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Consumer Habits Are Hard to Break, So Why Try to Break Them?

By Neil Sniffen
4 minute read | Last Updated: April 3, 2016

The Internet allows customers to tell brands what they are looking for; brands that listen will know how and when to show up at the exact right time.

We are creatures of habit and the Internet only helps to reinforce these patterns of behavior. We want to go where we want to go, when we want to go there, and we want to get there fast.

As customers we want all of these things, plus a little more. When visiting your site, our objective is to do just two things: research and purchase products. Try to get us to do something else without a compelling and irresistible reason and we will ignore it or, worse, leave your site, possibly never to return.

According to web content guru Gerry McGovern, “… actual web behavior is very predictable and repetitive. We quickly scan webpages in specific ways. We place a certain priority on the first three search results. We ignore anything that looks like a graphical ad (banner blindness). We are forever impatient.”

Unless the website is geared towards meeting your customers’ goals, there’s no reason for them to stick around.

That means trying to interrupt the pattern, or create a new one, is almost impossible to pull off and will annoy rather than encourage customers. Rather than interrupt, you need to figure out the pattern, become part of it, and give them a reason to keep clicking until they’ve achieved their research and purchase objective.

The goal should be to know where your customers are and make sure you are there to meet them. To paraphrase hockey great Wayne Gretzky, “Skate where the [customer] is going to be.”

Things that don’t work.

1. Website marketing that focuses on the brand, not the customer

Unless the website is geared towards meeting your customers’ goals, there’s no reason for them to stick around. Focusing marketing content on customer goals will ensure they will receive the help they need to accomplish what they came to your site for.

2. Talking at rather than listening to your customers

If you walked into a retail store and was immediately asked for your email address or other personal information before being allowed to browsing the aisles, you would leave the store. Your website shouldn’t shout or make demands of customers, either. Research has shown brand websites that focus on creating a good customer experience foster happy (buying) customers.

3. Ignoring your customer’s online behavior

Brands who wait for customers to type in their URL or pursue a single, one-way strategy might net a few sales but failure to stay aware of customer online behavior and align with it pretty much leaves online sales performance completely to chance.

Know what your customer is searching for and craft your content strategy around that. Click To Tweet

What does work?

From SEO to social, there are many tools you can use to find and be where your customers are. The key is to leverage those tools to attract customers to your site then once are they are there, make sure the content and design they encounter is capable of meeting their expectations.

1. SEO

When customers enter terms into search, they are actually advertising to you by telling you what they want. Know what your customer is searching for and craft your content and web strategy around those search terms. If your customers are searching for the term widgets and your site’s content is optimized only for cogs, that’s a huge missed opportunity.

2. Social

Nowhere else is your brand’s customer service showcased more clearly (for better or worse) than on social. Not only will ignoring your customers, overly moderating, letting an outside agency post for you, or only posting company marketing materials not generate engagement, virility, or traffic to your site, it will likely do just the opposite.

Use social as a way to create social proof for how your brand listens to its customers and rewards them for their participation. (And to show off the flashy new widget available for purchase right now on your website.)

Once a customer has found you, your site’s job is to follow through and make sure their experience is a good one.

3. Service

Once a customer has found you, your site’s job is to follow through and make sure their experience is a good one. It should act as their guide, offer them advice (even answer questions they didn’t know they have), and provide the tools need to ensure they feel confident throughout the entire purchase process.

Once the purchase is made, be sure to follow-up and ensure that there are no issues with their order. If there are, provide a clear means for making a return. Customer service should be a positive experience for your customer and a reason they choose your brand.

Customers are constantly telling you what they want. Listening to them enables you to align with their habits and buying patterns. By taking action on what you’ve heard, you will not only align with their patterns and habits, you will also help shopping on your site become one of them. And that’s a habit you definitely won’t want them to break.