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Paradigm shifts in Marketing 2014

Marketing Paradigm ShiftI believe that in 2014 corporate management and board take action and set new requirements for marketing. This has already been the trend for some time, but I believe that in 2014 a tornado hits marketing function in large-scale. I wish you could give your opinion on these. Please, if you disagree or notice that I missed something, comment below. Here they are:

-From campaigns to systemic growth acceleration
-From advertising to operations
-From brand book to brand experience & corporate culture
-From pre-planned year to realtime
-From one way to collaborative & dialogue
-From corporate led to customer led
-From bought audiences to owned and earned channels
-From guessing to proof driven continuous analytics, data and automation
-From promise marketing to customer excellence
-From online to mobile +
-Personal Anological communications become premium experiences at the digital era of minimizing contact costs and diminishing traditional direct marketing
-From selling to servicing – From outbound- to inbound marketing
-From Solo unit to collaborative accelerator
-From second rate corporate practice to management imperative

Let’s take a look at them in more detail:

From campaigns to systemic growth acceleration & From pre-planned year to realtime
Owned, earned and partner mediums offer means to generate constant customer flow and optimize conversions for sales. On-going constant presence and dialogue increase company’s reach, impact and capacity to communicate brand and offering in the digital environment “for free” (Naturally this kind of work requires a lot of work and high quality, so nothing is completely free). The marketing automation technology and continuous personalized communications with customers enable such influence and effect that their role is currently outranking paid media. On the other hand paid media is becoming personalized too. When customer is searching for something and her digital profile gives a high scoring value for certain offering, it is time to bid higher in the digital eyeball exchange (RTB) and get your message thru. The window of opportunity in Customer journeys to purchase could vary from seconds to months and marketing must be present at the right time with a right message. The era of mass media dominated campaigns and corporate led campaign schedules is over. Mass media has an important role in marketing mix, but it’s dominance is over now and continuous communications have the lead in importance.

From advertising design to operations
Advertising has been a unique discipline in the market and creativity is the core of advertising impact. Advertising is corporate led and scheduled work that takes money to publish. In this day and age the first priority should be to concentrate on your customer interfaces and channel strategy. How well does your customer interface meet with customer’s needs and expectations? It is increasingly difficult to say where marketing stops and product starts, and this is a good thing. Marketing & services are integrating and customer interface communications can use advertising means like videos to help customers further. Creativity has is now more important than ever, but the use of creativity is now more targeted in certain context and encounters with customers instead of mass-media with reach.

From one way to collaborative & dialogue & From promise marketing to customer excellence
One way manifests and promising is dead. People don’t trust advertising anymore and the access to information is present anywhere, anytime. In the connected environment we are now living in the old approach to building a brand with advertising doesn’t apply anymore. Brands are not built they are experienced and shared. The transparency revolution that empowered customers, forces companies to actually do better, not to just look better. The measurement of customer value has been a monetary concept for a very long time. Because there has not been technologies or means to measure anything else, that has been a valid approach. Today, customers have new currencies that can also be measured too. Customers can endorse a brand they like, or they can give very visible and durable critical comments about it. Customers have ideas for improvement, they can help you in your development process by giving their opinions while you are just developing a new approach, they can participate and share and by doing so, expand company’s reach and presence in the eyes of potential customers in a very positive way. Customers can help each others too, like web developers have done since the dawn of internet. Open innovation platforms like My Starbucks Idea, Dell Ideastorm or Innocentive have led the co-created product and solution development for a long time already and new, very cost efficient cloud based services like Ideascale have emerged. Social Media and open dialogue with the customers are really making a major difference and consequently forcing companies to do better.

From corporate led to customer led
Think about your self as a customer, to which brands are you truly committed? Then think the other way: “Which brands are truly committed to you as a customer”? I would guess, there are very few, if any that you can think of. Since the industrialization, society’s chance to specialized roles and growth of cities, the availability of options has steadily increased. Early on, the producers could just produce as much as they could as cheap as they could and that was enough. Now we are living in the world where there is too much of almost everything. Just producing at lower cost and higher quality isn’t enough anymore. We have now entered the experience economy that requires companies to adapt each and every customer’s personal lifestyle and needs. Offering everything to everybody equals spamming, and indifference marketing. Such marketing is a statement: “ We don’t really care about you, but here’s everything we got”.  Oracle Eloqua made a study about how often the sales people are actually contacting customers when the time is right for the customer. Majority of contacts are done at completely wrong time. Just being able to recognize that single thing makes a major difference in customer experience and operational efficiency.

