Besides providing access to unlimited information, both accurate and made up, the internet has also changed the way consumers behave. In the modern day the shopping process usually begins online and customers know as much about the product as the sales person who is selling it. Let’s discuss three ways the internet has impacted businesses, consumers and their shopping process.
One of the biggest impacts has been the internet forcing companies to be transparent. It provided a platform of communities where consumers are able to share their experiences with every product and service they encounter. If you sell anything, chances are you can find a review about it online if enough people have used it. This made companies be more careful with the quality that they put out and how they treat their customers. With the recent release of a poor customer service call with Comcast, it made it painfully obvious that one mishap, with one customer, can spread online in an instant and expose bad practices to millions who can relate. The bright side of this open environment is that all businesses will strive to provide the best quality to win over the market. The internet has turned into word of mouth in an instant.
The web has made it possible to automate most of the shopping process. However this has left consumers a bit spoiled. Some industries like life insurance and other financial services have suffered due to their lack of ability to adapt. Customers are left puzzled when they hear that there is a “waiting period” for anything. This is a bit of trouble for companies that are in highly regulated industries because it leaves them limited in business practices that they can pursue. Clients begin to feel frustrated when something takes more than 60 seconds and expect transactions to be faster every time. This trend will only continue to grow and get worse, or better, depending on the company.
May the Best Man Win
The internet has made comparison shopping a much easier process than driving store to store. These days you are one google search away from seeing one product at 20 different prices. This has forced businesses to offer services like price match in order to keep their consumers in store because the internet is at their fingertips. So even if the customer sees something that he wants to buy impulsively, he or she can jump on a smartphone and see if that product is priced competitively. Whether its insurance products, books, or power tools, the internet has provided an unlimited shopping experience where the most fairly priced company wins.
While the changes may have happened too fast for some industries, it was extremely beneficial for the consumer. My prediction for the future is that only “consumer first” companies will be able to thrive and survive in this environment. The guys that do it better will lead. Technology like the Google Glass, and the Smart Watch are just small signs that online and reality will soon become one. Consumers will always be plugged in and know everything about you before they walk through your doors. The good news is, this will help you know more about them as well.