Tag Archives: Consumer

WOW Marketing

In today’s competitive world there are so many options for a consumer that he is spoilt for choice. Today differentiation between products is very fine and it’s the one with better articulated claims that actually wins the share.

Spends on marketing are increasing relatively in comparison to spends on R&D. This puts more pressure on the consumers in their decision-making process as they are now confused that which product has an edge. Most brands are extremely proactive to make sure one-upmanship w.r.t other brands by constantly updating their communication. Some companies have also taken marketing as their new R&D. Ideally both the functions are part of the same coin as R&D provides brilliant technical solutions and marketers introduce  brilliant creative ideas and customer insights into the new-product-development process.

In highly competitive industries, top brass  resist making R&D too dominant to dazzle customers with a steady stream of new products and the latest technologies. But this would mean significant investments in NPD and even more investments in the marketing of those products. Therefore role of marketing is extremely important to keep the organization abreast with the market and its future trends. But that being said a brilliant idea or proposal can come from anywhere and R&D also needs to constantly updating their knowledge via any sources to come up with new breakthrough innovations.

But I think what’s missing in this race of gaining market share is the end benefit for the consumer as brands push for market share and equity scores. Select organizations actually deliver products or services that actually resolve a real consumer problem.

But I think for any brand to be successful the first thing they need to do is define why do they exist and more importantly how can they resolve a real consumer problem. Take an example of Uber in 2008, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp had trouble hailing a cab. So they came up with a simple idea—tap a button, get a ride.



What they started as an app now has taken the globe by surprise that empires can be built atop a great insightful idea with literally no investment. Uber is now changing the way we travel today across major cities around the world. When you make transportation as reliable as running water, everyone benefits. Especially when it’s snowing outside.

And if the insight is genuine that really resolves a problem incase of Uber of getting a cab during difficult times then there is no better brand ambassador for the brand. Business will follow without you breaking your head about how can I scale my business now.

mission_statement

Hence the mission is extremely important and then later it’s important to wow the consumer at every touch point. It would start with the communication which needs to hit the right chords emotionally and functionally to drive consideration. Post which there has to be a fantastic distribution to make sure availability and a good incentive for the sales channel to promote the brand. Then there has to be a wow offer or hook point at the point of sale to make sure that once the consumer is in to shop he is directed straight to the product and feels that the product has excellent value for money. Take an example of IKEA, their mission statement could have been a promise for beautiful, affordable furniture, but instead, they decided their mission is to make everyday life better for their customers. It’s a partnership: IKEA finds deals all over the world and buys in bulk, then we choose the furniture and pick it up at a self-service warehouse.

packaging 1

Next is the packaging which helps breaks clutter on the shelf and just does not look attractive but also functionally differentiates itself. Then comes the product itself that has to wow them the most via its efficacy or performance to make sure repeat purchases. In certain cases like electronics or automobiles after sales also plays an equally important role to push the decision-making.

packaging 2

And today there is more to this, consumer engagement that happens not just during the purchase cycle but post that as well in the form of updates and upgrades on the current product and secondly sharing relevant insightful content which today, is considered to be the biggest thing in Marketing. And one needs to wow the consumer here as well by being able to share the right content at the right time and today in the right medium as well.

content marketing

I know this is an ideal scenario and most marketers face resource crunch but we should in our capacity try to wow the consumer wherever we can to make it a memorable experience. The more pleasant experience, the better will be the brand pyramid. It takes time a lot of effort and patience to make this happen, and for this the learning or understanding of the consumer should never stop. Complacency is the brands worst enemy and will completely destroy all the goodwill created over time.

Converting shoppers into consumers Part 1

Before we get into how we can get to convert a shopper into a consumer or buyer lets understand the basic difference between a shopper and a consumer. Every consumer is a shopper just before he/she became a consumer. The true difference is that a consumer has picked up a particular brand/product since he/she is confident about the product/service performance over other competing product/service. The shopper represents why he/she enters a category where a consumer represents why he/she has bought a particular brand based on self-perception and attitude. But importantly the same person in everyday life is a consumer and a shopper and shifts back-and-forth between the two sides every day.

Let me start with my experience:

walk in the park

I was taking a leisurely walk in the park and it’s a perfect spring weather where leaves are flying and trees are swaying to the tune of the wind. And suddenly I got a whiff of pure coffee and when I looked around I found a small coffee-house just besides the park. I walked towards the coffee-house and the smell got stronger and better. The coffee-house has a small porch that has beautiful handcrafted wooden table and chairs for its customers and on the table it has a placard “Order a hot coffee and have a muffin of your choice free”. The moment I sat down a woman walks out with small coffee testers (one shot) of various coffee types and politely asks that “Sir would you want to try our different blends of coffee? And all of sudden I realized that from a leisurely walk I am now drinking hot coffee with muffins.



