
What does History tell us about Changing Consumer Behavior?
If we look at the history of mankind, every discovery or technology has upgraded society.
Though printing was known at least 5,000 years earlier to humans, the invention of the printing press in the 1500s by Johannes Gutenberg changed consumer behavior forever. The humble newspaper put the power of reaching thousands of people at the hands of manufacturers. Manufacturers of the era would advertise in newspapers to influence and change consumer behavior. Considering that newspapers continue to change consumer behavior to date only shows their effectiveness.
The same was seen when commercial radio made its appearance in the 1910s and 1920s. Radio stations, though a government monopoly in those ages, found companies ready to pay for broadcasting their advertisements.
Ditto with TV, which took influencing consumers to an altogether new paradigm, along with movies. Watching cine stars and celebrities do something or use a product vastly influenced consumer behavior.
And in our era, digital marketing that was earlier known as Internet marketing is doing the same. However, digital marketing is changing consumer behavior unlike anything seen earlier through newspapers, radio, TV, and cinema. Or for that matter, offline advertising mediums such as roadside hoardings and displays.
With Internet proliferation and easier availability of relatively inexpensive devices to access the web now available across the world, here’re some ways how digital marketing has changed and continues to influence consumer behavior.
Impact of Digital Marketing and Ecommerce on Consumer Behavior
As a consumer, look at your buying and spending patterns. Surely, you’ll notice a distinct change in these in comparison to the last two decades when digital marketing was just emerging. Here are some pertinent examples of how digital marketing has changed consumer behavior:
Access to global marketplaces
Unless importing goods isn’t permissible in your country, digital marketing has given access to consumers to products from markets around the world. It’s now easy to buy anything from almost any country and continent with the simple click of the mouse or a touch on your smartphone screen. In some cases that it's unavailable in your area, VPN services can even help you access geo-blocked content.
As a result, we’re seeing an increasing number of people opting for high-end or rare imported products that weren’t easily available earlier. Hence, people now have a taste for foreign goods and in most cases, refined tastes that come with buying expensive stuff from abroad.
Real-time research into products
Another major change in consumer behavior is apparent when we look at how consumers research a product before actually placing an order. Regardless of whether it’s a humble bathing soap or an expensive electronic item, an increasing number of consumers now research into pros and cons of everything through blogs, reviews on ecommerce portals, manufacturer websites, and social media. This isn’t something that people did as recently as three decades ago.
Studies and researches in digital marketing indicate that at least 80 percent of consumers read blogs and product reviews during the first phase of their buying process. The objective of such research is simple: to make an informed choice while getting the best value for money.
Therefore, no manufacturer can afford to overlook digital marketing and its influence on consumers. If their product or service has negative or unfavorable reviews, they know a product won’t fare well in the market. Hence, they make products that would inevitably get positive and favorable reviews so that blogs and social media can influence consumer behavior by tilting the balance in their favor.
Shopping baskets anywhere, anytime
Digital marketing has given consumers the option of buying various products from different sources through online shopping. They have dozens of shopping sites to buy whatever’s available at a cheaper rate or with good discounts. Hence, the staunch loyalty to a single brand or store has diluted.
Email marketing, Facebook posts, tweets on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest ads as well as advertisements that pop up while browsing the Internet keep a consumer well informed about various choices and prices. Thanks to Google AdSense, there’s no shortage of such focused ads that depend upon a consumer’s browsing history.
In fact, both sellers and consumers are now spoilt for choice when it comes to online outlets to place orders. Affiliate marketers, who’re mainly bloggers and digital marketers, provide honest and superb reviews that influence consumers and guide them to make instant purchases through affiliate links.
At the same time, we have retailers and craftsperson of all types selling through Facebook Marketplace, Facebook pages, and online marketplaces such as Etsy and Shopify. Consequently, a consumer isn’t bound by only one choice: they have multiple channels to buy the same thing.
Discount mindset grows
Earlier, consumers would look for discounts. Thanks to digital marketing and growing awareness of cheaper goods available elsewhere, online sellers are in the rat race to offer discounts on almost every product. For example, supermarkets such as Walmart, Target, and Giant to name a few, offer printable or online coupons or advertise discounts on specific days for specific products.
Shoppers on Amazon, eBay, and other websites will find that every price online already carries a small discount. Compare this scenario with earlier ones where a consumer had to haggle with store owners or salespersons for slicing off a few Dollars off the tag price.
FOMO through email marketing
Email marketing, an integral part of digital marketing, allows consumers to stay informed and connected with their favorite vendors even while traveling abroad. They don’t have to visit a physical store to learn about things such as new launches and price drops. Instead, they find such information conveniently delivered to their email.
As a result, consumers don’t have to fear missing an offer or sale or new launch. Instead, they can place orders directly. Email marketing makes it possible for consumers to simply click on an interactive link and buy.
Customer loyalty is rare
Hence, we have most online vendors offering hefty discounts and freebies to maintain that loyalty among consumers. Getting a loyal customer is more difficult for any online seller or offline, brick-and-mortar store than at any time. That’s why we have sellers giving away loyalty points on every dollar a consumer spends. These points are redeemable as cash while paying bills for future purchases. And then we have cashback offers.
One such classic example of a loyalty program is Amazon Prime. For a small annual fee, Amazon Prime enables shoppers to a host of benefits such as free and faster deliveries, priority while shopping for select items, free movies and music, and lots more. As a result, consumer behavior has changed. All consumers want value additions along with their spending.
Credit and monthly installments support purchases
A very important feature of digital marketing and its impact on consumer behavior can be found in buying patterns themselves. Earlier, people wouldn’t get everything on credit or have the luxury of paying later for their purchases unless they had credit cards. Digital marketing has changed this scenario for good.
The rush to pamper customers online is forcing retailers to offer ease of buying through Equal Monthly Instalments (EMIs) and other facilities. In some instances, sellers also offer interest-free credit and EMI plans. These influence consumers to buy now instead of postponing an expensive purchase to a later date.
Surveys and pennies for every thought
Ask any person whether they would have spent time online to find and complete online surveys, a few years earlier. I’m sure the answer would have been an emphatic “no”.
As a result of digital marketing, all consumer companies are now in stiff competition to steal a march over one another by creating and launching innovative products. And doing so requires consumer feedback. Hence, they have online surveys targeting consumers created through software such as quiz software. Consumers are more than willing to participate in online surveys or write product reviews as market research companies reward their efforts with cash or free shopping coupons from top brands.
Brace For More Changes
We admit that these 8 changes only scratch the surface of how consumer behavior has evolved. We’ll be watching out carefully for all the changes yet to come!