CHAPTER ONE

THE AGE OF THE CUSTOMER

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How Did We Get Here?

EVERY YEAR, AS PART OF STAYING IN TOUCH WITH OUR CLIENTS’ customers, I visit retail locations to observe how customers behave in-store and how well the floor staff and sales associates are interacting with them throughout the sales process.

A couple of years ago, on a warm and sunny Saturday morning, I visited one of our automotive client's dealerships to spend a morning observing customers in order to get an idea of the car-buying experience from a customer's perspective. I watched for a while and then spent some one-on-one time with several of the sales associates to discuss how the sales process was working. On this day, the dealership was filled with customers shopping for new vehicles, always a welcome sight, but it was really how they were shopping that caught my attention—it felt completely different than just a few years back.

Customers were less interested in product information and more interested in taking a test drive, deciding on the spot, and negotiating an offer. This differed from just a few years ago, when the average customer would visit a dealership at least three times before beginning to negotiate a price. They needed these multiple visits to build up their product knowledge prior to making their final decision.

Today, the opposite holds true. Before visiting a dealership, customers have spent countless ...

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