Changes to the Way Customers Buy


Where did you get that? Is a familiar question for me. The other day I was walking to my car when the woman in the couple across the street pointed at me and said "I want a coat just like that one". I know exactly where I bought it in Modena.

In the now rare instances when I am at a store, people often ask for my advice — does this look good  on me? What do you think, should I go for the other one? Yeah, there's a couple of apps for that, too.

Due in part to my cultural upbringing — the Made in Italy thing — and in part to the ability to connect the dots on composition — putting together things creatively in a way that results pleasing to many, I have been able to mix and match creatively and on a budget anything, from attire to home decor.

There are many people who have the same or similar gifts for selecting the best items, and helping you buy wisely. This has always been a hot trend. Reviews have an impact on buying behaviors. Aside from trying to game or buy reviews, which I don't recommend, how can you find what really affects behavior?

Social influences is part of that. Which is why tools that allow people to display what they read, listen to, and buy are making such strong inroads. For example, my boards on Pinterest are a mix of things I have done, and things I might like to do.

When it comes to influence, the strongest lever any brand has is the direct appeal — give people enough visual and emotional appeal, with just enough information an individual needs to convince themselves, and you're there.

It is a big deal for brands. Because the number of people who ask that question to a friend, colleague, or neighbor has gone up exponentially and now, thanks to social networks and apps, we see it.

Brands that are starting to pay serious attention to this trend, the "I'm putting my money on it" kind, are already realizing its benefits.

Welcome to the recommendation economy

For the kinds of investments we're talking about, companies want surer bets. What would a more accurate hit ratio look like on your balance sheet? Would it not be more profitable to court the right customers?

The biggest value for content creators, marketers, sales professionals, publishers, and anyone working with brands is in the ability to literally pin down their audience for long enough to make that connection at the moment they are ready to buy (ideally a little earlier, when they intend to do it, if your brand is not a slam dunk).

Are customers going to be powerless in how this shift happens?

I've been thinking about it ever since I received the new "Changes to Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service" dear user email a couple of days ago. Who would pay $5,000 to use Google? The answer is YOU, us. According to Smart Money:

The new privacy policy – which Google contends will allow it to better target ads — goes into effect on March 1.

In a press release, the company said it may combine the information users submit under their email accounts with information from other Google services or third parties.

What people do and share on the social networking site Google+, Gmail and YouTube will be combined to create a more three-dimensional picture of consumers’ likes and dislikes, according to reports. Google did not return calls seeking comment.

That information is more valuable than you know. Even as Google says they will not sell it, they trade it and share it.

Trading better promises?

Organizations are changing their policies so they can have more data to trade — and make a profit on. Is this trade going to be about making better promises? Or will Google be the new Facebook?

That would be a shame. There is a fine line between providing a better experience and going wild on recommendations based upon a whim search for a blog post. Indeed I use many Google products, which makes it easy to keep an eye on me and many others like me.

Good trade is that which allows a company to make better promises. The biggest factor influencing changes in the way customers buy is trust. Where is the line between useful and creepy? Speaking clearly is a first step.

I do wonder about this point. Is the new, combined, Google privacy policy clear to you? Did you read it? Does it define well your ability to make corrections and changes as needed? There are some things one cannot change, so if you goofed on a critical piece of information, well, that's the way it is.

How about the dashboard? Do you understand where the information is aggregated from and how to change your settings? Do you care to, or it doesn't matter? I confess I'm going to need extra help in some entries there. And I spend a lot of time using, testing, and reviewing technologies.

The changes in the way customers buy should impact the way companies actually conduct business, not just their data collection policies. When speaking clearly is real and is executed well, as in acting appropriately, you make your business enduring.

Because that's where the new opportunities are — in the flux of understanding your customers and actually helping them do what they want to do.

How do you do that? This is my passion and work — connecting the talk with the walk, brands with customers (and their friends), I call it marketing that makes business sense. If this is something that interests you, contact me today.

As for Google, it looks like advertisers are winning over user search.