The empowered consumer yesterday, today, and tomorrow

Technology and the Internet are changing the communication and protocol for interactions between consumers and marketers. This is the first of a two part post about how consumers and marketers provide and consume information leading to purchases. It focuses on the empowered consumer and how consumers can use technology that is readily available to make informed decisions. I close with some thoughts about how consumers will make decisions in the future.

Consumers have the world in their hands

Consumers have the world in their hands

Today’s consumer is more empowered because they have the ability to choose and obtain information in more abundance and at quicker speeds. Gone are the days where marketers reached most consumers solely via print distribution (newspaper, magazine ads) or television ads. More importantly, the one-size-fits all marketing techniques of the past are being replaced. Consumers have the ability in many cases to choose the type of messages they see and when they see them.

Here are some examples of how the consumer has become more empowered:

  • Access to information on demand – With the availability of information on the Internet and the accessibility to the Internet, consumers can find information about products and services when and where they want.
  • Access to information from other consumers – The Internet makes the power of referral and consumer experience readily available to prospective customers of a product or service. Consumers can read reviews from other consumers that have previously used a product or service to decide if they want to make a purchase.
  • Access to information from competitors – Whether a consumer is price shopping, comparing service of retailers, or looking at locations of stores, they have the ability to see information about multiple competitors quickly. Brand and store loyalty are still based off relationship and experiences. But consumers have the ability to find another provider quickly if they choose to do so.
  • Ability to select how they view marketing messages.
    • Pop-up Blockers – Browsers today offer the ability to suppress pop-up advertisements on web sites.
    • Digital Video Recorders – TiVo and like services allow consumers to quickly skip and fast forward through advertisements.
    • Satellite Radio – For advertisement free-music, consumers can pay for a subscription based service.
    • Twitter messages – Marketers use Twitter to broadcast information about their products, services, industry, etc. But consumers choose if they read those messages. Whether by keyword search or through following an account, the consumer chooses what they read.
    • Blog posts – Again, consumers choose if they read the information posted in a blog.

What are some of the key points of this trend? Consumers have the ability to be more message selective and decision savvy because they are more informed and equipped with access to better information. Marketers must focus on good content because consumers have the ability to selectively choose if they see the message. Consumers are looking for personalized messages that speak to them.

What is in the future of consumer Internet use? I see us trending towards a couple of things that aim to make interactions faster for the consumer:

  1. Consumers will have a single interface to order from multiple stores. This will happen as marketers and retailers continue to conform to standards for message delivery. Consumers will use a single interface that prompts them for what they are looking to buy and then based on their preferences will place an order for them with a retailer that provides the product. For example, I might provide information that I want to purchase a baseball bat, with a brand name of Louisville Slugger, at a certain length and barrel size. This interface will then find the retailer matching this and maybe some other preferences and place the order in a single click. This sounds somewhat like a browser. However, within a browser, each retailer creates their own web site. I’m talking about a universal application that retailers interface with and that is widely adopted by consumers.
  2. With the continued spread and advancement of mobile devices, consumers will move towards an interface that relies more on voice and less on typing. Great advancements have already been made on many mobile devices that have full keyboards. But to make interactions faster, the consumer needs more voice command ability with natural language capabilities