Putting — and Keeping — the Customer in the Center, Part 2
This is the second and final part of a two-part series. Part one ran last month.
Successful businesses must be customer-centric. Retail marketers know it’s important, but they’re confused about how to make it happen. This is understandable, considering some of the challenges they face. Retailers still have a myopic view of customers, and thus they're lacking answers to basic questions such as the following: Where is most revenue coming from? What are the challenges associated with generating repeat purchases from loyal customers? Where do we need improvements to our customer marketing, channels, products and services?
To be fair, it is confusing given some of the obstacles. Customers have higher expectations than ever before. CEOs are looking at financial statements where metrics representing customer relationships just don’t appear. And data — the heart of the matter — often ends up slipping through the cracks or piling up in unusable databases. Not that all this behind-the-scenes activity matters from the customer point of view.
We’re all customers, too. If you think about it, any time a company you like recognizes you, whether by email or when you walk into a store, you appreciate it. If you have a fragmented experience, you won’t want to come back.
A favorite brand is blasting emails, and you don’t unsubscribe, but stop paying attention. But then it sends a happy birthday message and that feels right, like you’re on its radar. Yet you wish they wouldn’t email you every day; if only you could tell them that you want emails once toward the end of the week.
That makes sense. But if they can’t see what works for John and they’re guessing, they have no choice but to throw spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks.
At the macro level, they might be emailing 2 million people and generating $50k in revenue. Sounds good — email blasts can work, in the short term. However, if customer preferences remain ignored and customers become unengaged, revenue per customer will start to suffer, one customer at a time, and blasts will produce diminishing returns. And it’s tough to get customers back when competitors make it so easy to switch to them.
Today’s consumers look at the buying experience as if they're at the center of the universe — and they aren’t far off. They don’t care that applications are siloed, they just know how they want to be treated. And increasingly, the lack of a timely, relevant offer is as costly as a wrong offer.
In terms of ad technology, they do care about being stalked with incongruous offers at various landing points, especially if they’re not interested or have already responded. Or maybe they just don’t like being chased across their online travels. Millennials are reacting to these unwanted stalkers with ad blocking. More will follow. Too many people have been chased for 90 days even after they already bought a product in-store.
Synching Up and Becoming Customer-Centric
How do brands make sure they're synching up with all the demands of today’s customers?
In a nutshell, retail marketers need to build a customer profile, starting small and continuing to grow it as they add more sources and channels. They need to own as much of their own data as they can, and they need to stay current with the latest scouting report of how customers behave across their business, rather than sacrificing customer perspective to a software middleman. And they need to make the customer profile actionable by using it to execute lifecycle marketing to generate incremental revenue and real results.
To put customers at the center — and keep them there — isn't an easy task, but it's far from impossible. The technology is there if the commitment to customer centricity is there to drive it. And given the state of customer expectations, do brands today really have a choice?
Related story: When AdTech Meets MarTech, Part 2