I think considering the situation the coffee shop owner is doing an amazing job at marketing his shop by understanding the consumers demand even before it creeps into his/her mind. Here he has actually turned a shopper into a consumer or a buyer. Now this seems all incidental and easy but I think is a planned strategy that perhaps even a non-well educated coffee shop owner executes well and gets his share of profits.

Imagine the things that could go wrong in the same situation as the owner as perfected his 4Ps to convert shoppers to consumers.

4ps

Visualize the coffee shop in a dilapidated condition with walls also not painted well and not outside sitting or porch. No one there to welcome the shopper or the woman who came in was an old woman who wasn’t dressed well. Or that the shop offered free muffins or the coffee tasting wasn’t there, now would you go and actually spend time there from your busy schedule……doubtful.

The shop owner perfected his art of making his shop desirable to perfection. He ensured that every touch point that the shopper interacts with is enticing him closer to make the deal. Let’s start right from the place, it was in such a place that it’s at the far end of the walking trail and the coffee smell came over to the walking trail. Secondly he has the shop made in a rustic way overlooking the park and importantly have a porch that it’s connected to nature with its wooden artistic chairs. Finally have a good-looking woman welcoming and the sampling with promotion that sealed the deal. Hence it’s not always about the big billboard or a TVC but if the basics are done, the right product sells.

Yes I know some may feel that there is no competition and hence no marketing needed but this is also a strategy I would call as Blue Ocean Strategy where the owner realized the potential of the area and setup shop there with competition he will have to start different activities to make sure his sales happens but still if the basics are wrong then marketing won’t help. Imagine having a coffee shop near the entrance of the park, would it really compete….am afraid not.

So from a shopper I became a consumer and now in fact am the brand ambassador for the coffee shop since I recommend all my friends and family that one should visit this park and at the end of the walking trail remember to visit that particular coffee shop.

Details of how to craft a plan to convert a shopper into a consumer in PART II of the blog.

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE – HOW TO DELIVER AN ENRICHING EXPERIENCE

To deliver on an excellent and enriching customer experience an organization has to ensure that every touch point for the consumer has to be delightful experience. It could be as trivial as a call centre script or actually sending him a greeting card on a special occasion all of them are equally important. And most leading brands don’t consider this a priority and hence don’t pay enough attention to this critical aspect of the business that is the new mountain to be conquered. A lot is written about this but seldom brands practice this and those who do like Harley, IKEA, etc have made their brands EPIC.

CX Steve jobs

  1. Reviewing the current CX practices

Understanding the current practices or the performance of the organization in the customer experience (CX) domain is the first step in upgrading the current CX. This exercise will involve challenging the obvious and looking at other evolved categories like airlines, banking, insurance, etc that map their customers and use that information to offer better solutions in a customized way. Every process in the organization will have to be rigorously monitored like call monitoring, constant feedback from customers at all touch points and research on how the current CX can be bettered, CSAT (customer satisfaction survey), etc. All this data combined will throw up insights about how the customer wants the sequence of activities to take place and which are the non-value adding activities that are to be removed from the current CX. For e.g. banks have now started automated IVR services to cut costs but from a customer’s perspective it at times resulting many call-backs which spoils the entire customer experience.



Various malpractices, false promises by marketing, process disobedience and lack of control over customer facing teams is often the cause of lower customer experience. For the sake of selling products services or converting prospect into leads sales/call centre team give false promises and convert the prospect to customer. But eventually over the course these prospects become hostile and start negative reviews over social media which hampers overall brand’s CX. Lack of processes whether it’s the sales pitch process, script adherence or interaction with teams is another big pain area that spoil the customer’s experience. One simple thing like when a customer lodges a complaint he is given a ticket number and is asked to give that the next time he calls but often he has to narrate the entire story of his harrowing experience again and again till the resolution is found. This happens not just with local players but also with global MNC giants as well. Rather than recording the data and using it as an opportunity to delight the customer by resolution companies make the customer go through the experience 10 times before giving an answer forget about the resolution.

Infographic on CX

  1. Analysing Key Customer Journeys

This is the most important step in uplifting the CX for an organization as it will tell you where you need tweaking or revamping in the current CX. This could be data driven or gut driven (informed estimate) or could be as simple as laying down certain processes and asking the team to follow. Ideally it should be a mix of all since each method has its own merits.