From outbound- to inbound marketing
Previously a seller was looking for a customer, now customers are looking for solutions. The all-knowing Google is the most important route to most products and services and Google’s page rank is the key to the gateway to customers. Because all information is now available all the time, people want to check and make sure that they are making a smart decision or they look for options in general. Regardless which is the case, the company does not exist in the customer’s consideration unless it has very high top-of-mind score or preference rate. Most companies don’t. Once customers actually land at your site, the whole game is about conversion, whether you are capable of creating a connection with the customer or directly closing a deal. However, the fact is that people make their decisions and also transaction online and inbound approach to marketing is really becoming a very meaningful approach.

From guessing to proof driven continuous analytics, data and automation
Right now, pretty much anything you do can be measured. The availability of data has exploded while the cost of technology processing that data and making it possible to act on the data has slumped. The most pressing challenge now, is to educate people who know what to do with this capacity. You can track the customer’s transaction history with CRM, online behavior with marketing automation tools and you can even track potential customers with cookies and adapt to their behavior without them giving you any information apart from their actual behavior. You can track people’s organic journeys, interests, motives and landing sites, actually the entire market logic of preferences and customer flows between different brands and demand driving with online & search analytics. The web should be considered as the world’s largest quantitative research panel that is entirely based on actual behavior instead of opinions. Such access to information that is mostly free is really shaking the marketing and business communities in general.

From online to mobile +
There are now more connected phones to internet than computers. Online is now always on and always available. A computer was mostly used at home or office, but tablets and mobile phones are present where ever you are. The app explosion and location availability are now changing the entire role of internet enabling companies to really adapt to customer, time and location. The rise of HTML5 is making all online assets available in very intuitive and user-friendly way in any given gadget or platform instead of doing everything several times for native solutions. The dawn of “internet of things” is at hand and enable customer to have a “Sixth sense” that helps her to navigate in the actual world with more information, directions and advice than ever.  On the other hand it does enable companies to really become truly customer centric.

From Online back to Analogical (Personal Anological communications become premium experiences at the digital era of minimizing contact costs and diminishing traditional direct marketing)
When ever some major change happen, there will be a counter trend. Although everything is now going online and we love it, personal analogue communications are becoming signs of premium customer care and experiences. A simple letter has become rare approach. I was involved in a case where we approached  CEO’s of stock exchange listed companies. It was difficult to think how to get their attention and get to them directly without becoming cut off by an executive assistant. Eventually the solution was simple, a letter with a hand written address and a real stamp. Everything about such approach communicated intimacy and purpose. Such approach is as far as it gets from mass communications and that was exactly the reason why the campaign got 30% pull rate. The same apply to consumer communications. How would you feel, if you got a letter from Google or Facebook, that had a hand written address and a stamp? That would really be something J The person to person communications and customer service over phone are also having similar impacts, in case the service is working well. Although brand are now living in internet, we are still people who create a trusting relationship with other people.  That is a fact we should never forget.

From selling to servicing
We all have been sold to. That is not really a pleasant experience. When you are looking for something you would appreciate someone who would make your need their interest and do the best they can to get you a best possible solution. Sometimes that solution is not delivering the highest possible profit margin in short-term, but it sure does deliver in so many other levels. The customer is much more likely to come back, endorse the company and deliver much higher life time value. Shortterminism is the plague we need to cure. When ever you communicate with your customers, delivering them honest advice will sell more and increase impact of communications.

From Solo unit to collaborative accelerator & From second-rate corporate practice to management imperative
Marketing has been a solo unit that has been concentrating on promotion, brand awareness, -preference and -attributes. Those days are now behind us. The same measures are still important, but the marketing unit is required to take more commercial responsibility for customer interfaces and customer contacts in general. The very heart of marketing has always been the customer understanding. That is now more important than it has ever been. Customer centric business model demands marketing to spread available customer intelligence people operating in all customer interfaces. Management, corporate strategy and operations are now required to have their foundation on customer understanding. Because of this, the role of marketing is becoming a true management imperative and driver for customer centric corporate transformation. These are truly exciting and inspiring times!
Articles for more insights:

Choosing and Buying – Cross-channel influence

We first started the development of cross-channel customer behavior analytics methodology – One Experience in 2004. The original insight about channel development was about clear conflict between companies channel development practice and customers actual behaviour. Companies used to develop each channel individually. Very often each channel has still own channel responsible management that is developing that individual channel to the max. Also the benchmarking was done against competitors channel and the goal was to be better than the competitor. There’s nothing wrong with anything described above unless it generate blind spots and steer companies to invest in development that doesn’t actually support customers and create value for them. The rule of thump is that you should constantly consider effort vs. gain from customer perspective whenever you are developing or changing something.  When doing Cross-channel customer behaviour studies we learned that in some cases companies channel strategy and customer’s needs and expectations were not aligned and the channel strategy actually hindered sales.

