Focusing on the Consumer in 2009

We all want to do better in 2009. And that's a tough task considering the times we are in. This is going to be the year of the consumer. They won't stop spending, but they will start being more careful about where they spend. For businesses the best defense is a good offense. Focus on your consumer and you'll come through as a reliable and trustworthy partner, not just a merchant. Below are three ways to serve your customers better in 2009.


Get Mobile:


Thanks to the iPhone, G1, Blackberry Storm and the rest of the touchscreen smartphones out there (and yet to be released) mobile will continue to grow in 2009. Consumers will begin to expect a mobile offering from your website. The good news is that many of these devices are capable of rendering a website like any other desktop. But not all of them (yet), so it might not be a bad idea to work up a mobile version of your site, even if it's just contact information or location maps.

But don't stop there. Think about what your website can offer to the mobile browser - something that loads fast, can be read, watched or heard in under two minutes, like SMS alerts, etc. Then promote it through your website, through AdWords, mobile ad agencies like AdMob, and off-line. Just about any business has something to offer to a mobile consumer, so find where yours fits in.

Video, Video, Video:


Online video consumption just keeps growing. According to comScore, a whopping 77% of the US Internet audience viewed online video in November 2008 - up 34% from last year and good for 12.7 billion views. If you're not offering some kind of video on your website, you're falling behind.

Just like mobile, every business has reason to shoot and display video. If you're a plumber, show how to fix a simple leak. If you manufacture industrial brackets, demonstrate their strength. If you're an SEO, show a screencast of a simple optimization tip. It was hard to imagine that a blender would make a good video, yet BlendTec has 10 videos on YouTube with more than 2,000,000 views each.

YouTube is far, far in front of any other video property. Here are some other sites where you can upload and share your videos. And try out TubeMogul, where you can upload your video to several different channels all at once and view analytics:


Focus on Customer Service:


By now, everyone knows the economy is going to take some time to recover. Consumers want to spend less and Web professionals are searching for ways to cut costs. One way to keep your customers satisfied (and therefore spending) without breaking the budget is to focus on customer service.

Make sure your contact information is prominent on your website. Reply to complaints and concerns promptly. Often overlooked, reply to compliments quickly. People want to be acknowledged after they took the time to commend you.

Seek out consumers where they hang out on the Web. Look for them on social networks like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn. These sites saw a combined 133 million unique visitors in December 2008. Customer service is no longer limited to responding to a problem because a customer contacts you. These days choices abound, and it's up to you to reach out to your customers before they respond to a problem by flirting with the competition.

Set up company profiles on these sites and manage them. Try services like FriendFeed, Profilactic and Tweetdeck, which can help you keep track of your social profiles so you're not overwhelmed.

Once you're established in these zones, start researching problems - either with your company, products or in the industry as a whole. Then find solutions and let the people know about them.


Twitter speaks! We asked, "Hi, taking an informal poll: as a Web consumer, what do you want in 2009? More mobile offerings? Better customer service? Less Captcha? Thx!"


KeenerGuy says, "Better content and navigation. Improved service and help function."


MarviaL says, "I want more and better better customer service in 2009!!!"


nimbusblue says, "Oh sweet universe, please less Captcha, less Captcha, less Captcha...."


danschulz says, "No more captchas, "Internet Marketing Experts" trying to monetize EVERYTHING."


eprussakov says, "Better customer service (preferably by people that speak clear English too)."