Shhh! Consumer behavior is changing

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Regardless of the lack of imagination of traditional media sellers, the marketplace has gone through three major shifts- shifts which most Romanian businesses don’t understand. Huges shifts in consumer behavior are occuring, resulting from online search, shared customer experiences and rising expectations. These three online forces will evolve and drive this shift harder and faster. Unfortunately, few (if anyone) will try to harness these changes in the short run- especially not traditional media providers.

Consumer Behavior in Romania

Sales and marketing in Romania is challenging. In my opinion, businesses aren’t growing as fast and furiously as they should in an emerging market. There are, of course, many factors to consider. Marketing, for example, is just not keeping up with the changes that come with the Internet.

The ineffectiveness of traditional media (television, radio and print advertising) goes mostly unnoticed. In fact, the rate cards keep going up. Regardless of the song and dance of traditional media sellers, the marketplace has gone through three major shifts- shifts which most Romanian businesses don’t understand.

Huges shifts in consumer behavior are occuring, resulting from online search, shared customer experiences and rising expectations.

Do Not Ignore Search

The first shift relates to the change in how consumers research and buy products. Push advertising and marketing may provoke interest, but it is not as compelling as a search result that the consumers requested for themselves.

Consumers use the Internet to research products and decide which ones to buy.

Search is a powerful marketing tool. Although some must see to believe, I am confident that the coming statistics will validate the value of search related advertising and marketing. Yahoo and Google are a marketer’s best friend.

Unfortunately, almost no one gets it.

Why online and advertising agencies seem to be ignoring Yahoo and Google is a mystery. Actually, it’s not a mystery. It’s about hard cash, tips, bribes and all sorts of things that I shouldn’t mention- unless I want to make a lot of enemies in Bucharest. Needless to say, marketers are not being served well by their agencies.

Customer experiences

The second shift relates to the viral participation of consumers sharing their customer experiences with others in public forums. This is a boon for consumers and a challenge for business. Publicly shared customer experiences can have as much or more impact as the best integrated marketing strategy.

Customer Management People will need to pay attention to what is being said by unhappy customers and be ready to do something to resolve complaints before things get out of hand. And I don’t mean have your attorney at the ready. Marketers will need to learn how to make viral brands and deploy positive viral countermeasures.

Romanians bring great enthusiasm to the opportunity to publish and share opinions- informed or otherwise. Gossip, rumors and speculations abound in forums. And, the iconoclasts are a tough crowd to please. The typical cynicism, unfair criticism and dark sarcasm to be found makes formidable contenders for marketers.

Rising Expectations

The third shift is the rising expectations of Romanian consumers. The more they are exposed to foreign brands through the internet; they less open they are to the lesser promises and disappointments of local brand. They find superior products and services offered outside of Romania- not to mention better prices, guarantees, detailed information and friendly customer service.

Perhaps, rising expectations are the greatest challenge faced by businesses operating in Romania. For now, online ordering is not as easy as it is elsewhere in the world and some major online businesses don’t want to do transactions with Romanians (Amazon, Ebay and many others). But things will change when debit cards and credit cards become more easily available. Even Amazon and Ebay won’t ignore the value of a nation of card-holders.

Bringing quality to product and service is expensive and may require skills and knowledge that local recruitment may not be able to provide. So too, integrated marketing strategies- and there are few natives (if any) trained or educated in these sophisticated arts of complexity. Rising expectations are a daunting challenge for business.

Around the Corner

Major shifts in consumer behavior became obvious to me this year; online search, shared customer experiences and rising expectations among the drivers of such shifts. These three online forces will evolve and drive this change in consumer behavior – harder and faster. Unfortunately, few (if anyone) will try to harness these changes in the short run- especially not traditional media providers.

And that is a pity.

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Stan Faryna
December 24, 2005
Bucharest, Romania

About Stan Faryna

Stan Faryna is the founder and co-founder of several technology, design and communication companies in the United States and Europe including Faryna & Associates, Inc., Halo Interactive, and others.

His political, scholarly, social and technical opinions have appeared in The Chicago Defender, Jurnalul National, The Washington Times, Sagar, Saptamana Financiara, Social Justice Review, and other publications.

Mr. Faryna is editor-in-chief of Black and Right (Praeger Press, 1996), a landmark collection of socio-political essays by important American thinkers including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Copyright

Copyright 1996 to 2008 by Stan Faryna.

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