Whenever I get asked which period I wish I’d been born in, if I could choose, some are surprised at my answer being, “The actual period in which I was born.” I was born a year before Rhodes University became the first location in South Africa connected to the internet in 1991. More than half a century later, over half of the South African population has access to the internet and this exponential growth has drastically changed our – and the entire globe’s – buying behaviour. In this post, I will take you through two key ways in which digital has changed buying behaviour.
In our mobile-first environment, South Africans spend around 8 hours per day using the internet. That is more than the average of 7 hours’ sleep we get each day. Digital marketing experts estimate that consumers are exposed to between 4000 and 10000 advertisements per day, with the majority of those being through digital media.
While the brain is exposed to more advertising today than it has ever been, it has evolved to prevent an information overload by means of a screening process that allows us to recall less than 0.01% of the adverts we are exposed to. As marketers, it is important that we create adverts that are creative and relevant, in order to make it through all the noise
Access To Information
Prior to the internet age, the only available forms of mass advertising had major financial barriers, making it accessible only to a select few brands. Nowadays, brands with a smaller marketing budget can compete for the attention of the masses with the use of digital advertising. Consumers are now exposed to more options than ever before to solve a particular problem or meet a specific need. Furthermore, word-of-mouth was previously limited mostly to one’s immediate circles, which changed with the advent of the digital age.
In the past, what a brand said about itself outweighed what people said about the brand since it wasn’t easy to access what other people said about a brand or how they experienced its products. Now, when a consumer is in the information search phase of their buying process and evaluating alternatives, they have so much access to others’ experiences of products that word-of-mouth outweighs what a brand says about itself. “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumers it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is” – Scott Cook
In the age where Instagram influencer marketing is a 1 billion dollar industry, it is important for brands to ensure that each consumer’s experience of the brand is a favourable one, as every consumer is an ambassador, regardless of reach and influence. Digital’s effect on the attention of consumers and their access to information has resulted in buyers being unpredictable.
Each individual consumer has more power now and follows a unique path to purchase which is not the linear path of awareness, consideration, intent and then decision, as it once was. The buying process now takes place fluidly, in what Google calls micro-moments, which lead to a purchase either online or in-store.
These micro-moments take place through a plethora of channels and, as a marketer, you need to decide which channels to use to get the best value, having considered the resources available to you and the customer’s needs.