Are you Ready for Tomorrow’s Customer?

Web 3.0 and the Evolution of the Internet MarketingYesterday I rambled on about Web 3.0 and the evolution of the net. But what about tomorrow’s shopper? There’s some pretty exciting changes for them just around the corner, and anything that changes a customer’s experience is going to change how business owners must deal with that customer.

Back in the old Web 1.0 days it was a  common belief that all you had to do was toss up a web site, built by your neighbor’s nephew’s son for a 6 pack of Snickers, enter your products and you were done. Customers would come in and buy and you’d never have to deal with them again. Until they whipped out their wallet and bought again of course.

Customer service is important and many companies seemed to think it was totally unnecessary for online shoppers. Boy were they in for a surprise! Not only did the web sites who offered really good followup and proved to shoppers that they would still love them in the morning thrive against their larger and better funded competitors, Web 2.0 came along and demanded transparency on all levels.

Web 2.0 is the great water cooler of the internet. People gather around and make comments, share their experiences and recommend (or trash) companies and products. You can’t hide behind a corporate image or do business as usual with cleverly spun releases when something goes wrong.

I was going to take a flight to Cleveland – and yes I have family there because that’s pretty much the only reason people will put up with the incredible hassle of flying to Cleveland. I was checking Twitter to find out about an airline I hadn’t flown before when I caught a conversation from a disgruntled flyer. Lost bags, late flight, missed connections – the whole ball of wax. But someone at that airline company had their head wrapped around what Web 2.0 is all about. They responded in a courteous, friendly manner at the Twitter water cooler. They made the angry customer feel that he was being listened to and corrected his problem, along with a generous apology and a hefty flight voucher.

I flew that airline, even though there were others that had more positive consumer comments in other parts of the Web 2.0 arena. I did it because Twitter gave me a glimpse behind the curtain, because I could see their customer service in action. And yes that impressed me far more than the other airline’s boring corp speak tweets that merely mouthed slogans and read like ad copy.

Web 1.0 was the primordial first steps from the ooze of college Univac systems. The novelty, the “wow” factor. An awful lot of people didn’t get it. (Remember all those startup companies that crashed and burned?) Web 2.0 is the great block party. Neighbors meeting neighbors, sharing their lives, in excruciating detail at times. Sharing their opinions of companies, products, services.

Now let’s think about the next part of the shopping experience. If I want to find a restaurant all I have to do is hit a smart phone and I can see everything I want to know about them. Directions, comments from customers, all the things I need to make up my mind where to dine at that moment.

Now let’s expand that a little. I’m in a grocery store, wandering down the aisle with my iPad. I hit the bar code and suddenly I have the ingredient’s list for that product, comparisons to similar products, consumer contributed recipes that use that product, a coupon for it, store prices for it within x miles of my current location, recall notices, everything and anything I could want to know about it right there in front of me. That’s one tiny example of the driving force behind Web 3.0 – personalization on a grand scale.

Look at your web site. Do you describe your products and services in great detail? Or are you content to say “Blue Widget – great for kids” ? Do you engage and interact with your clients and customers – beyond the testimonials in your side bar “Bob is the greatest guru on the planet. U r in rt place” ? Is your site written in corp speak? “John is dedicated to providing differential experience levels to all Yak herders in the homogeneous arid and semi arid caverns of Iolo.”

As internet marketers and search experts, we will be challenged by the companies who do not “get” Web 2.0 yet, let alone Web 3.0. Those who don’t realize that  they MUST engage their audience to prosper. If these business owners haven’t wrapped themselves around the community aspects of Web 2.0, it’s doubtful they will be prepared to enter the uber personal world of Web 3.0.

I well remember arguing with clients about using the word Best. Online the consumer determines who is “best” in the field, no matter what the owner may think! The wise owner does not become enraged at negative comments, but engages the customer and uses those comments to improve, while letting the world of the web see what they are doing. Those companies are well equipped, with the right mindset, to enter the super personalized world of Web 3.0. They know that there are millions of buyers out there, and they need to engage, educate and constantly win their hearts and wallets.

Remember – your competition is only one tiny mouse click away. With Web 3.0 odds are good they’ll be sharing the same screen with you. Are you prepared to get personal?

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