The role of customer education in the buying process
Customers today are adamant about performing a lot of product research independently. Businesses can turn this into an advantage, however, by providing great informational experiences.
Knowledge is power, and shoppers know that. They have become more likely than ever to perform research before committing to buying a product. However, a business prepared to employ educational methods and provide the data shoppers are looking for can create confidence in its offerings.
"While there are challenges selling to today's customers, these can easily become advantages."
Technology and education
How are clients learning about products today? Whether they are using their own devices or business-provided materials, the answer is bound up with technology. The Internet is the prime repository of information today, and people know it. A quick online search is a way to find a new company or product, and reluctant consumers may rebuff efforts to engage them, in favor of conducting their own research.
Does this mean there is no room to educate clients in a retail store or showroom? It does not, because the research phase of the customer journey lies fully in the customer's hands. This is the impulse behind the "showrooming" trend that has some retailers very worried. Browsing a physical store could be a way to gather data for a later trip to the Internet. Of course, if the technology employed by the business is compelling enough, that studying of products could easily turn into an immediate purchase.
The Washington Post recently delved into the opposite of showrooming, dubbed "webrooming." The source pointed to PricewaterhouseCoopers research demonstrating consumers are performing a large amount of research online and going into stores with their minds already made up. Convincing such individuals to purchase extra options or items that are more expensive can be tough, as the Post noted. Still, the news provider stated people are coming into the showroom to browse. As long as that interaction still exists, there are chances for physical sales processes.
Customers are still visiting stores in person. This is an opportunity to extend the brand message and offer customers specific information to further a sale.
Advanced information transfer
What will it take for companies to impress today's customer base? This is a customer base made of individuals who are very interested in conducting their own research and who may be attracted to an online model but are still visiting physical stores. An interactive kiosk may appeal to today's independent consumer by seamlessly extending the online experience, providing a personal, responsive and complete informational experience in-store. A continued sense of autonomy can persist because relevant options are made available to customers - on their terms and in a captivating format that engages individuals at their own pace.
Consumers have collectively decided that performing independent research empowers them and beats receiving a sales pitch. Instead of telling such individuals they are wrong, savvy retailers can bring the self-guided aspects of education right into their place of business. A vast amount of data is available in a compelling visual format, and personnel are there to fill in any details. Consumers with questions about any options available can find answers for themselves, and perhaps even discover new product categories they hadn't considered on their own. While there are challenges selling to today's customers, these can easily become advantages.
Investing in educational technology means going with the tide of consumer sentiment and providing a step that more individuals today are looking for, a chance to gain in-depth knowledge before committing to a purchase. Customers will value these options for presenting the content they actively want, and retailers will benefit from being the provider of that information, with some control over the message. If research is at a premium, great customer service means enabling it.