One of the most significant trends in business today is the shift of power from the suppliers of goods and services to the consumers who are making the purchasing decision.
Consumers are better educated, have more choices, and can switch suppliers more easily. Suppliers must respond to rising consumer expectations and declining loyalty with more effective customer engagement methodologies and customer lifecycle management technologies that utilize more powerful analytic capabilities. As consumers have become more tech-savvy, they have also become more discerning regarding the products and services they acquire.
And, with the barriers to entry in almost every industry disappearing because of globalization or e-commerce, a buyer’s market has emerged, making customer loyalty a thing of the past.
In fact, an Accenture study has found:
- 84% of consumers are frustrated by companies that promise one thing but deliver another.
- 81% of prospective buyers are frustrated because the company doesn’t make it easy to do business with them.
- 34% percent would be open to offers from nontraditional players.
The web has made it easier for customers switch product and service providers if they are dissatisfied or simply interested in trying other alternatives. As a consequence Accenture believes the “switching economy” represents a $6.2 trillion revenue opportunity for providers, a 26% increase from $4.9 trillion in 2010.
In order to respond to more demanding and fickle consumers, suppliers must utilize the latest social, mobile and Cloud-based technologies, along with an increasingly robust set of analytic tools, to better understand the consumers’ requirements and more effectively meet their needs.
While the customer journey may appear to be very different than in the past, the key stages of the customer acquisition process are relatively unchanged. John Dewey first introduced the five stages in 1910:
- Problem/Need Recognition
- Information Search
- Evaluation of Alternatives
- Purchase Decision
- Post-Purchase Behavior
However, the tactics and technologies for winning new customers and retaining them has changed dramatically.
Nearly a quarter of the respondents to the Accenture survey (24%) want more digital interactions than currently offered by providers. Not surprisingly, millennials are impacted to an even greater extent by digital interaction. According to NewsCred, 62% of millennials feel that online content drives their loyalty to a brand.
This form of interaction is not only more engaging for the consumer, it can also provide the supplier with richer insights into the buyer preferences and behavior. Therefore, suppliers must use a new set of technologies to become more in tune with their customers so they can better understand and meet their needs in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
The process has always begun with an education phase consisting of discovery and awareness. The web has enabled consumers to become more knowledgeable about their options, and allowed them to even make many purchase decisions before they interact with a real salesperson.
Suppliers can use a new generation of cloud-based content management and marketing automation solutions to ‘push’ the right information to prospective customers and ‘pull’ in customers that show an interest in particular offerings.
The beauty of this new generation of marketing technologies and applications is they permit suppliers to track the response to specific offerings and marketing content to better measure their effectiveness.
Using a growing assortment of marketing techniques, like ‘A/B’ testing, enables suppliers to clearly understand what kinds of offerings and content appeals most to their prospective customers. As a result, marketing is no longer a subjective art. Instead, it has become a very precise science.
These same virtues can also be found in the new technologies – both Cloud and on-premise – associated with each of the subsequent stages of the customer journey. And, if the supplier capitalizes on an integrated suite of customer engagement lifecycle solutions, or a ‘platform’, the software can enable the supplier to manage the customer relationship more successfully and cost-effectively.
Underpinning each of the elements is the need to gather relevant information regarding the consumer’s interests, needs, preferences and purchase patterns that can be properly applied at each stage of the customer journey. This means having the right analytic capabilities embedded into each of the applications involved in the customer engagement process.
If architected properly, the customer engagement process will appear to be personalized to meet the particular needs of each individual customer. This creates a greater sense of customer intimacy which can result in higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.