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What you must know about consumer buying behavior in 2021

There is no doubt that the dual global crisis has changed the way our world operates. The health pandemic along with the subsequent economic crisis has forced us to evolve in a way we were not ready for. Brands which were quick to adjust to the changing demand, sustained their businesses and so even grew multifold. They reached out quickly to their partners, customers, and suppliers; worked out the new demand; set new expectations accordingly; and found innovative ways of driving revenue. By communicating early and often, these brands were able to focus on developing strategies that allowed them to predict and execute their operations in the new market.

With the entire world turned upside down, brands would need to look at the market through a kaleidoscope. The patterns are different now. The way you look at the scenario needs to change. Businesses that create opportunities among the despair and uncertainty are the businesses that will succeed. To seek out a particular chance does not happen easily. Brands need to find ways to communicate with their customers and understand their expectations from the brands. Gone are the days of following the traditional marketing funnel.

  1. Awareness

  2. Interest

  3. Consideration

  4. Decision

  5. Post purchase delight

  6. Repeat customer

Most of the marketers have followed these steps and actually got results. This is a proven process that has yielded success over and over again. But there is no denying that this is a long process. You have to be patient as each step will follow the previous. Customer relationships are built through trust and the focus is on creating a long term relationship.

With the lockdown in place customers have of course moved from shopping in physical outlets to shopping on various ecommerce platforms. In fact customers have been forced to adapt themselves to this new digital way of life. It is no more the consumers’ decision to choose where to shop. You will either shop with the ecommerce giants like Amazon or Flipkart, or for niche requirements you would Google search for websites offering these specialised products.

Another change in the customers that has been observed is that digital window shopping is a daily activity. Consumers have been observed to browse through Amazon at least 1 hour a day looking for “nothing specific”. Research shows that Amazon and Flipkart top the list of platforms on which customers search for new products. This stage is called Inspiration. Surprisingly, Google search comes in second place when it comes to searching for new products. Customers simply take advantage of the wide range of products available on ecommerce websites and get inspired to buy these products.

There is no relationship building involved here. The only focus of ecommerce websites is sales. The websites want to drive their number and they have figured out other ways to get sales. The review system is one such initiative that helps customers choose products based on their sorting criteria. Detailed product imagery showcases the product so that customers get an idea of what to expect. Product videos are gaining popularity as you can also show the product in use. Once again, this is done to help customers arrive at a decision. This stage is called Seeking, where customers seek out products that fit their criteria.

Once the seek phase is complete, it’s time to make the all-important purchase decision. But what factor is most important to consumers when it comes to making the purchase decision? The most important factor is still the price of the product. But it would be wrong to expect that price is the ONLY deciding factor for purchase. The product which offers the best combination of deciding factors will be preferred. It is interesting to see that there are other important deciding factors such as time, availability and delivery, which have increased in importance, and there are certainly differences in what is important across industries and product sets. This is where the purchase happens.

It is surprising that the sales funnel has shortened dramatically. While the traditional sales process would last over days, today the digital sales process is completed within minutes. As opposed to the popular belief that building a long term relationship is the key to making sales, it is now a transactional activity and does not involve any emotional input from the customers and the brands. Imagine the amount of time and efforts saved! One may of course argue that lack of emotional connect will not guarantee a repeat customer. And that is what we have been made to believe in the past. The digital world does not conform to the conventional ideas of marketing and sales. eCommerce giants have already found a way to ensure repeat customers. These sites show that consumers are driven by the range that the marketplaces offer (not to mention their ease, speed and convenience). Their breadth of products means that consumers regularly use them to purchase. In-app marketing of new products and range also ensure that the consumers keep coming back to the app. Year round offers and discounts is the way the ecommerce industry gained customers in the first place. These activities that ensure repeat customers are called Remarketing activities.

It is great to see such a short sales cycle. Instant gratification is the name of the game. Why shop any other way when you can save time and efforts buying things over the internet. Take a hint from this online shopping surge, Google search too have introduced a shopping tab which will search for products across various ecommerce websites and also compare their prices. When the stalwarts of the industry are looking at moving their consumer base to online shopping, it is imperative that the physical brands start evaluating their move to the digital world. We suggest that you not only create an online presence but also give a strong thought to the change in consumer buying process and the tools to leverage this change.

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