The following is a guest post by Saibu Baba, a blogger, content writer, and digital marketer who writes about social media management and content creation, alongside fintech and blockchain.
Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?
Directed at startup founders and teams, this question is interpreted very differently depending on who you are and what you want to achieve as a founder.
While you may be busy pursuing your goal to become the next Google or Facebook, somebody is building the next McDonalds or shaping the best brand for customers to shop online.
Different goals, different brands, with one objective: make it to the top of the industry.
Your ambitions to succeed are not wrong. You just have to recognize that, in reality, your fate depends on somebody else: the loyal customer.
It has become all too clear that today’s customers are different from the customers three decades ago. They are sophisticated, have a lot of options with the touch of a button, and make their decisions based on many variables. They are digital consumers.
So how can you build a loyal customer base for your startup considering that things have changed so much and technology has given a lot of power to customers these days?
This post takes you into the psychology of the digital consumer and explains a number of methods you can use to capture them as loyal customers for your brand.
In this short guide, you will learn about:
- Digital customers and the psychology behind their decisions
- Proven strategies on how to get these digital customers to stay loyal to your brand
Let’s get started.
Psychology of digital consumers
What influences people to buy or not to buy a product?
What prompts consumers to either patronize or not patronize a particular brand?
These and many other questions worry anybody that wants to build a successful brand.
Every single day, these consumers are caught in the decision-making process – should I buy that shirt at Amazon or on a niched Shopify store? Would the price be the same? Should I eat at McDonalds or cook at home? What is in it for me if I decide to go with DHL as a shipping agency instead of FedEx?
If you are a brand or startup wanting to make it big, you need to anticipate these consumer worries even before your potential customers make their final decisions. But that consumer you are trying to understand has changed thanks to technology, and is now a digital consumer.
Digital consumers are sophisticated and highly unpredictable. These consumers are well-informed and get access to the types of products or services they want with the tap of a button. They do their own research as to the quality of the goods or services they are about to patronize.
These digital consumers have a lot of information and a chunk of options at their disposal, helping them make decisions without any trouble.
Today’s digital consumers also do not exhibit selfishness. When they get a good product or patronize an astonishing service, they quickly let their family and friends know through social media and word of mouth.
So how do you get them to be loyal to your startup?
How to build a loyal customer base for your startup
Inside the minds of these digital consumers, there is no time for delays or bad experiences. If you delay their time, they move on without you. If you offer them a bad service, they quickly switch to a competitor.
If you offer them something good, you enter their good books and your brand goes far. How do you position your startup to capture these digital customers and make them loyal?
Redefine your real competitor: The digital consumer
Building a startup comes with a lot of work, and one of the biggest tasks is research into competitors – brands that are doing the same thing as yours. After competitors are identified, the race begins.
The team is then tasked to research these competitors (including their marketing strategies), what is working for them, who are their biggest customers, and what your new brand can learn from or do differently to stand out. This approach is, undoubtedly, a great way for you to differentiate your brand.
But in the digital age, this approach won’t get your brand far. Relying too much on the traditional “competitor” research would only let you produce to compete and not to satisfy the consumer.
Why? You are leaving the most important competitors out of the picture right from the starts, who in this case are your potential customers, who are sophisticated, digitally-driven, and have a lot of options.
So how do your potential customers become competitors? It’s simple, before you came up with your idea, your potential customers were already fixing their own “shit”.
When Jack Ma came up with Alibaba, he wasn’t looking at how to out-compete Amazon, but to provide the consumer with a different experience. If Jack Ma had actually focused on competing with Amazon, his company, Alibaba, would’ve ended up as just another Amazon from Asia.
And here’s what you should understand more. Even before Alibaba came to provide small businesses the means to sell on a global scale, these businesses were already doing fine themselves.
So what did Alibaba come to change or do better?
It made the process of getting more customers better, cheaper, and faster. Thus, its founder focused on building for the consumer and not to compete with already existing brands.
Same goes for any business idea. Before Google, people went to the library whenever they had to find something. Before you came up with your startup idea to help your neighbors find good restaurants, they were already searching for restaurants with good food by themselves.
The caution is, you should focus more on researching your potential customers and less on your competition. If you position your potential customers as your ultimate competitors, you stand a better chance of producing to satisfy them.
Your startup will stand a better chance of gingering these customers to stop doing whatever they were doing themselves and use your brand anytime they need help.
This builds loyalty and keeps you operating for the foreseeable future. Because in the digital age, it’s not just the numbers that matter, but the customers that keep coming back that matter more.
