Reach More Customers By Giving Them More Control
Today’s “autonomous customers” are fiercely independent and suspicious of traditional sales pitches, but you can reach them by giving them more control over how you sell and market to them.
A recent survey of 1,000 consumers in the US and UK done for BT Global Services found that 58% of online consumers liked the self-service concept because it "puts them in control."
The Autonomous Customer
It's been said that "no man is an island," but many of today's customers come very close to being this detached – at least when it involves interacting with the businesses that provide them with goods and services. Fiercely independent, thoroughly informed by the Internet and inclined to eye all sales and advertising messages with a healthy dosage of suspicion, these "autonomous customers" present a formidable challenge to any business trying to market to them.
The trend toward greater self-sufficiency and skepticism on the part of consumers has led many savvy marketers to change the way they interact with customers. Although these changes take on many different forms, they share one important feature in common - their net result is to pass more control on to the consumer.
"Today the customer is in charge, and whoever is best at putting the customer in charge makes all the money," Stephen F. Quinn, Vice President of Marketing for WalMart® noted recently.
Carwash operators who want to reach the new generation of consumers would do well to heed this advice and give their customers greater control over the way their business sells and markets its services.
Putting Customers In Charge Of Transactions
Not long ago, many marketers associated "self-service" with "less service." Their customers have since led them to rethink this equation. From bank ATMs to self-check-in counters at airports, the self-service concept has continuously scored high marks in consumer surveys, often outpolling attended options.
Customers who have grown accustomed to interacting with the world at large on their own terms via the Internet, have come to expect the same level of control when they buy basic services like movie tickets or carwashes. A recent survey of 1,000 consumers in the US and UK done for BT Global Services found that 58% of online consumers liked the self-service concept because it "puts them in control." In another survey done by BuzzBack Market Research, 77% of consumers said they're more likely to patronize businesses that offer self-ordering and self-paying options.
"Self-service is driving consumer behavior," says Larry Fisher, Research Director of NextGen Research Company. "Kiosks are an extension of a broader self-service trend, where consumers want more control of their environment." Read how the SiteWatch® Xpress Pay Terminal® (XPT®) can help put your customers in control of their transactions.
Customers Are The Best Sales People
When self-pay terminals like the SiteWatch Xpress Pay Terminal were first introduced, some people talked about "salespeople being replaced by machines." In reality, this turned out not to be the case; as salespeople weren't replaced, but moved to other positions where they could provide more value added services to customers. (There are more bank tellers now than there were in the mid 1970s when ATMs were first introduced.)
More to the point however, the actual "selling" at the self-pay station is not being done by "the machine," but by the customer himself. In essence, the customer is selling himself, evaluating the different purchase options at his own pace without being concerned or self-conscious about a salesperson intruding on his personal space. Since no one knows more about the customer than the customer himself, self-pay stations can often create a more rewarding and highly personalized purchase experience for your customer — and higher ticket average for your business.
Of course, this success is dependent upon customers being able to review, evaluate and select purchase options conveniently and comfortably at the self-pay station. Today's autonomous customers may zealously value their independence and demand a sense of control over the transaction process, but they still want, and even expect, to be given a broad range of choices and meaningful product (or service) information when they use self-pay technology.
The SiteWatch Xpress Pay Terminal has a variety of messaging tools that will help you make the self-pay experience more relevant to these customers. These include video messaging and logical transaction flow features that help you present your step-up menu options in an intuitive, easy-to-follow fashion. Also, the Profiles feature in the SiteWatch Xpress Pay Terminal allows you to modify the length of your messaging to customers, so you can present more detailed information during slower periods and less during busier times when it's necessary to speed up transactions.
Businesses that have implemented self-service technologies that give people more control over their transactions without compromising on the user-friendly and informational features, have typically been rewarded with higher ticket sales and higher levels of customer satisfaction. For example, supermarkets that have implemented self-ordering systems at their deli counters have increased sales 6-8%, according to research conducted by Kiosk Marketplace.
Jack in the Box®, which now has kiosks at 230 of its restaurants has been extremely happy with the impact that the self-pay option has had on sales and customer satisfaction levels.
Jack in the Box®, which now has kiosks at 230 of its restaurants has been extremely happy with the impact that the self-pay option has had on sales and customer satisfaction levels. "The feedback we get from customers is very positive," Michael Verdesca, division vice president of Jack in the Box said of the self-pay option. "We actually get a higher overall satisfaction rating from the customers (using) the kiosk. Some of that, I honestly think, is due to order accuracy, since customers are in control of part of (the transaction)." Interestingly, Jack in the Box's same store sales increased for the first two quarters of 2011, marking an end to a two year decline.
