The modern way to woo consumers

Today's empowered consumers expect more from retailers. For sellers, that means engaging with consumers early on, as they start researching a product, and leveraging big data to provide better customer experiences.

Silver laptop is connecting to a green wire shopping basket

Getting closer to customers

To succeed in today’s competitive marketplace, retailers must follow their customers and get close to them wherever they are. Arne Büsching, EY Executive Director, Digital Transformation, says that today’s empowered consumers expect companies to engage with them whenever and wherever they want — or they will simply go elsewhere to make their purchases.

Sector by sector, engagement varies

EY’s survey on consumer behavior reveals that engagement varies widely from sector to sector. For example, some online retailers position reviews very close to their products because they know the majority of their customers have already carried out research on the retailer's own platform. But in the automotive sector, there is no such shopping platform where the consumer can access reviews, so different tactics are required.

“To sell cars effectively, you have to understand that the typical customer spends six months researching: first looking at finance options and then considering car brands,” Büsching says. “When the customer goes into the dealership, they might know more than the salesman. For this reason, car manufacturers have to catch customers at the point where they are looking at finance options."

In addition, Büsching says manufacturers should present more opportunities to interact with the brand through apps and social media.

Gathering consumer input

Büsching dislikes the concept of channels, and believes it is more helpful for companies to think about situations. “You have to ask where people are thinking about your products — on the train, while out with friends — and reach them there. This is what really matters.”

To achieve this, Büsching says companies should leverage big data to provide better customer experiences and gain an edge in a world where the competition is not only between retailers but between retailers and manufacturers. The latter, he says, are quickly building the capability to sell directly to consumers. “Retailer and manufacturer are becoming virtually the same for the consumer."

Learning from start-ups

To get their customer engagement right, companies should learn a lesson from startups. Büsching cites the example of German start-up ShopWings, a service that sends a personal shopper to different stores to buy your groceries. If an item is out of stock, they call you and offer you alternatives. “It is very quality- and customer-oriented," he says.

The fact that so many start-ups are in the technology sector may give them an advantage in exploiting digital tools, in particular, to engage with consumers. But older manufacturers and retailers shouldn't hesitate to experiment with using technology - along with more conventional means - to reach consumers, too.

"Manufacturers and retailers can learn from this," Büsching says. "They have to keep the customer in mind."