To cull out the pain points within an existing CX one could start research that helps gather data on the customer volume in a given journey, reasons for call center complaints, and obvious gaps in performance—for example, discrepancies between promises made in marketing materials and services actually delivered. This will give a laundry list of key issues that now plague the CX and the same 80:20 rule applies here as well where 20% of the nature of complaints will impact 80% volume. This helps narrowing down the focus and next steps are thought upon.




A company should gather customer and employee surveys along with working data across various functions to assess performance and gauge how it is doing on the competition. Best-in-class companies use regression models to understand which journeys have the greatest impact on overall customer satisfaction and business outcomes, and then run simulations to get a picture of the potential impact of various initiatives. This exercise isn’t a small task and may take months to get a true picture of the current CX but the benefits far outlast the effort put in to do the exercise. This allows the CXO level to find various aspects of CX and decide which ones will worked upon on priority in their experience strategy.

customer_experience_lifecycle

  1. Re-modelling the Experience and Alignment

This first step in this phase is to actually show entire customer journey cycle to the respective team along with the pain points as identified earlier. The priority pain points are to be highlighted well with an impact in monetary terms to make the team understand the depth of the issue. Even if a fix appears obvious from the outside, the root causes of poor customer experience always stem from the inside, often from cross-functional disconnects. Only by getting cross-functional teams together to see problems for themselves and design solutions as a group can companies hope to make fixes that stick.

Secondly the most important aspect is to set up a goal or a benchmark which the team needs to meet, this will enable them to draw up plans about how to meet the goal and what help it needs from the management team. This ensures that there is complete alignment to a common goal and work towards the same with full conviction.

  1. Changing the mind-set

Plans made on paper are of no value till they are executed well. And even here re-modelling the CX is of no use till all the teams live and breathe the new model. Getting the changes done is hugely important and at the same time extremely challenging as well since it will mean a shift of mindset from the current ways of working. However, delivering at scale on customer journeys requires two high-level changes that merit mention here: (1) modifying the organization and its processes to deliver excellent journeys, and (2) adjusting metrics/KRA and incentives to support journeys, not just touch points.

And since CX does not fall under any particular teams KRA, it may mean there needs to be a team of people under the leadership of Chief Customer Experience Officer who would look into this, in case of a smaller organization added responsibility is to be given to members of the functions. This team needs to drive change by aligning and pushing the agenda in every aspect of the business keeping the customer in mind.

Once this its done the biggest differentiation for the brand would be the CX which cannot be duplicated by any other brand and will definitely help bring in more business at much reduced costs.

Great CX for a brand then translated into commercially rewarding experience for the brand as well

  • Amazon Q4 14, net sales increased by 15% over Q4 13
  • Apple 39.9% profit per product (3 months to end Dec 14)
  • First Direct Moneywise “Most Trusted” and Which? Best Banking Brand
  • John Lewis profit before tax up 12% in 2014 vs 2013
  • Disney Earnings per share up 27% in year to Dec 2014
  • Air New Zealand Earnings before taxation up 20% in H1 15 vs H1 14
  • Mercedes Revenue increased 12% from 2013 to 2014
  • Starbucks Revenue rise 13% in Q1 FY15
  • BMW 7% increase in vehicle sales in Jan 15 vs Jan 14
  • Boden Shipping 12,500 parcels each day

Evolution of Marketing

All of this started during the pre-industrial revolution during the 18th century where everything was hand-made and was made to order. Barter of goods and services was the way, trade operated in those times. This was known as the trade era where traders had an upper hand in selling stuff for a margin in terms of getting upgraded products/services in return for their offerings.
 
Then came the production era where mass production was the name of the game. One size fits all was thought that all believed in and the belief that “people buy what we make”, it worked well especially considering that there was no or extremely limited competition. This era lasted from industrial revolution from 1860’s to early 19th century.
 
Following the production era was the era where sales played a pivotal role in the industry forming it the sales era. Due to the mass production markets got saturated which resulted in product demand plummet. More and more companies entered into the production era and commoditized the market making it difficult for the companies to sell their products as there was hardly any differentiation. Pricing played a pivotal role in convincing the consumers to buy products from a particular manufacturer. This era lasted till the middle of 19th century.



