In this age of omni-channel marketing, consumers have numerous points of connection to your brand or company, but they only have one relationship with you. Guarding that relationship means executing across channels in multiple device options wherever that customer happens to be on the globe and in their decision-cycle. It means tailoring every consumer’s experience on the fly for that moment in time and their particular needs, but also to their prior history with you. It means creating a consistent, uniquely relevant experience that connects past, present, and future in order to make every customer experience a positive one. Is that a lot to ask?
Of course it is, but you have no choice but to deliver. A typical consumer whether browsing or on a mission treats all companies and brands, even their favorites, like a utility. If they flip the switch it should work. Working means delivering what the consumer needs, which of course is different for every consumer. It should work from their mobile phone as well as their PC, albeit differently, and should deliver against their preconceived expectations at any time, day or night. It should recognize them and their preferences and purchases at the point of sale in-store, in their email box, and while browsing online. Working is always from the customer perspective.
What does it take to deliver against consumer expectations in this era?
- Lots of data. Big data. To accurately describe and respond to consumer actions in almost real time requires the capture and understanding of thousands of data points. It requires coordinated systems to return the appropriate data (and no more) to people within the organization in various functions and locations; and the system programming to use the information buried in those data points to return the best and most appropriate options and responses to the consumer.
- Measure what matters. All this data is meaningless unless you are measuring and optimizing for global improvements in customer interactions.
- No silos. One shared database across all those channels and shared program and results data from marketing programs. They are all describing interactions with the same customer. Make sure you get a full description.
- You have the facts (data), so use them. If certain customers use or respond on certain days or in certain channels or to certain stimuli, then to ignore those preferences is ignoring the customer.
- Don’t make dangerous customer assumptions. Use your models but don’t overreach. Err on the cautious side when using collaborative filtering so that you are mostly working from customer-expressed or demonstrated preferences, not algorithmic ones.
- Tread lightly on those relationships. If you introduce discomfort or any suspicion into the mix with misuse or overuse of critical or PII data, you will harm, if not kill, your customer relationships. Less is more.
- Recognize that it is not just digital. In the customer’s mind, what she sees from you on TV, hears on the radio, finds in her Sunday paper, or experiences in the store is all a part of the same continuum of her brand experience, which happens to also include digital exposures.
- Consistent presentation and messaging. Establish and guard your brand voice. Make sure that messaging and promotions are timed across channels so that wherever the consumer bumps up against your brand they are getting a relevant and consistent experience.
- Move with the customer. Consumers change with the times and the seasons, as life events mold them or the environment shifts. They change as competitors take your place in their lives when you don’t continue to reflect and answer their needs of today, not yesterday.
You have one relationship with your customer across many planes and myriad opportunities to screw it up. It is getting more complex every day for marketers at the same time that customer expectations are being raised. Mere integration or cross-channel marketing won’t do the job anymore. Omni-channel marketing is more than just another buzzword in the lexicon. It means preparing to truly put customers at the center of your planning and making their needs your priority. Are you ready?
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