Retailers Revamping Marketing Efforts to Meet Digital Consumer Demands

Ekpo, an expert in digital consumer behavior, says shoppers have more information about products than ever before and retailers are fighting for their attention.

Akon Ekpo, an expert in digital consumer behavior, says shoppers have more information about products than ever before and retailers are fighting for their attention.

Online shopping has many advantages, like avoiding long lines and large crowds, but digital technology has also brought the entire consumer experience to home computers and mobile devices.

A Rutgers University–Camden marketing scholar says it’s not only changed the way people shop, but also the way retailers market their products to consumers.

“Companies have to work harder because information comes with technology and in many ways, the information is no longer filtered through the lens of the retailer,” says Akon Ekpo, an assistant professor of marketing at the Rutgers School of Business–Camden.

Ekpo, an expert in digital consumer behavior, says shoppers have more information about products than ever before and retailers are fighting for their attention.

“Companies have to be part of a conversation already going on between consumers and they have to work harder to understand what consumers want. They have to play by consumer rules now. Traditional marketer-consumer roles are reversed.”

Ekpo says consumers have gotten referrals and recommendations from other people since the dawn of the retail industry, but technology allows for instantaneous interaction. Social media and online product reviews make it possible for consumers to vet a product without ever having to step into a store.

“It’s getting to the point where companies don’t even have to do all the advertising,” Ekpo says. “The internet has allowed consumers to become ambassadors for their products like never before.”

She says the smart and savvy companies are the ones that actively listen to conversations on social media. If they do, “they’re essentially developing their next product in collaboration with the consumer,” Ekpo says.

This digital age has also extended the life of the consumer experience far beyond the actual purchase transaction.

“You can tweet about your post-purchase experience, or you can post a review. Such technology-based social activity extends the life for products through the consumer experience, which changes everything about how companies respond to consumer behavior,” Ekpo says.

However, there are drawbacks to the ever-evolving digital landscape. Ekpo says retailers can swing and miss on engaging with the consumer on digital technology platforms.

“Interactions on digital platforms can backfire if advertising campaigns miss the mark or are simply out of touch with the consumer,” Ekpo says. “With social media, the consumer response can be fast and it can be harsh.”

The Rutgers–Camden scholar also says companies that fail to adapt to this modern way of engaging consumers will be left out in the cold.

“People have their cell phone and other mobile devices wherever they go and they can find a good deal before ever stepping into a store,” she says. “Technology allows you to find a product, compare it to prices in other stores, find a coupon, and even pay for it while you walk down the street. As technology continues to advance, we’ll see more of this behavior from consumers and companies have to stay current and be part of that social and digital interaction.”

Ekpo, a Philadelphia resident, teaches digital marketing strategy and consumer analysis at the Rutgers School of Business–Camden. She earned her bachelor’s degree from DePaul University and her doctoral degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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