By Jeanne Roué-Taylor
There’s an ongoing, symbiotic evolution of both consumer technology and consumer expectations that leaves marketers struggling to keep up. Adding to the challenge, the ways marketers have responded—by accumulating marketing point solutions—creates silos of customer data that solve portions of the problem while decreasing flexibility, greatly increasing the cost of doing business and, ultimately, making relevance an increasing challenge. What’s worse, many brands have a poor prognosis for keeping up with accelerating change. If this sounds familiar, don’t feel too lonely—you’re in great company.
So ask yourself, if you struggle to be relevant today, what will you do to be relevant to your customers tomorrow?
Digital Marketing Enters More Challenging Territory
Tomorrow will certainly be more challenging than today. Driven by consumers who are beginning to realize their own power, there are four specific trends that will stress marketing and even behind-the-scenes systems in new ways:
- Now. Consumers will want to interact anywhere and at any time. This has been said in the past but has been outlier behavior for the most part. The mainstream consumer is about to become the now consumer on mobile devices and also everywhere else they interact.
- Can I? Consumers will want truly new and valuable capabilities across a wide spectrum of information, to include diverse things like their financial services accounts and data being generated by physical activities. They’ll want to link information in ways that may be common to a group or unique to an individual. The more times the questions can be answered with “Yes, you can,” the better.
- For me. Consumers will expect the data that they’ve given up or created to be put to use wisely and in highly targeted ways. Giving up personal data will need to be a means to greater personalization, or it will be seen as increasingly invasive and unwanted.
- Simply. Interaction will be expected to be dead easy. As the mainstream takes the handoff from the early adopters, the number of consumers expecting simple, easy ways to interact will skyrocket.
Breaking the Vicious Cycle
While these challenges are daunting for many based on where they are today, it doesn’t have to be this way for you. There are four key ways to break the potentially vicious cycle of increasing consumer demand and increasing information complexity.
- Stop making the problem worse. Adding more point solutions to a silo’d environment is no solution at all. Step back and take stock of where you are and how you can simplify instead of digging the hole even deeper.
- Increase collaboration across business functions. Each touchpoint with the consumer offers a chance for increasing or decreasing relevance. By increasing collaboration, customer service, support, and other former silos can become a symbiotic, customer-serving machine.
- Start with the end in mind. Design thinking is a popular way to describe the process of taking a designer’s approach to understanding problems rather than tackling the challenge within the traditional engineering fashion. By starting with the end-goal of a simple, integrated, and collaborative platform, early decisions can be more simple than complex and more likely to anticipate and match consumer needs. Think of the end-user’s emotional perspective rather than simply what’s feasible through technology. Empathy, creativity, and rationality are the design thinker’s mantra.
- Make it highly personalized for every customer. Marketing is moving quickly toward individual-level personalization with all of the technology baggage that it requires.
- Predict what the customer wants. Nothing delights more than interaction that clearly shows that a brand is putting effort into anticipating your needs. More than personalization, this is the part where the consumer’s needs are known even before he expresses them.
- Reward loyalty. Once a brand can know its consumers, it can also differentiate those who come back time after time. Rewarding loyalty is table stakes in the struggle to be relevant.
- Do everything to create a seamless experience. This is the hardest, but most important, part. Regardless of what happens within the organization, the customer’s view needs to look unified and seamless. This requires a high level of integration and tools that monitor and respond, whenever and wherever needed.