Many brands have a long and successful history of servicing their customers thoroughly in a single channel.  Kirsti Lehmusto (former CMO of Finnish retail company Stockmann and colleague from Taivas, now CMO for Helsinki University) recognize the retail store management, contact centre services and distant sales services with catalogues as methodologies that have created great financial success by concentrating in excelling in the customer experience in a single channel from beginning to the end.

Channel management 1_single channel optimizationIn the current 24/7 economy and world of digital influence it is even more important to understand that in current world customer’s move accross channels and create service strings that fluently move customers from one channel to another according to their preferences, drivers and motives. It is important to look at these service moments in each channel and optimize them to help the customer further to his preferred next step.

Channel management 2_cross-channel behaviour

Service and product ranges don’t have the same meaning for customers and people are not quite as interested in everything. In the article ”Customer Decision Making FLOW” there’s more about how the decision-making about a certain FMCG goods and brands like Coca Cola differ from buying a magazine subscription, taking a mortgage or buying a motorcycle. The following gives an outlook on general learning’s about stages in various businesses.

Let’s dig deeper in to stages: Browsing, Configuring, Deciding, Buying and Post-Purchase.

The two stages before these are: Brand-as-a-platform that you can read from here and Initiation, you can read here.  (I would recommend reading them, before going further to choosing and buying journey below). Also check out how to run customer driven business design development here.

Browsing

Browsing is most often about learning, simultaneous process of exploring your own intentions and interests, and actively considering what kind of solution would be perfect for the customer. Customer has mental goals while doing this. He’s interested in certain facts, has drivers guiding him further while exploring. Not all factors are created equal. These things define customer’s mindset & motivation. (We must not forget, that people are emotional by nature and we need to understand what people are feeling while they are browsing and learning and help them feel good about the brand we are promoting). While doing this, customers use information sources that are both interactive & instructional. On-line services, product reviews, friends, catalogues, retail stores, contact centres, agents & brokers. Some of these touch points can be led by the brand, some can’t. Some of the touch points have more meaning than others. The important thing is to understand what the customer is trying to do, which touch points the customers use and how did the touch point fulfil customer’s expectations.

Customers who have no prior experience about buying products and services in certain service or product category are more likely to browse more thoroughly and consciously. Also, people who are more price sensitive tend to do more work in browsing and all other stages in general. There are two underlying reasons for the Journey driven emphasis and strong browsing

  1. Customers are curious and actually want to know what options are most interesting and
  2. Customers are worried about making bad decision and try to learn more in order to avoid mistakes.

In many cases both reasons are meaningful.

Some businesses are naturally interesting for customers, like travelling and cars. In these businesses learning about products, services and prices can be considered as entertainment. Coffee table discussions and other people’s experiences are also an important part of the decision making process. In this kind of categories visits to the stores and actually seeing the products are also considered entertaining and fun. If people are busy and don’t just go out and see products for fun they are more likely to actually go and see what they are considering in configuring or even in purchase stage after making the mental decision to buy. The trend though is that companies have less and less face time with customers enabling persuasion. Cross channel marketing is more about steering customer forward and selling by supporting their choices than actual selling. Pulling instead of pushing.

In business-to-business customer journeys browsing is about looking for potential service providers for further negotiations. Managers and entrepreneurs looking for service providers ask other people’s opinions, look online for potential companies and potentially even use a professional consultant to find best possible potential service providers.

When defining sub channels for Browsing stage our experience is that it’s better to use broad descriptions of the touch points and ask about customers experience and what kind of information had most meaning for them. In browsing it is impossible not to talk about search engines in the current digital environment. Customers often have pre-decided brands and options they are mostly looking at. However, they also look for other people’s experiences and use search engines while looking for information. Even if the brand or product would not be known and on customer’s shortlist, search engine advertising enable capturing some of the customers. The more entertaining and positive context the buying is about, the more likely people are to click and learn about options they didn’t know existed. Travel is a great example of such business. In travel people are happy to give their email and contacts to travel agencies, cruising companies and airliners just to get more entertaining ideas and travelling inspiration from them. In less entertaining businesses too, it’s possible to capture customer’s contacts and call back later. When I built a house and was looking for materials, contractors etc, it was obvious that the browsing was often done in the middle of the night and an opportunity to leave contacts and get a call next day was considered as good service.

