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Dealing with the Informed Buyer – How Millennials Make Buying Decisions Online

Recently I heard a millennial describe how he bought his first ever clothes washing machine, about 10 years ago. The process went like this:

  1. Drive to nearest home appliance store, park up, walk in
  2. Spend some time browsing selection available
  3. On being approached by salesperson, explain requirements, get presented with a shortlist of options, pick the one that was recommended
  4. Pay and load appliance into car
  5. Take home and install appliance

So, in a graphical format, this fairly commonplace buying decision (which still takes place hundreds of times a minute all around the world, by the way!) looked like this:

1

IDENTIFY NEED “I want a washing machine”

2

TRAVEL TO SUPPLIER Decision based on location and convenience

3

MAKE SELECTION Based on vendor recommendation

← SUPPLIER GETS INVOLVED AT THIS STAGE

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. Our millennial friend then went on to explain that the washing machine recently needed to be replaced, and explained how differently he went about the buying process this time:

1

IDENTIFY NEED “I want a washing machine”

2

GO ONLINE Starting with a Google search: “How to find the best washing machine for my needs”

3

SELECT MACHINE TYPE Based on information found online

4

SELECT BRAND AND MODEL Based on user reviews, independent test results, and social media recommendations

5

SELECT SUPPLIER Based on price, speed of delivery, brand recognition/trust, and service options

6

ORDER AND RECEIVE DELIVERY …All without leaving home!

← SUPPLIER GETS INVOLVED AT THIS STAGE

It’s not difficult to see that this process will have massive implications for any retailer as millions of millennials (now there’s a mouthful of an expression!) move into the home ownership/family raising stage of their life. It’s a trend that will only continue as digital natives are of course even less likely to use a traditional approach to buying than their older counterparts.

Confused by all these terms?! Here’s a handy “generation chart” to help refresh your memory:

BABY BOOMERS Anyone born between 1945 and 1965
GENERATION X Anyone born between 1965 and 1984
GENERATION Y – MILLENNIALS Anyone born between 1984 and 2004
DIGITAL NATIVES Anyone born between 2004 and the current day

So, what does this mean for retailers facing a future of growing and intense competition?

Well, like all changes, you can either resist it, wishing it would go away, or embrace it and move forward, recognizing that with great challenges come great opportunities. No prizes for guessing which route we recommend is best for your business!

It’s not just millennials that are doing more research online before they purchase. Generation X-ers and even Baby Boomers (the so-called “Silver Surfer” generation) are doing it increasing numbers, too. The increasing use of tablets and smartphones and the gifting of the same devices means online e-commerce transactions are set to continue their inexorable rise. Even the Queen of England (90 years young) uses an iPad now! Like many of her generation, she was given it by her grandkids and is said to enjoy browsing the web using it.

First, let’s deal with the threats that this method of buying might pose, and some ways you can tackle each threat head-on:

PROBLEM: YOU MARKET SUPPLIER-BRANDED PRODUCTS AND ARE LOSING BUSINESS DUE TO LOWER PRICES BEING AVAILABLE ELSEWHERE

This is something we are hearing more and more. If you are marketing products that are branded by your supplier (in other words, the brand is not unique to you) then you’re potentially in a race to the bottom. When price is the only differentiator, there will always be someone prepared to undercut you.

POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS:

  • Create your own company sub-brands (or ask your supplier to apply your brand to their products) to make it more difficult for people to price-match like-for-like against products of competing companies.
  • Offer something that no other retailer does – for example, an extended warranty, a free gift with every order, free insured/express shipping, free setup, extended after-sales support….
  • Do a better job of marketing your product than anyone else – for example, telling great stories, offering rebates and loyalty schemes, access to special discounts on other ranges, or other incentives for people to route their spend through your company.

PROBLEM: A BRAND THAT YOU MARKET IS GETTING POOR REVIEWS ONLINE

If a product or range of products that you are promoting is getting the thumbs down from the online community, this can cause significant loss of trust in your company image and brand. The problem for you is that this can quickly affect other lines that are promoted under the same brand, even if they offer a great user experience.

POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS:

  • There’s nowhere to hide any longer. Quality and user perception matters more today than ever before. If the reviews are genuine, then you need to work with the manufacturer to quickly address whatever concerns the marketplace may have. As has been demonstrated with brands such as Toyota, it is possible to turn around a struggling brand and become profitable once more. But if the problems are left unresolved, it could fatally undermine your success online.
  • If you can, switch to promotion of different brands: once a brand becomes contaminated, it can take years to escape the legacy of disappointed customers and poor reviews that get high organic search rankings
  • If possible, have your company website enabled to provide real user feedback and reviews. If the product is not as bad as others make out, you can at least counteract reviews elsewhere by offering another viewpoint on your store. Be careful not to try to manipulate this in any way, though, federal law in most states prohibits false reviews or paying people to leave positive reviews on your products.

PROBLEM: MY WEBSITE DOESN’T WORK WELL ON SMARTPHONES

Some time ago, the number of users that browse the web using mobile devices overtook the number of desktop users for the first time. Since then, the transition to mobile has become a firmly embedded trend that looks set to continue for the foreseeable future. Websites that only work well on desktop or laptop computers will suffer in search rankings, user experience, and ultimately with falling sales.

SOLUTION:

  • If you’ve been a regular reader of the LeapGo blog for any length of time, you’ll know we recommend to clients that they make the switch to a fully-responsive design as fast as possible!
  • There will never be a better time than right now – whatever platform you are using at the moment, postponing the switch to mobile just doesn’t make any rational sense. Contact us today if you need help with making the switchover – we’re happy to offer no-obligation advice and information on the best options for you.

PROBLEM: I’M HAVING TROUBLE GETTING POTENTIAL BUYERS TO VISIT MY WEBSITE

Looking at the millennial buying process mapped out above, just providing some information about what you sell isn’t going to cut it for much longer – if it is performing at all! You need a content marketing strategy to take full advantage of the rise of the “prosumer” – the consumer who researches so much about their product online that they become a subject expert before they decide what they want to purchase.

POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS:

  • This is a topic we go into in far more depth elsewhere, but content marketing is the art of delivering genuinely useful information to prospective buyers – information that would be helpful to them even if they purchase nothing from you.
  • Consider what questions go through the mind of prospective buyers of your product or service. How can you create an infographic or a helpful, informative article to assist them in deciding what solution is best for their needs? Now all you need to do is work to create the content marketing piece – or outsource it to a competent digital marketing agency.
  • You can also use a combination of SEO and PPC to increase the overall number of visitors to your website. Refer to this post for a great run-down on how this hybrid strategy has worked for so many of our clients in recent years.

As always, innovation is key to staying ahead of the game. Instead of bemoaning the loss of business to some out-of-state, faceless organization that probably gets better tax breaks than you and wishing things could go back to how they were, you can grasp the horns of change yourself and come up with products and services that are ideally suited to the needs of today’s consumer.

That concludes today’s post on the “move to millennial” buying habits. I hope you found it useful. Know someone else that could benefit? Why not let them know….sharing is caring, after all!

Here at LeapGo, we’ve been providing professional website development services to a discerning selection of clients for many years. We work with marketers that appreciate the true value of what we can deliver for them and their organization, delivering content strategies, SEO optimization, complete new website builds from scratch, PPC strategy implementation, and much more. Why not get in touch with us today to see if we’re a good fit?