Wednesday, 16 January 2013

2013 will be the year of Total Customer Engagement

The year ahead will be marked by a number of really interesting developments in how we engage with our customers. One that has caught up with us – and which marks a sea change – is the advent of the Generation Y customer base. Gen-Y uses mobile as its main medium of interaction; if you’re not using mobile to engage with younger customers then you’re probably missing the biggest trick available, though it has been a very slow start since the trend first became apparent five, or so, years ago. Just in passing, to give you an idea of how trends break, let me illustrate this briefly…

Imagine your customer base is, potentially at least, a million strong. And say on day one a single person uses mobile as their main device for browsing the web, and every day that number doubles. By the end of the first week, 64 people use mobile. By the end of the second week that’s 8,192. That’s the point at which as a business you might start thinking there’s a trend. In actual fact it only takes another seven days and that’s your entire customer base. If you didn’t engage in a mobile strategy after two weeks, you missed it. Trends accelerate in an exponential curve – and in the internet age a trend can look slow for a few years, when in fact the numbers are doubling every month. Mobile is one of these, and if you target people born after 1982, that means you’ve got to jump, now!

There’s another trend that’s been a few years in the making, but in 2013 it will have gathered a critical mass, and it’s going to affect you – like it or not. The trend is for Total Customer Engagement. In plain English this means joined-up marketing, the opposite in fact of the “silo” thinking that has driven marketing during the first couple of decades of digital.

Most companies today have a web strategy, which may include e-commerce. They will also have a nascent social media strategy, a Google Adwords programme, and maybe an eCRM programme serving segmented comms to different sets of customers, split by value, behaviour, demographics and motivations. All of which have given businesses learning and insights into how they engage with customers using ‘new’(ish) channels. What’s lacking is integration. The sea change in 2013 requires a fresh way of thinking about customer engagement, which puts the customer at the centre. The trends feeding this are the shift in the balance of power from brand to customer, driven by the shift towards peer decision facilitated by social media, and the power of collective reviews.

So how does a business tap into this before it’s too late to do anything about it? A shift of focus is required, meaning the marketer needs to understand where the consumer is going to be, on- and off-line, when they are at a moment when they are likely to change their view of a brand, ideally positively. If you can identify that, Customer Type A is likely to be on a mobile, using Twitter, when considering whether to shortlist your brand, then you can target them with the right message at the right time and in the correct format. By mapping where the customer is at each critical point in their relationship with you, and mapping a rational sequence of nudges to take them from pre-custom to loyal customer, and then creating a matrix of comms against medium for this map, then you have a plan for engaging them. This Total Customer Engagement plan gives you as a business several things: a plan that can be tested, benchmarked and improved; a brief for your team and their suppliers so they have specific tasks to achieve against your business’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs); and a framework that can be adapted when new trends become apparent.

This kind of approach is essentially multi-channel and channel-neutral. It’s also measurable and of course by its very nature future proof. By investing in developing this kind of (actually very simple) framework and marketing architecture, it will protect you against the overwhelming trends that are often nearly impossible to spot early, but which end up rather too quickly having strategic impact. Do it now, before it’s too late!