We have all been fascinated by the evolution of marketing over the last decade. The Internet and all the technologies that are interlinked with it have turned things around in more ways than one. But what has been fascinating is that while the 60s, 70s, 80s and even the 90s were more brand driven business cultures where the brands drove product prices, product features and other details, the new millennium has truly put the customers in the drivers’ seat largely due to collaborative tools like social media. Customers of the 21st century feel closer to brands than ever before and as such are more likely to be heard.
So in this age of online selling and social care, customers have developed a cycle in their buying process. A pathway that leaves a trail of proverbial “breadcrumbs” that tell you how they found out about that product, how they used that particular and in some cases if they are likely to buy that product again and become repeat customers. Decoding each customer journey to better understand their behaviors and create a customer map for the future is the key to giving customers a memorable customer experience.
Research predicts that by 2020 at least a third of today’s customers will be millennials who will want customized, customer experiences that are intuitive and seamlessly integrate with their lives. So if marketers want to continue selling to them, they will need to keep up and start integrating various facets of the marketing process in a way that is one with their daily lives.
Over the last few years, we at Future have tried various techniques to reach out to our customer base. Initially we thought just being on the digital marketing plane was sufficient and we would be able to talk to our customers and appeal to them to buy from us. How wrong we were!
It took us a few failed exercises to realize that we needed to address different segments differently. In other words, we used programmatic data to understand the trends, psychology and buying habits of our customers. Once we got around to doing that, we noticed that we got more engagement from our customers on social media and on other related channels. Once we got that, there was no turning back from there.
In simple words, a “One size fits all” solution does not work anymore, especially in the digital space and you need to start investing in a customer knowledge base. That is just the beginning. As painstaking as it may sound, it is really worth investing in knowing more about your customers because only when you understand them better, do you know when to market to them and what kind of products they would be interested in.
Believe me, there may be no guaranteed way to fully understand your customers but getting to know their behavior is pretty close. Mapping their journeys can help online businesses know product and industry trends, can help brick and mortar retail businesses know when to re-order stocks and can help sales managers and CFOs forecast sales for the future. They may not be a hundred percent accurate but they will definitely be close enough for you to plan your strategy moving forward.
Let’s face it; today’s consumers are self obsessed, needy, demanding and outspoken. Like I said in one of my previous articles a few months ago, today’s customers are all about “Me”. Giving them a customized pathway that integrates the products they use with their lifestyle is the best way to not only reach out to them in ways that they understand but to make them feel closer to the brand.
In less than a decade, consumers will want to consume smart, tailored content based on their social graphs. They will want to interact with it not just with touch, which is commonplace in 2016 but with voice and gesture as well. Brands will need to embed everything into their content right from social sharing APIs to instantaneous eCommerce or mCommerce functionality into it. Even though augmented reality hasn’t kicked off as much as I thought it would in this part of the world, give it some time. I think there is every likelihood that AR apps will rule the roost and we are all going to be wearing what I call “Iron Man suits” or at least an Iron Man helmet with which we will be able to see details of products before we buy them by simply hovering our smartphones over them or even looking at them through our VR kits that will be no more than a pair of glasses in the next few years.
One way or another, for brands to ensure that they get through to their customers in a decade’s time, they will need to start making serious investments in digital integration and pay close attention to meCommerce!
Barry Rodrigues is Head of Marketing & Product Development at Future Communications and an associate advisor with the International Advisors Group in Kuwait. Barry also provides pro-bono consulting services for small businesses to help them achieve their marketing objectives. For comments, please email Barry at [email protected]co.uk.