Customer Expectations Have Changed — Here's What They Need From Brands
The consumer-brand relationship has evolved.
The tough news? For brands, this means it’s no longer enough to push for a purchase, or even nurture with a mail, email or display campaign. It’s now imperative that brands know their customers — their wants, needs, behavior, purchasing habits and lifestyle — and meet them with the correct message at the correct time.
The good news? Brands who keep up and execute these People-Based Marketing techniques will earn greater loyalty than ever before.
Our panel of experts agrees: customers expect more from their brands. Here’s how they define People-Based Marketing, and how they see the customer-brand relationship changing.
What is People-Based Marketing?
Gary Beck, Chief Strategy Officer at Endai, a data-driven online marketing agency: People-based marketing is marketing to customers and prospects based on the information we know about them. Today’s consumers desire products tailored specifically to their wants and needs. People-based marketing achieves this by customizing communications to consumers based on what is most relevant to them and most likely to create engagement and purchases over time.
Alessandra Ceresa, Content and Engagement Specialist at GreenRope, a small business CRM: People-based marketing means putting the consumer — person ;) — at the forefront of your strategy. Instead of you —the business— driving the conversation, the “people” do. They dictate what they want with their actions and behaviors, and we send them what they need when they need it. We are catering to their schedules and emotions based on the data we collect. Data collection has made people-based marketing attainable again.
Jason Oates, Chief Business Officer at LiveIntent, which connects brands to people along the customer journey: It’s all about the customer journey, reaching real people on a 1 to 1 level and treating each person the way they deserve and expect to be treated, from the moment they discover a brand through advocacy.
Debbie Tolman, Senior Manager of Audience Engagement at Cox Media Group, which integrates broadcasting, publishing and digital media to create a local impact with real journalism: Understanding what the customer wants and only delivering a relevant experience to them.
How is the relationship between brands and consumers changing?
Beck: The old world of marketing saw advertisers broadcasting messages to consumers, with limited tailoring of messages or products. Loyalty clubs and niche marketing have changed the way consumers view companies. Today’s consumers want to be recognized for their purchases and want companies to provide a seamless purchasing experience of products and services.
Ceresa: With more competition, as well as emerging trends based on outward forces like politics, the economy, etc., it is becoming increasingly difficult to grab (and retain) consumer’s attention. There are so many different channels, so much stimulation and so many companies competing for the same buyer that brands are having to constantly come up with creative ways (content, campaigns, branding, etc.) to find something that works. Consumers expect the brands they work with to be engaging, meeting their needs both with their product/service, and emotionally as well. Does a brand align with their goals and/or beliefs?
Oates: To some degree, people define themselves by the brands they align with, and we’re seeing a trend in consumers aligning with brands that have a purpose. A good example is Bombas, a company that makes great socks and for every pair of socks they sell they give a pair to a shelter. These socks are not available on Amazon, and they are experiencing hyper growth because consumers love their product and their deep sense of purpose. I also think consumers like brands that are focused on doing one thing very well, which is why we’ve seen companies like Harry’s razors, Bombas and Wayfair grow so quickly.
Tolman: Data is empowering both sides of the equation. Consumers know we collect data and they expect us to use that data to improve their experience with us. I think brands are overwhelmed by the amount of data available, and struggle to balance the right data to use so that the experience is helpful and not creepy.
How do consumers expect brands to understand their wants and needs?
Beck: Great question; the best answer, perhaps, is through “magic.” I’m only guessing here, but consumers may believe that companies should know their wants and needs based on three factors: 1. Consumers willingly provide profile information when they create accounts; 2. Previous purchases; and 3. Information that is generally available about them in today’s digital world. By the way, this would make a great thesis topic for an aspiring business Ph.D. student.
Ceresa: The winning brands will be those that can accurately target and personalize their messaging to address the needs and wants of the consumer. Of course, this is not one-size fits all, so businesses need systems like CRM and marketing automation software to help them gather, store, and use each piece of information collect to help tailor marketing messages based on demographics and behaviors. That being said, consumers are also much more private about giving away their personal information, so brands need to use automated platforms, tracking clicks, website visits, events attended, social media, and much more to gather pertinent information about who their consumers are.
Oates: At this point, consumer expectations exceed most brand’s abilities to customize or personalize their customer’s brand experience or customer journey. There’s a great article that the Wall Street Journal published recently called Retailers’ Emails are Misfires for Many Holiday Shoppers. They quoted Brendan Witcher, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, who said, “Nearly 90% of organizations say they are focused on personalizing customer experiences, yet only 40% of shoppers say the information they get from retailers is relevant.” Customers expect brands to act like a concierge or personal assistant, anticipating their needs and delighting them with products and services that fit their current and future wants and needs. I recently bought a leather motorcycle jacket for a 900-mile ride through Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Even though I made the purchase, I saw retargeting ads for jackets for weeks, which was waste of marketing dollars and a missed opportunity to recommend more relevant products like gloves, chaps :-) or clears (glasses) for night riding.
Tolman: As a consumer, it is clear to me when a brand isn’t listening — little things like sending me an offer for something that I have never thought about or trying to personalize the message with bad data so my name and the imagery are wrong. I would rather a brand doesn’t try to fake they know me and not segment if they can’t use the data properly.
It’s clear: Customer loyalty is won when brands understand and respond to their needs.
Brands must treat their customers like people by providing personalized experiences everywhere, whether it’s online, in stores, on social media, via email or at an event. That means knowing their preferences, their interests and their behavior.
Thanks to data and improved technology, it’s possible. In our next post, we’ll explore how top industry leaders are adapting to better understand the wants and needs of their customers.