In less interesting businesses people often skip browsing or do it in-store at a shelf. FMCG businesses represent such business in which people don’t search information or find out about options outside store. Browsing is likely to be done at the shelf comparing contents and prices. If customer does this once, he’s not likely to stop and think next time. Once decided, customers easily create habit and non-considered re-purchases. This doesn’t mean that you couldn’t do anything though. Some companies have created wildly popular recipe clubs and services that offer inspiration in a format of recipes instead of individual products. One of the best examples is Valio’s Cream Club which cost 18€ as annual subscription price. This program is nothing but marketing and branded content. Still, people consider these recipes so inspiring that they are prepared to pay for a membership which makes this marketing program practically free for Valio even without product sales. If your product is not interesting as such, people could still be interested in the context your products are used in enabling branded engagement.

Configuring

Configuring can be exactly that, e.g. using a car configuration online in order to learn which kind of combination would be most suitable for me. The name of the stage comes from mass-customisation vocabulary (Jarmo Suominen, professor for Masscustomization (MIT/UIAH) had strong impact on the original theory development). In configuring stage customer has most often chosen the brands he wants to learn more about. Often it is about negotiating with potential suppliers about the price or contents and terms of the offer. The difference compared to browsing is that in browsing customer often is learning and more open to possibilities. In browsing, he’s also often anonymous visitor online or in store. At configuring customer is engaging actively and has more defined decision making criteria. He’s looking for the best deal. Configuring is also about letting some options go in order to concentrate on the best potential choices. It’s equally important to know how people define which brands they want to continue with and understand what kind of tools and information sources people use in order to rule out some brands. The car configuration tools are a great example of that.

Case: We studied 500 professionals who had chosen a leasing car as their car benefit provided by their employer spring 2010. The study proved that 18% of all buyers used car configuration tools to decline brands before going to test-drive or asking an offer for the car. It’s actually rather logical. When customers start building their dream car they easily come up with a solution that is too expensive for them. Also, the car configuration tools give a price before any discounts. As a result customers start dropping out options they had chosen in the first place and suddenly the whole experience is about giving up on things the customer would have liked. Eventually the brand loses the appeal it had originally. It is absolutely certain that every car brand’s research prove that customers require openness in pricing and giving as much information as possible online. However, optimisation of sales and driving people further in their journey is sometimes different from what customers demand. Direct marketing has proved this decades ago. Customer should not get a figure online that he could consider as an offer unless you are selling cars online and actually give a real offer for the customer. In majority of car selling the customer should only get an offer from car seller and enable the car seller to show the qualities of the car in person. Emotional and rational influences are often a mixture creating desire to own the car. This desire requires certain level of engagement, which improves the probability of closing a deal. Car configuration tools’s role is to enable dreaming and bring the customers to the store.

In business-to-business and major consumer purchase decisions the configuring stage is often about a meeting with the salesman or other representative in order to define request for an offer. Online e-commerce and opportunity to buy abroad is just another way of servicing the same need. The buyer wants to know and learn about the service providers or products capabilities, background, cases and discuss about the qualities of potential solution. Very often the first engagement with the service provider also allow buyer to evaluate what kind of feeling the service provider left in the first engagement. Word of advice from previous cases is, that it’s more important to ask than present at this stage. In people businesses customers want the company to concentrate on their needs and solve them. It is important to show interest in customers needs and show how much you care about their problem. Human behaviour is about trust. The seller’s first priority as a contact person and representative of his company is to understand the brief and create trusting and caring connection to the buyer.

Decision

Was there a specific event or incentive that led to decision? If yes, what was that? Whether or not there is an offer, the people still evaluate offer or stimulus against their perception of the brand, the company and the product. Customer has certain motivation, drivers and resources that guide him. From which retailers did the customer ask for an offer. What prompted the decision?

In some cases customer know that they should buy a new product in order to replace the old one but they just don’t recall doing so or lack motivation or ability to do it. In these cases we talk about ”pending purchase decisions”.  Offer in store or discount advertisement could act as a trigger. In smaller purchases just seeing the product is the trigger. In other cases there could have been long-lasting interest and consideration but no action. In cases like this the customers have been interested and wanted to buy for a long time but were not able to do so or lacked justification. Discount advertising is very effective trigger in these cases. People could wait for a long time for the products price to come to the acceptable level. The discount has two-fold triggering effect

  1. The price can be considerably lower than normal
  2. The offer is there for a limited time or there is only limited number of products at that specific store resulting feeling of hurry and justification. It’s now or never!  Limited number of products is a message that increases sales never mind how many products the store would actually have in storage.