 
After sales era there was dire need for the companies to give the consumers products that they needed rather than what they could make. This innate need started the era of marketing where companies realized that consumers now had multiple options and they would need to differentiate their products from other manufacturers. In other words real branding started emerging during this phase where all companies started targeting certain segments in the society to ensure that they catered needs of that particular segment through their product/services. Later on during the same era customization also played a key role and changed the way companies made products. Businesses existed because they fulfilled some unmet consumer need, and they realized that consumer is now the king who needs to be served with what he wants and how he wants.
 
And today in the marketing era the role of digital marketing is not just a fad but whole new way of reaching and engaging consumers. A couple of years back, large companies mandated the use of this medium and allocated specific budget like 10% of the total media spends have to be on digital but today, the medium has not just proved itself but redefined how marketing has to be done. I would say it has enabled marketers to achieve individual marketing rather than segment/mass marketing. With the help of tools made by companies/brands like Google, FB, etc it has enabled marketers to market their products and services to an extremely specific set of people which is the IDEAL TG. Products and services are now being launched online and that launch has a much better impact / result as compared to traditional launch since it reaches the right audience, in time and is completely measurable. A simple e.g. to showcase importance of this medium is to see any established company today when they dish out a role for a brand manager / marketing manager it has a mention of a particular skill-set i.e. Digital Marketing.
 
 
I think the future of marketing will be something where consumers will try and create products themselves by just customizing everything. Depending on he consumer preferences which is tracked by Google and many other companies marketers could show them creatives that they are more likely to get influenced from. Although this may be an expensive proposition of creating multiple edits but if we look at the end result I think the effort will really lend value as it will generate higher sales.

Differentiate your brand

The most common word used across the marketing and branding forums and people is that “is your brand/activity differentiated enough to grab the consumers attention?”

And most managers would answer yes it definitely is different from what competition is doing, but is it really different? The answer is most probably no. The differentiating factor  is  most probably that none of the competition has tried it but today differentiation is more than just about your category it’s across brands.



Imagine a testimonial ad started by a FMCG category which worked well and this same idea was then taken by the agency to another category like an automobile or pharma and pitched as first in the category. Everyone in the room is happy since they achieved one thing in the meeting which is we are different from competition, but are they really different? From a consumers lens he would feel I have seen this many a times and all of them including other categories are giving the same message.

Creating a differentiation for me is doing exactly opposite of what conventionally marketeers are doing for e.g. when a service provider blocks the sale of the product or limits the consumption of their product or service immediately it becomes a big thing. Consumers start getting impatient as to what is this product all about or why can’t I get it. This ultimately results in massive awareness which is consumer-led rather than manufacturer led.

Differentiation-2

The above e.g. is a marketing strategy that is different but apart from strategy there are there ways of differentiating as well which could be via creative communication (e.g.Got Milk campaign), using different media (e.g. Ford for the launch of Fiesta in India during cricket matches), operational differentiation (e.g. Walmart’s procurement and supply chain management), different business model (e.g. Amway, etc).

The above are just e.g. and current trend could be different but the idea is to ensure that differentiation should happen across categories and not just within a particular subset.

Advertising in particular works

Advertisers crave to get captive audience so they can brainwash them and put their brand messages in their heads. To get this captive audience they would got to any length but today the consumers are exposed to so many messages during a day that they would tune out of certain experiences even if they like it.

Take any medium today, the consumers are given an option to escape from this, in a TV by skipping to other channels, skip the ad in YouTube, FB asking for permissions, tv channels now promoting 1 break program, etc. All moving to give the consumer the much-needed space.



In a way, this reinforces the definition of ads as unwanted interruptions. For e.g. at YouTube they put a forced 5 sec ad viewing but then skip the ad to go past it. The other way to look at it is that challenges the advertisers to create fantastic ads so that people choose to watch them.

I guess the more generic the ad is, it is less likely to get any attention or stick-ability. I read somewhere that “People hate advertising in general, but they love advertising in particular”.

All marketeers love to get new mediums/channels where they can get a set of their captive consumers but do not pay equal attention to the kind of messaging/creative they want to put in those mediums. Where everything in marketing is measured any creative messaging how much ever you test or try to understand will always remain subjective. Companies spend millions of dollars testing communication still aren’t able to crack and get the desired response but at least they are close to what they want to achieve. But there are certain companies who go with the gut feel execute campaigns online and offline and clearly when the consumer has his first look their first thought would be “what the hell are they trying to say with this one?”

No wonder most of the marketing dollars spent are in vain and then the conclusion is always that strategies were either not planned properly or executed properly.

Just feel that out of the box thinking should not only be applicable to mediums but also to the messaging that goes out in those mediums.