As consumers access more information across emerging media channels and new devices, marketers have responded by perceiving every new interaction as an available touchpoint to connect with and engage their target audiences. This has created an overpopulation of brand messaging that has had the reverse effect of dangerously distancing consumers at critically important buying moments.
The result has been catastrophic for many companies—they’re bleeding customers and they don’t know why. What’s needed is a new approach engineered around what the customer wants to hear from us, not what we want to say to them. An approach that starts with a deep understanding of the moments that matter—the key trigger points for interacting successfully with buyers without alienating them. Simply said, by focusing on these pivotal moments, brands will have an easier time creating engaging experiences and maximizing their return on investment.
The Moments That Matter
Customers need to feel a brand “gets” them by knowing who they are and what they want. Traditionally, designers get this information by surveying users, tracking behavior in metrics, POS receipts, and loyalty card data. What isn’t common knowledge is that to become personally relevant, we also need to know why they buy.
Finding the “why” starts with uncovering deeper insights about customer personalities. I am a VP of Brand Markeitng for an insights-driven digital marketing agency called Rosetta whose DNA is made of this. We employ a patented offering called “Personality Segmentation” that defines the needs, motivations, attitudes, and behaviors that drive customer brand choice and sales. From this we’re able to translate “who” to target, “what” they want, and “why” they want it into “how” to best drive engagement. With that knowledge in-hand, we can align key decision points with personally relevant and motivating experiences, and innovate among the channels, devices, and messages that are most likely to influence each type of customer. This innovation requires significant commitment up front, but the return on investment is immediate and long-lasting.
Building Experiences “just for U”
What customers shopping for groceries want should be pretty obvious—the products they most use at affordable prices. Coupons are the easiest way to support this need, but they rely on the customer finding them on their own. The Safeway “just for U” program is an example of how one company used their insights to reinvent the Sunday morning coupon clipping ritual into a personally relevant and engaging experience through the right channel-device integrations.
It’s an intuitive concept. Customers install a smart phone application or create a profile online that attaches to their loyalty card. They can select coupons on their device and accept suggested coupons based on products they buy most. Selections are automatically loaded to a loyalty card so there’s nothing to have to remember to print or clip. Offers change weekly, giving customers something to look forward to at a familiar frequency. Exclusive offers and benefits often surprise the customer at the checkout stand. Safeway stores are even putting computers and printers near checkout stands for those who are mobile-challenged or more comfortable using a computer than their phone.
Safeway CEO Steve Burd says, “35-percent of Safeway’s business will be from customers signed up for ‘just for U.’” I’m one of them.
Turning Browsers into Buyers
Complacency, tradition, and fear of the unknown prevent innovation at some of the biggest brands in the world. In the wake of store closings, layoffs, and a questionable future, there is raging debate as to whether Best Buy is going to simply become Amazon’s showroom. Best Buy’s locations, selection, and prices are good. They have a breadth of products, brand equity, and good marketing. So what’s going wrong? Their fatal mistake is not capitalizing on the moments that matter.
Here’s a perfect example: I go to my local Best Buy and enjoy being surrounded by options. If I’m looking for a TV, I head to the wall where there’s a plethora of resolutions, refresh rates, and technologies to choose from. I scan the options based on how my eye perceives the quality, and compare price ranges and features. Then, I pull out my mobile phone and look up the model number online. I research user reviews. I check out reliability. I then consider my delivery options and warranties, and usually decide I have enough information to head home and dig in further before committing to my purchase.
Of course, Amazon’s free shipping is a great feature, but it’s not the determining factor as to whether I’m going to buy immediately or not. I have so much data at my fingertips that I purposely slow down the buying process to ensure I’m getting exactly what I want. The fact that Best Buy didn’t recognize or participate in this process is where they truly missed out. They could have pushed mobile information, discounts, offers, and motivating messaging to me while I was in their store. They didn’t capture me during a critical buying moment that mattered—and they lost the sale.
The New Laws of Attraction
More effective marketing is driven by experiences that attract customers. What we have always called “acquisition” is really just a marketing term. It implies that the customer is doing something for us when we as the engagement professionals should really be doing something for them. We talk about brands creating “relationships,” but we don’t “acquire” a mate.
Attracting customers requires creating experiences that surprise, delight, and answer their questions before they ask them. It takes maintaining a respectful, meaningful relationship at key moments and resisting the temptation to be everywhere in front of them at all times. Dates are better with a nice car, flowers, candy, and a nightcap. But nobody likes a stalker.
On the Side of the Customer
Rosetta worked with Nationwide to capture market share in the highly competitive insurance market. The center of their strategy was developed by focusing on two of the most valuable segments in their market, and then deeply analyzing why they purchased. An important lesson surfaced that all businesses need to pay attention to: the marketing “funnel” is dead.
Nationwide learned, just like Best Buy should have, that customers have taken greater control of the decision cycle and are researching more at every stage of the “traditional” marketing funnel. They compare quotes, services, and the reputations of the brands they are shopping among. This insight led the marketing team to break with tradition and rethink their plan.
It became obvious that they needed to invest in distribution channels like search and CRM with data their customers were looking for. It was here, too, that Nationwide could live up to its reputation, and communicate that the company was here for the service of their customers—a promise that was realized and mobilized across all of its web properties, call centers, and agent networks.
The Moments that Don’t Matter
As experience designers, it’s easy to fall into the trap that we have to do everything and be everywhere for everyone—believing the old broadcasting model that it’s a game of numbers. While it may be tempting to throw a lot of stuff at the wall and see what sticks, doing so gives more innovative competitors the opportunity to quickly steal market share. We have to pause and be smarter about what we do and where we spend, understanding that it is as important to learn what moments don’t matter. That’s how good tacticians and implementers become great strategists and leaders.
Lastly, and perhaps most simply, we have to remember that we are customers too. Putting ourselves in the shoes of the people we are creating experiences for often provides the most valuable and authentic insight.
So what can we take away from all of this?
- Commit to learning why customers buy. It is critical for successful experience planning and innovation to update our traditional purchase behavior knowledge with insights into new channel-device integrations.
- Revisit how customers shop today. Really understanding how customers interact with your brand across the media and device landscape, both online and offline, results in understanding the “moments that matter” to your customers, and the ones that don’t.
- Focus on “attracting” customers, not acquiring them. Resist the temptation to overwhelm your customers by trying to be everywhere at all times and you will have a better chance at creating meaningful relationships at key buying moments.
- Understand that the traditional marketing funnel is dead. Customers control more of the decision cycle and are spending more time researching on their own. As a result, programs and properties need to be retooled with information in key channels like search, social, and CRM to answer customer questions before they have to ask.
- Be an environmentalist. As digital professionals, we need to stop polluting the airwaves. We must prioritize, focus, and do the few things that really matter to customers exceptionally well, instead of scrambling to do too many things only moderately well. In the end, a focused approached is a win-win for brands, their customers, and the entire community of experience designers and marketers.
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