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In a recent discussion series that the Consumer Markets had with our internal teams, our team of experts addressed the importance of consumer engagement for retailers and brands. With the digital age becoming more prominent, companies need to explore new ways to engage with their consumers that are relevant and innovative. Jim and Michael address some of the concerns and questions from the attendees:
What does the future look like for retailers and big brands now that digital consumer engagement is the new normal ?
Michael Forhez (MF): In an always-on world, consumers are leveraging greater access to information, not just to understand what’s good for them, what’s the best price or where to find the products they want, but also to determine how the brands are viewed in the market and among their social circles. Simultaneously, consumers expect stellar experiences while interacting with these brands, especially the ones they already know and trust.
To keep pace with these always-on consumers, the big national brands – and now many of their smaller regional competitors – are going to have to see themselves as more than the products they sell, for their own sake. As an example, the feelings that people have for their iPhones go far beyond the utility, which is essentially what other smart phone designers have been trying to sell but have found elusive. Apple’s branding and positioning strike a transcendent chord in a way that captures the imagination of the user. We sense we are part of something transformational in the nature of communication and want be part of it. We think the technology is leading edge and fun. And, we want to demonstrate to others that we belong to the future.
Consumer engagement, then, is about tapping into the essence of not just the utility that these products do for consumers, but why they want them at all. In the age of the connected consumer, there’s never been a better opportunity to do this, day-in-and-day-out, while adapting to ever-changing consumer behavior and preferences.
What are some of the technologies that are enabling consumer engagement for these companies?
Jim Hertzfeld (JH):Early on, we thought of consumer engagement as marketing brochures and websites. It’s really more than that. In terms of planning, awareness and engagement starts with understanding who your consumers are in the first place, by segment and demographic, of course, but really at the individual level, literally from their hat size to their shoe size. One of the things that we see a lot and should not overlook, from an engagement perspective, is customer master data and tying it to things like customer relationship management tools and customer servicing tools after the sale.
With that comes the now requisite understanding of your Big Data set – what’s happening in the store and online, and what’s happening socially in terms of sentiment and activity, and so on. And not just collecting it but sorting it and making it actionable as quickly as possible.
More so these days, when we think of actionable, we think of personalized. When you think about personalization, you really want to understand who you’re personalizing for and what triggers and signatures you’re looking for. Personalization and rules engines, marketing and campaign automation, and realtime complex event processing are going to go through a major transformational shift in the next two years in terms of both complexity and speed.
And I can’t leave out email. Forrester actually has a lot of hard data pointing to the resurgence of email and how optimizing email practices is producing results. Whatever the case may be, you have to be open to using technologies from across the available spectrum.
Finally, like the dog chasing the fire truck, what are we going to do once we catch the consumer’s attention? What is in it for them? A coupon? A reminder that items are still waiting in their cart? A notification about a product that is trending on Pinterest?
Every consumer touch point is an opportunity to accumulate an impression of your brand and build the end-to-end consumer experience. If we keep that breadth in mind and think about the toolshed of available technology, then we realize we have a really wide landscape to work with. Because of this breadth, companies should start thinking in terms of how much collaboration is going to be required inside the organization while they are thinking about what and how technology is being used.