Connected customers have caused a seismic shift in the marketing world in recent years. And while the central tenet of marketing remains to attract and retain customers by delivering good customer value, the way in which marketers expect to achieve that has altered dramatically.
If customers have access to more information, so too do marketers. Detailed information is available to inform campaigns, including highly personalised and targeted messaging. And marketers are expecting and expected to engage with customers across multiple channels and in real time. Customers’ relationships with brands have changed from transactional to interactional. It adds up to a massive change, and it means a whole new way of thinking.
A new report from Deloitte suggests that it is time to move on from ideas like the ‘four Ps’ (product, price, promotion and place). Instead, we need to think in terms of four dimensions. These are customer engagement, connectivity, information and new technology.
As customers, we’ve always wanted to be treated as individuals. And canny shops have always known this, suggesting to staff that they call customers by name whenever possible, for example, when you hand over a credit card. But as stores grew bigger, this personalised experience became much harder. It’s also expensive.
But the internet makes it possible again. When you visit Amazon, you are greeted by name, and the site makes recommendations based on what you have previously bought. This is highly targeted marketing. But is it relevant to B2B? Yes, because B2B customers are B2C customers in their private lives, and used to this level of personalisation. With 86% of Americans having internet access, the vast majority of us have seen and experienced personalised sales, and we like it.
We’re also prepared to engage across multiple channels, and expect brands and businesses to do so too. And that means that businesses have to move away from simply pushing out information, and start to engage in genuine dialogue and two-way communication. Customers have moved from transactions to interactions and relationships, and companies need to do so too. Marketers need to build strong relationships with customers, to generate trust and loyalty, and that needs genuine dialogue.
A recent Deloitte study carried out for eBay found that companies need to be broadly present across all channels. They also have to allow customers to use whichever channel they want at any point in the sales process. This capability seems to raises brand loyalty and awareness among customers. Social media can draw customers in, and sustain their interest. However, it does need to deliver relevant and interesting content at the appropriate time and to the appropriate people.
Information and data
One of the biggest changes in recent years is the enormous amount of data now available to marketers. Making sense of it is hard, but doing so gives huge insights into customer behaviour, sales and product success or otherwise. A recent survey found that 78% of marketers feel under pressure to use data more, and 45% felt that data was the most underused asset in the organisation.
There is huge potential for marketers to get better at analysing and using data to generate insights and improve marketing efforts. Only if they do so will they be able to create the personalised approach that customers now want and expect. This will ensure that marketing efforts are focused on the right sectors and customers and therefore drive sales.
Channels and potential ‘touchpoints’ are constantly expanding. But the good news is that marketers now have the capacity to make experience consistent across channels, provided that they can bring together the operations behind them. Because channels have evolved at different speeds, so too have the teams responsible for interacting with them. The key challenge now is to bring them together into a coherent and mature whole.
Marketing as a constant presence
Deloitte’s report suggests marketing’s role in the business cycle has evolved. Although described as a ‘product development cycle’, the process was often very linear and stepwise. It started with research or product development, moved to manufacturing and pricing decisions, and then on to marketing and sales. Now, it is much more of a genuine cycle, and marketing is involved at every stage.
But more, the customer is at the heart of the cycle. Businesses need to integrate engagement, connectivity, information and technology to create a personalised and contextualised experience for each and every one.
Image credit: Omega Sun by Mariko Fukuda