November 7, 2018
Brand consumer research
Shifts in user search behavior on Google are changing the way marketers communicate with their customers.
New consumer search behavior
Google’s VP of Marketing for the Americas Lisa Gevelber has uncovered new ways consumers are searching for brands, products and services. According to Google's internal search data, there has been an increase in the following keywords:
- To avoid
- Is ___ worth it?
In the past two years, there has been a 1.5 times increase in mobile searches ending with the words: “to avoid.” While the keyword “best” has increased, they keyword “worst” has also increased. Within the same timeframe, “is ___ it worth it?” has also experienced an 80 percent growth.
What does this all mean? Consumers aren't just researching products and services that are the perfect fit for their criteria, they're also searching for what to avoid before making a purchase. For example, consumers may search for “insurance agencies to avoid,” “the worst hotel operators” or “is marketing automation software worth it?”
Gevelber believes that the increase in these keywords provides brands with a new opportunity to influence the outcome of a buyer’s decision. “If I were to tell you that internal search data shows growth in consumers searching for products 'to avoid' and 'worst,' it might make you a little uncomfortable. As a marketer, that reaction is only natural. But in your day-to-day life as a consumer, you know it makes sense.”
How to market towards the pessimistic consumer
Marketers already have many strategies they can use to enhance the customer experience. To influence the outcome of the buyer decision and ensure your product or service is not “avoided,” labeled as “the worst” or considered “worth it,” there are a few strategies you can implement straight away.
By conducting a simple Google search on your product, service or industry, you may find some negative feedback. To address these concerns you can:
- Create a strong USP (unique selling proposition): ensure consumers known exactly what makes you different, why you stand out from the crowd and ultimately, why your service or product is better than the rest;
- Give consumers a competitor analysis: add a comparison page to your website that highlights key areas of functionality or services that you provide that your competitors don’t;
- Create educational content: deliver product reports, blog articles and how-to guides that educate consumers on the industry or your offering; or
- Highlight customer reviews: use an NPS tool like Delighted to add customer testimonials and reviews to your website and social media channels
Why the sudden pessimistic outlook on brands?
The increase in search results containing negative words may be a new revelation, however, the consumer’s thought process behind this was discovered years ago.
The decision-making process has been recently documented by Google as the concept of micro-moments, which refer to the “right here, right now” experience of consumers. It considers the moments that matter most when making a purchase. However, scientists have analyzed this concept for years, defining it as the peak-end rule. Conceived by professors Kahneman and Tversky in 1999 and well documented in Yuval Harari’s book, Homo Deus, the peak-end rule describes how people evaluate experiences and make practical decisions in life. Humans remember an experience from how they felt at its peak and end — rather than how they felt about the overall experience. The peak-end experience is what matters most to consumers, not the total sum of the experience.
For example, a consumer may have a delightful experience of a product trial but then a negative experience of the onboarding process. The product itself solves the customer’s need but the customer service was sub-par. The total sum of their experience was positive, however, the end experience leaves a bad taste in their mouth and results in the consumer having an overall negative experience. In a micro-moment, the consumer has decided, based on their poor onboarding experience, to cancel their purchase.
This negative experience may lead to a negative review like: “I experienced the worst onboarding with X software.” A few more negative experiences may lead to a company popping up on Google under the search criteria: “worst X software” or “X software to avoid.”
How to influence the pessimistic customer
For brands to influence the consumer’s decision-making process and avoid negative experiences, they need to understand their customer from a scientific perspective and monitor buyer behavior as it changes over time.
Through monitoring social media and review sites, marketers are already keeping track of what people are saying about their products and services. You can gain a new perspective on how your customer thinks and acts, by keeping an eye on reviews and testimonials from both customers and product experts. Monitoring negative sentiments like "avoid," "worst" or "worth it" can net positive outcomes.
You can also monitor these keywords to:
- Identify areas for product or marketing improvement;
- Reveal new avenues for talking to your customers; and
- Address customer concerns
It’s time to look at your customer as someone who is well-advised and makes in-the-moment decisions based on the peak-end experience they have of a brand, industry, product or service. For marketers, it’s crucial to map the entire journey of the customer experience and create a “happy,” “enjoyable” and “desirable” experience at every touchpoint — not a “frustrated,” “annoyed” or “overwhelmed” experience.
The happy customer is achieved by solving customer problems throughout the research stage (to avoid negative search results) and then by providing an enjoyable experience when a customer trials a product, makes a purchase and beyond.