“Businesses today must invest in experiences because that’s what people want.” – Brian Solis
So says Brian in this recent post. He goes on to qualify this statement further, saying people today simply don’t care about products, services or offers. What they desire and what they respond to with regularity are superior experiences. I don’t think this is limited to Millennials either – we are all being conditioned to have affinities for businesses that deliver superior customer experiences.
For marketers in industries like retail and consumer products, this is a bitter pill to swallow. Think about it: so much attention around digital marketing is focused on targeting and incentivizing consumers to transact with a particular brand. Changing course almost takes a complete re-thinking of brand and retail business norms; similar to what I’ve written about tracking consumer behavior along the purchase path and re-imagining traditional business models.
The big idea embedded in Brian’s words is that consumers trust most what others report of their experience with your brand – an “ultimate moment of truth.”
This implies that your targeting, offer and communication strategy will forever struggle against something beyond your control – which is true! You cannot control what your customers say about your brand. What you can control is the responsiveness, convenience and quality of the experience you provide your customer.
Small Moments along the Purchase Path
To this end, it’s helpful to think about the activities each of your consumers uniquely engage in throughout the purchase journey. Most of these are shifting to digital, even in the store when you consider beacons, interactive displays and RFID tags on products themselves.
Both retailers and consumer goods companies engage in numerous activities to create, fulfill and spur repeat demand in a marketplace that’s no longer online or offline – it’s simply about how the customer wants to buy.
Multiple functions line up to influence and serve customers in the pre-shop, active shopping and post-shop consumption phases. Their actions all often happen apart one another with little right time coordination. This, and a lack of common understanding, greatly contribute to the challenges these industries have with sales growth and differentiation.
Decades of technology investments in silos and the disruption caused by online channels, mobile and social media have created a cobbled-together infrastructure ill-suited to a harmonized view of the customer experience. When faced with the reality that pushing product messages, promotions and transaction-centric communications on your customers are ineffective, it’s difficult to imagine how to develop the right insight necessary to change course.
As Brain also points out, “Customers aren’t following the customer journey you designed because they’re too busy hacking it.” The moment of truth is in constant motion and varies by person.
Understanding the many small moments that individual consumers face when approaching a purchase decision is a good place to start – no matter if you work in marketing, sales, customer service, supply chain or manufacturing. Everyone has a mandate to execute against such an understanding.
Cloud Innovation and Speed
Advances in cloud computing and analytics have the potential to transform the way consumer-facing businesses think about their customer relationships. The ability to ingest and analyze data from any source means business leaders can begin to ask questions of their business that traditional business intelligence doesn’t account for – questions which can illuminate the ways you delight or frustrate your most valuable assets, your customers. This is how you learn to succeed through differentiation.
The most progressive retail and consumer goods organizations are staffed with data scientists seeking to work with data driven managers to partner with on really hard business problems. If you work for one of these companies, you should reach out to your analytics teams to talk about a project to understand how well your function is meeting the needs of your consumer. Multiple data sources, different analytical methods, and iteration will most certainly yield insights that you didn’t expect – and make a difference you can measure.
If you work in the many thousands of less progressive companies yet to embrace data science and advanced analytics as a core competency, all is not lost. These companies are starting to carve out small teams of analytically minded people from IT and other areas, and giving them a mandate and small budget to explore how new forms of analytics can unlock new forms of value. They are hungry to demonstrate value, so if you lead a team aligned to any stage of the consumer’s journey, reach out to scope out a project.
It’s only through proactive efforts by business leaders that analytics will succeed in helping retail and consumer products industries adapt to an almost constantly-changing consumer landscape. Cloud computing and ever-better analytical tools are making it increasingly easier for business leaders to tap into the insights embedded in the many small moments that make up a delightful customer experience.