The conversation is changing

It’s tempting to think that the future of customer conversation and sales conversion is going to be entirely online.

There are however more acronyms and buzz words being thrown around this arena than there are awkward sexual innuendo’s at Friday work drinks.

The reality is though, when something matters to a person they don’t want to “order online by sending a pizza emoticon to a chatbot”, or “get next day delivery with free returns”. They want to speak with a person they can trust, they want to touch a real product, or see the results of “too good to be true” services before they buy.

Currently only 6% of all retail sales globally are transacted online; which means a whopping 94% of sales are still happening in a physical store.

Even in hard sales industries like automotive we can see that customers still go in person to buy a car, even when they claim they don’t want to actually deal with the sales people. In a recent survey 40% of customers stated they’d prefer to buy a car online rather than by going into a dealership; and yet in the few automotive brands who have implemented an e-commerce function we’re not even seeing a single digit percentage of their overall sales coming from that channel.

Banking as an industry is going through a secondary revolution. They’ve been too successful in converting their customers to mobile and online tools & channels; and are now struggling to have meaningful conversations with their customers. They’re now completely shifting the focus of their branches, from a place to make transactions, to a place to get advice, to work from, to run community events, to teach, and to learn.

I think we can all agree that for some things, buying online will dominate or replace physical sales. Music is one area which has already moved almost entirely digital, and books are heading in the same direction once we’ve moved past the generations of nostalgia who are perpetuating the print industry.

Aside from that we need to push past this belief that we can do things better and cheaper online than in older mediums, medias, and methods. The internet is great for research & comparison, it’s great to educate and inform; but for those things that really matter; for buying a house, a car, for meeting the girl of your dreams, for getting that new outfit for your new job, or seeing your favourite band perform live – there will always be a desire for human interaction and a real feel of the product or experience.

Those companies who leverage this and connect their customers from the digital world through to the real world will establish the kind of relationships that lead to labels like ‘advocates’ and ‘apostles’.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/conversation-changing-ben-smith