Thanks to technology, consumer behavior in 2018 is unlike anything we’ve seen in history. And forecasts show it’s shifting faster than ever into the future.
Some marketers get deterred or fearful about this uncertainty. But for the digital marketer who takes time now to learn and adapt, it will be a tremendous leg-up. It will feel much like playing a game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey where your competitors are groping around blindfolded—but you’ve got secret x-ray vision.
So let’s explore these trends and how you can use them to your advantage, shall we? First off…
It’s undeniable: in order to have a world-class consumer experience in 2018 and beyond, you must personalize to each individual. And you must deliver that personalized experience through many different engagement tools.
From mobile and social to email and SMS, your customers want to see you all over the place, talking just to them. Much like a best friend who’s known them for years.
As Google found in itsstudy, “People are more curious, more demanding, and more impatient than ever before.”
Your customers expect content and solutions tailored to their exclusive needs. They require answers to more specific, more nuanced questions before they buy. And they want it all in the quickest possible time period, with less effort on their part—or they’ll leave. After all…
“A new super-empowered consumer took shape,” said Google, “We saw evidence of this throughout 2017, and it will be critical for marketers to understand these new behaviors as they move into 2018.”
So—we know consumer demands are getting increasingly stringent as time moves on and technology empowers them. Does that mean your customers are turning into that demanding 10th grade math teacher you still have nightmares about? (You know, the one who worked you to the bone and ran you ragged all semester just to dole out a B-minus?)
No. Thank God. The truth is, the latest consumer demands aren’t even that difficult to meet. As long as you’re recognizing those consumers not as data points and numbers, but as human beings who have needs, fears, hopes and aspirations that matter.
Once you do that, these trends and changes will become your single greatest advantage over competitors for years to come.
Content is still king. That hasn’t changed, and won’t. But the type of content most engaging and profitable from 2018 onward requires you to be in a slightly different headspace.
To get into that headspace, imagine you have a wooden rocking chair. It was passed down to you from your great-grandparents and it’s an important family heirloom.
One day, as old rocking chairs do, the wood breaks on one of the supports somewhere. But it’s reparable. All you need is some good glue. So you go to the home improvement store to see if they’ve got something that will do the job.
At the store, in the glue section, you see a bottle that says “All-Purpose Glue”.
Below it, there’s another bottle that says “Rocking Chair Glue”.
Which one do you pick?
The answer is obvious. If you need to glue a rocking chair, you’ll choose the bottle that says “Rocking Chair Glue” every time.
And therein lies the first “new” secret to maximal engagement:
Address your content to a specific audience to make it personal. The more relevant you can make it to this distinct market, the better.
Maybe if the glue label read the words “Designed For Family Heirloom Rocking Chairs From WWII Era,” you’d be even more compelled to pick it up—and more elated that you found an exact solution tailored to your problem.
Now—here’s the thing. You can’t just assume the content you’re creating is relevant to a specific audience. You need to use hard data to be sure it’s truly personalized to them. Otherwise you’re just taking blind stabs in the dark. And remember, we want you to have x-ray vision.
So use the right data and insights to gain a deeper understanding of your audience needs, wants, and attitudes…
From that, develop complete, holistic consumer personas—the “avatar” of your ideal customer…
Finally, use those consumer personas to create highly-personalized content and messaging that aligns with them on a deep, human level.
That’s when you’ll start using the ever-growing demand for personalization to your brand’s supreme advantage. Smart thinking.
Here are a few more rules to live by as you create content for the super-empowered consumer.
Remember how consumers are growing more curious? How they expect more specific questions answered, in less time?
Your customers are only going to grow more inquisitive and interested in you. And they want all the dirty details. This opens up boundless opportunities for brands—as long as you know how to recognize them and act accordingly.
It’s critical to devote content to answering the nuanced questions your customers have—especially when your competitors aren’t supplying them. Consumers will remain loyal to you just because you appeased their burning curiosity.
In order to know that, turn to data and customer insights. Discover what your customers are genuinely wondering about your products or brand. Then find personally-relevant ways to educate them.
Maybe they want to learn more about your rare ingredients, your Swedish design, your unique algorithm—or they may have a concern about what country your product was made in. Maybe they want to be sure you’re sourcing your products ethically—or they simply desire to better understand the unique edge they’ll get by choosing you.
Often, consumers believe your product will work for everyone else—but they hesitate buying because they think it won’t work for them specifically. People are good at making up reasons for this.
Depending on your product or service, they might think they’re not knowledgeable enough to use it—when they really are.
They may think they need certain resources before buying—when they actually don’t.
Or maybe they own a Mac and you showed your software working on a PC in the ad—that could be enough to set off the “this is not for me” alarm in some consumers’ heads.
Those are handy bits of information to have about your market’s beliefs. If you don’t address these points in your content, they’ll continue to be obstacles to customer acquisition for some segments. And you’ll never know what irrational beliefs are preventing them from becoming customers if you don’t collect the right data and figure out what your market is thinking.
Now—while comprehensive content will get you clout, extraneous or irrelevant content can bore people and turn them away. So cut out the fat and let the data guide you on what to say. After you do that, if you’re still worried your content is too long, don’t be!
Long-form content is on an upswing—people still read books hundreds of pages long, and some of the most popular podcasts on iTunes exceed 2 hours in length per episode.
Consumers in 2018 are paying rapt attention to comprehensive content that feeds their interests. The more you can use data to find out what those interests are, the more you’ll gain the advantage.
And that brings us to the last new rule for 2018:
The flip-side of increased curiosity and intrigue is heightened criticism and doubt. Consumer trust is rapidly dwindling—especially for blatant promotion that isn’t based on solid, unbiased factual information.
Consumers in Generation Z are more likely to buy a product when it’s promoted by a YouTuber with a couple thousand subscribers than they would be if it were endorsed by a celebrity with hundreds of millions of fans. They’re astutely mindful of the “generous” fees the celebrity was paid… while the YouTuber was simply given a free sample for an honest review.
Consumers of all generations are more likely than ever to seek out reviews for a product they’re interested in because they no longer trust what the ads are saying.
The rising mass concerns about trust and transparency on the Internet haven’t even come to full fruition yet—and already two of the largest Western governments have had to step in to crack down on them (GDPR in the EU; Facebook in the US).
How the role of trust plays out in digital marketing over the next decade will be fascinating. The future is uncertain, but one thing’s for sure: consumers are in control, and they’re less likely than ever to believe you.
So when you create relevant content, seek to engage, educate, and entertain your customer—and tone down the shameless plugs. Your customers have seen all the brazen propaganda before, and they’ve been burned by it one time too many.
They’re much more skeptical about your motives behind what you’re doing. If you can give them a bigger vision they can get behind—a mission other than pure profit—they’re far more likely to align with you in the long-term.
The absolute BEST way to earn their faith is to show them you understand who they are—and communicate with the whole human. When people feel understood, they feel trust.
People in 2018 are more sensitive to being seen as numbers and algorithms by brands than ever before. In the years to come this growing mass resentment is sure to revolutionize industry after industry, and change the ways business as we know it is performed.
Will you be a brand that adapts and becomes part of this exciting seismic shift? Or will you be left behind—in the marketing graveyard? It all depends on your ability to prioritize the folks you’re doing business with above everything else.
That’s why by aligning your content to your customer’s personal facets and idiosyncrasies, you stick out like a golden thumb—and resonate with the whole human. And with today’s uncertain upheaval of rapidly-shifting consumer behavior, that’s a sure-fire way to stay thriving.
Up Next!: 2018 Marketing Trends!