Marketing in the age of assistance: How mobile changed everything

Christin Robben November 2019

It’s hard to overstate the impact mobile has had on consumers. Within seconds they can find out everything they need to know about a product, the business that makes it, compare prices at the retailers who sell it, and ultimately make the purchase.

Empowering as this shift has been for consumers, it has also had a massive impact on the way marketers do their jobs. They are being forced to rethink everything they’ve always known about winning over these empowered customers. The brands that successfully manage this transition will, however, reap serious rewards.

The age of assistance

The world is an increasingly complex place, which makes it difficult for people to understand their environment at an intuitive level. Fortunately, the innate curiosity that defines humans can go a long way in helping us deal with this complexity. In fact, Google research shows that 80% of people1 want to understand the world around them.

If the pace of technological change had not kept up with the growth of the world's complexity, satisfying that human curiosity would be a lot more difficult.

The rise of the smartphone, especially, has allowed people to make smarter, more meaningful decisions, and to do so faster than ever.

A customer might, for instance, be browsing in clothing store and see a pair of jeans they like. Once they’ve tried them on in the store, they can look them up online and see if there are better deals online or if they should get them there and then. They can also see if there are other retailers in the immediate vicinity and explore what deals they might have.

This blend of technology-enabled experiences and human input broadly define the age of assistance we currently find ourselves in. In order to understand how big an impact it has had on consumers and the implications it has for brands, it’s worth delving a little deeper into how South Africans use their smartphones when it comes to making purchasing decisions.

South Africa is a mobile nation

According to Google’s Connected Consumer Survey,2 some 25 million South Africans now have internet access through their own private connections, with the vast majority (69%) using their mobile phones to get online.

This mobile-first mentality has had a dramatic effect on the way people shop. Even when a consumer purchases something in a store, chances are, they first turned to their devices for information relevant to that purchase. That’s borne out by research which shows that there’s been a more than 85% increase in mobile searches for “where to buy [product]”.3

Beyond just searching where to buy a product, consumers are comparing the product with others, reading reviews from previous customers, and figuring out whether they can get it cheaper somewhere else.

And while high data prices mean that South Africans are a little more careful with how they use their time online, it’s unlikely that they’d deviate much from the 60% of global internet users who go online multiple times a day.4

There’s magic in the micro moments

In order to take advantage of this, brands have to own the micro-moments that define how customers make choices. That is, it’s vital for brands to meet the consumer wherever they are on their purchase journey.

While doing so may seem like a complex undertaking, there are three simple things brands can do when it comes to marketing in the age of assistance: Be seen, be smart, and be speedy.

Be seen

To be seen, it’s vital that brands understand all the signals available from customers. Where demographics would have once been enough, today’s brands need to use data on who their customers are, where they are, what they have done before, and, most importantly, what they intend to do.

Be smart

While having this data on hand is important, it’s even more important that brands use it intelligently. It is incredibly time-consuming to pull a report, analyse the data and then make changes. By using responsive ads and Smart Bidding, though, brands can get more clicks and more conversions with less human effort.

Be speedy

Although today’s customers are inherently curious, they’re also impatient. If they can’t get the information they’re looking for from your brand, they’ll move on and try to find it somewhere else.

A large part of ensuring that customers don’t go elsewhere is making your online presence as mobile-friendly as possible.

A useful approach for brands is to think like a consumer and use their own sites on mobiles to see if they would be happy. A simple next step is to use the Test My Site tool to see how your site performs and what you should fix first. Then work with a good UX agency to make your site great for users.

Getting mobile right = big rewards

Once brands get mobile right, they are prepared for the next step in consumer behaviour. But they need to keep evolving with their customers. There are already a range of connected devices to work with and voice is an increasingly important way of communicating with the web — and the pace of change isn’t going to slow down any time soon.

Taking the necessary action to get ahead of the evolving way customers use mobile won’t guarantee companies success. It’s clear though that those which do, stand to gain a lot more than those which don’t.

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