You’d think that the Consumer Business industry has (naturally) always revolved around the customer, right? Wrong. Strangely enough, traditional businesses models were based on what they often thought customers would need.
However, the game has changed - the consumer now has more influence and leverage on the success of a business than ever before, and to keep up, there are a few things B2C organisations need to be aware of.
To begin with, if you imagine the traditional process of innovation, most companies would have bright ideas which bloomed from the top and gradually trickled down to the eventual roots where the customer was. Innovation would grow on the premise that the CEO or senior management somehow knew the customer best and were always providing what was ‘needed’. In many respects, it’s analogous to your mum thinking she ‘knows’ exactly what clothes to buy for you.
It’s taken a while, but businesses are starting to realise just how counterproductive such a methodology really is. If you have the option, then why not start at the roots and build up to the pretty flower (or idea) on top? It’s much simpler than it seems – just ask the customer what they want. You might be thinking about how tedious the process will be, but the fact is that we live in a time where all that stands between you and your customers is very often, a Twitter line, Facebook comment or a LinkedIn post.
Social media makes customer feedback as easy as a click of a button and the plethora of available social media analytics tools can make this information easily digestible. So instead of guessing or assuming what customers want, why not collaborate with those who are buying your products and actually give them what they want? Here’s what Stan Sthanunathan, VP Consumer and Market Insights, at Unilever had to say about it, “The social web provides marketers with an unprecedented opportunity to transform the way that we understand our consumers and go to market.”
Understand the path-to-purchase
The second area of change is the customer’s path-to-purchase. This route is now very different and unpredictable compared to what it once was.
It is now evident that many customers who buy in-store have already done their research online and the ones that don’t, tend to browse and see things in store which they then find cheaper online. Chances are, you’ve done this yourself. What this means is that the role of the brick-and-mortar store is evolving from where it was once the place where above 90% of purchases were made, to now – where it is more about showcasing the brand experience and image. A good example of this is menswear retailer Hackett. Back in December it had a string quartet by the doorway playing Christmas carols as the Christmas lights on Regents Street were turned on. Consequentially, they had significantly more foot-traffic than other shops along the street. Now, provided you can promote the brand image well via the store, then it doesn’t matter which channel your customer chooses to buy through because chances are they will still be buying your product (assuming you have the infrastructure to provide an Omni-channel experience).
On the other hand, this does make it all too easy become disconnected from the customer because if you’re no longer meeting them face-to-face, how do you know who you’re dealing with and what their buying tendencies are?
See the big (data) picture
In order to keep up with the above trends, it’s going to take a lot of analysis, on a lot of data. That’s where the whole concept of big data and having the right tools comes into play. Whilst it can be easy to collect data, if you can’t make sense of it at the frontend, then you’re simply spinning your wheels.
Businesses now have better access to customer purchase information, to the point that it can sometimes border on an invasion of privacy. Obviously, there’s always the danger that you push the envelope too far and your customers start to feel that you’re invading their privacy. So the key to being a business in the big data game is to be as transparent as possible with the type of information you’re collecting and how you will use it. Then, if you can employ the right tools to slice and dice the data you’ll soon have adequate enough knowledge about your customers, such as conversion rates (essentially the number of people walking in/the number of people who buy something), to the point where you can build a picture of their perception of the brand and micro-target them based on their personal buying trends rather than blanket marketing campaigns. And let’s face it, everyone likes to feel special now and then.
…there are a few things you need to consider when it comes to the new age of the consumer:
- Change your innovation methodology. Start at the customer, find out what they really want and need then incorporate the message up the organisation, not the other way around
- Embrace Omni-channel. Understand the path-to-purchase and give the customer the freedom they need. Then be available on as many platforms as possible so that you’re always ready when they are
- Leverage big data (in the right way). Invest in the right tools and processes to get the most out of the data that you have, then aim to build the most accurate picture of your customer base as possible.