Extending Customer Control To Your Website
Placing a premium as they do on controlling transactions, today's autonomous customers also value the freedom and flexibility of being able to make their purchases any time of the day or night online. In the BT Global Services survey cited earlier in this article, 59% of the respondents agreed with the statement "I prefer purchasing online because no one tries to sell you anything."
Customers who prefer self-pay options at your site, also tend to favor the Internet as a tool for managing aspects of their everyday lives, because both options give them a greater sense of control. According to Forrester Research, 61% of U.S. adults who are active online want to scan and pay for purchases using self-checkout options, and 74% who have used kiosks say it's useful.
You can cover all bases with control-conscious autonomous consumers by giving them the option of paying for washes at your site with the SiteWatch Xpress Pay Terminal, or buying washes online with SiteWatch Website Connect™. Part of the SiteWatch system, Website Connect allows customers to purchase wash services directly from your website. Ask your DRB Systems representative for details or learn more by clicking here.
Just as the Internet has become the driving force of product sales, all indications point to it also becoming a popular platform for the sale of services like carwashes and restaurant meals. A study of 326 leading US restaurant chains published in March of this year by Cornell University and Nation's Restaurant News found that half of the fast casual chains and over 20% of quick serve restaurants now sell online. Professor Sheryl Kimes, chief author of the study, explained the growth of online ordering this way "Perceived control and convenience are key to customers ordering online."
Customers Are Your Best Ad Agents Too
Having the ability to sell online makes it easier to reap the benefits of social media marketing campaigns, because it allows customers to make a purchase from their computers at the time they see your message. The impact of a viral online promotion that's linked to an online selling platform can extend well beyond the scope of what marketers had come to expect from media advertising in the pre-digital era.
The recent experience of Papa Gino's and D'Angelo, a 370 unit New England pizza and sandwich chain, provides a dramatic example. Earlier this year, the chain ran a one-day promotion that offered customers 50% off every online order. (Orders placed at the chain's sites were not covered by this offer.)
The chain advertised its Customer Appreciation sale on Facebook and other social media outlets. In a single day, Papa Gino's attracted 8,015 new customers and the D'Angelo brand drew 5,007 newcomers. Over one in five (21%) of the Papa Gino's customers and 15% of the D'Angelo customers returned to the chain at least twice in the next 90 days, without the 50% discount. One customer even came back a whopping 29 times.
Interestingly, the average ticket for consumers participating in the promotion was 9.5% higher than the normal check, even with the discount. Aside from attracting over 13,000 customers who had never purchased from the chain's website before, the online promotion created invaluable viral buzz for Papa Gino's and D'Angelo.
As the Papa Gino's and D'Angelo experience illustrates, the Internet and social media have become powerful tools for selling products and building brand awareness. Indeed, based on research by many organizations, turning to the social media for information on products and services is rapidly becoming the norm not the exception. A study by Knowledge Networks shows how rapidly Facebook and other Internet utilities are becoming a trusted source of product information:
- 23.1 million people said they discovered new brands or products through social media in 2011 - up 22% from 2010.
- 17.8 million are "strongly influenced" in their purchase decisions by opinions in social media -- up 19% from 2010.
- Over two out of three (67%) of online shoppers spend at least one hour a week on Facebook and other social networking sites, and 43% of them report that they've made at least one purchase decision based on information gathered from these sites. (A survey of online shoppers by Ripple6 and the e-tailing group.)
Market surveys have repeatedly shown that social media recommendations are not only more common, they're also far more trusted than suggestions from businesses themselves or advice from outside experts. According to Knowledge Networks, 70% of consumers rate recommendations from friends as important factors in influencing purchase decisions, compared to 35% for recommendations from the media and 28% for retail employee recommendations.
In light of this, savvy marketers are looking to augment their company Facebook pages with new forms of social media advertising that reach out to consumers directly, often through their fellow consumers. The SiteWatch Social Circle® Module allows you to do this by posting Facebook newsfeeds to the friends of customers when those customers visit your wash. These newsfeeds have a positive comment about the customer's visit to your wash. Since your customer's name and Facebook "profile picture" are on this newsfeed, it looks more personal and less like a business message, so it tends to carry more weight with your customer's Facebook friends.
In addition to including positive comments about your wash, these newsfeeds include special offers that encourage the customer's friends to visit your site. Learn more about the SiteWatch Social Circle Module.
Along with other forms of social media marketing, such as Facebook advertising, tweeting and blogging, the SiteWatch Social Circle Module can form the foundation of a new advertising strategy that will help you reach autonomous consumers that are often beyond the influence of traditional advertising. Given the popularity of Facebook with your younger customers, this may well be one of the best ways of securing the success of your carwash in the years ahead.
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