At first glance you may think the headline is the representation of madness, but the reality is it is already happening now, and the search statistics are backing up the shift in consumer trends.
Whilst the main media channels focus on the difficulties for high street retailers and give a broad overview of how consumer habits are changing in the way we now purchase goods and services online, what they don’t tell you is how that focus online is evolving and at an incredible rate of knots.
With a new generation of consumers leaving full time education to find their first jobs and create their own disposable income, they have already been programmed and made the choice of how they wish to engage with their favourite brands. The rest of us who have been bracketed as consumers for years are not immune to those trends, and we continually embrace the ethos of content and third party endorsement to influence our buying decisions. Does anyone now make a decision to purchase without a process of reviewing what others say about our intended purchases?
But it goes much deeper than just the method of how we purchase!
Technology, or indeed the evolution of technology, in our lives dictates consumer habit. The transition of income generation from the high street to the online shop has been happening for many years and anyone who hasn’t quite grasped this must have been in a long period of hibernation. However, there is a revolution happening now. The growth in lifestyle purchases is being driven by popular individuals influencing sales via YouTube channels talking about their favourite makeup brands to lots of eager and interested young females which is a great example of ‘influence marketing’, and we are continually subscribing to what are essentially feeds through the social media channels we engage with all doing very much the same.
The major change is here and that change is that we now expect the brands we engage with to deliver information to us. We subscribe to them, and they deliver their latest products, and influence purchase using more subtle or subliminal methods that are further influenced by the numerous endorsements by others. However, our social activity that is directed to the consumer isn’t just about influencing buying decisions, it is strengthening our allegiance and cohesion with our followers. It is about associated content and recognising the demographic interests of the people that engage. As our newly appointed social media guru, Logan Harrington puts it… a brand must provide value to its audience which in 2018 means immersing themselves in their followers interests and their world.
Take the typical Facebook post from a brand we may follow. A subtle question or message in the top to capture our attention, a highly visual or suggestive image or video to gain our interest and nurture our desire, and the numerous endorsements through the comments attached to that post to influence our buying decisions – and beautifully completed with that little button that says buy now or learn more. Our social timelines are full of them, and we have already embraced those brands by subscribing to their pages (or feeds), our habits and interests are an open book to other brands to make suggestions (you may like this page posts), and as individuals we are being fed content we really want to engage with through extremely clever algorithms that categorise us as a demographic profile for the advertisers. Why would we need to search for it now when we have set up our profiles to deliver what we want to receive?
Marketers and businesses need to keep up with those changing trends
Something I found very interesting was the grilling of Mr. Zuckerberg by Congress in the US. A number of ageing politicians wearing faded shipped in Saville Row suits looking to fully grasp the magnitude of influence social media is having on the world today. The somewhat naïve questioning and obvious difficulty to grasp the ‘current’ influence of social media in that questioning was evident! Even to the point the billionaire technology genius with huge resources and the best brains that money can buy was conceding his own admittance that the magnitude of the evolution he and his company had been the major contributor to had led to an oversight on their part with sensitive data being gathered by independent application developers because they had access to the code or the API.
To grasp the concept of this is quite astonishing, but it further fuels the fact we can predict the future to a certain extent through an understanding of how trends are changing and how technology is influencing that change, but we struggle to really understand the present and indeed align our marketing budgets accordingly.
Marketing budgets and how we spend them are continually evolving and have evolved dramatically over the past few decades, but now that change isn’t simply from traditional media to ‘traditional’ online mediums, it is how that online spend is conducted and the alignment of budgets towards content. Most businesses have grasped the need for content and utilising the right channels to drive influence and decision, but haven’t quite grasped the reasons why this should be the leading activity for anything that is marketed to the consumer. Remember, the next generations of consumers are expecting brands to push out to them and suggest they follow them, they don’t really want to search for them now, and would probably want to engage with them through more interesting and informative content rather than a product listing on a website, or at the very least be pushed to that website page via content that interests them.
However, with the growth in social e-commerce, i.e., social shops, will the traditional website become a thing of the past. Why would you need one if future generations of consumers don’t want to migrate from their favourite social media applications on their smart devices?
If you only trade with other businesses, does this affect you?
It would be very naïve to think that just because we act in one very succinct way in the world of consumer purchasing, it won’t influence the way we act in the B2B market. Content is already king in this market, and product reviews, testimonials and case studies all act in the very same guise to influence as in the consumer world.
The last statement is interesting! As consumers we form our spending habits around the technology and how that interacts with us, and this further influences our decision-making methods and processes in our business environments too. As consumers we continually expect brands to deliver content to us with less of a requirement, need and desire especially within younger generations to search for the next purchase. Those that trade in the B2B environment will need and should be influenced to do very much the same. Very interestingly, we are seeing a cross migration of consumer brands now advertising on LinkedIn which historically has its roots firmly focused on business environments. Facebook is building its own strengths in developing their algorithms to focus more and more in attracting B2B advertisers, but doubt this will be as effective. This demonstrates the need for content to be diverse, intuitive and to communicate to us on all levels.
Ignore those trends at your peril!
Content marketing is there to influence decision, it is not a hard sell process, it teases and cajoles the desire of the brand to the recipient and how this should be part of their lives. It aligns beliefs, interests in a more cohesive form of communication and through the advances in social technology it continually creates a visual representation of what that brand stands for through creativity instilling a desire to engage.
To finish off, if one organisation in the UK can have a major influence on presidential elections, imagine how much power is in the hands of the most content driven of brands. Remember, it is now about delivering, not waiting for those searchers to arrive!