So who are we as consumers, and what does it mean to those of us who are digital marketers?

One thing is certain, the consumer-brand dynamic has changed for reasons that will only solidify further in the coming 12 months.

Let’s start with us, the digital consumer.

Connected, mobile and holding all the cards

The term ‘connected consumer’ has gained a lot of currency in recent years and for good reason.

Social media dependency – or addiction – is simply a fact of life. According to the Global Web Index, the average consumer has seven social media accounts.

And these are always within arm’s reach.

In fact, 83% of millennials sleep with a cell phone nearby according to Pew Research. The rise of cell phone usage has changed the way we interact with each other on a personal level, let alone when dealing with brands.

It is no wonder that according to a BI Intelligence report, mobile commerce will make up 45% of total e-commerce by 2020.

This is us, the connected digital consumer…it’s complicated.

Part of the recommendation generation

Most of us aim for the stars with purchases these days.

If our peers online don’t recommend that item we’re eyeing up, the odds that we’ll buy it plummet.

And we’re willing to do our homework. According to a global study conducted by Nielsen, 53% of respondents use a mobile device to compare prices and 52% look up product information on a mobile device.

This reliance on digital word-of-mouth is why influencer marketing has become such a hot tactic among social media marketers.

Savvy and thoroughly sick of marketing

Granted, being sick of advertising is nothing new. But now we have ad-blockers, and these are on the rise.

That’s why pull marketing in its latest guise of content marketing has become so prominent. But the market is glutted. There is so much content out there. Added to which is the challenge that we consume so much of it via our social channels on our mobile phones.

Ultimately, all that content is just a scrolling thumb away from oblivion.

And even if marketers do succeed in winning that window of attention – that sweet spot Google famously calls ‘micro-moments’, the battle is just beginning.

Consumers are social and mobile: making the window of opportunity to win their attention more fleeting than ever. 

So how do we, the digital marketer, adapt?

As mentioned earlier, the shoe is now on the other foot.

If you’re not Apple, you’re not going to see anyone queuing around the corner. These days it’s the brand that’s queuing in consumer’s crowded social feeds hoping for that micro-moment.

And no matter where in the customer journey you are with that individual, if you don’t conform to connected customer expectations, they will simply opt to scroll on.

So how do we meet those expectations?

Be mobile-first, not just mobile-optimized

This is a low hanging fruit, and many will assume they already have this locked down.

But there is more to it than design.

For a start, have you considered your website’s loading times? The file sizes of your content? Cellular networks lack bandwidth, which increases download times for rich media like video. The last thing your audience will tolerate is lengthy loading times.

The mobile takeover also makes two considerations key to marketing in 2018.

Say it with video
Obviously, the mobile format means short-form, which is part of the reason video content has taken over. These days one in four consumers say they lose interest in a company if it doesn’t serve up any video content.

This development has seen an enormous surge in popularity of social formats such as

Instagram Stories and Facebook Carousel where a lot of messaging can be packed into bite-sized dynamic windows.

Bear in mind, you’re intruding on very personal space
A key thing to consider with mobile marketing is that our beloved smartphone and tablet screens are a highly personal piece of real estate. Digital marketers now have to walk a fine line between catching consumers’ attention and irritating them by occupying their precious phone space.

It’s time to get personal–but relevant

There’s nothing new with this concept. Marketers have always been out to get inside the psyche of the individual prospect.

Only now we really can. With an unprecedented degree of personal insight.

Some tweets have tapped into everyone’s fears about invasive personalization. We may all hate the idea, but the fact stands consumers now expect personalization.

An Adobe study found that 78% of their respondents actually like personalized advertising.

Yahoo reported that people find personalized advertising more engaging (54%), educational (52%), time-saving (49%) and memorable (45%) than general-audience ads.

It’s no wonder, then, that McKinsey found that personalization in messaging delivers five to eight times the ROI of traditional methods and boosts sales by at least 10%.

Two brands frequently cited for having ‘personalized’ marketing locked down are Netflix and Amazon are two brands commonly cited as having hyper-personalization locked down. 60% of Netflix’s rentals and 35% of Amazon sales are driven by personalized recommendation algorithms.

These are obviously very niche examples. So how do does your more typical brand replicate this success and give consumers what they want without being intrusive?

Create a seamless customer experience

Your customers, future and present, aren’t just the sum of their visits to your website or purchases. You can’t just take these statistics and fill in the knowledge gaps with assumptions based on broad trends.

Winning over the connected consumer and coaxing them through the journey of becoming a loyal customer means connecting data. We have the technology necessary, it’s the mindset that’s trailing.

Social media data has added a fresh, dynamic and entirely individual element to the ol’ customer/prospect/persona profile. By creating profiles based on real-time behavioral data, not just stagnant CRM entries, marketers have the means for targeting that falls on the ‘relevant’ side of personalized, instead of the intrusive and creepy.

Adding publicly available social media data to your profile database will fill in the blanks and make genuine ‘personalization’ an actionable tactic.

It is also invaluable in terms of customer retention: by making this kind of data available to the entire organization, companies are simply achieving what old-timey corner store owners did every day –  a rapport built on familiarity and personalized service.

This is important, as by 2020 customer experience will beat price and product as the key brand differentiator.

Social media has been the catalyst in the transformation of the brand-consumer dynamic. But it is also the means for marketers to overcome the new challenges it presents.

It’s ironic. A range of new technologies have transformed our private habits and professional practices. But one thing hasn’t changed. And it remains the key to successful marketing to the new digital consumer: people still want you to remember their name and favorite flavor.

The challenge now and in the future is to connect the data dots now available, and do it at scale.