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Is Your Business Ready For Today’s Empowered Consumer?

By March 5, 2012June 26th, 2015Marketing Insights & Strategy
Is Your Business Ready For Today’s Empowered Consumer?

More information.  More access.  More choice.  More voice.  More technology.  More influence.  More control.  More social consciousness.  Meet today’s empowered consumer.  Armed with their smartphones, tablets and social networks, empowered consumers present an equal number of challenges and opportunities for any business, large or small.

Are you prepared to meet the demands of an empowered consumer?

How Powerful Is Today’s Consumer? Consider These Stats And Stories.

  • Half of consumers surveyed have accessed customer reviews in-store and compared prices using their mobile device, according to a report by, comScore and Social Shopping Labs.
  • Just 8% percent of consumers report being satisfied or very satisfied with businesses’ responsiveness on social media when they complain on the internet, according to a Conversocial survey. Almost one-third say their complaints or messages were ignored. And a whopping 88% are less likely to buy from those companies if they see that customer complaints on social media, theirs or someone else’s, are ignored.
  • Up to 63% of consumers have abandoned or will consider abandoning a brand all together because of irrelevant communications, according to a study by VeraCentra.
  • When Bank of America announced a plan to charge a $5 monthly fee to customers who use debit cards to make purchases, the backlash was severe.  Thousands of customers took their money and ran to other banks – national, regional and local.  Bank of America axed the plan one month later after a public beatdown.
  • When Verizon Wireless decided to charge customers $2 for the privilege of paying their bills online, they were on the receiving end of a barrage of outraged emails, phone calls and social media scorn.  Verizon Wireless backpedaled and dropped its plan to add the $2 fee – the next day.
  • When McDonalds launched a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #McDStories, they hoped it would inspire warm and fuzzy stories about Happy Meals.  Instead, they were pounded with sarcasm and negativity (“These #McDStories never get old, kinda like a box of McDonalds 10 piece Chicken McNuggets left in the sun for a week”).  The campaign was pulled – two hours later.  The headline in Forbes said it best: “When A Hashtag Becomes A Bashtag.”
  • When JC Penney hired Ellen DeGeneres as its new spokesperson, a conservative group called on the retailer to fire Ellen because she is “openly homosexual” and offensive to the store’s “traditional family” customers.  Ellen’s fans, including 9 million Twitter followers and nearly 7 million Facebook fans, came to her defense, as did JC Penney.  Many people who never shopped at JC Penney pledged to do so now because of Ellen.

What Does This Tell Us?

Today’s empowered consumer determines brand perceptions.  They’re not shy about flexing their muscles and raising their voices, in favor or in opposition, online or in person.  They care about more than the quality, function and value of what they purchase.  They care about the context surrounding it – the experience, customer service, how the product is made and the values of who they’re doing business with.

What Do You Need To Do To Satisfy The Empowered Consumer?

You need to find out what your target audience wants, when they want it and what price they’re willing to pay for it.  You need to build and act on that understanding in order to cultivate the relationships that lead to brand loyalty and drive revenue growth.

You need to make customer experience, engagement and interaction – online and in person – top priorities so people will do business with you because they want to, not because they need to.  Consumers develop loyalty based on experience and emotion, not price or logic.

You need to offer a unique value proposition.  Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, focus on doing one thing and doing it better than anyone else.

You need to make your business, products and services more accessible.  This includes search engine optimization, an easy-to-navigate website, an inviting social media presence and, if you have a physical presence, visible and easy-to-read signage.  The faded, crusty sign that you think has character actually makes it look like you’re out of business or headed in that direction.

Empowered consumers aren’t the only ones with access to more information than ever.  Find any and all data about your target audience and learn how to take full advantage of it.  Focus on and respond to their wants, needs and demands to make the empowered consumer your strongest ally.

What steps have you taken to satisfy and respond to empowered consumers?

Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Dr. Bob Clarke says:

    Such an excellent post!  I guess you can say I was aware of the issues but this post really put them in front of my face.  It’s true… when I encounter a store with a weak customer service or social media presence who doesn’t address my issues, I’m gone.

    I need to be sure my business is up to the same standards.

    Thank for the wake up call, Scott!

    • Scott McKelvey says:

      Glad you like it, Dr. Clarke.  I’m the same way!  My Valentine’s Day flower delivery to my wife got screwed up, I sent a complaint and received no response.  Do they really think I won’t find another option?

      Fail to emphasize customer experience and service at your own peril.  Follow through on your brand promise and you won’t have a stronger ally than an empowered consumer.

  • Adrienne says:

    Wow Scott, excellent post!  

    I agree with Bob here, I was aware of all of these and I’m also the same type of person that if I go into a store and you don’t give me good customer support, I’ll take my business elsewhere.  I use to be an executive assistant for years so I dealt with a lot of vendors that had great products but lousy service and I hate to be treated that way.  It’s a sore spot with me.

    This was an eye opener when it’s laid out like this so I guess I better do some checking to make sure I have all my p’s and q’s in order as well.  

    Appreciate you sharing this with us.


    • Scott McKelvey says:

      Thanks, Adrienne!  As price conscious as I am, I’m willing to pay a little more if I know I’ll receive good value and great customer service.  Also, I need to know that they’ll be accessible.  Most of all, I need to trust whoever I’m doing business with.  It’s just not worth the aggravation to deal with the headaches.

  • Nicky_price says:

    Great post – I agree with this too.  The internet and social media has given us the tool to be able to “fight back” when we are mis-treated and companies would do wise to pay attention to the power of social media. 

    Companies need to be very careful to respond quickly and effectively to customer complaints which really could be “damage limitation” in the long runl!

    Thanks for sharing,