Customer journeys are not good enough, we need Customer context!

It’s a rainy day in Mumbai & my daughter is furiously multitasking to find fashionable rain coats. She is looking at customer reviews & social networking sites & is on Flipkart & Amazon too! All of them know she is from Mumbai, in some cases they have profile information from her registration data but none of them suggested she buy other stuff that she may need in the rains: Boots, umbrella!! Marketers need to understand the context in which consumers are & today there is enough data to give you insight on this. Retailers like Flipkart could have further used marketing campaigns across email, sms, in app, browser push to tell her more about expected weather in Mumbai over next 3 days & also providing her recommended brands to buy.

Consumers reach out to brands in many ways. India has 1.03 mobile connections & over 350 million internet users. Consumers connect with brands for a wide variety of reasons. Consumers want more information, improved service & better deals. And technology is making it easier for consumers to connect with brands. By 2020, the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse, so says Gartner. They also say that “New audio-centric technologies, such as Apple’s AirPods, Google Home and Amazon’s Echo, are turning “voice first” interactions into ubiquitous experiences. By eliminating the need to use your hands and eyes for browsing, vocal interactions extend the web experience to multiple activities such as driving, cooking, waking, socializing, exercising, operating machinery.

context marketing

Today’s omnichannel customers will end up using the retailer’s touchpoints, in all permutations & combinations. Not only will they use smartphone apps to compare prices or download a coupon, but they will also be users of in-store digital tools such as an interactive catalog, a price-checker, or a tablet. Consumers will buy online and pick-up in store, or buy in the store and get their purchases shipped. Some research done by HBR has shown that customers who used 4+ channels spent 9% more in the store, on average, when compared to those who used just one channel.

Always connected customers can’t be pigeonholed into linear journeys. These consumers automatically turn to their phones in search of information, whether they’re at the gym, commuting to work, or shopping for groceries. Google refers to these spontaneous instances of discovery as micro-moments.

But even while consumers are finding increasing number of ways of reaching brands, companies struggle to provide them a seamless experience as they use these myriad channels.

This is further complicated by the emergence of communication channels that rely on proprietary standards — like Apple’s iAd, Android’s open architecture, and Facebook’s platform.

Each channel tends to be used by it’s distinct customer segments-like customers in the older demographics who are using i pads or multi device using millennials & so messages need to be customised to appropriate customer journeys.

Banking customers often struggle to engage seamlessly with banks. Citibank saw that an important concern of customers was to stop any charges on their card after it was lost or stolen, the company introduced Citi Quick Lock that allows users to quickly lock their card from a mobile app while they look for it.

None of this can happen unless companies start to change structure & processes keeping the customer at the heart of the thinking.Overseeing all of a firm’s interactions with customers is someone in the role of chief experience officer, a relatively new position in the C-suite. Chief digital officers are also starting to have this top-level responsibility. Marketers need a structure within their teams that brings the customer journey up front & centre & connects it with context!

As all of your products and services generate more and more data, the resulting context gives you the opportunity to disrupt your competitors. Also today consumers are allowing marketers to know their location. Since 2014, the number of Internet searches using a “find the nearest” term has doubled. Customers are also beginning to see the value of revealing their location in physical environments. The number of connected devices is growing by 15% to 20% per annum and will reach approximately 30 billion in 2020.Many devices, such as mobile phones, cars, and wearables, constantly monitor their user’s location, so the volume of inbound, spatially related data has never been greater. So the ability to further drive relevance by using location context is becoming real! Marketer’s need to be conscious to not overdo this & risk looking “creepy” to consumers!

McCormick developed FlavorPrint, an algorithm representing the company’s flavors as a vector of 50 data points. FlavorPrint helps consumers decode the flavors they already love, and invites them to discover, share and bring new flavors into their homes. FlavorPrint site has a simple promise: Tell it what you like, what ingredients you have, and what cooking equipment you have, and it recommends recipes. Those recommendations become finely tuned to your context as you continue to interact with the site. McCormick’s now partners with retailers and food suppliers, as well as social media networks and third-party services like Foodily, to create more relevant customer experiences.

Over the next few years or so, we’re likely to see a radical integration of the consumer experience across physical and virtual environments. Mckinsey research says that by 2016, the web will influence more than half of all retail transactions, representing a potential sales opportunity of almost $2 trillion. All this will drive marketers towards using “consumer context” in all of their marketing engagements. Many industries have a large opportunity in looking to align their Marketing with the context in which consumers discover, buy & experience their products & services.

Forrester calls this Context based marketing:

“For all the activity you try to catalyze through campaigns, individuals more commonly interact with your brand outside of those campaigns. They may learn about your product or service prior to purchase. Then they’ll use your product, connect with others, and even organize activities around it. They spread word of mouth, positive or negative — and that, whether you
like or not, is your actual brand image.The context of all those interactions determines whether they will engage and, more importantly, transact with your brand again. Marketing’s job now is to identify and use context to create a repeatable cycle of interactions, drive deeper engagement, and learn more about the customer in the process. The more marketers can internalize and act upon what they learn, the easier it is to make future interactions that much more engaging”.

Many businesses will create data led marketing advantage as they build competency in storing , interpreting & taking action on these vast terabytes of context data. Contextual marketing will yield a new form of “owned data” that is generated from the interaction cycle. Smartphone owners pick up or glance at their mobile phones 150 to 200 times each day, spending on average over two hours a day accessing apps and websites. This leaves a huge data trail behind as well.To get the full customer portrait rather than just a series of snapshots, companies need a central data mart that combines all the contacts a customer has with a brand: basic consumer data plus information about transactions, browsing history, and customer-service interactions.

But to do this CMO’s will have to take charge & demand a level of technology hitherto not seen in the Marketing department.And yes, 2017 is the year when Gartner predicted that CMO’s will spend more on IT , than CIO’s!!

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