Technology and Changes in Customer Behavior

It wasn’t that long ago that there were just two ways a person could buy something; either in a store or through the mail. Today the typical mail order purchase has been replaced with the ability to go online, either through your computer or mobile device. And instead of the merchandise arriving in four to six weeks, it takes just a day or two – and sometimes just an hour or two.

It’s not just how we buy that is changing, but also what we buy. And, in many cases, technology is the driving force behind our changing behavior. Here is an example that might put it into perspective.

I attended an IBM Amplify conference in San Diego where an executive from Facebook made a presentation and commented that chewing gum sales were down last year by 10 percent.

What might cause this? Are people shying away from sugar? No, because there are plenty of sugarless options. Is there a lack of interest in gum? Sales have been waning, but companies such as Wrigley and Kraft have developed new brands and pricing strategies to jump start their sales.

So what’s the real reason behind deflating gum sales? Mobile phones.

Think about this and it will make total sense. People typically buy chewing gum in the checkout lane at the grocery store. It’s purposefully put there to be an impulse buy, along with candy, magazines, and other items in the display.

But, no longer are you just standing in line and looking around. No, you’re standing in line looking at your mobile phone. You’re on Facebook, checking your email, texting a friend or tweeting out a message. You’re now preoccupied with an activity that has your mind so engaged you may not even notice the chewing gum display.

As a result of mobile phones, customer behavior in grocery stores is changing. The part of the customer’s journey that included the wait at the checkout lane has changed, forcing companies to adjust.

Hearst Corporation, one of the largest media companies in the country, has started placing magazine displays in other areas of grocery stores to avoid competition with the “mobile blinders.” Soft drink companies have employed similar strategies when it comes to their single-serve drink coolers. Instead of going for impulse purchases as the customer is checking out, they’ve moved drink displays elsewhere in the store to try and catch the customer’s eye.

These companies haven’t completely checked out of the checkout lane (there are still magazines, candy, gum and soda available up front). But they’re cognizant of the fact that buyer behavior is changing. So they’re trying to change as well.

How else has technology impacted customer behavior in a grocery store? (That’s a rhetorical question.) The bigger and more personal question, however, is how is technology changing the way your customer does business with you and your company, and how can you use technology to keep up? Think about it now, before your sales are negatively affected by your business’ version of mobile blinders.

About the author

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, professional speaker and bestselling author who works with companies and organizations who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. His articles have been read in hundreds of publications, and he is the author of Moments of Magic, The Loyal Customer, Amaze Every Customer Every Time and the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestsellers, The Cult of the Customer and The Amazement Revolution, which was also recognized as a New York Times bestseller. He is also the creator of The Customer Focus program which helps clients develop a customer service culture and loyalty mindset.

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