In TV-shop commercials sales increased when customers were told: ”If you call, Prepare for holding online or use SMS for ordering”. Just saying some other people would also buy the product was justification enough for more people to act.

In technology businesses like wrist-top-computers measuring pulse and other training factors, mobile phones and entertainment gadgets the prices come down after some time due to rapid product circulation. If the products become ”most wanted” like iPod and iPhone did, declining pricing eventually reach tippin’ point driving products to move from most wanted to market dominating products. Following the own brand’s and competing brand’s customer journeys and preference, enable recognising and preparing for such events.

Another very important thing is to track competing brand’s actions in this space. Competing brands could send offers by mail; use out-bound telemarketing to help (read: push) customers make decisions right away. Proactive decision supporting and triggering could result a lot of lost business unless it’s detected and acted on.

In business-to-business cases and major consumer purchase decisions the decision stage has to do with comparing offers. It is smart to take the time and present the offer face to face. Face time often increase trust and represent dedication. At best the presenting of the offer means evaluating and considering it aloud. Customer has a change to ask questions and make certain that they understand what exactly the offer means. The first meeting with a salesman was about first impression and the next about how well does the contact person meet expectations and is he trust worthy? How well has the contact person taken customers wishes in account and what kind of pro-active propositions there are in order to better meet customer’s goals. It all comes down to trust eventually. Price is a subjective issue in most cases, not an absolute measure. Higher price just require more trust and better justification than lower price.

Purchase

Where did the customer purchase? Purchase channel and location give new information for analysis when looking back at the customer journey. Customers could have purchased from certain store brand, specialist store, online retailer, catalogue sales company, by phone, by calling to contact centre. It’s important to track which player was the active contacting party a) customer b) competitor.

Purchase channel send a message about customers decision-making dynamics too. In several cases the customers behaviour has been very online centric in every other stage but purchasing. Online channels are very effective in offering information about the products and services but often customer rather purchase from store, individual contact person or contact centre rather than online. Why is that?

Our learning has been that it’s most likely an expression of insecurity and pure need for human contact confirming the decision. People want to call, possibly bargain a little, but most importantly they want to feel secure that they are doing a good deal and they will not feel sorry for it after. In retail products customers could go to buy in retail store in order to confirm their decision by touching the product and experiencing it live or they want to get it with them right away. Visit in the store could be inevitable in many cases but there are risks.

When we were developing One Experience methodology we did some multi-client researches in order to develop the methodology. We found out that while Fujitsu-Siemens had 22% preference rate, they sold 35%. Their sale was roughly 50% higher than their brand preference would let expect. In the further analysis we found out that majority of sales people working in stores preferred Fujitsu-Siemens laptops and often owned one too. Of course the same apply in case of trade promotion offering sales people extra for selling more Fujitsu-Siemens. However, in this case there was no promotion but it was natural for sales people to recommend Fujitsu-Siemens.

The reality is that when people have been looking for a solution, product or service they would like to buy, they are actually still rather open for influence at the very last stage. When people get to know offering they often come to conclusion that certain product is both possible for them and they feel comfortable about choosing it. Once the customer comes to a store and the premium product is in discount, the customer is likely to change his mind in that instant and buy the premium product even if it was still slightly more expensive than the one the customer came to pick-up. The same phenomena apply when customer engage with store personnel. The professionals in store can raise insecurity in customer’s mind or recommend something other than the customer was going to buy. Often the customer’s goal for the discussion in store is meant to confirm customer’s own thinking. Still, often it results alternative outcome depending on the advisors training, experience, opinions and incentives. Brands have very different variation in the level of determination in their buying. Strong brands, which have a “love” relationship with buyers, are much harder to persuade to some other way.

In the same Laptop study we found another interesting phenomenon. There were dramatic differences between store brands in which customers went to see the products and where they actually purchased them. The conversion rate from visitor to buyer was at best 66% and at worst less than 30%. The two biggest retail brand conversions were a) 29% visiting and 9% of sales and b) 23% visiting and 6% of sales. These two brands dominated people’s visits but they didn’t dominate sales. Retail conversion rate optimisation would have dramatically increased these retailers market share and it shouldn’t be too hard when they already have people coming to them.  41% of customers told that the sales person influenced their decision and in 23% of cases they reported sales persons opinion had important role. 39% of customers only went to visit in one store. Still, many of those people purchased online.  Currently many customers consider stores as showrooms and look for the best deal online.

