Changing Customer Buying Habits to Advantage

“User habits are a competitive advantage. Products that change customer routines are less susceptible to attacks from other companies.” – Nir Eyal

Even though the common notion is that habits die hard, the fact is that some habits can change. Customer buying habits are from the latter category. Customer buying habits have evolved and continue to evolve as new trends, technologies, and products emerge. For sustained success, companies must not only keep pace these ‘habits’ but also need to learn how to take advantage of them. However, the mistake that some companies make would be believing that changing customer buying habits would be easy. They assume that if through their marketing and promotional activities, they would be able to gain customer attention and that would convince them to buy. This assumption leads companies to think that persuasion would work best and therefore each interaction with customers aims at changing their choices and preferences.

While this would seem to be the obvious way to get them to make a purchase and then perhaps continue to do so in the future too, there is rarely much success. The reason for these efforts failing is that companies approach customers as a whole rather than individuals with their preferences, pain points, needs, and buying habits. Some companies however, do a better job at changing customer buying habits because they understand the distinctions. They know that customers want things to be easy for them and that they should not need to expend too much effort to get what they want. These companies, over time, become successful at changing customer buying habits because they respond to customers in the way that they want. They make the time and effort to know what customers do, why they do something and what routines they follow.

It is important to know that in order to change customer buying habits, a company would need to penetrate their routine – break the cycle and pattern they follow. As we mentioned, buying patterns and habits may have evolved, but there are still some fundamental reasons for customer buying habits, which have not changed. Customers still want great quality, competitive pricing, great buying experiences and want to save on time and effort they put in to their buying activities. This means that customers would buy from whoever would give them the best – would satisfy as many of these criteria as possible. Customers now also have so many channels through, which they can buy, making it tougher for companies to keep pace. So what steps does your company take to change customer buying habits to advantage?

As with all other aspects of customer service, the first step towards changing customer buying habits would be to understand both the existing and potential customer bases. Without understanding their needs, expectations, what they are going through in life, and other such aspects related to the customers, it would be impossible for a company to affect any kind of changes to the way customers think, perceive, and buy. It is crucial to understand the emotional needs that make them choose one product / company over another and the goal they hope to achieve with each buying decision. By making time to understand these aspects, companies would be in a better position to create innovative and customized products that would suit the precise requirements of the customers. The more useful and tailored the products seem it would not be long before a company would be able to change customer buying habits. Over time, the benefits of such understanding would be far greater than the effort and resources a company would have invested.

As mentioned several times, as companies expand their customer base, it would be essential to have software and technology in place to manage the sea of data for each customer. By investing in an updated Customer Relationship Management system (CRM), a company would have every customer’s details accessible to them at the click of a button. The customer service representatives would also be able to provide swifter responses, formulate better solutions, and overall appear more efficient when dealing with customers. All these factors would contribute to elevating each customer experience and customer service standards. A CRM system enables a company to recall / recognize a customer even if they connect after a long time and provide them with a high quality experience and tailored response. Such top class service, will over time, pave the way towards changing customer buying habits.

Given the rising competition, many companies make the self-defeating decision of competing on price. Bigger companies with more power and the ability to offer higher discounts could easily disrupt this strategy and take away all the customers your company was able to gain through low pricing. In order to change customer buying habits in your favour, your company must give them a reason to invest time and effort to buy from you on a sustained basis. Your company must compete through innovative products, top class service, expertise, and consistently display its understanding of customer needs, in addition to competitive pricing. The idea is to show your uniqueness and distinct qualities – low pricing is certainly not a standard that would set your company apart.

A great way to display the distinct qualities of your company / brand is by becoming an expert either in a category or in a particular area. We know from experience that giving customers too many choices will confuse them and they could end up buying elsewhere. However, to establish authority, a company could provide fewer choices but know everything there is to know about each of the offerings and areas related to them. Such expertise will draw people’s attention toward you and build trust and confidence in your knowledge and ability to give them what they want and more. Anyone running a business understands how crucial customer trust is and by gaining and sustaining it, a company would be able to change customer buying habits to their advantage and favour.

Customers of today, as we know, are much smarter, and love to remain connected at all times. They expect companies to keep pace with them by providing information and solutions to them whenever and wherever they want. If companies expect to change customer buying habits, they would have to comply and the best way would be to invest in the latest technology. The aim of using technology should not, however, be to act as a promotional vehicle. Instead, it should make the customer’s experience with the company faster, easier, more convenient, and memorable. Technology should be a tool to enhance customer service levels and convince current and potential customers that the company is committed on delivering the best to them, with the least amount of effort and cost to them. In an earlier exposition, we mentioned that every company needs to scale up but the customer’s must benefit from the scaling in order for the company to gain success. Here too, technology should enhance a company’s capabilities to provide customers with what they want without any increase in cost and effort for the customers – this will lead to a change in customer buying habits in favour of the company.

Smart companies are those that make it easy for their customers to buy what they want and do what and when they wish and essentially make customers feel valued. They would tactfully use habit formation to create the kind of customer buying habits that would be beneficial to their company. When customers feel special, they are extremely amenable to buy in the way that the company moulds them – your company would have succeeded in customer buying habits to advantage.

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