The internet, social media, and smartphones have given consumers more knowledge and power than ever before. As businesses across every industry have moved online in droves, companies face huge competition and need to develop robust strategies to capture consumer attention.

However, as customers’ attention spans grow shorter, achieving this goal is easier said than done. In a marketplace increasingly controlled by consumers, what can be done to make sure your company flourishes in the future?

To do so, we first need to understand how the customer journey has changed in the Internet Age while adopting forward-thinking strategies that cater to customer needs. Instead of getting left behind, it is about time businesses appeal to those who determine their success to stay ahead of the competition.

What is the Customer Journey?

You’ve probably heard about the customer journey. But what is it? In a nutshell, it’s the decision-making process customers go through when they make a purchase.

Since digital marketing took over, the customer journey has undergone major changes. In the past, marketers believed that simply attracting the largest amount of attention was enough to get people into their stores and make a purchase.

Businesses were responsible for initiating touchpoints with customers and convincing them to make a purchase. However, the customer journey has since changed, and consumers have become empowered through their increased ability to gain access to information conveniently via digital channels.

How the Customer Journey has Changed with Tech

E-commerce is now the dominant way to shop. However, as millions of businesses have online stores and compete for attention, customers are bound to find many similar products during their journey. For instance, a person looking for the latest iPhone will discover alternative smartphone options offered by Samsung, Oppo, vivo, OnePlus, and Huawei.

Meanwhile, with easier access to information, customers now care more deeply about the ethics of the business they purchase from.

The customer journey has also changed massively from the advanced digital landscape. Today, once someone has identified a product to buy, they want to purchase it with minimal fuss. This means e-commerce stores must create a seamless experience, where customers can browse, add to cart, checkout, and have purchases delivered to their doorstep.

Understanding the 21st-Century Consumer

As technology continues to impact our daily lives in diverse and unpredictable ways, businesses must adjust with the times to remain relevant.

1. The Shift in Consumption Patterns

As tech-savvy consumers can identify the product they want within minutes, they expect their relationship with a business to be frictionless. Customers want to be able to shop on both desktop and mobile. And if your e-commerce store fails to load quickly or display the catalogue properly on a smartphone, expect to see customers bouncing to other competitors.

Research has found that today's consumers have an attention span of 8 seconds compared to 12 seconds back in 2000. This doesn’t leave you much time to convince someone to make a purchase.

However, creating a highly personalised shopping experience gives you a better chance of retaining someone’s attention for longer. As a matter of fact, research has shown that customers are willing to pay up to 20% more for personalised products. Furthermore, according to Zendesk, 75% of customers say they expect personalisation when making purchases. As such, you need to have a data-driven understanding of your target market and their consumer psychology.

However, personalised marketing is becoming more complicated as consumers become increasingly aware of how their data is used for advertising. For example, brands can use customer data such as order history, device information and search history to increase their chance of winning consumer focus.

The best way to overcome these concerns around their privacy is to be upfront about how your business uses this information. Alleviate concerns by explaining how this process helps people find what they want. Also, demonstrate that you’re serious about data privacy laws through company-wide guidelines and transparent messaging.

2. The Competition is Growing Stronger Too

Keeping up with changes in consumer trends and behaviour is complicated. But you definitely aren’t the only one attempting to do so. As customer expectations continue to shift, your biggest rivals will also develop strategies to capture attention and drive success through advanced digital strategies and business innovation.

So how can you ensure your business is the one in the lead? Start by getting to know how your competitors are adapting to the digital landscape. Head to their social media profiles and look into minute details. This will help you identify their strategies to appeal to consumers, helping you develop your own that performs better.

You should also check out your competitor’s online stores. Do they have great offers that appeal to your target market? You might discover they provide free international shipping or have an amazing referral programme. These factors, alongside dozens of others, could be what sets you apart from them.

As customers also care about more than just the product, look into how your organisation safeguards the environment or protects workers. If your key competitors are well-known for embracing causes and contributing to charities, you might find that customers might support them instead even if your product is superior.

And of course, practice what you preach. Take sincere strides or your reputation might be tarnished in the eyes of customers. Victoria’s Secret downfall is one well-known example showcasing the importance of keeping up with consumer trends and social causes.

