In our digital world, online product reviews, forums, video demos and instant price comparisons are only a click away. It’s not surprising then, that very few of us are willing to fork over any cash before first conducting some online research.
In fact, a recent study by the Web analytics company Compete revealed that only 6% of consumers surveyed indicated that they did NOT conduct research prior to their last online purchase. Also, every month more than 80 million consumers use shopping comparison sites like Cnet, Bizrate or Yahoo Shopping before making a purchase.
As a marketer, it’s important to take these statistics to heart. If you’re not paying attention to how the Web is factoring into your customers’ buying decisions, then you could be missing out. We’ve put together some tips to make sure the Internet is helping you light new fires instead of burning down the house.
Understand the sales cycle. Do you know how your customers and potential customers use the Internet in your niche? If your answer rhymes with "go,” it may be time for some research. Research will help you take the guesswork out of your marketing decisions and help you get a firm understanding of how the Internet factors into your customers’ buying decisions.
Strategize. Instead of trying to spread your marketing dollars across all available outlets, use the information you gathered in your research phase to develop marketing strategies accordingly. For example, if your research reveals that customers primarily use the Internet as a tool to gather information about your product, a video demo (or something similar) might be in line. If you learn that your customers rely primarily on online reviews, it would be beneficial to develop tactics that encourage happy customers to write reviews. In an environment with tight consumer wallets and even tighter marketing budgets, businesses can’t afford to invest money in resources their customers don’t use.
Update information. The Internet is like an insatiable, fire-spitting dragon that never sleeps (ok, maybe that fire analogy doesn’t work, but you get the idea). Make sure you keep online information about your product or service up to date, so customers are basing their decisions on accurate information. Update your Web site regularly. Correct information that may be inaccurate on other sites.
Keep your ears to the ground. Just the thought of bad online product reviews can lead many of us to start sweating profusely and break out in hives. Monitor what is being said online about you online so that you can respond immediately if an unhappy customer is ranting online. This will help prevent irreparable damage to your brand.
Stay current on new technology. We’re not talking about becoming a walking encyclopedia on new geeky technology. Simply be aware of the new technology that is emerging in the marketplace to help consumer conduct online research about products and services. You never know – some of the new gadgets may work perfectly for your niche. For example, there are now a number of barcode scanning applications available for download on mobile devices that allow consumers to compare prices by just taking a picture with their Smartphone’s camera.
Don’t be tempted to ignore the online world when it comes to your marketing plan. Instead, do your homework and use it as the powerful tool that it can be.