B2C firms need to implement change now to prepare for the future, and these changes will be driven by customer empowerment, four crucial purchase trends and the ability of B2C firms to adapt to abrupt changes.

‘Vast, fast and relentless.’ That’s how Forrester described the new buying era in a recent report. Today’s customers are more empowered than ever before, and in order to be successful in this decade, businesses need to find new ways to exceed consumer expectations. B2C firms need to implement change now to prepare for the future, and these changes will be driven by customer empowerment, four crucial purchase trends and the ability of B2C firms to adapt to abrupt changes.

Customer empowerment leads to new demands

Customer satisfaction is a multi-faceted approach. They want to feel important and considered. They value their time and money and expect businesses to value them too. ‘In fact,’ says Forrester, ‘80% of European online adults say that price is the most important consideration when buying a product.’ In response, brands have begun to offer product trials and subscriptions that offer boxes with varying products for example, giving consumers the option to try different products and services before committing to a purchase.

In addition to feeling valued, customers also look for comfort in the purchase process. Yet they also demand innovative products and service models that cater to price, convenience and experience, thus changing the buying options available. For example, while demanding innovation and new methods of purchase and delivery, consumers also want the comfort and familiarity of combining traditional methods with the new. It’s also easier to monitor specific customer trends and behaviours on a smaller scale than on big marketplace sites.

If brands want to form meaningful connections with their customers, they need to place more focus on analysing their consumer insights and creating more opportunities to track customer service. Forrester predicts that while the past decade has been dominated by big companies, brands will be on top this decade.

Experience drives demand

Instant gratification and personalised experiences: that’s what consumers love and are looking for. Customers also seek comfort and predictability, which is why it’s so important for marketers to highlight stability and familiarity, and to focus on marketing positive experiences.

Personalised experiences can be achieved through promotional plans that include free trials or that allow customers to try a product now and pay later. Trial periods are extremely valuable to businesses as they force product development, and when both the product and the experience meet customer expectations, they’re more inclined to keep the product and repeat the comfortable, positive experience they had. Modern consumers have also begun to choose brands based on company values. In fact, one Forrester report shows that ‘…69% of European online adults who are Progressive Pioneers – the most emboldened cohort in Forrester’s Empowered Customer Segmentation – say they regularly purchase from companies that align with their personal values.’

Four shaping forces

Consumer demands for B2C shifts apply to more than just a transition from traditional to digital. A recent report by Forrester outlines the four forces that shape the new version of B2C buying (see Figure 1). These forces are:

  • Price and convenience: Online marketplaces are currently on the rise due to the impact that COVID-19 has had on purchasing options. However, the stores that will survive this shift will be those that focus on unique, private-label products. Successful brands will be those that take control of their own product prices and discounts. Implementation of stronger regulations and security protocols will help to prevent the reselling of lower-quality products.
  • Experimentation: As it is becoming more and more common for brands to give customers the option to try products before buying – and customers are coming to expect this option – companies are being forced to produce higher-quality products in order to make sales.
  • Values-based buying: While privacy is the highest demand from consumers today, they also demand transparency and social responsibility. As a result, companies are becoming more open and upfront about their values. ‘Today, over 3,000 companies have certified as B Corporations to prove their commitment to the values that consumers care about,’ according to Forrester.
  • Evolving business models: To keep up with changes in the B2C world, firms must create new business models that include alternative revenue streams, big company partnerships and new channels.

Pandemic-inspired change

‘Responsible reinvention requires rapid, regular revision,’ claims Forrester.

While the pandemic has inspired quick and clever shifts in business, the call for change didn’t begin and won’t end with COVID-19, meaning companies must continue to adapt.

According to Forrester, there are three stages in which brands can assess their market opportunities:

  • The customer: Brands must assess the way that their customers’ lives are changing and how these changes affect their buying behavior. ‘Netflix’s success is predicated on correctly identifying shifts, such as the implications of increased internet bandwidth, the paucity of content for multiple and mobile devices, and consumers’ preference for quality content regardless of delivery platform.’
  • The product: It is essential that products continue to meet customer expectations. ‘Validate its existing features; identify gaps that require new capabilities or a more effective design; and evaluate the creation of wholly new offerings alongside possible changes to existing products.’
  • The business: Ask yourself if your brand’s current business model is reflecting your adaptability? As the market changes, analyse how your business model moves along with it.

Customer empowerment calls for change in the way B2C firms work and sell. Another impactful element, the pandemic, has accelerated digitalisation and created demand in innovation, healthcare, financial services, experience-based design and values-based alignment. Stay ahead of the curve by confidently building a new business model that keeps customers comfortable and helps your business succeed.

Using its 15 years of experience as technical consultants and CRM experts working with the latest and most powerful marketing technologies like Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Acoustic Marketing Automation. At redk we support companies looking to enhance efficiency and profitability through world-class tools that optimise performance across organisations.