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Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Meet the New Consumer.

Categories: eBusiness, Human Resources, Incentives

The recession has changed the marketplace forever. The New Consumer will change the way that business and consumers think and behave. From now on, there is a permanent shift in the consumer mindset, and this will translate into the way that businesses operate in order to survive and prosper.

So what does the New Consumer look like

  • The New Consumer is more careful about what they buy.
  • The New Consumer want to feel connected to the things they own.
  • The New Consumer is looking for long term value rather than short term cost saving.
  • The New Consumer will only buy once they are convinced it is the right product for them.
  • The New Consumer values their time more than ever.

The continued growth of companies like Apple is an object lesson that people are willing to spend, and often pay more, for items that they believe will last longer, serve them better, and save them time. Consumers are growing tired of cheap, poorly made stuff that doesn’t last, clutters up their houses, and makes them feel guilty when they have to throw it out. The new consumer wants to own fewer but better things that have a deeper resonance with them.

A report by Price Waterhouse Coopers states that this mindset is likely to remain even after the recession has ended.

“Companies need to recognize that there will not be a wholesale return to a pre-recession shopping mode and will need to adapt to the changed behaviors and patterns to win in today‚Äôs changed marketplace”

This should represent a seismic shift in how businesses sell to their customers. Customer service is becoming ever more important, in helping consumers find the product which is right for them, rather than trying for the quick sale.

This is not just about the High Street, but online retailing too. A recent report by Fast Company shows that bad customer experience when buying online leads to not only a negative impression which is unlikely to lead to repeat custom, but that ‘cart abandonment’, the termination of the sales transaction, could be costing US businesses up to $44 billion a year.

This also needs to filter through to incentive programs. Incentives should focus not just on rewarding the sales team for making the sale, but rewarding everyone involved in making the customer feel like a king. Smarter sales incentives look at the bigger picture and focus on building longer term relationships with customers. Most customer loyalty programs, rubber stamping a card for a chance of a free coffee or a discount, are lazy choices. They are no match for a structured internal incentive solution that empowers employees to offer killer customer service, by:

  • rewarding them to improve their knowledge so they can offer better advice
  • rewarding them to improve their skills so that they are better employees
  • rewarding them for going the extra mile
  • making the right sale to the customer
  • recognising the lifetime value of a customer

For an inspirational video on how far customer service can take you, check out this video, Creating Lifetime Customers, from Chris Zane of Zanes Cycles. It’s over an hour long but it’s well worth it, and at the end of it you may feel like you want to open a bicycle shop.

What’s also fascinating about Zane’s presentation is that Zanes isn’t just about B2C retail, as they also fulfil bikes for a number of incentive programs for clients including American Express and Tropicana. The same lessons apply to the incentives market. As a provider of incentive services and product fulfilment, we are representing our clients to their customers, and sitting in the middle. To be successful, we need to provide great service both ways.

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