Last month, Karen Freeman, Patrick Spenner, and Anna Bird with the Corporate Executive Board wrote a series of three blog posts discussing the findings of a recent CEB survey that involved over 7,000 consumers worldwide. Those three posts were:
- What Do Consumers Really Want? Simplicity
- If Customers Ask for More Choice, Don't Listen
- Three Myths about What Customers Want
For me, the most significant finding in the CEB survey is that consumers are overwhelmed by the volume of information they're exposed to and the choices they're presented with, and as a result, many are making purchase decisions differently than in the past. The authors of these blog posts refer to this condition as "cognitive overload."
Because of cognitive overload, the traditional purchase funnel (consumers moving from awareness to interest to desire to action and reducing the number of options they consider along the way) no longer describes how most consumers actually buy. According to the study:
- Only about one third of consumers now use the traditional funnel approach when they buy.
- About 30% of consumers follow an open-ended purchasing path. The perform a lot of research, and they add and drop brands along the way.
- Another 30% of consumers don't perform a search at all. They simply zero in on a single product or brand.
- Most customers want to have "relationships" with brands - Only 22% of consumers in the CEB study said they have a relationship with a brand. The authors argue that most consumers reserve relationships for family, friends, and colleagues.
- Interactions build relationships - The CEB study found that shared values, not frequent interactions, are the main reason that consumers decide to have a relationship with a brand.
- The more interactions the better - The authors say that there's no correlation between the number of interactions with a consumer and the likelihood that he or she will complete a purchase, make repeat purchases, or recommend the brand.
The problem is, even relevant and "helpful" interactions are adding to the avalanche of information that's inundating business buyers. Most of these buyers might well appreciate marketers who understand that less can often be better.