RECENT DEVELOPMENT AND TRENDS

The rise of online channels and social media’s role in customer journey has increased information available for customers. Social media has enabled and encouraged communities and discussion forums in which people share experiences of different products and services. This change has diminished the role for sales people in many businesses and created disruption in former Customer Journeys. In the world of 3i, that is high interest, high involvement and high investment product and services, people’s know-how about the products and services often exceed the level that sales people have in store. The customers are increasingly becoming specialist in what they are buying. They are also actively using this knowledge as social capital. People enjoy their position in their own community and sharing increase their role as a valuable member. Peer-group’s respect is often very effective motivator that activates discussion and participation.

The customers are also increasingly interested in companies’ practices and values. Several brands have suffered major image setbacks due to child labour in their production, environmentally indifferent attitude and any ethically questionable actions. People become more and more conscious about their consuming,  effects of their choices and the products and services are no longer enough. People also need to feel good about their choices.

The trend that is shaking the corporate mindset is transparency. Brand, products and services, pricing, quality and experiences are all available online. Customers trust each other more than the brands specialists even if they don’t know each other. Transparency means that companies need to be just as good as they say they are or better than they have promised. Search engines are the best enablers of transparency democracy.

Post-Purchase

Once a customers have made a purchase and started using the product or service they are often likely to talk about their experiences. Word-of-mouth is a major influencer in many businesses and sharing experiences spontaneously online has multiplied the word-of-mouth influence. Another important thing to consider is that web does not forget easily. When customers start looking for information about the product or service online, they use search engines. The highest scoring links are the ones that have been clicked most often, have external links directed to that specific content and so on. This means that the highest scoring content could be several years old. It is very important for brands to stay in touch with customer’s satisfaction and recommendations.

Analysing the outcome

As customer journey designer I was very interested in learning about the customers decision-making dynamics from beginning to the end. In order to optimize that you first need to understand what is happening. We came to conclusion that the best way to effectively show what happened was to break the conversion analysis in three: Won, Kept and Lost business. To make it more meaningful we broke further to three dimensions: before buying, what happened in the original groups and what was the outcome. Here is an illustration of one case. This measure is called Business Dynamics Score (BDS)

 Business Dynamics Score

Of those 42% who originally preferred the brand 95% were kept and only 5% lost. Of those 28% who originally preferred competitor 70% were converted and only 30% were lost to competitor. Of those who had no preference 88% were converted and won. Only 14% were lost. The outcome is that from this company’s target group they won 46% of sales from competitors, 40% of their sales came from those who originally preferred them and they lost 14% of their reference group’s sales to competitors. In this case the sample the data was collected from customer buying this service at certain frequency and in this case some of the customers had purchased competing brand after the most recent purchase from the brand that was studied. This finding helped further in recognizing how much business is leaking from the brand to the competitors and why.

This way of looking at the customer data also reveal where the brand is making it’s sales. Of people who originally prefer the brand, how many actually buy it in the end. Of customers who prefer competitors, how many the brand is capable of winning. From customers who have no preference but only rather equal options, how many of them actually buy the brand in question. While capturing data, this same comparison also work very efficiently in analysing how competitors win from the brand in question and what can be done about it.

In order to finalize the big picture, it’s also very educating to see which brand the customers consider was second best after the purchased brand if any. Being second best means that the brands success was good but something still turned the customers head and led to lost business. If your brand is very often the second best, it means that it is not too hard to make major improvement in sales.

Of the full Customer Journey – this article was about the third slot – Choose and buy, Check out the first two stages:

Customer Journey stage 1: Brand as a platform

Customer Journey stage 2: Initiation

Also see Business design with customer centricity

Managing customer interfaces – marketing do-or-die

and How to Map and Study Customer Journey

Customer Journey

Author: Toni Keskinen, Marketing Architect & Customer Journey Designer

http://www.linkedin.com/in/tonikeskinen

Join FutureCMO Movement LinkedIn Group here

The beginning of customer journey – Initiation

Image

The customer comes to a crossing and stops because the brand successfully engages with him or something changes in the customer’s situation. In most customer journeys there is a defining moment when a person gets actively interested in buying, initiated. That moment can be identified rather reliably. Something makes a person actively start considering about buying something. Active purchasing consideration does create memories because it’s done.. well, actively in your conscious consideration. Active consideration could take years in some cases or it can spark purchase spontaneously. Depending on the category, differences are huge but also within a single product group customers’ behaviour have vast differences. In many smaller decisions the consideration is less profound but still, when ever you are breaking a habit or really considering about doing something, you can recall doing so when specifically asked about it. In fact the customer is the specialist in his own experience and we can learn from him. Best way of getting to know the dynamics and learning about the reasons for people to get interested is by doing one-to-one interviews. Interviews are actually for discovery, expedition trip to customer behaviour and drivers, differences and variety. Group discussions easily make people indicate rational behaviour although it was not. We would suggest one-on-one in-depth interviews or questionnaire before a group discussion asking person’s own thinking. In the group discussion some of the key findings could be thoroughly opened. This kind of approach enables capturing human behaviour more reliably.

