There is a notion that pervades marketing circles today, a notion of mysterious ethereal creatures who exist in a hyper-connected, multifaceted cyber world of their own. They are an enigma: they speak a different language, communicate in ways we don’t understand, and they are turning the world of marketing on its head. These are the ephemeral, wraith-like ‘digital consumers’, who slips effortlessly through the marketer’s grasp.
The digital consumer revealed
The first thing to realize about digital consumers is that there is basically no such thing. The customers and prospects you encounter online are the very same people who walk into your store every day, call you on the telephone, or order something from your mail-order catalog. There’s nothing dark, sinister, or mysterious about them. They are people – like everybody else.
Making the web their own
Consumers, whatever their ‘flavor’, don’t care about the way that marketers define what they do. Concepts like above the line, through the line, below the line, digital, traditional, experiential, linear, analog, mobile, direct, indirect – or any other ‘box’ we care to slip our marketing endeavors into – are completely meaningless to them. All consumers care about is the experience – how the marketing available to them can enhance the experience and help them to make more informed decisions.
The process of formally defining your digital marketing strategy forces you to sit down and analyze with a critical eye the market in which you’re operating and to really think about the different components of your business and how digital marketing can help you to achieve your business goals.
I don’t know you and you don’t know me
On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog… right? Perceived anonymity is another online trait that can have a profound effect on consumer behavior. It liberates consumers from the social shackles that bind them in the real world; online they are free to do and say as they please with scant regard for the social propriety that holds sway in ‘real life. In a brick-and-mortar store, shoppers will wait patiently for service, and will often endure a less than flawless shopping experience to get what they want.
Key traits of the online consumer
We are all familiar with the old road-rage analogy of the congenial, neighborly man or woman who suddenly becomes a raving speed demon when they get behind the wheel of a car. Well, there is something about the immediacy and anonymity of the digital experience that has a similar effect on people.
It’s always risky to generalize and make assumptions about people – especially in a field as dynamic and fast-moving as this one. The only real way to know your market intimately is to conduct original research within your particular target group.
To young people today, these aren’t merely digital tools, they are essential, seamlessly integrated elements of their daily lives. These are digital consumers, the net generation, generation Y… call them what you will. They are insistent, impatient, demanding, multitasking information junkies. They are the mass market of tomorrow – and, as marketers, it’s absolutely imperative that we learn to speak their language today.