Marketing Conundrum: Serve Your Customer or Serve Yourself?

A brand must do more than buy in to the premise of customer centricity; otherwise, it won’t be able to attract the target audience, much less keep it engaged.
twittertwittertwittertwitter
Customer Centric Doodle

Customer centricity, the basic premise of designing an experience around and for the customer, is well-known.

Most of us mentally subscribe to the belief as if it were gospel. Even so, the vast majority of marketing work doesn’t comply with the premise. That’s because it is nearly impossible to be both useful and promotional at the same time, especially when your content or experience is expected to reach many people.
 
Over the past decade, most of society opted to forgo privacy for convenience and relevance. Even if privacy protections prevent third parties from directly identifying a specific user’s actions as those of that individual, each user’s behaviors online, digital roaming and searches still provide information that organizations analyze every day.

People accept this intrusion into their private lives because they believe the benefits are more valuable than anonymity.

They gladly let Waze know how fast they are driving, where they departed from and where they are going—without a moment’s thought to how that information can or will be used in the future.

They freely hand over their DNA to learn if they are of Italian descent instead of German or African. We value Google search, not just because it provides accurate results but more so because those results fit our worldview.

“We Want More, and Make It Personal”

Every day, people allow apps to track their every move and each personal connection. It’s become an unwritten social contract that the benefits will outweigh the potential negatives. We could spend hours debating whether the benefits are worth the privacy loss. Instead, I will focus only on the effect this societal decision has on the marketing and advertising industry.
 
As the social-currency exchange of information for convenience and relevance took hold, the expectations of users for more tailored communications and experiences grew exponentially.

Today, people expect companies and service providers to know who they are, including personal interests and preferences.

I’m no different. When I check in to a hotel, I expect the staff to know that I’ve been there before and that I prefer a room on a high floor with a king bed (and I am greatly annoyed when any of that is missed).

When I buy from online retailers, I expect them to know what I bought from them previously and also what I have browsed. I want recommendations based on my purchases, and I judge the experience based on how effective they are in predicting what other products I will like.

47%

The percentage of adults who expect a retailer to know their previous buying habits and serve up offers on their phones when they visit a brick-and-mortar location

Where the Digital World Meets the Real World

The implications of this new world order are challenging for most organizations. It means that UX and development teams must continually evolve their approach to meet increasing user demands and an evolving technology landscape.

While brands often feel like they’re in constant motion trying to keep up, this evolution is only in its infancy. Consider this: The expectations referenced above are no longer confined to websites or businesses that involve complex reservations or loyalty systems. Today, given geolocation capabilities, these expectations have begun to bleed over into the real world.

According to Accenture, 47 percent of shoppers want to receive real-time, personalized promotions on their phones while in store. Increasingly, they also expect retailers to provide the ability to order items immediately using their phones or kiosks if those items aren’t on the shelf.

In other words, consumers now expect that their technology will provide an effortless link that no longer requires them to directly engage with a retailer’s staff if they don’t wish to do so.

What if we all could automatically check in to our rooms once we walk through the front door of a hotel or find our favorite beverage waiting for us at the table when arriving at a restaurant?

Amazon is already seizing on this customer expectation by launching Amazon Go stores, which let buyers pick up grocery items at its trial storefronts and leave without having to stop and pay at a register. The company plans to open 3,000 locations by 2021 and has hinted at a desire to roll out the cashier-less experience at its Whole Foods locations too.

When User Expectations Meet Technology

Given the proliferation of personalization engines, the merger of business intelligence and marketing technology, and the increasing use of predictive modeling, the exchange of information for relevancy and convenience will continue to intensify.
 
Potentially less obvious, but no less critical, is how this value exchange is altering audience content expectations. The days of brands serving up content meant for a general audience are over.

With more than 2 million articles written and published every day, there is an article on pretty much any topic with any slant that anyone could be seeking. So why would anyone read a basic article on financial planning from a bank, for instance? 

Readers and watchers no longer want the guiding principles or general marketing message; they want to consume information that is explicitly written for them and their own situation or need. Honing stories and information to the primary intended recipient is essential to achieving relevancy.

We have all heard the industry expression, “When you create for everyone, you create for no one.” That statement has never been more accurate or more relevant.

About the Author