The Future Shopper

  |  September 24, 2010   |  Comments

Instead of companies worrying about keeping ahead of their competition, they should be worried about keeping pace with their customers.

There is hardly anyone who would argue over the impact that search, social, and mobile technologies have had on the customer buying process over the last five years. However, while many companies worry about keeping ahead of their competition, they actually have a much bigger issue - keeping pace with their customers. Indulge me while I explore the changes we'll see over the next five years.

A Marketer's Job Is Already Hard Enough

Jeffrey, my partner and brother, and I were discussing this column and I took the following notes about marketing that I wanted to share:

  • Many times when marketing is called upon to solve a problem, it's not a marketing problem at all. Marketers' challenges begin with the brand they choose to represent.
  • Marketing and sales have always been driven to reduce friction buyers experience; always – and with every improvement in technology, logistics, or payment options.
  • The day has passed since marketers were paid to make promises the business had only a vague intention of delivering.
  • Transparency isn't a choice, it's what is demanded by your customers; authenticity is a choice and your responsibility as the brand.
  • Getting heard through all the noise is hard enough, so anything short of a truly remarkable brand promise is simply more noise.

Technological and social advances over the next few years will force companies to embrace authenticity, improve customer experiences, or suffer the consequences. Will your company be ready to handle this future?

Tomorrow's Customers

Tomorrow's customer is already today's connected customer, with information just a few clicks away on their computer or mobile device. However, when a 7 inch or so iPad-like device is in the pocketbooks of your grocery store shoppers, they'll be able to point the device's camera at the shelf in front of them and using an augmented reality program like Layer they'll be presented with the information they need to make their best choice. Reviews? Check. Cost per serving? Check. Nutritional or taste comparisons? Check. Coupons or better offers available? Instantly downloaded or ordered elsewhere.

No amount of great packaging or promotions will be able to sell the customer if people say your product sucks or costs way more per serving simply because you say it uses premium ingredients and added nutrients when this information layer shows the "real" deal. With the wide adoption of shopping scan-and-compare apps like ShopSavvy and RedLaser (already downloaded over 2 million times), is this new reality that far behind? Probably not, and it won't be limited to the supermarket aisle either.

As All Media Digitizes, Product Discovery Evolves

As Apple and Google prepare to tackle the largest screens in the house with their TV offerings, what will those products look like in the next five years? Will those set-top devices they design constantly search out and deliver you the best content based on your personal preferences (sort of a Pandora for TV)? It could just be if Google CEO Eric Schmidt's IFA keynote is any indication:

"Not only are you never lonely, you're never bored! We'll suggest what you should be watching, because we know what you care about."

You can be assured the ads will become more personalized and targeted. Will those set-top devices sync up with your mobile devices to deliver content and ads on the go? Again, Schmidt may be leaving us clues from his speech:

"We can suggest what you should do next, what you care about. Imagine: We know where you are, we know what you like."

One day, you'll be watching an episode of "Sex and the City," fall in love with a blouse one of the stars is wearing, touch the screen and activate your shopping avatar to try on your clothes virtually and see how it will fit based on your personal dimensions, and be able to order it with just a couple of clicks. Perhaps it will be super chef Bobby Flay making an incredible barbecue rib recipe that you want to make at home; a couple of clicks on the TV and the recipe is synced up to your kitchen and the missing ingredients are added to your weekly shopping list. Of course, all this will be highly measurable and television show producers will work closer with advertisers to make sure the right products make it into the right content for their audience.

The Future Buyer's Life Made Easier Day by Day

It is easy to see how the evolution and convergence of technology will continue to reduce the friction of the customer buying process, and I can show you countless numbers of other ways technology and advertising will change our lives in the near future. Advertising will start to fulfill its promises of true one-to-one messaging as we all carry powerful computers in our pockets and the systems are available to personalize our experiences to make our "future shopper" lives easier. It may only be a couple more years until our advertising makes us feel like Tom Cruise in "Minority Report."

In the meantime, Schmidt says, "I spend most of my time assuming the world is not ready for the technology revolution that will be happening to them soon," and I'll spend my time thinking what companies need to do in order to optimize those selling experiences. Will you?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Eisenberg

Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES, Shop.org, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at BryanEisenberg.com.

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