One of the key-premises of the “Social era” is that the power has shifted from companies to Customers. We’ve all read cases of “United Breaks guitars” and alike to prove this. We also know that Customers are more keen to follow advice from close friends, relatives and credible strangers online than from just any company representative. And there’s plenty of evidence that Customers are showrooming.
But does this all mean that the power has shifted? The more I think of it, the more I disagree. Customers, despite the social tools, mobile devices and what have you, are loosing ground. And here are some reasons why.
The Customer Decision Journey is overwhelming
Have you tried buying something lately? Like any sensible human being you would start your journey online, or maybe by asking your friends, but at some point you are on your own, trying to figure out what’s best for you. By that time you have read dozens of reviews and possibly seen the same amount of comparison’s by online aggregators. It is highly likely that you are so overwhelmed with information that you suffer analysis paralysis. And this is not only applicable to services like e.g. insurances. Try espresso-makers (I did recently) for instance.
The Customer Decision Journey is ‘unbelievable’
If you have then found the service you want, it is also very likely that you will encounter multiple prices on multiple places for exactly the same.. And because you don’t buy that it is ‘exactly the same’ for that different price you start to doubt again: is this what I want? Is this the best I can get?
The Customer Decision Journey is ‘uncontrolable’
All this is caused by the explosion of online aggregators, affiliate contracts and those alike, like e.g. cashback sites. It’s happened largely unnoticed, probably due to growth of online sales in a new “hip and happening” silo’d channel. No questions asked as long as online sales growth quota’s are being met. Online marketeers were no part of the marketing department, but of the online department. In the meantime a brand is showing up everywhere, adding hundreds of touch-points in the Customer’s decision journey, without ‘knowing’ it.
You know what happened? The company lost control, yes, and the Customer did not gain it..
To further stress my point: During the decision journey your personal information got in hands of all kinds of parties that you do not know and, frankly, have no idea what they are going to do with it. It’s your mobile provider, the (mobile) operating system provider, Google, Facebook, Twitter, any online aggregator, affiliate or just company who you’ve asked for an offer. You can only hope they are trustworthy and stick to the appropriate legislation (as if any company these days can know exactly what legislation that is and how it is fully applied).
One thing is clear: The Customer is not in control, nor empowered to regain control. Nor is any individual company (yet!).
In short: It’s a mess, and frankly I cannot imagine Customers feeling even remotely empowered throughout their decision journey. And I’m afraid many companies are just about to discover they have entered chaos.. or is it?
What are you going to do about it?