There is a methodology in Psychology called Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (The Psychologist, vol 18, No1, January 2005) It has been developed for analysing people’s lived experiences. The methodology avoid making assumptions and does not test hypothesis. The person’s experience should be recorded as authentic as possible. They are done in one-on-one meeting. Interpretative means that the researcher looks for things that are distinct (i.e. idiographic studies), but will also attempt to balance this against an account of what is shared (i.e. commonalities across a group of participants). Researcher reduces the complexity of experiential data through rigorous and systematic analysis. Analysis relies on the process of people making sense of the world and their experiences. I use this methodology in Insight interviews and then create quantitative study based on these findings in order to quantify which phenomena has most meaning and can these phenomena related to specific business and brand be segmented in some way or result difference between segments and brands.

The best way we could come up when working on One Experience cross-channel buying behaviour mapping tool, was to start with one-on-one interviews and learning about the people’s reasons to get initiated in the first place and continue to map out the cross-channel purchase behaviour.

The initiation of the active consideration is often a result of certain drivers and motives in certain context being prompted to active consideration by certain touch point in certain channel. These reasons, channels, motives, contexts and drivers should be recognized and quantified in different target groups. They are the very foundation of profitable marketing operation.

You can roughly divide reasons to initiate in commercial and non-commercial reasons. Commercial reasons have to do with advertising, direct marketing, outbound telemarketing, retail, point-of-sale promotions, sales people and so on. Non-commercial reasons have to do with magazine reviews, word-of-mouth, actual need because of losing or breaking the old product, tradition based behaviour (e.g. in travelling every year at the same time), change in a living situation (e.g. moving) and so on.

Further, initiation can be divided in initiation in general and initiation to the brand. Initiation in general is about how the customer became interested in acquiring certain product or service in general and these reasons are often non-commercial when asked from the customers directly. This is not completely true because something has created the need in the first place. That’s why it’s also important to ask about their initiation to a purchased brand. Becoming initiated to certain brand is more likely to be commercial. In most cases you can narrow these reasons to a few major ones per segment. This information will help you decide where and what to do in marketing. How to effectively reach people and how to choose the message and content in most appealing way.

The Apple iPod is a great example of a product, which had  ”a long activation” period. The iPods were originally too expensive for many people who would have loved to get one. After some time, the price of the iPod reached tippin’ point, level which enabled most people to get one. At that point iPod rose from most wanted niche product to dominant brand. The MP3 format, iTunes and making CD digitization easy were the enablers of MP3 revolution. ITunes and buying music online were Apple’s strengths. However, the product design and user experience made it the most wanted brand and later on dominant market driver leading the way. Currently it has been predicted that when eye surgery costs come down to the level of 1500€, people choose surgery over new classes. Markets could change profoundly and rapidly.

We have learned from several cases that the brands often don’t know why and from who’s initiative customers got activated. In one case our client, advertiser, was wondering why their demand had suddenly increased dramatically and they made record sales without doing anything specifically. This company had very effective sales process delivering superb customer experience and consequently very high sales conversion. After running customer journey study for them we found out these people were originally activated by a competing company, which had launched a major direct mail campaign. The product was expensive and people wanted to take another offer just to be certain. This incident delivered record sales for the competitor. It’s likely that the active brand also sold more than in average but it’s absolutely certain that they also lost major part of their potential sales.

When you are concentrating on customer perspective you are simultaneously doing very effective competitor benchmarking and learning from their success too. In best case the competitor becomes your best salesman without knowing about it. You can also learn from competitor’s success.

In retail store you can roughly share products in two categories: must have and nice to have products. These products life cycle could vary greatly. In one CPG case that we analyzed we found three most common patterns in getting initiated. The first one was planned. People wrote on their shopping list that they will buy this product. The second was buying in stock when the product was in discount. The third was the biggest one… People who had made a mental note they should buy the product. However, this product was not in the priority list, which resulted ”pending activation”. These people were activated to purchase by just seeing the product in store or seeing an offer about it. The major sales increase for promotion was due to the fact that they had promotional spots that prompted people’s attention and activation by just being there. The sales would have increased even if there were no discounts because people just forgot to act on their decision. In many cases there is latent behaviour that must be recognized in order to optimize profits. There’s no need to offer major discounts if just being there does the job or offer smaller discount or on-top offer in order to justify the extra visibility in store and also activate stock buyers. It also has major indication in the media strategy. If the brand’s awareness and other KPI’s are in order, the most important goal is to have continuous activation going on generating faster re-purchases and increase in the market value. Depending on the product’s role in customer’s life there would also be possibility of creating CRM or social relationship management (SRM) approach that would keep customers active and engaged with them in product and service development.

