How to Position Your Products in an Experience-Centric Marketplace
You don’t need another article to tell you that experience is king these days. Everywhere you look in business news, companies from CNBC to Entrepreneur to Adobe keep reminding you that today’s customers value experiences over products — and that it’s your job to become an experience-led business.
This begs an obvious question: Where do your products fit into the experiences you provide?
While the answer to that question looks different for every organization, our research has zeroed in on a few key ways in which companies are keeping experiences front and center — while still driving return on investment for the products they’re in business to promote.
It all comes down to taking a step back from the products themselves, and taking a broader view of where those products plug into the experiences your customers are having every day.
When you examine the canvas of all those experiences, you’ll realize a startling fact: There's no such thing as the "customer journey” — at least not any single journey you can pre-plan for each customer. Instead, every single one of your customers is on their own individual path through new discoveries and aspirations. And while you might not be able to plan the journey in advance, the good news is that you can predict where each customer’s path will intersect with your offerings.
That’s where you should be — ready to meet that customer in a magical moment of discovery.
Sound complicated? It doesn’t have to be. Let’s take a look at how leading retailers are doing it right now.
Make Your Email Program About More Than Just Products
If email generates the highest ROI of any digital channel, then why do so many millions of emails still end up in spam folders every day? Because the vast majority of emails do nothing but show subscribers products they “might also like” day after day. No wonder so many of those customers hit the “Unsubscribe” button!
To tap into email’s true ROI, you’ve got to stop thinking of it as a tool for product promotion, and start thinking of it as a channel for showing your customers cool stuff. While that might not sound like a very targeted sales strategy, the truth is that it delivers measurably greater results for retailers like you.
For example, an outdoor retailer recently launched a campaign targeted at dog owners. The traditional approach would have been to send semi-personalized emails featuring pet-friendly products. But that’s not where this outdoor retailer started.
Instead, it crafted a quiz in which subscribers discovered their ideal dog breed for outdoor adventuring, one question at a time. The retailer didn’t so much as mention a single product in the email — it was all about the quiz.
The retailer's customers loved it. As a result, subsequent product-centric emails — tailored around subscribers’ responses to the quiz — generated higher engagement and higher conversion rates.
The takeaway is clear: Take a break from product-promoting emails and give your subscribers something fun to play with. In return, they’ll give you valuable data — along with their loyalty.
Show Up to Every Party With a Gift — and Keep Your Ears Open
Imagine you’ve been invited to a party at the house of a person you don’t know very well, but want to get to know better. You’re not going to show up to that party empty-handed, stroll in the door and immediately start talking about all the amazing things you do. That’s a surefire way to never get invited back!
What do you do instead? You show up with a small gift, for one thing — perhaps a bottle of wine. You listen to the conversation unfolding around you. And when the moment is right, you chime in with, “You know, I recently dealt with something similar. Here’s how I handled it … ”
Neiman Marcus’s autumn 2019 email campaign is a perfect example of how this approach translates. Instead of just recommending products, Neiman Marcus shared personalized sets of recommendations on how to wear the latest fall trends. The email addressed a topic that was on every fall shopper’s mind, and it delighted Neiman Marcus's subscribers.
In other words, when you show up to the party with a gift, and keep your ears open, you’ll know when it’s the right moment to chime in with a recommendation.
Instead of 'Journeys,' Focus on Building Meaningful Memories
It’s easy to get stuck in the mind-set of trying to plan a journey for each customer — as if a single purchase represented some kind of endpoint. The truth, of course, is that your relationship with each customer continues to grow and evolve over time, and that ongoing relationship is filled with opportunities to connect with your customers in magical ways.
This is why Neiman Marcus’s email programs have actually dialed back the promotion quite a bit — focusing instead on fashion guides (like the one mentioned above) and velvet-rope events that subscribers can attend for free. While these events might not seem like points of sale, the truth is that they translate into conversions.
Whether you’re in fashion or any other retail vertical, the idea remains the same: stop trying to shoehorn your customers into “journeys.” Instead, follow them and learn from them as they take their own paths through life.
Every one of those ever-changing paths presents a wealth of opportunities to meet your customers where they are, whether that’s through a promotion, a quiz, a guide, a recommendation, an event, or any other type of content.
What matters most isn’t the call to action, it’s the connection — that magical point at which you and your customer come together and forge a new memory. Aim for those moments, and you’ll build customer loyalty that’s stronger than you ever dreamed possible.
James Glover is the co-founder and CEO of Coherent Path, an email marketing optimization and email personalization solutions provider.
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