What Brands Can Do to Satisfy 21st-Century Consumers

As consumer behaviour and trends evolve, brands must find new ways to satisfy their needs. Millennials and Generation-Z consumers are known for their fast-and-now attitude, meaning your sales journey must be efficient and convenient. This is especially vital for e-commerce platforms, but it also extends to companies that operate brick-and-mortar stores.

Implementing interactive technology to bridge the online and physical experience can deliver exceptional results. In addition to the tech and IT infrastructure used by your business, customers want to feel like their voices are being heard. Take for example 2 big names - McDonald’s and Nike.

With the public becoming more aware of climate issues and the importance of sustainability, single-use plastic has become a major concern. And as the largest fast-food corporation in the world, McDonald’s could not afford to push customer demands under the rug. Rolling out plans to phase out plastic, McDonald’s Singapore started doing away with plastic straws in 2019. Nike also pulled out its Independence Day-themed shoes after a former NFL star raised concerns about the sneaker’s racist connotations. Therefore, from your corporate culture to the products you bring to the market to consumer surplus, updating your processes alongside evolving consumer behaviour has never been more important.

1. Listen to Your Customers

You can’t build a successful business without any customers. With consumers holding many of the cards, you need to show that you’re listening to what they have to say, especially as competition increases. Failing to adjust to consumer behaviour ensures people will look for alternatives.

One of the best ways to achieve this is by engaging with customers through their most frequented channels. If you know your consumers are most active on Instagram, create content and ask for their feedback. Offer a small discount or a similar incentive to get them to share their opinions.

When customers make a purchase online or in-store, ask them to sign up to your email list. This way, you can send a follow-up email that asks for feedback on both the buying process and the product. Get to know what buyers think, update your procedures, and create a smoother customer journey.

2. Streamline the Digital Consumer Journey

With the retail landscape impacted by online and mobile technology, adapting to how consumers prefer to shop will improve both e-commerce and in-store sales. For example, Singapore has seen a surge in so-called ‘webrooming’ customers – where people research items online before heading to a physical store to complete the purchase.

A study by Singapore Management University discovered that webrooming customers spent S$229 on average at department stores, compared to S$81 spent by customers who visit the shop without first conducting research online. To take advantage of this, brands must develop innovative business solutions that boost engagement.

Sephora and its digital gifting offering is a prime example of this. While many of Sephora's customers choose to buy from home, leveraging on personalised recommendations in the app, the cosmetics company offers free in-store makeovers to customers with minimum purchases. In addition to these personalised services, customers can buy and send personalised digital gift cards with the click of a button. This streamlined shopping experience has helped the brand appeal to a broader range of customers.

3. Change Your Executive Culture

As customer behaviour changes, so must the attitude of your C-suite executives. While many traditional leadership qualities remain highly relevant, they need to be combined with a willingness to adapt to the changing world.

Naturally, companies remain driven by profit. But this must be considered within a broader social context. As customers increasingly favour purpose-driven companies, ensuring your organisation does more than simply address its financial goals will be critical for developing customer relations.

4. Enhance Everyday Efficiency

If your business wants to benefit from frictionless sales and operations, you need to implement collaborative IT infrastructure solutions to bring your team together.

Cloud-based file-sharing services like Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive can assist with this by ensuring employees have access to all the documents they need both in the office and on the move.

M1’s SME Hub offers businesses a great selection of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) products. This includes Microsoft 365 for productivity cloud services, ensuring you always have access to online versions of Microsoft Office apps, email storage, cloud storage, and other business solutions.

M1 also provides comprehensive Managed IT Business services that help to future-proof your business. With our consulting and technological expertise, we can help your company implement the changes it needs to succeed. IT infrastructure services available in Singapore, such as virtualisation, will transform your business into a nimble and flexible one.

We also offer feature-rich Cloud Based Unified Communication (Cloud UC) services to enhance internal and outgoing communications. With a user-friendly interface, your business will benefit from virtual fixed lines, PBX features, audio conferencing, instant messaging, voicemail, and more. As a leading Cloud Based Unified Communications service provider, we take care of all system features and upgrades so you can go mobile and focus on innovation in your business.