Paradigm Shift In The Way We Behave
How a recent ski trip out west got me to thinking about … shopping. Really.3.14.12 » Posted by Chris Bailey | President & CEO
First, a little background. Although I ski often, I hadn’t purchased new skis in quite some time. The ski industry, like many other categories, continues to improve the consumer experience through innovation and technology. The improvements allow brands to deliver on key attributes that range from comfort to performance. All of which are important to me!
So when I decided to buy a new pair, it occurred to me that my shopping behavior was very much in line with what we observe in consumers we study for our clients’ brands. I first did research online, read reviews from experts and spoke with friends whose opinions I value. At this point I was ready to go to a store. I settled on two brands (let’s call them Brand A & Brand B) and went to a local retailer that carried only Brand A prepared to pull the trigger. Since either of my two choices would work, though, all the store had to do was put me over the top, and convince me that I was not making a bad decision.
It was a Friday night and I even brought my daughter who was home from college as reinforcement to make the purchase (she’s a great skier – I taught her starting at age 3). Armed with confidence from trusted sources and a desire to buy, I needed final confirmation by the ski shop that I was making the right choice. But the first shop failed! There was no one working that night with the product knowledge that could give me the confidence I needed.
The following weekend, I went to a different ski shop (near the mountain that I primarily ski) and bought the skis. The owner of the shop was knowledgeable and engaging and, after realizing that I was not close to home, exclaimed,
“There are at least 50 shops between where you live and us. Why are you buying here?” Quite simply, because he was the missing piece that would solidify my decision. Although I had done the research and knew enough about the skis to purchase them without his input, the experience at retail helped seal the deal.
So that’s when I started thinking about shopping, specifically how consumers shop today. Because, unlike years ago when I just ventured into the local ski shop and poked around until I found a pair of skis I liked then relied on the advice of the ski pro, today I have access to so much more information. Online reviews, comment boards, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest — all the information you could possibly want about a product is posted by consumers, bloggers and a whole host of others NOT associated with any particular brand.
And that’s the rub. The reality today is that much of the awareness that’s generated about brands today is out of the brand’s hands. Sure, you can advertise and try to control the message – even post on every social media channel that exists today (and that will undoubtedly exist in the future), but wild changes in technology mean that there is a convergence of media with no truly consistent way of reaching your audience.
So, what’s a brand to do? The simple answer is everything. First, ensure your employees and retailers (whether bricks-and-mortar or online) are armed with your message so they can become ambassadors for your brand. Then, leave no media stone unturned. Employ traditional and digital marketing techniques that make sense for your brand. Just be sure the message that gets out is the one you want to tell, and be consistent in how you tell it. Then, maybe, all those bloggers and consumers will say the same thing.