The modernization of consumers—and what it means to PR

by | Jan 22, 2021 | Analysis, Public Relations

In a 1974 episode of the popular “Bob Newhart Show,” Bob gave Emily a blender as an anniversary present hoping that it would help make her feel more modern. The well-intended gesture was no more successful than some of today’s brands in successfully recognizing and catering to customers’ evolving needs.

Today, the experience a brand provides is as important as the product itself, according to 84 percent of consumers surveyed in 2019 by Salesforce. In July 2020, 54 percent told a Podium study that brands need to change how their customers interact, with 29 percent saying that price is no longer a top consideration in selecting a business or brand. So, what’s a brand to do?

Making a good first impression has always been important in personal and business relationships, but has risen higher of late

But unlike personal situations, this relationship usually starts online. A consumer’s initial discovery of a brand must answer everything he/she is looking for. If the consumer can’t understand the offer or see the product’s value, a sale, much less a return visit, is unlikely. On the other hand, 73 percent told a Salesforce survey that one exceptional experience would raise their expectation of other brands.

Much has been written about a website that’s informative and easy to navigate. It should also be intuitive while clearly directing visitors to the information they need, like FAQ and contact pages. Having a chat option would help satisfy the 82 percent of consumers who responded to a 2019 Sales & Marketing survey by saying they expect immediate responses in their search journeys. And a 2018 study by digital PR and marketing firm Parqa warned that 88 percent of respondents who encounter a bad first experience said they wouldn’t return.

As first responders, first inquiries are also critical in making things right as quickly as possible

In this case, it means removing all roadblocks and making it as easy as possible for a visitor to begin a conversation with the brand. A recent study by Convince & Convert and Edison Research revealed that consumers anticipate responses right away. Eighty percent expect answers to social media queries within 24 hours, while 67 percent say they’re okay with current telephone response times.

An earlier article discussed the growing number of consumers checking out new brands and websites since the pandemic began. Before the pandemic, a Google survey showed that almost 60 percent of consumers make their purchase decisions before even speaking with a sales rep. This is even more important now since more consumers prefer conducting business online rather than in-person.

Some businesses like car dealerships don’t have the option of pure online sales but can make site visits more pandemic friendly. Bringing the auto to the buyer for a test drive could also enhance the chances of a sale.

Stress-free convenience has soared in popularity since March 2020

And though a third of respondents expressed a mobile payment option like text messaging to Podium, the firm reported only 26 percent of merchants collect payments via text. Also, 80 percent of consumers said they hope businesses continue contactless payment options even after the pandemic is over.

A 2018 Digital Commerce survey offered support from another perspective by reporting that 87 percent of consumers will abandon checkouts without easy and simple checkouts, and 55 percent will never return to the brand’s website.

As in any successful relationship, follow-up is still important. In today’s environment, 85 percent of consumers polled by Podium expect local companies to not only offer more convenient communication and services than before the pandemic, but 65% added that texting makes it so much more convenient. Post-purchase texts, personalized discounts and offers, and messages customized to special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries will help ensure loyalty.

Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian founded 5WPR, a leading PR agency..