Customer-Centric Marketing Versus Mass Consumerism

Remember the joy and wonderment when you first started using the Internet? Remember thinking it would fill your needs from the comfort of home?

If you do, you have a good memory.

The idealized power of the Internet, one of an all-knowing, all-powerful tool for the good of the consumer, is forgotten. Instead, we think the Internet has the potential to fulfill some needs and desires, but that potential is wasted on poorly conceived, designed, and managed Web sites that are hard to use. Most consumer sites play to the mass market, not the individual. Today that error is easily correctable.

Mass consumerism failed. It’s time to reinvent the Web as truly customer-centric and leverage direct marketing’s proven power. Consumers need reasons to go beyond the offline shopping experience and embrace online.

Savvy consumers are bombarded with generalized offers, offers that are inapplicable and have little to do with their needs or personal shopping habits. They’re barraged with pop-ups, email, and online ads that are easily forgotten and rarely acted upon. To them, the Internet’s promise seems fraudulent.

How can marketers deliver on the Internet’s early promise? The answer is simple, economical, and readily available. Marketers must focus on the consumer as an individual, apply successful offline direct-marketing approaches, and abandon the mass-market approach.

The marketing mindset must undergo a major philosophical change and put the user in charge, not the marketer. The end user must be the trigger for a campaign, not the marketers themselves.

Instead of using pop-ups to push irrelevant ads, use them to help struggling site visitors. By understanding their needs, you’re better able to serve them. Similarly, email should be triggered by specific end-user activities, such as a Web site visit or a purchase. They should not be mass-launched by marketers.

Having accepted marketing should be customer-, not marketer-, centric, marketers will need to build richer user profiles and personalize customer interactions.

The first step is to build rich user profiles — of buyers and prospects. If only 1 or 2 percent of all Web site visitors become actual buyers and you only collect data on these buyers, the other 98 or 99 percent of visitors aren’t being tracked.

Why and how did they come to your site? Why did they leave and not purchase?

Build a user profile for each individual who goes to your Web site. Enrich the profile with all the relevant information you can collect, including behavioral data, product interest, needs analysis, contact information, and purchase history. Based on this information, segment users and determine their stage in the buying process.

Once your extensive profile database is accurate, trigger marketing programs in a customer-centric fashion. Use marketing intelligence to figure out what timing, offer, and communication medium make the most sense based on specific user profiles.

By customizing interactions with prospects and customers, you’ll be able to efficiently address their needs, increase their satisfaction, and maximize the chance they’ll transact with you. Shifting from an online mass-marketing approach to a customer-centric sales strategy often translates into double-digit sales growth and a dramatic reduction of opt out and dissatisfaction.

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