The internet is the future and the future is here. Well, it has been for decades now, ever since every industry imaginable started shifting to online means. Today, what you feel, say, think, and do are all influenced by the internet.

With more than 4 billion or 53% of the world’s population being internet users and 3.2 billion (42%) are active social media users, brands have finally realised that having a presence online is as important as traditional media. It may even be more effective than TV, radio, or print.

The Consumer Evolution

Remember those days when purchasing a pair of socks or a plain white shirt meant driving to the mall and walking all the way up to the store? Those days are obviously over. Thanks, again, to the internet.

Everything you need — groceries, medicine, a new couch, a new phone — is now just a click away. The dawn of online shopping has given way for a multi-billion-dollar e-commerce industry to be established. Think Amazon and how it turned a former hedge fund employee to the richest man in the world today.

According to We Are Social’s Digital in 2018 Global Overview, the total annual amount spent on global Fashion and Beauty e-commerce is $408 billion. Electronics and Physical Media come in second at $359.4 billion. Interestingly, both categories are expected to grow at an average of 15% year-on-year.

Add to that, in the US alone, the online grocery market is estimated to rake in $17.5 billion by the end of 2018. It’s expected to hit the $30 billion mark in three years.

So what makes online shopping such a hit over the years?

Also read: I tried out JDVirtual for grocery shopping. Fun and convenient, but is it worth the price?

A 2018 survey on 1,649 respondents revealed that “convenience” (43%) is the top reason why people make digital purchases. “Pricing” and “home delivery” came in at second and third. These prove that consumer behavior is moving away from the usual strolling at the mall to scrolling through webpages.

The growth and evolution of online shopping has even spawned its own holiday: Cyber Monday. And just last year, online transactions on the day reached $6.59 billion — a 16.8% surge from 2016. Moreover, from Nov. 1 to 27, 2017, $50 billion was spent online.

As if the rapid development isn’t enough, social media came along and further bolstered the growth. The network has been the go-to source for information on almost everything, including making purchases.

Social Media Influence

In a study conducted by Market Share on 12,000 consumers, 81% admitted that posts from friends influence their purchasing decisions, 78% were influenced by brand posts.

Marketing Week’s research also revealed that 31% of online shoppers say they use social media to browse for new products to buy. Fifty-six percent (56%) say they follow brands to check their products. But it doesn’t end here.

A 2016 Hootsuite survey stated that 48% of Americans interact with companies and institutions on at least one of their social media accounts. Add to that, 41% say it’s important for them that the institutions they engage with have a strong social media presence. Most especially since 59% confirm customer service on networking platform make it easier to get consumer concerns resolved.

Aside from using it as a product catalog, social media has also been extensively used to check for brand reviews. Facebook has been leading this charge with more than 70,000 business pages on the platform as of early 2017. Close to 50% of 2,005 surveyed people also revealed that they check the Mark Zuckerberg-led site for online reviews on local businesses.

With all these being said, what should businesses do? The simple answer is — adapt.

Business Adaptation

The cliche “The customer is always right” couldn’t more true in this situation. Regardless of how far away from traditional business today’s consumer preference has become, at the end of the day, you do what will bring in the bucks. If that means setting up an online presence — a business website, a Facebook Page, and Instagram account — then you do it.

The whole idea of establishing a business is to make a profit. Otherwise, you’d be establishing a charity and not an occupation. And as today’s consumer behavior veer away from brick and mortars to online stores, you have to ride the trend to stay present and relevant.

For businesses in the 21st century, a website is a must. Make sure you include the basics — a list of your services, your business address, and contact information. This is also where Google will pulling out information to be listed on its search engine results pages (SERP).

When that’s out of the way, consider social media. With 3.2 billion people on these platforms, it would be a great way to reach your consumer base. Especially if your business targets the younger market.

There are several platforms available but you don’t have to be on each and every one. Safest to get on is Facebook with its 2.23 billion active users monthly. Instagram is best for photo-sharing and is great for tapping the youth and creative market.

Also read: Philippine millennials are critical online shoppers

If you’re targeting the “affluent millennials,” you should consider Twitter with users having college degrees and earning above-average incomes. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is aimed at professionals.

Make sure you post updates on your accounts consistently. It doesn’t have to be every day or every hour, but having a regular presence online will help your audience remember your brand. You can check this article on how often to post online.

Last but not the least, engage with your followers. Your followers are where the money’s at, so make sure they feel loved and cared for.

No heart emojis needed, just a simple response to their comments or an answer to their queries will give the impression that you care for them. So if you’re planning to reinforce your business online, inform and engage.

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