Seismic Change in Consumer Behavior: Is Your Business Visible?

Business invisible on the web

The other day, I was having an interesting discussion with a parent from my daughter’s soccer team whom I will call “Mark”. We were discussing how people use the web when shopping for a home.

Mark has been in the real estate business for many years and gets most of his business through referrals and current connections. He’s a wonderful guy who has built a great reputation among his clients and peers. Mark doesn’t have his own website, he doesn’t have a Facebook or LinkedIn account.

Mark feels that social media is time consuming and doesn’t really see the business value in it. He also thinks that most serious home buyers would not use Google to search for a home. Instead, Mark believes that most prospective buyers would go directly to real estate agencies or do their initial search in newspapers.

His reluctance to use technology and the web to conduct his business is pretty common in small business owners, especially in the 40+ age group. Although they may use the web on a personal level, as small business owners they’re often not present.

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of all businesses don’t have a website and another 25% are invisible online. Search their name and you find nothing (BusinessNewsDaily).

Consumer Behaviour

Consumer behaviour research and online trends show that business owners including real estate brokers like Mark should have a strong interest in establishing an active online presence in order to reach their current customers and future prospects.

  • According to the 2011 National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 88% of home buyers used the internet in their home search.
  • 97% of consumers go online to do research on products or services (Google).
  • 85% of consumers use the Internet to find Local Businesses (Yelp)
  • According to Alexa traffic rank, Facebook, Google and Youtube are the top 3 ranking sites in terms of traffic on the web for the last month.
  • Younger generations are more likely to prefer chat over the telephone and use social media for customer support.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz spoke in a keynote interview at the National Retail Federation’s convention in New York City and he had some insights about the future of retail and the potential for getting left behind.

“We are witness to a seismic change in consumer behavior,” said Schultz. “And that seismic change is linked to technology. Social, digital, and mobile are fundamentally changing the way consumers buy things. Most companies already know this, but have been slow to act. And now, we’re at the point that retailers have no choice but to play catch up. It’s a race against the clock.” (BusinessInsider)

Marketing to Generation X

Born from the early 1960s to the early 1980 Gen Xers were born shortly before, during or after the general introduction of digital technologies and make up about 17% of the U.S. population.

Active information seekers, they’re turning to the web to research products and companies and publicly exchange opinions about those businesses.

A Forrester study suggest that this generation is also spending time on social media sites: 95 percent have a Facebook account, 35 percent have LinkedIn profiles, and 25 percent regularly post to Twitter.

Having a presence on Social Media and review sites is a good way for your business to reach out to this generation. By using effective content marketing including a business blog, you can also establish a strong presence on the web.

“Content marketing is an umbrella term encompassing all marketing formats that involve the creation and sharing of content in order to attract, acquire and engage clearly defined and understood current and potential consumer bases with the objective of driving profitable customer action. Content Marketing’s basic premise is to “provide some valuable information or entertainment – “content” – that stops short of a direct sales pitch or call to action, but which seeks to positively influence a customer in some way”. (Wikipedia)

Marketing to Generation Y

The internet is at the center of Millennial or Generation Y culture (born around 1982-2000) and make up about 30 percent of the U.S. population.

They’re very tech savvy since they grew up around computers, the Internet, cell phones and video games. Using sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, Wikipedia, and YouTube are normal aspects of their social lives.

The web is their first source of information and replaces television as main source of entertainment.

This generation generally distrusts traditional advertising. They seem much more likely to listen to the opinions of their friends and prefer brands that are engaging or already have been trusted by their peers. Nothing beats word-of-mouth marketing to persuade Generation Y the value of a product or service!

Changing your Approach

Although traditional marketing should still be part of your overall marketing plans, in order to attract Generation X and Y and prepare for the future, it is essential to change your approach and communication style to fit their technological oriented lifestyle.

Since most of them are connected 24 hrs per day and have an incredible need for speed, they don’t want to go through loops to find your business.

Keep in mind that Generations X and Y are usually more knowledgeable because of the availability and accessibility of information through online tools and websites. You’re business future may just depend on how well you have integrated technology to your business plan.

What do you think it will take for small businesses to change their ways?

Image source: p via Compfight

Genevieve Lachance is a web marketing consultant who has a passion for social media and technology based in Montreal, Canada. Read More About Me »