Our team has been thinking about the changing customer quite a bit lately. As a leader in customer insights and customer loyalty, we quite literally see the customer change before our eyes through the actions they take with our clients.
What we’ve seen leads us to a critical topic that we don’t cover often. The fallacy of control.
Every marketer has this thought at some point that they can control their customer. Through the tools at their disposal they can push customers to perform like a marionette on strings, pulling levers to illicit response.
While it’s true that we can illicit desired outcomes, it’s the motive behind it that can be dangerous to marketers. When we try to control, we lose the essence of what makes a great brand today.
A winning strategy still resides in:
Great Customer Service
Proving Trust & Authenticity
What do those all have in common? They’re customer-centric, not brand-focused.
If we get back to basics we can understand the customer view clearly. I think we’ve had a bit of a reckoning in recent years, the pushback on some brands has been so strong it’s forced others to think about the customer in a new light.
In the fever-pitch to influence and connect to (control) customers, marketers run the risk of losing our way. Many don’t see that the rules of the game haven’t changed much, simply the mediums in which we execute are different.
The customer’s voice in those arenas carries companies to new highs or lows, by the power of each voice to carry across the world. That’s something that cannot be controlled, nor should it.
Let’s be clear though; we don’t have control of customers anymore—in fact we never did. The hyper competitive nature of business will never change. The pursuit of share of wallet will always be present —pushing the industry into the Darwinism we see today. Where startups overtake industry stalwarts and singular, obsessive ideas push the industry to evolve on every front.
Brands today are so invested in image that they sometimes fail to see the opportunity in front of them.
Brand identity is no longer purely tied to copy, imagery and lifestyle. It’s now how easily a consumer can check out on your site, how quickly their package arrives and if they can conveniently pick up in-store instead of waiting days for items to arrive. It’s about the quality of the product and how the brand responds to the consumers’ needs.
Think about Amazon, what’s their brand identity? The fastest shipping in retail, 1-click checkout and any product at your fingertips. Their identity is evolution and innovation. Customers love them for it with arguably the most loyal consumer group in the world. Because even in their mistakes and problems, Amazon has proven they’re trustworthy—that they’re doing everything they can to help you, the consumer.
The fundamentals of marketing still exist, they’re just adapting and customers know how to get what they want. The power of the customer’s dollar is in their hands, brands that try to control that will see their clout and identity wash away.
Embrace the idea that we are no longer in control, that success comes through doing our best to provide value, service and trust to our customers. If we can do that the fragmented and mangled world or retail becomes a much simpler place.