When we say the consumer has changed the way they buy, it’s more than how they Google and educate themselves on a topic before they “enter the market” to buy – although that’s a major change in itself. Ask any store clerk who sells consumer electronics. They’ll tell you the average consumer knows as much about the technology they sell as they do! Or at least has educated themselves enough that they think they do. This alone would be a great reason to change the way we go to market but there are other levels of impact not even considered in this initial equation.
For example: I watched my wife as she watched a Guthy Renker informercial on TV. It was about Cindy Crawford’s new anti-aging skin treatment called Meaningful Beauty. She was intrigued – drawn in by the credibility and youthful appearance of Valerie Bertinelli and Cindy Crawford as well as the testimonials and the brilliant Dr. they were bragging about. She had her credit card at the ready and was debating whether or not to call the 800 number. And that’s where Google came in – yet again.
She grabbed her laptop, while still watching the infomercial, and started searching for consumer reviews for Meaningful Beauty. She decided to let the Internet community weigh in before she called her order in. Well, that was a buzz-kill for sure. She read as many accounts of causing face rashes that required medical treatment as she did raving success stories.
It gets worse. One of the entries pointed out that all of the ‘positive’ accounts “sounded like the people who were selling the stuff”!. I could quickly see that all those millions spent on brilliantly executed TV spots were going to be nullified by an empowered consumer, the free Internet and a powerful search engine.
So perhaps we are (hopefully) witnessing the end of an era. The one where you ‘pummel your consumer get them to sign on and once you have their credit card, you’re off to the bank’. This is a clear ‘heads up’ for old business thinking.