I’m going to take a wild punt and assume one of the first things, if not the first thing you do in the morning is check your smartphone. In fact, 80% of people say it’s the first thing they do upon waking. Just like the friends you share this #hashtaghappy world we now live in, you are engaging in a model of on-demand content consumption that is typical of the customer archetype of 2015. You are the consumer, you are the reviewer and you are the gatekeeper. But you are also more than that. You are the decision maker. Not only for yourself, but for your peers and your fellow stranger.
Let’s say you’re single, and let’s say you’re planning the very first date for you and your latest Tinder match. A date that you hope to be the first of many in this new found, on-demand romance you have opted into. Naturally, you want to make a good impression and obviously, you want everything to run smoothly.
But where to go?
A FOMO fuelled question that can bring potential suitors more stress and decision anxiety than choosing what to watch when you lose your Netflix virginity. Suddenly your anxiety subsides as your mind flashes back to that new trendy restaurant you saw #instafood’ed last night. You open up Instagram and troll your way back through dozens of unnecessary Valencia filters, strategically angled selfies and myriads of Gen Yuppie hashtags to eventually land on the photo taken at the potential destination of courtship.
You screenshot the venue’s name and close Instagram with a brief sense of self accomplishment (you made a decision, well done). Still wallowing between your sheets with arms that are beginning to ache, you brush the sleep from your eyes while firing up Urbanspoon. The enticing nostalgia of graphic food porn and carefully crafted hashtags that filled your dreams are quickly overcome by the 47% rating you find yourself staring at. Disturbed but still intrigued, you delve further to only be more turned off by the terrible reviews of “rude service,” “arrogant staff,” and “long waits”.
Surely this is not the restaurant to spark your on demand, swipe-right romance?
Discouraged but still determined, you keep scrolling and eventually find a Urbanspoon rating and list of reviews you deem worthy of your business. You book a table for two (through Dimmi of course – talking to an actual human on the phone is a big no no), and cross your fingers and toes that you can rate your new found romance as highly as this restaurant has been rated by strangers.
But why be worried?
After all, these people I have never met before are just like me, right? They have no agenda? They just want a great product, they want great service, they want a great experience, and that’s what they said they received. Besides, there’s safety in numbers, and the rating I was satisfied with was the collective opinion of over 400 reviews.
90% of consumers are influenced by online reviews, effectively trusting strangers to dictate their purchasing decisions. This isn’t at all surprising, given we are bombarded with over 5,000 marketing messages from the second we wake each day. Just like anything you hear, see or experience in repetition, the consumer of 2015?s bullshit radar for conventional marketing and advertising is at an all time high. We live in an era where advertising is a dirty word, an era where people don’t trust brands, people trust people.
People, just like you and me, have now become the major information source when it comes to marketing, advertising, recommendations and ultimately, the decision to purchase. The omnipresence of social media, means that EVERYONE, is now potentially your advertiser, because EVERYONE, now has a voice. In essence, what was once siloed as offline word of mouth has now become potentially viral, word of mouse.
So what does this new climate of empowered and educated consumers mean for your business?
It means that you need to go back to basics and focus on providing as much value as your can with your product. Go the extra mile and make your customer experience awesome. Spend that extra few minutes making your service just that little bit better than your competition. Actually, genuinely care that the pasta was a little overcooked or that the parmesan was a little too dry for their tastes. It really is a small investment of effort (at arguably no cost) that can map to exponential growth in your bottom line revenue year on year.
‘Paul Ramondo is the Head of Digital at Digital Union, a creative digital agency in Perth.’