In the last few years we’ve start seeing how the power of connections and communications through new technologies has changed countries’ political status, put pressure on governments and businesses large and small, and freed the voice of people. This revolution is unstoppable, and the power of influence is changing hands more than ever in history; instead of being in the hands of a few, power is now collective in the millions that are interconnected in real time.

This revolution is visible in consumer goods and services. Brands and retailers have already noticed this and, in one way or another, must adapt to this revolution. They used to have control over the communication and images of their companies and products, but not any longer. Consumers share the truth about their products and services online.

Like in every revolution there are two options, join it or fight it! But those that fight will soon find another truth: The customer is always right. Here are a few of the forces driving the consumer takeover, and how smart businesses will get ahead of the revolution and lead it, not be led by it.

Transparent information

Consumers have easily accessible information about products and services, tons of resources constantly growing to give them more pre-purchase information than they’ve ever had.

In order to adapt, brands need to use this trend in their favour by leveraging the information regarding their company, products or services, and be transparent. You can’t hide behind great marketing when customers are out there, sharing their true experience with the world. Open up to customer feedback, and share that feedback to show you’re listening and have nothing to hide. Respond to negative feedback to show other consumers that you care about their experience. If you don’t become transparent, your competitors will.

In-store vs. Online

In-store shopping or online shopping? Both. Shopping trends show the faster growth of on-line shopping against in-store, but don’t count stores out. Consumers  combine channels (online information search, evaluate alternatives and shop in-store, and vice versa). In order to adapt, businesses have to combine efforts in both fields, making an outstanding shopping experience, no matter where the shopper purchases. Listen, learn and evolve in today’s multichannel. Does your mobile app help customers shop while in your stores, with barcode scanners for checking prices and reviews? Does your website offer in-store pickup? Can your store associates help people order something online for home delivery?

Word of mouth’s new audience: Brands and retailers

Human beings are social animals. Since the origins of communication word of mouth has been essential to share experiences, knowledge, and life best practices. Historically we’ve always been ambassadors of the products we use, positively or negatively, to our friends and family.

Today we use the same word of mouth, but it’s not restricted to our friends and family… It’s global and online! And because it is online, brands and retailers get to listen. Consumers are becoming the most powerful source of information for businesses in evaluating their products, improving the buying experience, inspiring innovation, bettering customer service, and more. This is information companies used to have to pay focus groups for, now available straight from the source. If you’re not listening, you’re missing out on the chance to hear what people love (and don’t) about your business.

Total transparency!

A couple of year ago, Wal-Mart stores’ Chief Executive, Mike Duke, called the internet “a new era of price transparency.” I’ll go a step further; the transparency will end up being total. As consumers evolve, communicate, and learn – all boosted by new technologies – they’re demanding transparency not only in price, but: Product quality, composition, ecological impact, and production practices, corporate policies, and more.

With the power to change the world in consumers’ hands, in order for brands and retailers to evolve with society and keep growing as businesses, we’ll see a better world full of quality products, responsible practices, and transparent companies – a world where businesses and consumers work together.  Brands that understand and adapt to this will not only survive, but will lead and drive the change themselves.