These are the people who will camp out overnight in front of a company’s store to get their hands on a new product first. They sing a brand’s praises from every rooftop and social media platform. They tell their friends how great a company's products are and get them to buy the products too. These are brand disciples. Brand disciples make up that magic 20 percent of customers that account for 80 percent of all business.
Odds are, brand disciples know a business better than the business knows them, and that’s got to change. Disciples require that they be treated with utmost respect and their needs be understood. However, the ability to truly understand them is getting more complicated.
Social, mobile, analytics and cloud technology are among the trends driving expectations of today’s consumers. As a result, consumers are testing the boundaries of brand authenticity at every touchpoint. To meet their needs, promises made by brands need to be met at every interaction with customers. Among the expectations of customers are:
- immediate access to accurate information about products and the customers themselves;
- a full understanding of customers’ needs during every interaction;
- access to a personalized profile about them; and
- the ability to get them what they need quickly.
Most retail businesses fall short trying to meet these new expectations. Meanwhile, consumers are growing impatient. Over the next decade, business winners and losers will be decided based on their ability to meet customers’ heightened expectations.
The Need for Customer-Centricity
For most organizations, the challenge of understanding their customers and meeting their expectations lies in how they’ve historically approached customer relationships. Organizational design was focused internally and driven by the desire to create efficient, functional units or divisions. Businesses typically have customer touchpoints broken up by function — and often customer satisfaction levels pay a heavy price.
What’s making things even more complicated is the way marketing technology innovation is changing the way companies promote their businesses across customer touchpoints. These innovations are further enabling micro-segmentation by persona, which is fundamentally redefining the rules of the game. Instead of spending money to reach new micro-segmented audiences to expand brand awareness, companies must prioritize building stronger relationships with existing customers.
Discovering Brand Disciples
Brand disciples want to connect with businesses in real and authentic ways, and companies must overcome all obstacles to do so. Failing to meet a brand disciple on her terms will have direct financial impact. The preferences of this type of customer makes engaging with them different from other customers. Most retailers today are poorly equipped to do the following:
- Know who its brand disciples are as individuals and understand their preferences every time they interact with the brand.
- Treat them with the utmost respect and appreciation on every visit.
- Meet their “do it now” expectations.
Companies that will succeed in this ever-changing environment will strengthen their relationships with customers. Strengthening that relationship involves increased engagement.
Knowing how customers feel about the business will also need to be measured constantly. By measuring customer sentiment over time, businesses can ensure they’re doing a good job delivering quality customer experiences. Finally, monitoring social sharing will also help businesses understand how they're performing with customers. This can be measured through the number of shares, likes and reviews, allowing a company to see how better customer experience drives increased advocacy.
David Trice is co-founder and CEO of Engage.cx, an experience-driven CRM for enterprise retailers.