Paul Nikkel, director of Quidco discusses how marketers must evolve to target empowered consumers and retain profitable customers in the increasingly proliferated online marketplace.
With consumers becoming increasingly aware of the variety of deals available on the internet and developing a greater resistance to traditional online marketing, retailers face an uphill struggle when it comes to fostering loyalty and growing sales.
The online marketing power dynamic is shifting with consumers now holding the power over merchants, which has had a major effect on how consumers expect to be engaged with.
The challenge for marketers comes in the form of reacting to these changes, and brands need to ask themselves if their marketing strategies have evolved in line with the consumer. However, before this, it is crucial that they understand how and why consumer behaviour is changing.
Consumers are becoming increasingly sophisticated at finding deals online, with the strong trend being that they will gain first contact with a product through an intermediary or following a recommendation rather than directly subsequent to a direct approach from a merchant.
The Quidco Online Shopping Report 2007 reveals that just one in three online shoppers remain loyal to using well-known, specific brand websites and most prefer to begin the purchase process through an intermediary website.
The report also demonstrates the evolving needs of the consumer, showing that 35 per cent of online shoppers no longer wish to be targeted by traditional means such as banner ads and email marketing.
The overwhelming majority (82%) want brands to meet them in the middle, marketing to them in a highly-targeted fashion once they have shown a specific interest in a type of product or service.
Consumer desire for information via impartial, trusted sources is demonstrated by the fact that price comparison websites are the latest to feel the cold shoulder from consumers. One in three (30%) has already stopped using such sites and a further 47% say they will not use them again after discovering the results are often biased or selective.
Given that the power is now with the consumers when it comes to online marketing, retailers must look to meet the consumer half way. In these exchanges, the consumer expresses an interest in a product or service and the retailer then provides the suggested solutions.
However, to retain customers long-term in this environment is a lot more challenging. To have any chance of success in capturing and retaining a customer online, brands need to follow three stages: get the first contact, demonstrate that you have a product or service that stands on its own, and ensure that those who take up the offer get seamless service.
Successful online marketing of the future must combine all of these elements together: the first kiss, seamless service, objectivity, the perception of value and a tactic commitment. One such example of this is cashback co-operatives, which are increasingly the initiation point in general consumer transactions.
Consumer awareness of cashback cooperatives is increasing and they are proving an attractive proposition to many consumers, allowing them to make a selection from a range of relevant merchants and the sales commission those merchants would ordinarily pay through affiliate networks is passed directly to the consumer as an additional incentive.
The 2007 Online Shopping Report reveals consumers are happy to be marketed to via a third-party web site where they can accumulate cashback, once they have expressed a specific interest in a type of product or service.
The sales volume that can be gained through an active promotion on a cashback merchant can be very significant and consumer loyalty to these sites is a powerful tool. It is important for marketers to wake up to these new channels that allow them to reach the empowered consumer, effectively, on their terms.
It is critical to choose the correct partner in any promotional activity, and this is amplified given the decline in consumers’ brand loyalty and the growing resistance to traditional online marketing.
Customer service is paramount as ever, and variable depending on your partners. It is also important that consumers are engaging with marketers through a trusted source, offering a higher perception of reliability and value.
It is important for marketers to consider all of these factors when looking to market to today’s empowered consumer, and even more so if they want to regularly turn a one-off opportunities into repeat customers
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