March 1, 2019

Learning from changes in buying behaviours

Death of the high street

In this blog, I thought it would be useful to share some reflections on changes in buyer behaviours over the past 10-20 years and how we can learn from these changes.

It’s been a transformative time in the global economy. Modernisation of technology has provided consumers with the opportunities to purchase what they want, when they want. In many ways, there has been a complete role-reversal. The power in buying relationships has shifted from the supplier to the consumer, with the rise of real-time/instant consumerism.

Changing buying behaviours

Thinking back on my own personal buying behaviours of 20 years ago, things are drastically different. They largely revolved around physically purchasing items on the high-street, or going via a third-party broker for larger purchases like holidays. (or Teletext if you remember that!). The internet was young in the late 90’s. People generally still preferred bricks and mortar retailers over telephone or online providers

Yet so many of the outlets we knew and loved back then don’t even exist today, as organisations failed to keep pace with changes in consumer buying behaviour.

News articles from that time reveal the rising sense of panic from retailers over the ‘death of the high street’. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? This was due to the explosion in large, out-of-town retail parks springing up around most cities. High street chains, home retailers and the big supermarkets took advantage of cheaper rents and greater space to establish huge outlets with seemingly limitless parking and regular public transport connections. This led out of the traditional high streets and shopping centres and into the cushy arms of retail parks.

The rise of click to buy

Since the rise of retail parks, the major changes have been telephone sales and, increasingly, ‘click to buy’ via the internet. Nearly every business now has a website and internet offering, in some cases to supplement retail outlets and call centres, leading some to predict high streets could become ghost towns.

We’ve also witnessed new entrants to nearly every industry and sector. These new entrants have disrupted the traditional buying model through innovation and agility. And while the majority of start-ups fail, any industry or sector that believes it is safe from these disruptors and agile start-ups is, frankly, kidding itself.

Changes in buying behaviours

So what have been the changes in buying behaviours that have led organisations to change their service model in this way? What are the traits of today’s consumer? After all, the fundamental reason for buying decisions remains one of three things: gut instinct; heart; or mind.

Your gut instinct is that feeling in your stomach that tells you you’re getting a good deal. Your heart is that voice that tells you ‘you really, really, really want and need and deserve this…’ While your mind is that rational part of you that means you end up with a family saloon rather than a convertible!

What are the buying behaviours of today’s consumers?

  1. ‘I want it now’ society

Modern consumers have the world at their fingertips – literally in the case of smartphones and devices. Clever organisations tap into this and offer a seamless purchasing process where a customer can view the product on the device of their choosing, click a few buttons and make the purchase.

  1. Consumers are better informed

Gone are the days when comparing products meant traipsing between two or three shops to view the product and compare prices. Nowadays, we have our smartphones to carry out initial research, comparison sites to compare prices, and review sites to give us the inside track on what purchasers of the product or service think.

  1. Social media means there is nowhere to hide

Think about your most recent purchases. Did you make a purchase without first checking a review site? Would you make a major purchase from a company with a one star rating? Social media and review sites mean organisations offering great products and services develop an evangelical following that effectively market that product or service to their friends, family and followers. And reviews from happy customers are more valuable than most marketing budgets. On the flip side, organisations who fail their customers will know about it in poor reviews and lost custom.

  1. Consumers are used to companies innovating to meet their needs

Consumers are completely open about what they want and will spend with organisations that listen to them and provide them with an offering that meets their needs. In nearly all industries, start-ups continue to grab market share because they are innovative in how they listen to and understand customer needs. They’re then agile and adaptive enough keep their offering fresh and relevant.

How Learning organisations can respond to changes in buying behaviours

There are several ways in which learning organisations can meet the challenges of changes in buying behaviour.

  1. Have a product or offering that is unique or prestige – something that stands apart from the market, is desired and that competitors can’t rival.
  2. Listen to customers. Technology has made it easy to seek feedback. Learning organisations should naturally be great at gathering feedback, understanding what it means and tailoring their offering to customers.
  3. Use market intelligenceand monitor the behaviour of competitors. If all of your competitors are adapting their offering or price, there will be a good reason for this. Use market intelligence to understand this reason and adapt.
  4. Do what start-ups and disruptors are brilliant at: ensure your organisation is oriented in such a way to be able to quickly adapt and respond to the changing needs of customers.

What has this meant for us at DPG?

Here at DPG, we’ve followed our own advice and are due to implement the ‘click to buy’ option on our website very soon. This is to complement the option of talking to one of our qualified Advisers on the phone. Your feedback showed that, whilst speaking to an Adviser is generally preferred, there are instances when this isn’t required and you would like to purchase instantly.

And we’re not stopping there. We will continue to embrace new technology to support you in your learning journey. Hopefully you’ll have seen the news about us teaming up with Learning Now TV to promote DPG.

I’d love to hear from you!

I’d love to hear ideas on how else we can continue to meet your needs, now and in the future. Please drop me a line at cipd@dpgplc.co.uk. You can also share your thoughts in our DPG community by joining our award-winning community here. It’s free to join and a great space to support you in your learning journey.

Thanks for reading!