Consumers are a picky bunch.  They expect a lot from a lot from the companies they buy from.  In less than a generation, the expectations of the average consumer have shifted dramatically.  Buyers today are savvier and more knowledgeable than ever before, which has had a profound impact on sellers and the ways they must interact with their audience.

Not all that long ago, the choices that customers had were significantly limited by their geography.  This was great for retailers.  If a customer needed something, they likely had only a limited number of choices for getting it.  They expected a good price, of course, but the effort level required to search for comparable products was time-intensive and cumbersome.  Sellers had the information, and power, in the relationship.

Then came the internet and electronic commerce.  Suddenly, consumer choice was abundant.  As online commerce matured, companies found themselves faced with more competition than ever before.  No longer were the customer’s choices geographically bound.  They could buy from anywhere.

The scales began to tip in the direction of the consumer.  More choice meant more pricing power.  The larger the pool from which a customer could find a product, the more likely it was that they would get a better deal.

In addition to incredible amounts of information, the internet brought loads of transparency.  Unbiased product reviews, something in short supply pre-internet, quickly became the norm.  Customers could read about how and why people bought what they bought.  It was a social proof that further tipped – or rather dumped – the scales in the favor of the customer.

The shift was made. Customers were in control – and they knew it.  The choice and transparency that was brought on by the internet has forever changed the way customers buy – both online and off.

Yes, consumers are picky, and rightly so.  Why shouldn’t they be?  They understand how valuable the information they have at their disposal is and they’re not afraid to use it.  The entire process of buying and selling has been flipped on its head.  Expectations are higher than they ever have been, and that genie is never going back into the bottle.

So what’s a seller to do?

It’s not all bad, of course.  It’s an opportunity.  For companies and sellers willing to adapt – and many already have – the future is bright.

If customers want information, give it to them.  This includes everything from products to people to mission.  If it’s related to why a customer should buy from you, they need to know about it.  Customers have become accustomed to seeing every detail about the companies they interact with. Yours should be no exception.

Many companies aren’t used to displaying this kind of transparency.  But people still buy from trusted sources, and companies can build that trust by sharing more.  They can do it by highlighting what makes them unique.  Customers are craving connection, and the more human and connected to its customers an organization can make itself, the better chances it stands of competing – today more than ever.

Customer expectations have evolved, but so can the methods of sellers.  Meeting the needs to today’s knowledgeable consumers just takes an understanding of the processes that got us here.  By staying on top of these ever-shifting trends, sellers can better position themselves to meet the needs of their *ahem* “discerning” clients.