The Beauty of Self-Serve Choice Content (and The Merits of Dessert Buffets)

I have fond childhood memories of family outings to a local buffet restaurant in my hometown. You know, the one with the all-you-can-eat popcorn shrimp and 10 different kinds of salad dressing. The best part was that incredibly awesome ice cream sundae and dessert buffet. It was a dream for a ten-year-old kid like me with a healthy appetite and the ultimate sweet tooth.

A wave of nostalgia for that dessert buffet came over me on a recent summer trip to the east coast. We hosted a family BBQ and beach day at our cottage rental and decided to keep things simple on the dessert front. The self-serve ice cream sundae bar: two flavours of ice cream, assorted cookies from the farmers' market and a bowlful of gummy bears. A simple concept, but it hit a home run with the grownups and kiddos alike. What was the winning ingredient, you ask? Choice.

It got me thinking about self-serve choice content to fuel the digital customer journey. Most B2B and B2C customers today are incredibly digital savvy. They do their homework early on in their quest for a product or service - oftentimes before they (even realize they) have an immediate need to purchase. And oftentimes from their mobile device – anytime, anywhere.

Keyword optimization for organic and paid search, online customer reviews and responsive, mobile-friendly web design have become marketing must-haves. A strong brand presence on social and influencer marketing are now essential elements in a robust integrated marketing strategy. Here are a few quick stats to illustrate how choice content and social media have changed the path to purchase:

72% of B2B buyers use social media to research solutions.*@MarketingProfs

84% of B2B executives use social media as a source for making purchase decisions.* – @MarketingProfs

Approximately 50 percent of consumers surveyed who made their purchases in stores said online reviews impacted their decision to purchase... 40 percent of consumers aged 55-64 are researching online reviews prior to purchase.**@SocialTimes

Almost 40% of Canadian customers say reviews and feedback on social has an influence on shopping behaviour. That number jumps up to 55% for consumers 18-24.***@Marketing_Mag

The brands that set themselves apart from the pack are the ones that attract their customers and prospects early on – serving up choice content at the ready, being genuinely helpful, engaging in conversation and building a sense of trust and community. So when an immediate need arises for a particular product or service solution, who do you think will be top of mind among this pool of customers? You got it – the brands that have been there every step of the way, anticipating FAQs, establishing subject-matter expertise and opening up the dialogue.

Looking for some fresh content ideas to inspire your customers? Let's chat.

- michelle

* Source: Social Data’s Influence on B2B Sellers and Buyers [Infographic], MarketingProfs, January 25, 2015
** Source: Report: User Reviews Have a Powerful Impact Online and Offline, SocialTimes, July 16, 2015
*** Source: Canadian Retailers Failing to Deliver on Personalization: PwC, Marketing Magazine, March 29, 2016