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Are your prospects wearing ‘blinders’?

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It wasn’t that long ago that there were just two ways to buy something: in a store or through the mail (assuming you were willing to wait four to six weeks for delivery). Today the typical mail-order purchase has been replaced by an online one. And instead of your merchandise arriving in four to six weeks, it can arrive in a matter of days—or even hours.

It’s not just how we buy that’s changing but also what we buy. And, in many cases, technology is the driving force behind our changing behavior. Here is an example that might put it into perspective: During a presentation at the recent IBM Amplify conference in San Diego, an executive from Facebook noted that chewing gum sales were down by 10 percent last year.

What could have caused this? Are people shying away from sugar? No, there are plenty of sugarless options. Is there a lack of interest in the gum itself? Sales have been waning, forcing companies such as Wrigley and Kraft to develop new brands and pricing strategies to jumpstart their sales. So what’s the real reason behind deflating gum sales? Mobile phones.

If you think about it, it makes total sense. People tend to buy chewing gum at the checkout lane in the grocery store. It’s purposefully put there to be an impulse buy (along with candy, magazines and other items). But these days, we spend a lot less time standing in line and looking around. If you’re waiting in line, chances are you’re looking at your phone. You’re on Facebook, checking your email, texting a friend or tweeting out a message. You’re now preoccupied with an activity that has you so engaged you may not even notice the chewing gum display. Because of mobile phones, the part of the customer’s journey that included the wait at the checkout lane has changed, forcing companies to adjust.

Hearst Corporation, one of the largest media companies in the country, has started placing magazine displays in other areas of the grocery store to avoid customers wearing “mobile blinders.” Soft drink companies have employed similar strategies when it comes to their single-serve drink coolers. Instead of going for impulse purchases at the checkout, they’ve begun placing drink displays elsewhere in the store to try to catch the customer’s eye.

These companies haven’t completely checked out of the checkout lane (there are still magazines, candy, gum and soda available up front). But they’re cognizant of the fact that buyer behavior is changing, and they’re trying to change as well.

So how is technology changing the way your customer does business with you and your company? Think about it now—before sales are negatively affected by your business’ version of mobile blinders.

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