Now Trending: The Age of the Customer
January 12, 2016
Everyone’s hyping the arrival of “The Age of the Customer.” Thing is, we’ve always been in the Age of the Customer.
Since we first traded with our fellow caveman for goods and services, we’ve had a responsibility to making sure our trading partner was satisfied – our survival depended on it. Today, the principle remains the same, but technology has made it much easier to determine whether or not our customers are satisfied.
“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and then work backward toward the technology – not the other way around.” – Steve Jobs
We’ve moved away from brand-to-customer one-way communication, and we’ve incorporated customers-as-creators tactics into our marketing strategies. We’re evolving as we figure out how to use this new data to make customer experiences more personalized and targeted.
Forrester’s Michelle Moorehead says that “2016 marks the year that the CMO will take control of the customer experience.” Product developers and marketers have spent the last decade focused on user/customer-centric strategies, but too many organizations still thinking about marketing and products in terms of the company’s reputation and messaging, rather than how customers want to engage with a brand, product or service.
As a B2B marketer at a tech company, I’m always thinking about customer journeys. What information are potential clients looking for? What problems do they need to solve? What do they want to learn? And if something they are looking for aligns with our expertise, how can I reach them along the way? There is a lot of clutter a customer sifts through before they discover our brand; what can I do to ensure there’s no need to look any further once they’ve found us? Same thing with products – how do we make sure the experience is so good they never have to try another one?
We build iOS and Android apps for brands that don’t have the in-house capability or bandwidth to take on product development. Our designers and developers are constantly thinking about user experience and context – not just what information do we want to push to a user or what task we want a user to complete – but more importantly, what experience is the user looking for within the constraints of a mobile application?
Mobile in the Age of the Customer
“People judge you on the totality of how they experience the brand.” – Linda Boff, GE
We carry our smartphones everywhere and pick them up between 150 – 200 times each day – that’s billions and billions of “micro moments” that present opportunities to engage a customer daily. Never before have we had an instantaneous method of communication with target customers like we do with mobile.
Companies are playing catch up, especially those without a strong marketing strategy. They’ve heard the “Mobile First” hype and know they have to do something, but haven’t quite figured out how to make the leap between existing marketing and product channels and the mobile ecosystem. That is changing, however. AdMedia Partners reports 63 percent of marketers say their businesses plan to double their mobile presence in the next year, and they need to – mobile is not the add-on it used to be. To achieve relevancy with our customers, mobile has to be at the center.
By leveraging mobile behavior to measure information discovery, app downloads, social sharing, purchase paths, etc., we have more opportunities to glean insights about customer behavior and the products, services and experiences they value. Brands that capitalize on this data will get out ahead.
But as we’ve seen, data collection is not without its risks. Brands have a serious responsibility to their customers: to protect both the user and their data.
Evolving the customer experience
In 2015, we saw mobile connectivity to the Internet surpass desktop connectivity. Because of unprecedented adoption of multiple devices per user, brands now see the importance of creating an omnichannel experience to ensure the customer has a seamless experience no matter where they are or how they interact with the brand – retail, online, outdoor, mobile, social, etc. – ensuring the customer has a seamless experience.
In their book Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing, Robert Rose and Carla Johnson pose: “It’s NOT the product or service that the customer values, or that keeps them loyal – it is the experience that they have at every state of their journey.” As marketers, how do we create the unique, differentiating experiences that will deliver against this customer expectation and stand out from our competitors?
Six mobile marketing trends for 2016
In 2016 we are going to be better marketers and product developers. Data will give us the ability to create more intimate brand-customer relationships through personalized, contextual experiences that add value and improve our customers’ lives.
Here are some of the mobile technologies brands will adopt to make it easy for customers to discover the right information at each step of their journey.
Video content is king. Digital video content is everywhere and will only become more pervasive as Facebook shifts its focus toward elevating video content above all other content. You’ve probably noticed this when full-screen viewing video content – the video feed is proving successful for increasing Facebook users’ video consumption. Google has begun experimenting with serving up video ads in search results, making sponsored results more eye catching. Mobile’s share of video viewing increased 33 percent in 2015 and will only continue to increase over the coming 12 months.
Deep linking and app indexing. Building on its preference for mobile-optimized websites, Google is now returning app indexed searches, especially on Android. Google plans to increase the percentage of searches (now around 40 percent) that return app results. Apple and Bing are also entering the fray. This is great for brands with consumer-facing apps, increasing chances for discovery of both the brand’s app, but also the app’s content. Deep linking strategies will win: giving customers exactly what they want within their customer journey, and introducing them to a new brand channel they haven’t already experienced.
Wearables. Wearables aren’t really new, but mainstream consumers have taken notice, especially with the 2015 launch of Apple Watch. However, consumers are still slow to adopt, not necessarily convinced that wearables will add value to their lives. And device makers are still refining their purpose. Engadget’s Daniel Cooper writes: “Maybe the idea of a general-purpose device that acts as an analog or companion to your phone is simply not the way to appeal to the masses.” At the recently wrapped International Consumer Electronics Show, brands introduced new products with fewer, refined features and a more-defined value prop. But as wearable ownership becomes more saturated, marketers will use them to create a more customized user experience, especially in terms of delivering hyper-localized messaging.
Apps broaden the user experience to combat user gripes. Apps will overcome bandwidth issues driving competition for home screen prominence by expanding their features to encroach upon the user base of other popular apps. With the majority of users using five or fewer apps daily, product developers will offer more features to keep users within the experience. Shoppers are already seeing retail offers or savings served up within their banking apps. Runners will be able to check the weather forecast or traffic within a fitness app when planning their routes. Much like Ikea offers child care, a specialty grocery section and in-store dining in an effort to keep shoppers in their stores longer, marketers and product owners will do what they can to keep customers engaged, consuming content and making purchases within apps longer.
Augmented reality and virtual reality become a real thing. I’m guilty of undervaluing the role augmented reality and virtual reality play in the real world. I’ve never been a gamer and even though I enjoy IMAX and 3D movies, I still really like the traditional 2D movie experience, so AR interference with my mobile experience or a VR headset really isn’t my thing. But that’s because I’ve made incorrect assumptions about both phenomena. I’ve followed along more closely as I’ve gotten to know startups like Futurus who are creating unique experiences for customers who can’t otherwise physically engage with their clients’ brands. They recently filmed a client’s fashion collection in 3D, and through their Virtual Runway, give customers the freedom to view a personalized fashion show created just for them in their own home. Atlanta’s CN2 is building AR experiences for the enterprise, helping brands create value and provide information in relevant ways such as step-by-step instructions on how to repair a piece of equipment.
Mobile apps for the enterprise. Finally, marketers and product managers are getting smarter about how to leverage software to improve operations, employee communications, productivity, etc., across the enterprise, especially as it relates to disconnected workers. Right now, only one-third of mobile workers say their companies have built mobile applications to support their employees’ workflows. Until IT departments are empowered to address these needs, employees will create their own workarounds in order to do their jobs more efficiently and productively.
“Every contact we have with a customer influences whether or not they’ll come back. We have to be great every time or we’ll lose them.” – Kevin Stirtz
In 2016, let’s be the awesome brand experience for our customers that we would want each time we interact with a brand. If every brand committed to this idea, we’ll all be happy customers.
Visit here to see what trends our development team is excited about for 2016.