The sustainability of today’s business in a world increasingly controlled by the customer seems daunting for many businesses, who are used to and, in many cases, hell bent on maintaining status quo with respect to how they market their products and communicate with their customers.
The pundits are saying this:
In order to adapt to the market of tomorrow you, as a business, have to listen to what your customers are saying. You have to make it a priority to build your business around the customer NOT the other way around.
So one would assume that the more you know about your customer, the better you can target messaging to them in ways that will optimize receptivity to the communication.
This is the reason why many marketers, including we at ArCompany, are encouraging brands to develop relationships with their customers.
Here’s the glitch, though…
…Consumers don’t want to have Relationships with Brands.
In last year’s Corporate Executive Board (CEB) study of the 7,000 consumers, 23% have said they have a relationship with a brand. However it was also discovered,
…for most consumers, increased interactions don’t drive relationships and often work against purchases.
What the researchers discovered was,
Without realizing it, many marketers are only adding to the information bombardment consumers feel as they shop a category, reducing stickiness rather than enhancing it.
We all agreed that the value of Big Data is slowly becoming the holy grail to business, hoping to find the sweet spot that can determine what drives a consumer to buy. However, consumers are ever wary of the amount of information that is available to business especially in the face of the NSA scandal.
Whether this will compel government to make business more transparent about the information they collect OR allow the consumer to have more control over what personal information is shared remains to be seen.
The truth of the matter is it’s difficult to break people’s habits. Whether this and the next generation will be more closed off from social networks is not a realistic expectation. Payment systems and mobile will increasingly compound this wealth of data.
No one is really immune to the inevitability of the data solutions for business as this sort of intelligence becomes increasingly prevalent.
On the other side of the fence…
Brands Don’t Have the Processes that Allow for a Return on Relationship
Doug Stephens said it best,
The CEO, who has 5 years to retirement, is not going to be the maverick and attempt to develop new ways of doing things, especially where he’s in unfamiliar territory.
Companies typically operate within a defined period. Employees are compensated based on performance. Objectives are defined and results are collected within those timeframes.
- Customer Satisfaction;
- Churn Rates.
These are the standard measures to benchmark company and individual performance. However, relationship building takes time as anyone knows.
The value of content, interactions, and other relationship drivers will take time to impact the larger organizational goals. In these cases, results begin to develop beyond the set timeframe a company is willing to allow.
I’ve often been frustrated with clients, who expect immediate impact for engagements they’ve initiated in short-order.
The company of today is unwilling to modify existing systems and process to accommodate the new mediums and their promise of nirvana.
We’ve come to a crossroads.
So, if brands don’t have the wherewithal to make the appropriate changes with the times AND if customers don’t really want to build the relationships with brands, at what point does each succeed?
True Acceptance and Perhaps, an Agreement
If we can’t stop the collection of our data, as consumers, can we perhaps have some control about its usage?
If you, as a customer, understand that we are collecting information about you, will you give us, the business, the information that we need to make your experience better?
We touched on this notion during our discussion. Kerry Morrison noted, in the beginning when they were devising the premise of NormApp.
We have these amazing social platforms where users are telling us precisely what they want, what they need, problems they’re having and no one was listening…Why can’t businesses connect with us on a personal level, not as demographic data, but as unique individuals?
If you stop to consider this, everything is morphing to an environment geared to the individual. The notion of hyper local, “small town”, “villages” where everybody knows your name (hence where Norm conceived), what you like, and where you go – it’s more attainable now than ever before with the help of social intelligence.
Can Social Intelligence Accurately and Consistently Infer a Customer’s Propensity to Purchase?
Doug and I tended to disagree. I would assume what a customer says he’ll do may be the case probably 80% of the time. Doug noted,
If you look at my tweets, you’ll probably assume I hate Air Canada because of how much I complain about them. In reality…. I always fly Air Canada because of the points.
So, is behaviour is largely the dictator of brand affiliation and purchase propensity? I would argue that the data can tell a different story.
Language (mentions), in combination, with behaviour (transaction, check-ins, pic uploads) can determine the extent of a person’s affiliation with a brand, and predict their purchase propensity.
Natural Language has come a long way to detect aspiration vs. intent to purchase within sentences. Technology has gotten so sophisticated that the ability to use past behaviour/mentions as a predictor of consumer outcomes exists today.
The Quid Pro Quo: Nirvana
The business will use intelligence to know more about the customer, and may inadvertently bombard customers with offers, content etc they don’t want to see. However, if there is no relationship and the customer largely ignores the communications, then neither party is better off.
The balance here lies in ensuring the consumer doesn’t have the business by the noose. On the flip side, business must understand, in aggregate as well as the consumer level, the information that impacts parts of the purchase cycle. If there is no relationship, then both have to come to an agreement of give-and-take.
- What do I, as a business have to do to retain you, as a customer?
- What am I, as a customer, willing to give you, the business to keep me satisfied and coming back?
I sit on both sides of the fence on this one.
As a customer, I want the best product, the best service. I want it at my convenience and at the price I’m willing to pay. No, I don’t want to be solicited but sometimes I’m willing to look at offers that are relevant to me at that time.
In many ways, I want the brand to know ME.
The solution comes down to communications.
Whether it’s called a “relationship” or not there has to be some sort of communication that allows each party to get what they want.
If Big Data is to provide insight, it will allow brands to understand these things: how their external factors influence their purchase behaviour; who they turn to for advice for the type of product sold by the brand; the reason they want or don’t want that product.
Doug Stephens spoke about a time when, if the brands don’t make drastic moves to “understand” their customers, channel preferences, and how they want to be communicated, then the onus will be on the customer to be the control channel that dictates information they want to disclose, and how they want to be communicated to, etc.
For that CEO, who has only 5 years to his retirement, perhaps it is too late in the game for him. He can’t see the forest for the trees.
I still believe, however, that companies out there want to do the right thing to create a sustainable business. CRM is a tried, but true model that is reinventing itself in the social channels. This is what the new vanguard is all about. It doesn’t have to stifle a business but allows it to evolve in other ways imaginable.
As for relationship, it’s just a word.
At the end of the day, it’s an understanding that aligns both the business and customer on the same plane. It’s this understanding that sustains the business and keeps the customer coming back.
Photo source: Hang in there
Founder at ArCompany, and Co-founder of Salsa AI, Hessie is a seasoned digital strategist, and intelligence analyst having held senior positions for top ad agencies including Ogilvy, Rapp Collins, ONE and Isobar Digital. She also has extensive start-up experience in social tech, online publishing and artificial intelligence like Yahoo! Answers, Overlay.TV, Jugnoo and Cerebri AI. Hessie is the co-author of EVOLVE: Marketing (as we know it) is Doomed! She is also an active writer for Cognitive World, Towards Data Science and Marketing Insider Group.