(and what small business owners need to do to win them over)

The Five Kinds of Internet ShoppersTo some small-business owners, using the Internet for business is still kind of new. Remember the days when you had to go to the mall to buy something? When haggling over prices had to be done in person, with loud voices, rather than with a virtual “Bid Now” button. When social media was a poster stapled to a telephone pole… pretty old school now, huh?

Point is, the Internet has changed everyone’s lives, including the way we shop. Today, just about every business does business online, and that means a whole new set of rules, and a whole new kind of customer.

As small-business owners, you have to understand this new breed of customer. A customer who can comment. Who can review and return. And they don’t have to do any of it to your face. Online, customers have learned they are in charge and they are sure acting like it. Here are the five kinds of buyers that you’re going to run into (and deal with) online.

  1. The Hunter

Some of us love a good hunt. Say a shopper is in the market for a certain pair of black sneakers. They’re sold out most places, but she has to have them, so she goes from site to store to store to site, until she finds them. That’s a hunter. Hunters have a taste for something, a hankering that just won’t be cured until their kill is in that digital cart.

  1. The Gatherer

Picture a deer walking into a big meadow on a spring day. She doesn’t know where to graze first. A little bite here, another there. Does life get any better than this? Well, that’s akin to how this type of shopper goes about their business. Everything looks good. SALE looks good and NEW looks even better. Watch out, if this shopper isn’t kept under wraps, they can develop into “The Hoarder.”

  1. The True Blue

The problem brands have in this free-for-all economy is keeping people loyal. This buyer, however, will stay with you until the end of time. They’re as loyal as your great uncle’s old hound dog. They are the kind of people who have a good shopping experience one time and just keep coming back, ‘cause hey, new things are scary.

  1. The Emotional 

For these shoppers, retail therapy is the cure for depression, anxiety, boredom—really anything that ails them. They don’t need anti-depressants or aroma therapy, they need a big sale on sports bras and a new pair of pumps.

  1. The Hater

This buyer will give you a bad review before you’re even done selling to him. You could bend over backwards for a hater, and you’d still be lucky to get a two-star review. Then, you can beg for a shot at redemption, but they’ll ask for a bucket of free stuff.  This kind of shopper plagues all retailers; online or in person.

Yes, times have changed and customers have changed with them. The moral of the story is, small businesses need customers more than customers need them, and the Internet has created a new two-way dialogue between business and consumer that as a small business, you must embrace to be successful. Job #1 is to make yourself super findable. You can start right here with a little test that will gauge how easy (or hard) it is for people to find your business.

How Findable Are You?