8 February 2018

Marketing & impatient customers

Marketing in the age of the impatient customer


In 2018, consumers demand lightning-quick service, but they also want it personalised. It’s a contradiction businesses need to conquer if they’re to find success online.


“Customer experience” can sometimes seem like one of those industry terms that doesn’t have all that much relevance to the average consumer’s life, but, as Sitecore’s digital experience specialist Rebecca Mangan points out, most of us have had a bad experience as a customer. Even her.


"I signed up for a credit card the other day and entered my frequent flyer number into the online application,” she explains. “But then a few days later I received an email asking me for those details again. I thought, ‘I’ve already done this’ but the only call to action was a phone number.” After the usual faff of muddling through pressing the right number and waiting in line, the operator told her they did, in fact, have all her information from the first online application.


“It was annoying, lengthy and unnecessary for me,” she adds.


What happened was that the bank had simply pinged her a generic message, with no personalisation, meaning she was receiving incorrect information. It seems like no real harm was done, but the reality was it left her with a bad early impression. Today, she’s not alone.


Customers expect to be remembered across every channel and interaction, but they also expect service to be fast and convenient, too. In an age where anyone can access a rival product instantly through the internet or via a mobile device, consumers don’t give brands a second chance.


“We’re living in the age of the impatient customer,” says Mangan. “People have a multitude of channels at their disposal where they can search, compare, evaluate, purchase and seek service at their fingertips, and this is driven by the culture of immediacy – sparked by apps like Uber and Deliveroo – becoming the norm.


Yet people crave personalised interactions. When we order coffee, the barista knows our name and our usual order because we provided that info and in return they offer a personal service.” It’s a modern paradox that many brands are unsurprisingly struggling to cope with.


Yet marketing research specialists Econsultancy estimates that brands that personalise their offering will often see an uplift as high as 19 per cent.


It could be as simple as individualising content based on the device people use to access a website and taking into consideration users’ location and venue. On a mobile, a company could display directions to a nearby store, whereas on a desktop they could display a promotion. “Customers are on the go,” says Mangan. “When they’re walking on the street or at the airport, give them the information that is relevant and it will increase conversions.”


It’s also possible to personalise based on how many times a person has visited a website and what business they’re working for. If someone clicks on a website for the first time, a welcome message can be displayed, but if that user is on their fourth visit, a testimonial could be shown more prominently.


The IP address can be used, too. The Rotman School of Management in Toronto, a Sitecore customer, used IP company lookups to display photos of visitors’ colleagues who had completed their MBA Course.


When you analyse customer intent, businesses can be far cleverer. “We know if you’ve started to fill out an online form but then aborted,” says Mangan. “If that’s the case, we could deliver a message as the user navigates away such as ‘Hate filling out forms? We can call you!’ That’s personalising experience based on intention.”


So with all the potential optomisation on offer, why aren’t all companies investing in customer experience?


“There can be many reasons such as lack of budget, resource or executive support,” says Mangan.


“Marketing was often seen as the department that just flitted money away,” argues Tim Lovitt, founder of consultancy The Iani Group. “They had to think about showing the value of what they were doing.”


Another barrier is data integration. Many companies’ marketing applications are siloed, such as social, website, e-commerce, apps and marketing automation. Because they’ve grown up in isolation, aggregating data and reporting are challenging.


To help businesses move to a more customer-centric organisation, Mangan suggests focusing on the three P’s – platform, people and process.


“Platform is all about your infrastructure,” she says. “Businesses must be able to collect customer data from every purchase, website click, interaction and purchase, in order to deliver content across all devices and channels that’s relevant. People means establishing the right team. A focused customer experience department can identify areas for improvement and build momentum, but they also need a voice at management level to fight for resources.


"Process can be complex, but a good way to start is identifying quick wins you know will work before moving on to more complex processes. AB testing is a great example that can drive increases in conversions. More than three-quarters of businesses trying this – which can involve experimenting with call-to-action colour, the length of a form or changing the header or an image – have seen increased conversion of six percent or more, according to market researchers Forrester.”


Technological leaps can also help drive better marketing ROI. For example, augmented reality – the Pokemon Go-style tech that lets graphics alter a live video of our world – is now moving away from games and gimmicks and into marketing. In July, Estée Lauder launched a “lipstick advisor” chatbot on Facebook Messenger that lets users virtually try on different shades. Users could even take a photo of a colour they saw out and about in real life, upload it, and have the brand recommend a matching product.


“Could your team experiment with AR? Yes,” adds Lovitt. “Would it be expensive? Probably not. Could it be done quickly? Most likely. Would it need the business to reorient itself? No.


“The point is you don’t need a digital strategy; you need a business strategy for the digital age.”


Mangan sums up the importance customers put on getting their customer experience strategy right: “If we’re not up to scratch, we run the risk of triggering disappointment, frustration – and even a little bit of rage.”