Unless you’ve been hibernating through the last decade, you might have noticed a slight change in your consumers. They might be asking a few more questions, or referring you to some obscure website that ranks your business as “fourth overall in the area”, according to “12 subcategories of service” (what the hell?).
As it turns out, the age of social media has had a serious effects on consumers, making them more informed than ever. This changes the way they select products, as well as the way you should be selling them.
Check out a graphic representation of the new buying cycle. (Harvard has to know what’s up, right?)



The Educated Consumer
As you can see from the chart above, the main changes to the new buying cycle are the additions of the “consider” and “evaluate” stages.
The internet has created the ultimate super-consumer— a Hulk-like specimen who remains uber-informed at all times, and whose loyalty depends entirely on what features you can offer him, and how those rank against your competitors. The need to find the one product that is “best” has sprung an entire micro-economy of comparison websites (Just googling iPhone vs Android = 272 million results).
The Bad (Sort of)
Apparently, in the current age, getting the attention of consumers is harder than ever. They have multiple sources of information, all of which are fighting for their attention.
Your biggest fight is to get your brand to the “consider” stage, that is, getting the consumer to consider you as one of the available options. Think of this as the rough-and-tumble phase of your marketing strategy — it literally involves getting your name out through any channel possible (preferably a million simultaneous channels—just think of it as kind of cyber-stalking your consumer).
Winning in the “evaluation” stage requires a more refined touch. This is the part where you win the customer over with your awesome website design, your incredibly helpful (and brilliantly funny blog), and your proof of amazing customer service.
The Good
However, the study also determined that once you’ve earned a customer’s trust, their loyalty is stronger than ever. Presumably, the initial research that led them to you (which cost them time and effort), combined with your satisfactory product, is enough to keep consumers coming back for more.
The Ugly (Not really)
So if you were a business 20 years ago, the cycle would be over, because you successfully sold your product to the customer. Nice work, partner. But take a look at that graph again. See that little word right before the cycle starts over? (The fact that it occurs in RED should be a hint that it’s important.)
“Bonding” involves your follow-up with the customer, again through social media, to ensure his/her experience has been fantastic, and to receive any valuable feedback about what you could be doing better. And before you start to get anxious, we actually covered this too — see our post on Dealing with Negative Customer Reviews.
So there you have it. Follow these steps and serving the new, educated consumer will be a piece of cake.

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