Want to know more about how the customer is your ultimate competitor? T.L Brinks, in his book, Buzz or Zap? Consumer Psychology for the 21st Century, delved into how the customer is your competitor, and thus outlined:
“Indeed, the best way to innovate is to still observe what people are trying to do for themselves: just make it better, faster, cheaper and more convenient. Because it is the customer who is the real competition, product and promotion must dance to the consumer’s tune…”
“Marketing is all about a relationship with that self-serving customer. The essence of having a customer is the relationship, a relationship in which when the customer has a need, a question, or a concern, the customer comes to your company, instead of starting from the beginning of an information search.”
These statements ring true in the digital, interconnected age.
Grow an audience before launching your startup
It used to be that you have your startup idea, build it, launch, and start building your audience through rigorous marketing.
Things have changed now. What worked best last 2 to 3 years might not be that effective in today’s highly digitized world.
After all, you are dealing with digital consumers who don’t have time for mediocrity. Ultimately, the notion of “when you build it they will come” doesn’t work well again.
What if you can build an audience around your brand even before you get started with the actual product or service creation? It’s possible.
The rising importance of digital marketing gives you the chance to market-test your startup idea even before you build. It also allows you to gather a good number of potential customers before your product or service hits the market.
Social media channels; One of the best ways to build an audience prior to launching your startup is to leverage social media forums. Create a social media page by using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.
You can also build a large following on Quora, where you provide insightful answers to questions on your niche. LinkedIn is your best networking platform if you want to get access to professionals, venture capitalists, and industry movers in your niche. For the geeky types, you can always turn to Reddit for inspiration.
Email marketing; Another great way you can build an audience before you build your startup is to create an email list – it could be a newsletter, curated content, or products in your niche. Giving subscribers free and useful information would increase their trust in you and you can use this audience to bootstrap your startup once it’s launched.
Paul Towers, Founder and CEO of TaskPigeon, a web application that simplifies the creation, assignment, and management of tasks for digital teams, leveraged email newsletters to gather an audience before launching his startup.
Towers created Startup Soda, a daily email newsletter featuring the latest happenings in the Asian startup ecosystem. When it was time for him to launch TaskPigeon, the newsletter served as the “mother” of Towers’ content marketing strategy to bootstrapping from the ground up.
Another strategy you can use to build an audience around your upcoming startup is to launch a blog about your niche. Your focus here should be to provide educative, relevant content to help your readers.
If you communicate well through video, then you can build a YouTube channel and provide video content while building your subscriber base.
Your goals here should be to focus on your best means of communicating, be it video, writing, or podcasting, and leverage that to build an audience.
The ultimate goal of this approach is to provide value to your potential audience even before you think of selling them a product or service. Focus on building the relationship through valuable content and the sales will follow once you come out with the product.
AI and data: Know your customers more than they know themselves
In today’s digital age, customers expect your brand to know more about them so you can send them relevant content and product or service suggestions. They don’t want you to bombard them with irrelevant offers.
According to intelligent data hub Semarchy, 79% of customers prefer brands to know, understand, and are about their (customers’) needs.
To build your startup and get loyal customers, you need to listen to them and know more about their likes, dislikes. Get deeper into their lives – know the type of pets they love, and their daily habits among others. As vividly told by Steve Jobs:
“Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves”.
Knowing that much about your customers takes a lot of data gathering and you won’t win the race by using old ways of data collection.
Thanks to artificial intelligence (AI), it’s easy to get into the heart of your customers and satisfy them with the best product or service. It also helps you to build a lasting relationship with them.
RetailNext is one such startup that understands the importance of knowing consumers and has built an ecosystem that analyzes consumer data using AI and computer vision. With RetailNext, physical shops are able to use camera sensors to identify what customers liked and disliked while shopping.
In the online world, many e-commerce platforms and almost any digital brand uses this form of tracking to get to know more about their customers so as to offer better deals and relevant content.
The bottom line is that the old method of collecting data just to identify which customer is buying what is no more.
This time, its about collecting data to identify what customers want, what they dislike, and how to make their experience smooth by offering them relevant products or services. It’s all about anticipating the customer’s needs before they even visit your brand. And Artificial Intelligence would help you do just that.
Consumers are more sophisticated than ever. They are always on the search for better deals, better options, easy ways of doing things, and cheaper means of getting whatever they want. If you don’t build your brand to satisfy the customer, some other brand is going to take your place. There’s always an option at the touch of a button.
In this dog eat dog digital world, only the startups that innovate, see their customers as competitors, anticipate the needs of their customers, and gather an audience prior to launching will make it to the top.