he points mean prizes model of loyalty programmes will always have its place but, this era is now coming of age. Customers now want a more engaging relationship with brands, there will still be space for rewards and points are one way of delivering these. However the battleground is no longer for share of wallet but for ownership of the digital endpoint. Customers no longer care how they get the product as long as they feel like they have some level of control in and get the best value from the purchase. Brands are moving away from a purely transactional relationship with customers and travelling together into a more emotion led purchase journey. Google’s ZMOT study illustrates this fact really well in terms of flight paths:
Google ZMOT flightpaths diagram
would like to expand this even further for you. Each of these locations contains further data and information about the customer. They are interacting with each of these “data points” multiple times throughout the journey and through agile analytics structures we can harness insights and decisions that they are making along each part of the journey. This enables us to build a deeper understanding of the customer and also serve them with demonstrations of value relevant to them and their purchases at each point. The true value of this additional data is that we can personalise the journey to an individual and make them feel special. Every shopper is unique and expects to be treated as such, shoppers want to feel like they are buying from a brand they relate to and that is relevant to them at that time. There is a level of computation that has to be undertaken around capturing and translating this data and then assigning the correct response to each individual. This can be simplified through clustering and profiling. If we start to categorise similar journeys and personalities using techniques learned from behavioural targeting and information retrieval we are able to condense many millions of individual journeys to a smaller group of persona types and provide relevancy through clusters of interest.
“We have to tackle the issue of data capture, but consumers are much more aware of the value of their data and the numerous things that organisations can do with it, that it’s not just enough to ask for it, but data capture must be part of a value exchange, one where the consumer is treated respectfully and honestly (they know you want their data to sell them more stuff, don’t lie or deceive them)”
So how do we talk with our customers?
Each customer will also have a personal communications preference. This will include things like frequency of communication, topic, and most importantly channel. Bearing this in mind we should note that it is very important to provide as many communication paths as possible for the customer to choose from. They may want to interact via SMS or email or direct mail or via a mobile website. And the purchase journey will be over multiple channels and multiple devices often simultaneously whilst dual or triple screening. As a modern brand you should have a foothold in each of these areas and maintain some level of communication preference for users in each.
We should now be able to imagine our customer flight paths with an additional layer of ‘craft type’ added to them representing the communication channel used to carry them to the next stop. After the initial purchase we should now start thinking about what earned content we can get the customer to create for us. The modern customer is more than happy to contribute product opinions and reviews, often just asking them for these post purchase will yield very valuable feedback and future testimonials. Another by-product of this is that the modern customer wants to feel empowered and that they have some control over future products created for them.
Asking for feedback and showing that you are implementing ‘consumer created change’ will make that customer feel closer and more affiliated with the brand. Bonds created in this way are stronger and more long lasting as the customer is now not only a user of the product but a brand contributor and as such feels part of a larger whole. These customers will advocate your brand and products without question as their co-contribution has made them part of your brand. This might sound difficult in practice but with a few tips and pointers this can be put into practice in a straightforward manner. My post entitled “Seven ways to generate engagement that drives towards loyalty” provides 7 tips are a good starting point.