How are you responding to the empowered consumer?

We're witnessing a consumer evolution. Thanks to technology, your customers have immediate access to product and service information — and they're not afraid to use it.

Connected by the Net
The information superhighway triggered the evolution. This power in consumers' hands has transformed industries like travel, retail, health and financial — closing the knowledge gap between company and customer.

Internet access is everywhere. According to Forrester Research, 42 million more households are online today than were online in 1998. And many of these households have multiple PCs. The number of home network units in the United States has grown to about 8 million in 2002 and is expected to reach over 60 million units in 2005. Wireless technologies, like WiFi-enabled laptops — and "hot spots" at airports, McDonald's and Starbucks — make it possible to log on anywhere. Soon, we won't even need an Internet station — we'll have high-speed connections through our cell phones and PDAs.

Shift in power
From this information revolution has emerged a new breed of consumer — the multichannel customer. They feel comfortable buying online or in person. They switch from one medium to another with ease — talking on a cell phone while surfing the Net and watching television. They're constantly searching for information to help them get the best price, the best product and the best service.

Before even walking into a store, customers have researched the products they want, compared prices and will expect salespeople to know their stuff. Consumers can investigate their symptoms before consulting a doctor. And they'll know the best deals before asking a travel agent to arrange a vacation.

A challenge to be different
Access to information coupled with a weak economy make for price-conscious consumers. To avoid competing on price, companies must differentiate themselves by service and the purchase experience. A connection with your brand has become even more critical. And word of mouth, e-mail and instant messaging have become very influential.

Demand for communication
Consumers are hungry for information about you and your offerings. Satisfy their cravings with ongoing communication and loyalty programs that highlight your brand and educate them on what sets you apart. Build a relationship through newsletters, direct mail, calendars and welcome materials, and direct customers online where they are welcomed with user-friendly, trustworthy information.

The information age also means the age of creativity. It's not only important that you communicate, but what and how you communicate as well. Frequency, format, design, content — every decision demands creativity and integration with your other marketing efforts. The multichannel consumer requires a seamless experience, whether they connect with you online, in person or through the mail.

Rethink how you are meeting the expectations of the empowered consumer. Contact us and ask us to send you a free copy of 8 Ways to Differentiate Yourself in the Information Age.

Reprinted from Strategies newsletter, 4th Quarter © Nov. 2003 by First Marketing, 3300 Gateway Drive, Pompano Beach, FL 33069.

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