I remember a time when my dad brought home his first company-provided cell phone. It wasn’t anything special, just an early brick phone. My family’s reactions sounded something like: “Who could you possibly need to call that’s that important?” But it wasn’t about the individual call. It was about becoming constantly-available and connected.
Those remarks sound at best like a misplaced attachment to quaint ideas. Today, even my grandparents have smartphones—they even have Facebook accounts. Still, there are those people who refuse to migrate their life into the digital age.
Mobile is certainly the future — or at least this is what marketers been told from almost every direction. The uncertain truth staring all of us in the face is that the future of marketing strategy, like the average consumer path-to-purchase, is much more complex. Customers will come from various walks of life in almost every direction, which is why more and more analysts suggest an omnichannel strategy when it comes to refining your customer experience.
Customer Experience Begins and Ends with Understanding
Modern customers crave tailored, engaging experiences from their preferred retailers. This isn’t exactly rocket science. The old syllogism “the customer is always right” certainly sounds like it should be true concerning the modern approach to creating brand-loyal fanatics. Somehow, our efforts continue to fall short.
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In April, IBM released a report boldly declaring in its headline, “4 Out of 5 Consumers Declare Brands Don’t Know Them as an Individual.” Their report underscores the results of two separate studies, each focused on the opposite path of the customer experience path. The first analyzed the opinions of marketing professionals from companies with revenue in excess of $1 billion. The second study featured the responses of 1,135 consumers regarding their opinions of customer engagement.
While 80 percent of marketing professionals declared they had a holistic view of customers across a variety of interactions and channels, barely a third of customers believe even their preferred retailer offered messages that were “usually relevant.”
Listen to Everything to Understand the Noise
comScore research suggests that while mobile has become the go-to channel for some interactions, modern customers continue to engage with brands using more traditional means as well, including desktop computers. Importantly, some customers prefer not to engage with a brand digitally, which leaves some customer experiences falling dramatically short of those expectations. Customers feel time-poor, meaning they’ll engage a brand in whichever way they find most convenient at any given time. The very definition of such a constantly-shifting consumer path-to-purchase has to be that one size can not fit all.
An omnichannel focus prefers analyzing details from all over the customer experience spectrum. Social media analysis is one particular method available to supplement traditional marketing approaches and step forward towards maintaining a better relationship with customers. Response surveys, a traditional tool in CRM, now often begin with social media-based research informing the pain-points customers express online.
Furthermore, text analytics programs now provide a nearly-instant understanding of topics discussed and their corresponding sentiment or thematic connections. The development of this technology enables near real-time decision making across multiple organization functions including marketing, customer service, and sales.
Social media intelligence has already been applied across a variety of industries, with dramatically different applications. From political analysis to customer experiences and financial predictions, social data is being used to construct increasingly accurate visual representations of the opinions held across a consumer population at any given moment.
Use Social Insight to Improve Brand Loyalty
You owe it to your customers to understand their habits, behaviors, and perception of your brand. Brand-loyal fanatic consumers are increasingly difficult to capture with the constant connectivity promised by omnichannel paths-to-purchase. IBM’s report suggests the extra effort will be rewarded.
In a world moving towards automation in the Internet of Things, customer data is everything. What personal data they share will inevitably dictate how robust your targeted marketing can become. For what consumers consider “trusted” brands, 72 percent were willing to share their location data, an increase of 89 percent over the “average” brand. 61 percent suggested they would be willing to share their personally identifiable information with “trusted” brands, an increase of 65 percent over the “average” brand.
Your brand may not get a chance to interact with that customer again. One of the best opportunities for a lasting first impression remains the use of the vast volumes of social conversation data available to understand what consumers want and what builds their trust. As we vault towards automation as an industry, those who choose to ignore the wealth of social data available will appear to the rest of us like those who once scoffed at the value of a cell phone even as smartphones like the iPhone were flying off the shelves.