Written by: Megan McDowell
I have recently been contemplating how the traditional way of thinking about the sales process is gone, and that companies are struggling with how to identify trends and be positioned to take advantage of them. The other concept I have been thinking about is how a customer judges your brand based on the quality of his or her online experience.
A Whole New Customer Journey
In an article for Campaign entitled Traditional customer journey has been ‘blown up’, says Philips global marketing chief, the author Daniel Farey-Jones, examines Blake Cahill’s take on Philips approach to the current changing digital marketing landscape. The speech comes from a recent panel titled, ‘How to put the customer at the heart of your business.’ Other notable speakers at the panel included Daniel Murray the CMO for Grabble, Jen Healzlewood from creative agency R/GA and Dave Hendricks the president of email advertising business LiveIntent UK. Blake Cahill’s message was that Philips has learned that they need to be “everywhere and anywhere the customer is” and rather than try to encourage customers through a linear line they need to expect them to come and experience things in a nonlinear, non-traditional way.
Cahill was right in regards to the fact that the traditional way of trying to guide potential customers through a linear method of decision making is over. Farey-Jones cites Cahill saying “we used to think the customer decision journey was very linear, like a funnel.” Although we used to think the customer journey was a linear line, perhaps technology is forcing us to listen to the customers more in depth, perhaps the customers didn’t have much of an option to express themselves or be heard, but now with so many options, companies are feeling overwhelmed with the differences in their customers.
Predicting Your Customers Future
While Cahill is spot on in his statement that the linear line is gone, trying to predict everywhere and anywhere your customers are in their buying decision, decision criteria, customer experience and the platform being used, seems like an unclear target. However, knowing that the linear model is blown up combined with engaging customers and finding out where they are currently and where they are thinking of going takes out the guess work and is a stronger more proactive approach. However, an economic alternative must be found to focus groups and surveys to obtain this information on an ongoing basis.
Many CMO’s and employees fear the concept of not having a linear line, and a clearly set of rules by which to operate. Many in the audience probably shuddered when they heard him say, “I think what’s happened because of connectivity and the digital media ecosystem, we say it’s been blown up and the way to think about the customer experience is we need to be everywhere and anywhere a customer could potentially be.” This concept of being expected to be anywhere and everywhere your customer might be, may be plausible for a company with millions to spend in marketing efforts, but for smaller companies with a limited number of staff members, this sounds impossible and frightening.
The article, goes on to mention an audience member asking Cahill, whether a company had to be on a large assortment of platforms and how to balance that with a profit? Cahill responded by stating, “You have to be where the majority of your customers are but also create a culture where you’re constantly experimenting with new platforms and you need to be able to quickly pivot if everybody decides to leave Facebook tomorrow and go to another platform.” The heart of what Cahill said is correct, you need to know where your customers are spending their time, and you need to anticipate and be flexible to change to the next platform and be learning about the new up-and-coming platforms, however we think that this ability to position can only come through listening and being engaged with your customers.
Increased Connection Equals Increased Sales
Daniel Murray stated that many retailers, many of which have limited resources, found establishing a presence on various platforms a huge challenge. He stated, “The problem is that consumers today take the quality of your experience on mobile as a sign of your quality as a brand.” While it can be difficult with limited resources to use all of the networks, the good news is that by connecting to your customers you can increase sales and try new methods of impacting your customer.
Murray went on to expand on the benefits of experimentation. “We tested and if we send a notification that an item is on its way and we use a truck emoji it means the customer is a lot more happy.” Other things learned by Murray’s company was that chat functions and emoji’s lightened the tone and interaction with customers. Emails sent by customers tended to be heated, yet chatting had a tendency to reduce tensions and experience resolution in customer service. “We measured the tone of the emails against the tone of the chats and the tone of the chat is always more uplifting.”
The take-aways for me is that constant interface with your customers is required to learn of their changing needs. Secondly, constant experimentation is required to determine what is important and what works. A cost effective solution to the problem of digital strategies and marketing is to have a connection to your customers using qualitative research for online communities. This software can save massive amounts of money by obtaining the information to market strategically to where you customers are, and allowing you to do it in a concentrated fashion. With online research communities, companies have the ability to predict changes in their infancy. A company with their own online research community can routinely probe to see if customers are slowly moving over to a new platform. This can allow the company to anticipate change and prepare for the switch giving them a head start on their competition.
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