Customers always wanted custom-made products and tailored service. That said, today’s customer is quite the same as the customer of the XIXth and the XXth century. The mass production and tech advancements make the difference today: mass production is making products cheaper and tech is making them customizable.
Moreover, widespread use of mobile devices results in new customer habits where apps and services are available for installation and use on the go. What does it mean in terms of customer behavior, sentiment, and habits?
Customer is in control
Global world made it easy for customers to explore services offered by providers located anywhere in the world. Now customers can explore and search for a specific service they need, which is offered by a number of competing companies and service providers. Customers do not need advertising to get aware of a new service offering or a new product; they can easily compare various services and do not rely on service providers to stay informed.
Thus, the next generation of customers is increasingly provider-independent and much more demanding – because of booming online services designed to meet the custom needs of a particular target group and the limitless opportunities to switch between service providers.
Past century customers have been used to ads as a primary source of product information. Advertising still plays an important role in driving customer habits and preferences; nonetheless, the generation of millennials and generation Z customers are largely born and grown with online tools at hand.
Therefore, they admire and actively research any product or service before they make a purchase. Furthermore, they expect certain rewards or a free service plan for most of the online services they use – and this applies to both simple apps and complex business software.
No more local services
Gone are the days of excessive tariffs, protective duties, fenced borders, and dependence on national and local manufacturers or vendors to obtain a product or a service.
Nowadays, the ease for any service to sell online and receive online payments enabled customers to purchase virtually anything from anywhere, which adds further competition among both large and small service providers.
Thus, unless you are a local grocery, you compete on a global scale with established and emerging online service providers, which requires innovative marketing and customer onboarding techniques. This is not necessarily bad because it adds pressure also on multinationals that are on the market for years.
Furthermore, we witness newly established services gain popularity within months and becoming market leaders in less than a couple of years – providing evidence that by using the right strategy and by offering a competitive service, even a small service provider can compete globally. Differentiation and specialization allowed dozens of emerging online services to grow exponentially up to compete with multinationals.
Actually, it means that any business expansion and marketing strategy should involve global aspects and take into account varied cultures and markets.
The world is moving toward a global cultural framework but regional differences still matter, even in the field of online services and apps. It applies even to small details like naming a product or an online service, which in certain regions would mean offence or worse in a local language.
Past service providers did not have to worry about such details since they acted locally – nowadays you should provide a global service on local markets but it still competes on a global market.
Freemium or Trial in the primary expectations
We witness increasing number of online services and platforms of any kind that introduce freemium plans in their service offering to attract customers and gain market share.
Customers are allowed to choose from dozens of available services in literary any niche and market, which results in a fierce competition for each and every user. Customers are well aware of this strong competition among service providers and many users opt for a free plan – at least for a limited period during which they test the respective service.
Having so many freemium services means that your own service should be very competitive to survive a crowded market while providing unique features or obvious benefits to the users in order to gain popularity. Users are already accustomed with the availability of free plans and hardly any service provider can afford not to offer a free level of service.
Most of these freemium plans are provided in exchange for an email address; nonetheless, this does not look like a bargain for service providers anymore. Hence, software developers and vendors should look for other means to reach their prospective customers since an email address is so easily obtainable and email advertising is declining so fast.
What the future holds?
What has really changed in the past two decades is the affordability and availability of products and services that can be specialized to meet the customers’ particular requirements and needs.
Therefore, a unique product or service proposition, as well as specialization, is as important as any marketing effort, in contrast to XXth century approach where marketing was the single most essential component of a sales strategy.
You have two options to attract customers and provide a viable online service or software product. You either specialize and customize it to the utmost for the needs of a particular target group, or develop an above the average solution that relies on marketing and pricing to gain customers. Both are feasible strategies but you should be aware that competing based on pricing alone could drain significant financial resources.
On the other hand, extreme specialization and customization is a solution that is not applicable to every service. The right approach seems to be the development of a mixed solution where unique features combine with benefits or innovative pricing model to gain as much customers as possible. Such a balance is hard to achieve but is feasible if you have a valuable idea, a good business development plan -see links below- and always have in mind that a new generation of customers is already in place, globally.
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