Testing in the real environment is the only way to get a true business case

Making people move is a fundamental marketing goal. In order to optimize marketing effect, you must study, test and learn what kind of trigger and content create most response. You should also learn in which context or medium people would be most likely to act on the advertising and which interaction channels deliver best results. Consider, what is the role of your own mediums like website, retail or CRM. How can you leverage earned media like discussions online and press or other PR. Are there ways of collaboration with partners that would result synergy and low-cost leads? Where and how much should you invest in paid media like TV, print, radio, outdoor and online. You can manage what you measure and optimizing the mix takes a lot of learning, trial and error to make it right.

The second equally important issue is to learn where you should steer people post activation: online, mobile, customer service, retail or create a first action which help you support customer thru out the journey and purchase. Again, there are good learning’s available but each business is unique.

Consumers want to have control

Today’s consumer want to control the process of choosing and avoid being sold at. Pushing is irritating and considered as a bad customer experience. When customer has a medium in which there is a lot of choice he has the control. Customers choose what to concentrate on, and how much time they are willing to use in learning about product. Customers can choose to continue shopping online, in retail, mail order or to go and see the product live or choose not to do anything.

Advertisers have an opportunity to increase communications to own customers and creating own mediums in print and online. Previously marketing focus was mostly about finding new customers, although majority of the sales came from existing customers. Customer magazines and catalogues are part of customer loyalty, mobilisation marketing. The respondents consider the magazine or catalogue as respect of customers own space, time and consideration.

Buying is not easy

Marketers often assume that selling is hard and buying easy. For customers it is not easy to really understand the scale of offering and relevancy of it. At personal level they have ways of learning in their own time. Often the retail experience is too hectic and nervous for learning at own speed. Online services and catalogues allow people to have their own time and space. In one case outbound represented majority of initiation, but fraction of the transactions.  Banner ads are often judged wrongly due to this – people initiate but make transactions elsewhere.

Consumers consider concrete pricing, product pictures and good presentation of products as valuable service that makes buying easier. It’s easy to see for example how much catalogues and online travel advice decrease the need of personal advice from travel agencies and enable online buying.

The difference between emotional brand advertising with very little information and buying information sources is obvious.

Conclusions about Initiation

Initiation and getting activated is about prompting attention and making the person move. No matter how long there has been a latent interest, there’s always something that changes in offering, customers situation or the market that gets people activated. What is that, what is the motivation behind, what is the customer’s mindset at that point, which brands customer considers as options, which does he prefer if he does? Understanding this has a major influence in the overall marketing strategy.

In order to understand how customers are best reached it’s also important to understand the need of advertising and shopping consideration. For many brands there would be possibilities in helping customers learn about their value proposition by really making great product descriptions and photos for shopping medium use. Although the customers would not buy from these sources, they still learn from them. That’s free media that really hit the target. Brand’s own online service should be the source of ultimate information that really answer customer’s questions and engage with the customer resulting action.

When we were studying the different mediums capability to influence customers and how brands currently work, we came to conclusion that when brands are rapidly learning new, they are simultaneously forgetting old. Customer’s behaviour does change but when competing retail brands e.g. drop catalogue and go purely online, the other brand might gain advantage.

When measuring success brands should concentrate on how much did the advertising change customers perception of the brand positively, did the advertising justify higher price or increase the interest in wider audience with current price or did the advertising just activate people with discounts, which is good in the short run but could damage the brand in the long run. Which mediums performed best compared to the investment? If some mediums under performed was it due to the medium or advertising content? If you can answer all these questions post campaign, your capability to improve further is much better and you can actually predict outcome much better than previously which justify the spending.

What do you think? I’d love to get some comments :)

If you liked this one, check out how to manage customer interfaces and pre-initiation stage along the customer journey Brand-as-a-roadsign.

An article about the next stage in Customer Journey here: Choosing and buying – cross-channel influence

More advice about how to map and stury customer journey is available at https://futurecmo.org/2012/12/01/how-to-map-and-study-customer-journey/

Author: Toni Keskinen, Marketing Architect & Customer Journey Designer

http://www.linkedin.com/in/tonikeskinen

Join FutureCMO Movement LinkedIn Group here

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