What do customers want? This is the question that has consumed entrepreneurs since forever and continues to pose a challenge for those trying to find the right answer.
Understanding customer behavior and preferences is critical for navigating the complex business landscape and achieving success, regardless of industry. This enables companies to adjust their strategies so they can provide better products/services to their target audiences and make smarter business decisions.
But the truth is there is no simple or single answer to this question. Getting into the minds of the consumers and figuring out what they need is a difficult task. Different people want different things at different times, so staying on top of consumers’ expectations and desires requires constant effort and ongoing research. While certain needs remain the same, as reflected in the timeless principles of nurturing strong customer relationships, other aspects are subjected to constant change, under the influence of a wide variety of factors, including the new channels and technologies transforming the marketplaces. Changes within the construction sector, for example, have led to increasing pressures for stakeholders and prompted both developers and sellers to reevaluate their strategies.
So, let’s take a look at what customers want and need these days and what companies can do to rise to the challenges and meet these expectations.
Enhanced digital experiences
In the past few years, and especially since the start of the pandemic, many consumers have switched heavily to online shopping. With increased convenience, access to a wider range of products and services across all categories, easy comparison between different goods, discounts and lower prices, e-commerce has gained rapid acceptance while the appeal of brick-and-mortar stores has started to dim.
However, even if the vast majority of consumers prefer to conduct their purchases online, there are also disadvantages to online shopping that prevent many from taking the leap or visiting virtual stores more frequently. Most people cited the absence of physical contact and the inability to touch and test products as the main issues. The number of online shoppers would be far greater if some of these drawbacks would be addressed.
Consumers these days expect retailers to come up with innovations that can improve the digital experience and blur the lines between in-store and online shopping. That’s where augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies come in, allowing customers to virtually try out different products and enjoy a more immersive and interactive shopping experience. According to data from Shopify, these features have become highly popular among consumers, leading to higher conversion rates, so AR, VR and other advanced technologies might become the norm in the e-commerce space in the future.
Control of their data
The transition to digital also means that the amount of data that companies collect from consumers has increased considerably. While this is largely regarded as a reasonable trade-off, and one that is necessary for the proper running and continuous development of the e-commerce industry, the statistics regarding data breaches and the numerous scandals involving high-profile companies like Facebook have made people more aware of the risks that data collection implies.
As such, consumers are more cautious about whom they share their data with and how different entities are managing the information they gather from their customers. This has become an important criterion when it comes to choosing the companies that they want to do business with. Aspects like data privacy protocols and safeguards are now at the forefront of consumers’ concerns when engaging with online retailers, and the majority of shoppers favor companies that require minimal information from them and state their intentions regarding data collection clearly.
Another factor that seems to weigh heavily in the balance is sustainability. The demand for environmentally friendly and ethically sourced and produced goods has increased considerably against a backdrop of climate change, rising pollution rates, depletion of natural resources, loss of biodiversity and other negative outcomes deriving from human activities.
These issues related to the natural world are having a powerful impact on people’s purchasing behavior, as reflected in recent studies. The volume of Google searches on sustainable products has increased by over 70% since 2016, which proves that consumers are interested in reducing their carbon footprint by any means. What’s more, the majority of U.S. consumers have stated they’re willing to pay extra for products that are friendly to the environment. The trend is more notable in high-income countries like the UK, the U.S., Canada and Germany but it’s beginning to pick up pace all over the world.
Closely related to the sustainability trend, consumers are also looking to lower greenhouse emissions stemming from the transportation of goods by shopping locally. However, this doesn’t mean they’re all flocking to local markets and physical stores to purchase the items they require. Instead, they prefer to combine the convenience and efficiency of online shopping with the sustainability and eco-consciousness of local providers.
Having their goods sourced from businesses based in their proximity not only reduces the delivery time but it’s also kinder to the environment and allows consumers to support the local economy, so it’s a win-win for everyone.
Flexible payment options
The way consumers are paying for their purchases is also changing. These days, shoppers have a wide range of payment options at their disposal, so they can choose the one that best fits their needs. Companies that provide multiple payment options that ensure flexibility and convenience have better chances of attracting and retaining customers.
This is also evidenced by the rising popularity of the buy now, pay later (BNPL) payment method. As the name implies, this option gives people the possibility to purchase the items they require and pay for them in instalments, thus reducing the financial burden.
Consumers’ shape-shifting values and needs are making it increasingly difficult for entrepreneurs and companies to keep up with their demands. The trends that are defining and shaping the relationship between companies and consumers at the moment reflect the realities of our time, but as the context changes, so will people’s expectations. It’s therefore crucial for all businesses to stay up to date with consumers’ behavior and trends and adapt their strategies accordingly.