It’s a fiercely competitive market for brands to compete in what management consultancy firm McKinsey, amongst others, have labelled ‘an era of Digital Darwinism’.
The report examined how the pathway for consumer journeys is steadily becoming more digitised, with the number of digital touchpoints increasing by 20 per cent every year. What hoops do organisations need to jump through in order to meet the changing demands of a younger, digitally oriented consumer?
It may be hard to picture how the world around us might evolve, but adapting to digital trends, innovation and changing consumer behaviour will be critical for brands to survive and thrive in the second half of this decade. Given the pace of innovation and the competitive pressure to implement digital strategies, executives need to get to grips with management approaches for the digital world, as exemplified by Mark Zuckerberg’s mantra: “move fast and break things”.
The particular challenge leaders of long-standing brands face, though, is one of legacy: they have to balance the likely demands of tomorrow’s consumers with the needs and interests of the customers of today.
The Connected World and Millennial Mind-set
The proliferation of digital has caused a rise in mobile technology, with officially more devices now in the world than people. Making sense of customers’ interactions through these connected devices and extracting key insights from their behaviours and preferences will help organisations deliver the right support at the right time. Yet many businesses still can’t get to grips with aggregating and analysing this kind of data.
With WiFi and 4G connectivity readily available, consumers can contact and interact with service providers whenever and however they want. This is particularly true of millennials, who reportedly engage more extensively with brands and account for $1.3 trillion in direct annual spending, according to a study carried out recently in the US. In a recent survey we commissioned, millennials attached far greater importance to speedy service than consumers in other age groups. In addition, almost half (48 per cent) agreed they welcome service that is personalised to their interests, while 38 per cent said they are more forgiving of businesses who they believe know them.
This means the customer experience for millennials needs to be different. A leading fashion retailer, whose primary audience is millennials, recently decided to take an online only approach. This was a risky strategy but one which has paid off for this company. For example, after sending orders to a customer, the organisation tweets them to ask if the item fits. It then asks customers to send them a picture of them wearing their purchases. And then comes the moment of brilliance: the retailer replies with recommendations on accessories or complementary products, thereby driving both cross-sales and loyalty.
This instant interactive dialogue and willingness to share, separates millennials from other generations of customers. This is the kind of approach organisations that are serious about engaging millennials need to follow.
Managing the Transition with Tech
Regardless of age group, our research found a significant 81 per cent of respondents simply ‘want their questions answered’ and almost a third (29 per cent) prefer it when the person they speak to is able to make decisions without checking with their manager. This shows consumers are still demanding service providers to get the basics right irrespective of the way in which they choose to contact them. This requires equipping employees with the right data analytics tools and technologies to get the information they need quickly (such as a customer’s past purchases), while upskilling where necessary, so consumers never need to wait for their questions to be answered.
There is, and will continue to be, notable variations in the channel and device consumers use to interact with brands. Achieving a more solid understanding on the consumer journey will help optimise brand engagement around consumer preferences and become more targeted as a result – achieving the kind of success discussed in the retail example earlier.
For all the talk of digital innovation, it is very important that brands do not lose sight of the universal truth of customer engagement: when it comes to providing good customer service through both digital and traditional means, convenience and speed are fundamental. To achieve this in an increasingly digital world, businesses must draw on a wide range of insights – from app usage patterns to voice of the customer analytics, using this to inform both customer engagement and business development.
Armed with the right insights, organisations can face the future prepared, keeping engagement high and their competitive edge constant up to 2020 and beyond.
Peter Wilson, Strategic Consultant Customer Analytics EMEA, Verint
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