3 Online Factors that Will Impact Customer Perceptions in 2016

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From a marketing perspective, few things are as important as gaining a comprehensive and accurate understanding of how your target market perceives your brand. If you’re able to hone in on this perception, you suddenly earn the freedom to make informed decisions and pursue high-returning strategies. The good news is that there are a number of factors that generally influence customer perceptions across the board.

  1. High Quality Visual Content

Nothing is more powerful than visual content. Regardless of the industry, customers respond to visuals. It’s simply in our human nature to extract value from visual forms of communication.

Consider the fact that the human brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than it can decode text and written words. In a world where brands only have a fraction of a second to reach customers, this is a huge advantage.

Let’s look at the real estate industry as a small case study. If you’ve ever been in the market for a home or apartment, you know that one of the first things you do is head to listing sites and search for options. And while a number of factors influence your perception, the most important are the images.

Take this listing of a luxury Vegas condo, for example. The photos are absolutely gorgeous. Now, compare that to some of the other listings you find on a website like Craigslist. Most of these images are distorted, unprofessional, and unappealing. While there’s obviously a difference in the price point of the Vegas condos and the Craigslist apartments, you get the idea. Images impact a user’s perception from the very start.

This will be even truer in 2016, as the internet becomes increasingly visual. Videos, infographics, and interactive content will replace traditional blog entries, press releases, and written content. If you want to impact your customers’ perception of your brand from the beginning, you need to focus on producing high quality visual content. It’s as simple as that.

  1. Social Signals and Social Proof

Another very important factor that plays into how customers perceive your brand involves social signals and social proof. People gather information from multiple sources before they make a purchase decision, and a lot hinges on what their peers think. They don’t necessarily care if their peers approve of the purchase decision, but they do want to make sure people approve of the product or service they’re purchasing.

In pursuit of this approval, customers often look for social signals and social proof. Here’s how these distinct, yet interrelated factors apply.

  • Social signals. Have you ever visited a website and noticed those social sharing icons on the sidebar, or beneath an article title? These buttons typically tell readers how many other people have shared the article – these are social signals. The higher the number, the more likely it is that the user will perceive it as popular, relevant, or authoritative.

  • Social proof. Also known as social influence, social proof refers to the psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an effort to reflect what is seen as “correct behavior.” In the context of consumerism, this means purchasing products that are approved by others.

The latter is particularly valuable and can greatly enhance the perception of your brand when properly leveraged. In fact, one study published by the Washington Post suggests social proof is more influential than saving money.

  1. Online Reviews

The third important thing to focus on in 2016 is the significance of online reviews. This is essentially a form of social proof, but deserves its own mention. 

Whether you sell physical products through an ecommerce storefront or merely use the internet to advertise local services, you can’t escape the importance of online reviews. Research shows that 90 percent of consumers read online reviews prior to visiting a business, while 88 percent trust them as much as a peer recommendation.

If you want to build a strong online foundation that allows you to positively influence customer perceptions, then you need to invest in online reviews. Now, the word “invest” doesn’t mean paying for online reviews. This is strictly prohibited. Rather, you need to develop a strategy for attracting and publishing genuine reviews.

Prepare to Influence

As a marketer, you have a choice as to whether or not you want to control the perception of your brand. You can either let customers reach their own conclusions based on external factors, or you can influence the experiences and interactions they have with your company based on how you position your brand in the marketplace.

In this article, we’ve discussed some of the top factors that will impact customer perceptions in 2016. While these aren’t the only relevant issues, you can give your brand a strong foundation by focusing on things like visual content, social proof, and online reviews. Which strategy will you choose?

Larry Alton
Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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