The changing consumer behaviour in a digital economy

Written by Uma Ganesh | Updated: Nov 3 2014, 07:37am hrs
The impact of digital economy and e-commerce is no longer a phenomenon restricted to only the developed world. With the spaces between geographies shrinking due to the digital technology and also with nations taking the connectivity to the rural and remote parts of the country, India is experiencing a significant transformation in the consumer buying patterns. As a result no company can afford to ignore these trends

irrespective of whether or not it is in the e-commerce space.

It is noteworthy to recognise that it is no longer adequate to be reactive or proactive, it is the adaptive capability of the firm that is going to be critical to win the marketing wars. The traditional marketing research and understanding of the consumer behaviour will continue to play an important role in the long range planning but understanding the transactional behaviour pattern of the consumers and adapting its marketing strategy is the new game. These transactions could be

before, during or after making an online purchase and all of the data is freely available to the firms who are

interested in getting deep insights through analytics to adapt its message and offerings to the intended consumer segments. It is also possible to do rapid comparison of offline and online buying patterns and understand the trends to make quick mid-course corrections to maximise sales. Those businesses who are not engaged with online sales also have an enormous opportunity to understand their customers from close quarters through social listening and influencing them through social media.

While the sellers get ample information about the consumers and adapt their marketing plans, on account of access to extensive information available online, consumers expectations and the buying behaviour are undergoing a significant change. A new segment of consumers is emerging which is no longer satisfied with standard product offerings, many of these consumers want and are able to get personalised offerings. This means firms have to recognise the emergence of this segment which requires to be addressed differently through personalised messages and their ever changing requirements to be handled through custom offerings. Personalisation will also happen through co creation of products. In the earlier phase, cocreation was

restricted to vendors and partners for design of products, but now consumers are keen to participate in co designing of products provided appropriate easy to use tools and technology are provided to them and this opens up a new opportunity to firms to cater the new segment and also use these insights to expand its business.

With several options of deliveries emerging, sellers have to become conscious of the fact that once the consumer is excited about buying a product, the consumer does not want to wait for the deliveries and is keen on experiencing the product now and here. This would mean companies would have to rethink their logistics and distribution strategy with stocking and delivery systems having to shift from unified and central location to getting localised and closer to where consumers are situated. Consumers are not going to be restricted with the information and channels provided by the businesses to engage with them, they have multifarious options of getting to know and experience the offerings through multiple channels which quite often would be complex to fathom for the sellers. This would mean businesses should be prepared to adapt for the sudden surge or drop in sales due to interactions and information not connected with the sellers yet have the systems in place to track such transactions and get new insights about the consumers from time to time.

Lastly, it is interesting to note that consumers prefer to experience and understand the products online first through interactions with other netizens rather than visit showrooms to understand, feel and touch the products first. This is a major departure from the past where consumers used to visit the showrooms to get to know about the products and then go online to check what others have to say about their experiences and the competitive offerings available. Today the complete research for most purchases is possible to do online and thus consumers are influenced in their decision making by other consumers first rather than competitors or companys own website and hence visit to the physical showrooms is at the final stage where sales is culminated. The new trend is the time spent at the showroom and the quality of questions asked are restricted to mostly delivery and concluding commercial transactions. This is a new phenomenon which businesses need to think about and adapt their spend on showcasing their offerings online to the intended customers in smart ways.

With the tumultuous impact of internet on the buying behaviour, companies have to be careful to also recognise that the brands can be built and destroyed in no time because of the presence of the powerful community online and their influence on one another. The recent experience with Flipkart is a glaring example of overselling that happened with the lack of preparedness and adaptation that was not in place which led to not only the lost opportunity to garner sales but also the loss of customer confidence which would take a long time to rebuild.

The writer is CEO, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company