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The Age of the Seller is dead. Long live the Age of the Customer

customer ratingsPart of constructing effective marketing communications is being able to adapt, and marketers have to be ready to change their approach when old strategies start to look obsolete. With the introduction of new technologies, cultural shifts, and the evolution of customer expectations, the digital age never pauses.

The most obvious and monumental change is the shift away from the Age of the Seller towards the Age of the Customer.

Now, we know what you're thinking. Hasn’t it always been the age of the customer? Haven’t we long been told “the customer is always right?”

To a degree, yes. Customer-centric marketing has always been crucial to the success of a brand, and there’s always been a focus on the needs and wants of the customer. But it was still the sellers who were in charge.

Toothpaste advert

The Age of the Seller meant pushing the next “big thing” that could better satisfy needs, like comfort, luxury, or convenience. 

From cars to fridges to toothpaste, marketers would shout loud about their brand and hope its benefits struck a chord in the customer; that their mattresses were most comfortable, their clothes were stylish, that their cigarettes were the best because they were toasted. 

Part of this approach was down to the limitations of information. Before the age of Big Data, it was nearly impossible to compile the wealth of meaningful information needed to tailor an advert to individual customers. Certainly, if a consumer visited a store, a clerk might ask specifically what that consumer needed, but there wasn’t any mechanism for personalization at scale.

Today, things are different. At least, for data-driven marketers. The amount of data companies are now able to collect, store, and analyze means brands have an unprecedented level of insight into the purchasing habits and behaviors of individuals.

This has transferred the balance of power from businesses to customers, as consumers actively start to demand tailored, personalized experiences, rejecting brands who they deem irrelevant to their needs. In our recent Data Deadlock report, we found that 83% of customers say they hate receiving irrelevant marketing or advertisements, with 63% saying they find personalized recommendations helpful in their shopping experience.

In the Age of the Customer, the new imperatives mean delivering a seamless and relevant customer experience, retaining customers through loyalty programs and, importantly, building a relationship with them where you listen.

Customers now expect marketing that takes into account what comfort, convenience, and luxury means to them. Marketers must demonstrate an ongoing investment in their individual experience, and routinely prove their commitment to their specific needs.

vloggerWith the advent of social media, customers are now able to create brand narratives based on their own experiences, reviewing products on Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Content is no longer solely created and controlled by a brand, as customers can churn out their own content that runs parallel—or, if a product fails to impress, contrary—to that of marketers, and can generate as much, if not more, publicity.

Think back to the tone-deaf debacle that was Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi commercial. Though Pepsi was quick to pull the ad and issue a statement, this was quickly drowned out by the sheer mass of mockery and derision coming from social media, pumped out by thousands of people, many of whom have a substantial digital presence.

While, in the past, a marketing misstep might have quickly been forgotten, with Pepsi’s apology counting as the last word, social media claimed it for its own devices. It might have been the only time in history a soda brand wished it had it as easy as New Coke.

Consumers are more central to successful marketing now than they’ve ever been before, and it’s up to marketers to recognize this and strategize accordingly. Consumers have the tools and knowledge to forge their own path, engaging with brands armed with information gleaned from reviews, articles, videos and competitor research. While price is certainly still a deciding factor for many shoppers, so too is the customer experience, the convenience, and the benefits for being loyal. It’s no longer enough to treat the customer like a vague platonic idea that can be pleased with one-size-fits-all self-promotion.

Still, smart marketers have plenty of tools to arm themselves for this New Age. Starting with unified data sources to form a Single Customer View, brands can power new levels of personalization and relevant messaging, with real-time and predictive tools ensuring these engagements happen at the right time, and through the right channel.

Certainly, it’s nothing new to say that the customer is always right. It’s just that now, beyond all shadow of a doubt, the customer knows it.

customer_journey_ebook_cover_fan.pngCustomer Journey Optimization eBook

Maintaining a cross journey conversation with your customers

Customers engage with brands across many touchpoints and many channels. Yet, while any one of these touchpoints might provide a positive experience in isolation, customer journey optimization is about maintaining this experience as they travel from one point of engagement to the next. Learn:

  • What does a customer journey consist of and why is it not linear?
  • How do you measure customer intention?
  • Why do you need customer microsegments?
  • What are the benefits of cross journey communication?
  • What is required for effective cross journey optimization?

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