Shifting Power – Consumer Empowerment

“The balance of power has shifted from brand to consumers. And the impact of consumer empowerment cannot be underestimated”

Consumer empowerment is here to stay. The consumer / customer is now enjoying the power of a plethora of choices, constantly updated technology, companies creating innovative products and wider audience to take recommendations from. These changes have been rapid and have caught a number of leading brands off guard. They were comfortable with their established businesses, values, methods of dealing with customers and the all-important – a healthy and profitable model for running a business.

In this age of digitization new brands are emerging and shifting the scene – moving the power of brands to the ‘other side’ and contributing to consumer empowerment. This also means that now power of assigning prices also lies with the consumer. The new businesses and brands are ensuring transparency and the digital power allows consumers to check prices and compare brands at the click of the button. Smartphone and hand-held device apps ensure that consumers can make these searches and decisions wherever they are and whenever they please. Consumers are unwilling to pay more but rather search for best deals, discounts, freebies and any other factors that will contribute to keeping the power with them and also getting the lowest price on just about any commodity. Consumer empowerment here means that these online ‘checks and searches’ are not limited for shopping via the internet – consumers make these comparisons even before shopping at a brick and mortar store and when they do, they are in strong position to pit one business and brand against one or many others. As we said, even if they don’t sit at their computer systems, there are mobile device apps that make these comparisons possible – even while at the store they decide to buy from!

This new found consumer empowerment has created trouble for all those brands and businesses that assumed they would always keep control and could sell to consumers at any price or sell any product. This shift in power has made such brands invest more heavily in advertising and marketing in an attempt to let customers know that they have shifted focus and are selling at the price that consumers expect. This in turn has led to new and upgraded multi-media technology to help businesses position their brands in a better light and counter some of the effects. A report showed that advertising through the television rose by 9%, video ads by 35% and 23% through the online medium. This trend clearly indicates that businesses are fighting tooth and nail to feed this consumer empowerment and attract more customers to walk to them and stay with them.

What’s more consumer empowerment has led companies to get more creative when developing campaigns around their brands. No more dull and lack lustre advertising – customers need that ‘some more’, that ‘edge’ which will engage them and make them decide in favour of one over the other brand. Companies can no longer afford to rest on laurels or let up their efforts when it comes to staying in the eye of the customer. Consumer empowerment is a tough ball game!

These brands that have recognized and accepted the power of consumer empowerment are now in a position to command attention. Attention not just from the consumers but also from the market and other brands – some wait and watch to see the effects and others start emulating the practices and methods of these brands. Whatever be the case, the winner is the consumer. What must be noted is that brands that are gaining attention of consumers, are the ones who have kept their branding and advertising interesting and engaging and yet simple. They are able to deliver enjoyable experiences through their approach of simplicity, freshness of ideas and novel thoughts.  This simplicity and freshness does create confusion even for some leading brands that depended heavily on selling to customers purely by virtue of confusing them and making them believe in something the brand was not. Consumer empowerment has done away with this shrewd manner of advertising and kept it simple, real and engaging – just the way the customer of today likes it.

So what makes these ‘new brands’ disrupt the market so and yet make every customer experience the kind that allows customers to trust that they would always get the best customer service from these brands? The first and foremost reason is that they have understood and clearly display that they know what consumer empowerment is about. They have willingly conceded power to the hands of the consumer and are not shying away from moving away from the so called ‘traditional’ methods of dealing with customers.

Consumer empowerment has been further heighted by brands that have the ability to turn every customer interaction into a pleasurable one – such that customers want more and return to do business. Such brands are also more perceptive and are able to not only identify what bothers customers but also take swift action to remove these factors and also prevent their reoccurrence. They are able to smooth things out for customers thereby reducing pain areas and also customer effort. Recognizing the growing presence of consumer empowerment, these brands are available to their customers and potential customers – anywhere and anytime. They constantly seek out ways to reduce the amount of time consumers spend on buying, the amount of money they spend and the effort they need to exert to go through with purchases and transactions.

This proactive understanding may seem simple but it is the best value proposition and such brands are willing to go to any lengths to keep the power in the hands of the consumer. They address problems head on and take complete responsibility of anything that goes wrong – their aim is always to keep consumers at the helm of affairs. They use the swiftest and simplest methods to resolve problems and show the customer that they enjoy contributing to their success and also solving their problems.

There is no doubt that consumers are aware of their new found power and the ability to control the market. However, they are not oblivious and do not disregard the efforts made by companies and brands that are making things easier and reaching out to them through different means and innovative ways. Customers are happy and appreciate simple things like a better website that makes it easier to navigate and find what they are looking for. They prefer brands, even if smaller than traditional ones, that lay out everything clearly – pricing, features, services and other related aspects. Why go for brands that try to confuse by making everything too complicated.

Consumer empowerment has led to a new fearless breed of brands that are not risk averse and are ready to face and overcome obstacles in their path. These new brands are used to being amongst confusion and uncertainty and hence are able to resolve complex situations more easily. This gives them leverage and also the ability to show their allegiance to consumer empowerment. All they do is put customers at the centre of everything they do and continually elevate customer experiences – and make no mistake – they are reaping the benefits faster than a lot of other businesses that have been around for a while. The era of consumer empowerment should now force all brands and businesses to change their traditional ways of operation and mind-set and accept that unless they focus on the consumer, they will either stagnate or be relegated to the past.

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