If you went to buy a consumer good a few years ago, depending on the urgency, you would leverage your contacts to get the best advice. Maybe you would start with a chat with friends over a coffee, discussing what they use. Then maybe you would talk to professionals in the area, like service people, about their recommendations. You would endlessly walk around the shops talking with sales people, researching as you went.
Maybe you still do things this way. Nothing wrong with that, especially if you aren’t constantly online.
Working in the online world, I often see trends both social and technological well before they go mainstream. For example, the now common place usage of online shops and social media. This is an advantage you get working in the web industry.
However often things that I consider common place I not always such for the rest of the community.
The world is getting faster. Yes granted, but to different degrees for different people.
Take this point in case. We need to purchase a consumer good on the weekend.
By using my online social networks and research on various online forums both general and vendor specific we where able to do all our research and sourcing of recommendations from contacts and experts within 90 minutes of starting to look for the information.
Two hours later we had the consumer good in the back of our car on the drive home. What would have taken weeks was now down to a few hours.
However it’s not about the time. It’s about what we did.
Leveraging the Community
The use of our online research on forums, looking at the user experiences that people had with their consumer goods. Looking to the communities for opinions. Something that is more often than not outside of the control of the manufacturers. I knew that from these communities I would get a truer opinion, than from the manufacturers.
Now this is something your have to consider if your business is online. Don’t think old school. You control nothing.
You don’t control your message anymore – the consumer does.
Similarly asking for reviews from my online social network. These reviews I trust, as I know the people, they are my peers. These are the testimonials that I know are not hand selected, I trust that they will be unbiased.
The point here is that the social network is MY social network, I control it, not the consumer goods manufacturer. Interestingly the only manufacturer to contact (spam) me did so 36 hours after the event (I don’t think they get it).
Again the testimonial isn’t controlled by the manufacturer, it’s controlled by me!
Something to think about, the online world and it’s hyper-connectivity is starting to influence us in many different ways.
Things are Changing
Now I know that the average consumer doesn’t operate in this hyper-connected online world that I do. However consider that this lifestyle is just around the corner for everyone.
The online social world is now becoming ever important. Previously having a web site used to be all you need to do online. The times are changing. Social media needs to be considered. Question is are you ready, is your business ready. Are you prepared to commit resources to it, or not?
I’m not saying rush out and get a Twitter account or a Facebook page. However you need to be aware of your brands online footprint.