Years ago, before cable TV, you were basically left with three choices on your TV dial. You could choose from the three major television networks on three different channels. And, if you had a good TV antenna, you just might be able to pick-up the PBS station in your local area. Today, we live in a world where cable TV has run amok with one hundred plus channels many of us pay for and never watch.
If we contrast how we go about choosing products or services today with how we chose a mere twenty to thirty years ago, it would represent a microcosm of a world turned on its head. Or, some may say a world gone mad. Global consumerism and business in the digital economy means we have an overabundance of choices today. Altering behaviors associated with choosing in ways unimaginable even a decade ago.
A simple question can turn into a dizzying choosing exercise. I was in New York City recently with my oldest daughter, who lives there. She agreed to meet me in Greenwich Village so we synched our iPhones and agreed at a meeting point. Her simple question when we met was: where do you want to eat? Of course, I replied: It doesn’t matter to me, where do you want to eat? She quickly pulled out her iPhone, came up with about five choices while texting three friends simultaneously for recommendations. She quickly found Yelp! Reviews and based on a recommendation of one of her friends she was texting with, we decided on one restaurant. We conversed while walking, accompanied by the Google Map voice telling us to turn right or left at the end of each block.
First, let me say the restaurant, The Owl, was an outstanding experience and food out of this world. The point, I want to make however is this: as an observer, I watched new internalized behavior my daughter did not think twice about. Her behaviors exhibited a new “norm” of how people, in her case a young professional, go about choosing.
A New Norm For The Business Of Choosing
We are experiencing today a rapid evolution in how people and businesses make choices. For many businesses, the aspiration to be global means they will need to account for more than just rational or logical decision-making. In my qualitative research directly with over 100 buyers in the past two years here in the United States as well as internationally, there appears to be four primary factors affecting how buyers make choices. And, in effect, creating a new norm for the business of choosing. These four are:
Rational: We are seeing an order of magnitude rise in the use of data-driven analytics designed to empower decision-making. This in turn is creating a new norm of seeking as well as using analytics for choosing. Ratings, ranking, and other consumer-like elements of choosing are become an increasing part of how people choose – in B2B and globally.
Emotion: Buyers today, even B2B buyers as well as top executives, are basing a good portion of their choices on emotions. In my twelve plus years conducting qualitative buyer interviews related to buyer research and buyer persona development, I have seen this element become very crucial to a new norm of the business of choosing. If we factor in the rise of a global digital economy, we see people intertwining personal emotions into their business lives The rigid structures of work confined to brick and mortar are falling down, and for some in the work force, it is as emotional as taking down the Berlin Wall.
Culture: Global marketers will need to become ever more aware of cultural influences on the business of choosing. A single word can create an insurmountable translation issue rife with negative meaning. Cultural context also becomes extremely important. UPS found out the hard way a few years back when entering Europe. In Spain, their trucks needed to be repainted from the classic UPS brown because they resembled hearses used for funerals in Spain since the 1920’s. In Germany, they had to change their classic brown shirt since no one in this country has been required to wear a brown shirt since 1945. Additionally, cultural norms and industry regulations can be inadvertently violated if an organization is not well versed in global cultures.
Technology: The ubiquitous rise in digital multi-devices and capabilities has altered how people and businesses choose. There is a new norm of expectations having to do with accessibility. Technology empowers accessibility to information at the moment it is needed. If sought information is not accessible or lacking in the right contextual moment, then buyers will move on quickly. Do not think this applies to B2C only. In a qualitative immersion study on behalf of a Fortune 100 company, I observed engineering managers review potential solutions together with iPads. Quickly looking at each other’s mentioned potential vendors for an embedded solution and arriving at a short-list in less than an hour.
Global Marketing Transition
Today, global marketing can no longer be a “one-size-fits all” endeavor. Localization and immersive understanding of cultures is becoming part of the global marketing landscape. A transition some global entities still find themselves in the midst of since expanding global efforts a few years ago.
One of the world’s most renowned experts on the subject of choice is Sheena Iyengar, professor at Columbia University and author of the Art of Choosing. Iyengar has studied the subject of choice and how people make choices throughout her career. She is a fascinating person and offers a digestible perspective on this topic. An engaging speaker, here is a video of Sheena Iyengar discussing her personal story and her work on choice:
For global marketers, the business of choosing is rapidly changing. Understanding choice, as Sheena Iyengar posits, in a global business context will become crucial to being an important part of the new digital economy. For global marketers, the tasks before them is how to create better choosing experiences for their existing global customers and potential buyers.
Otherwise, global marketers and their organizations can be lost in translation.