In this age of omnichannel consumption and an always-on digital society, the consumer—not the company – decides the how, why and what they shop. What are the barriers to implementing this approach? How does the marketer begin? Read on.
Brand reluctance to "give up control"
Handing over the reigns to the customer to decide what promotion, how often and why they should buy turns traditional marketing on its head. Marketing ‘s raison d’etre in the previous twenty years was to create, control and dictate communication to customers. For many companies not only are systems not established to invert the relationship, but this approach is just too radical. Many bristle at the idea of asking customers, what does our brand mean to you? Would you rather we promote shoes or sweaters this next quarter? How often would you like to receive our catalog/email discounts/event notifications? It is antithetical to how marketers have persuaded up until now.
Customer data logistics.
How do we collect this data? Where the heck do we put it? How do we organize it? How will we act on it? These are the questions C[IQ] often hears from companies. We understand how overwhelming it can be – both technically and strategically. In general, start small.
a. Request only a one category preference from customers. For instance, how often they want to receive email; or, ask just the category of interest (i.e., politics, business, technology, arts).
b. Keep it low-tech. Add a form to the customer service section of your webpage; Append only one field to your existing customer database (weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually);
c. Develop and test with only one segment. Plan marketing activities or touchpoints with only one group (new customers, Moms, basketball fans) with attainable outreach strategy (welcome email, product review request, next season’s new release email, loyalty program introduction). Track and measure its effectiveness.
d. Analyze and iterate based on results. What internal process can be tweaked? What marketing message? Can the program be applied to other audiences? What technology or expertise is necessary to expand?
This step-wise approach:
- Can reveal internal needs, customer preferences, and messaging shortcomings
- Is less threatening or intimidating to established marketing programs
- Offers directional data for future planning of anticipated response rates, costs, and business requirements
- Minimizes the risk of sunken costs since the effort can be deserted or built upon depending on results
Marketers hear “Test, test, test!” frequently; step-wise planning operationalizes the maxim…and let’s you test customer preferences.