Consumer purchasing in 2021 is all about survival of the digital fittest

It's evolution, baby - brands need to adapt to the needs of the consumer in order to thrive, writes founder and director of Fifth Dimension Consulting Lyndall Spooner.

Charles Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest should be applied to the digital fitness of brands and their likely success in the evolving digital marketplace. Fitness is about responding and adjusting to changing environmental conditions to survive – and since the COVID-19 pandemic the ecommerce environment has undergone significant change. ‘Survival of the digital fittest’ accurately describes what is happening in 2021 as businesses seek to capture the attention and interest of consumers in an increasingly amorphous and competitively rich virtual market space.

The pandemic has brought forward the migration of the mass market to online shopping. Most of us are online more than ever before and spending more time investigating the options available to us in the market. We enjoy the exploratory process and emotionally we benefit from it.

Brands that are able to diversify in their digital presence capture the attention of a greater number of consumers. Having a strong digital brand presence is independent of the market size of the brand. While big brands dominate the traditional marketing funnel, it is the smarter and more agile brands that win the digital consumer.

Digital markets are becoming increasingly democratised. Technology presents multiple brand choices to consumers for many reasons and consumers are increasingly willing to consider these brands regardless of their current size or reputation.

Consumers search and research skills have evolved during COVID. They are now digging deeper, using more elaborate and broader search terms that express their needs and desires to find potential new purchases – and they are finding more brand and product options in the market as a result. In fact, the process is exciting and empowering and consumers are often happier with their choices.

Shoppers now travel down a broad range of intertwined online paths to find and explore reviews, feedback, user blogs and other niche information sites to hunt out brands and products that meet their needs, often at far more reasonable prices.

Brands that understand this recognise that the brand funnel is not only disrupted, it is fragmented. Brands that have adopted a strategy of survival of the digital fittest have expansive touch points and cleverly connect with consumers exploring their needs in their path to purchase. These are the brands that will win in 2021. Commonly these are not your typical mainstream brands, these include young, fast evolving, agile brands that have adopted a more holistic approach to market presence. They cleverly tap into consumer search patterns and quickly become as likely to win the consumer as well-known brands as technology has presented them to the consumer as equally worthy of their consideration.

Brands that can demonstrate how they meet consumers’ needs earlier in the search journey are also more likely to stay glued to the consumer throughout the path to purchase, resulting in a sale. Brands must form a meaningful connection on both rational and emotional needs – this is what will build resilience as they are compared to other competitor offers.

Brands need to be asking themselves tough questions: How well do we understand how consumers start their purchase decision process and spiderweb their way down multiple pathways? How well does our brand connect with these consumers along these pathways? How well does our digital customer experience compare?

Capturing detailed information on how consumers use elaborate search terms and how they express their needs helps to inform the business on how to adapt to the digital market space and increase their competitive win rate. The key is knowing what information to collect, and to look way beyond your traditional competitive set to those newer brands that are gaining momentum through new ways of connecting to consumers.

Right now, in the digital market space, one of the smaller, innovative and creative brands in your market is probably your biggest competitor. You have to stop thinking about the strength of your brand in an offline world and consider your brands digital fitness. Consumers are not looking for your brand, they are creatively exploring their options and getting excited by new offers. What are you going to do to gain their attention?

Lyndall Spooner is the founder and director of Fifth Dimension Consulting.


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