Business today is on everywhere, and on all the time—it’s happening globally and on a 24/7 basis, even as advances in connectivity and communications have also put countless alternatives just a click or call away from customers’ fingertips. So what does this mean for organizations hoping to better connect with tomorrow’s customer?
We are seeing four key changes to business as usual:
- Buyers are more informed, choosier and more connected than ever
- Cost pressures are rising for enterprises, even as end-user expectations are growing
- Shoppers increasingly expect everything to be custom-tailored, requiring more flexible, agile, scalable and localized solutions
- Everything’s a commodity: In this kind of environment, visibility, value and relationships now command a premium—you either stand out immediately from the crowd or get lost within it.
But here’s the upside for firms looking to create more brand loyalty. Even in highly competitive business environments, trust and imagination remain the key to successful disruption. Moreover, tremendous value still accrues to market leaders.
Case in point: Got an Apple or Android smartphone? Take a close look at their online stores, each of which features over a billion apps. Amazingly, however, just 25 developers generate half of these digital storefronts’ revenues.
How? Not by creating a single product: With barriers to market entry so low, new and emerging competitors are constantly vying for customers’ attention. Rather, they do it by constantly deploying a portfolio of new products attuned to customers’ ever-changing needs, thereby ensuring that they remain essential.
You don’t have to be a futurist to realize that audiences are splintering. Attention is increasingly being divided between devices. Customized content is everywhere. Shoppers are becoming savvier. And as the Altimeter Group notes, there is no more marketing funnel: Now, it’s a circular, two-way dialogue that must evolve over time.
Similarly, the goal of outreach efforts, whether conducted through traditional advertising channels, online vehicles or social media, is no longer simply about amassing reach, or racking up huge fan or follower counts. Rather, it’s about commanding and sustaining greater share of audiences’ increasingly elusive attention—i.e. driving more meaningful customer engagement on a consistent, ongoing basis. In other words, organizations must make a firm, lasting commitment to stay attuned to buyers’ changing needs (e.g. stay relevant), and connect with audiences wherever they travel on a more human level to create positive, lasting relationships.
For example: When McDonald’s Canada wanted to truly connect with customers, it created a YouTube channel where anyone could ask anything and get a video response. Over 2 million interactions later, viewers watched every clip an average of 4 minutes.
When Safe Internet Banking wanted to teach Belgian citizens to be safe online, pedestrians on the street were invited to have their minds read. The psychic knew their children’s names, how much was in their bank account, and where they lived. His information came from computer hackers viewing information they’d posted publicly online. Videos of people’s reactions went viral, and 10 million people learned to behave smarter on the Internet.
When young adults in Australia stopped drinking Coke, and started spending more time together online than face-to-face, Coca-Cola needed to radically reinvent its strategy to connect with them both online and off. So it printed the 150 most popular Australian names on Coke bottles and—via social, online, and mobile media programs—invited citizens to share them and strike up conversations. Within three months, it had generated 18 million impressions and increased consumption among young adults by 7%.
None of these strategies required the introduction of new technology or radical business innovations—just slight shifts in perspective.
As you can see, to remain relevant and attuned to tomorrow’s marketplace, let alone one step ahead, we must move beyond simply promoting common brand attributes such as price and performance. Now, we must also design outreach efforts in such a way as to constantly position why our brands and businesses are relevant, meaningful and adaptable to buyers’ ever-changing needs.