Every movement begins with a moment.
In part one of this two-part blog series, we’ll be reviewing the trends and pain points that emerge when consumers engage directly with consumer product manufacturers. We’ll also explore the concept of “seamless” commerce — meaning personalized, relevant consumer engagement across interaction channels (in store, mobile, Web, social, etc.).
Let’s start by examining how today’s consumer might express dissatisfaction with a product she just bought. Where would she go to complain or ask for help? She might return to the store, contact the manufacturer, call the retailer or even visit the manufacturer’s website. But more than likely, she’ll hop on Facebook or Twitter to vent her frustration — where all of her friends and followers will hear about her problem and perhaps share their own experiences with the same or similar products.
In the best-case scenario, the manufacturer will know about this conversation and use the opportunity to weigh in with the appropriate customer support and marketing responses. But too often, these kinds of conversations end up defining the brand for consumers without the manufacturer’s participation or even awareness.
This situation illustrates a central dilemma facing manufacturers as they attempt to move toward data-driven marketing: How can they capture data from an array of online and offline sources, analyze it and then create and deliver highly personalized messages to targeted consumers — at the right time and touch point?
To make it even more challenging for manufacturers, this process involves product lines across the company that are supported by departments and systems ranging from marketing and technology to customer service and product development — all of which are operating in nice, isolated, non-information-sharing silos.
Trends and Pain Points
Traditionally, consumer goods manufacturers focused their brand marketing and consumer interaction on mass media. In the age of the connected consumer, however, that’s no longer enough. To fully engage consumers today, manufacturers must capture and analyze data across a variety of sources and optimize interactions across a multitude of communications channels.
It’s critical to recognize that consumers now research and discuss brands amongst themselves — with or without manufacturer participation. Essentially, they’re establishing brand meaning and value independent of ad agencies, campaigns and mass media. This creates a vastly more complex consumer path to purchase.
Historically, the process centered on three simple steps: (1) See an advertisement, (2) visit the nearest store and (3) buy the product if it is in stock.
Now let’s imagine how that path might play out in the digital world, where shopping begins on a smartphone or connected device: (1) See an advertisement, (2) check out online reviews, (3) poll friends through social media, (4) compare features among similar products at brand websites, (5) check prices via retailer websites, (6) search for coupons or promotions and (7) buy a product online or in a store.
As you can see, the path from awareness to conversion is becoming increasingly more complex and less direct. Fortunately, emerging big data tools and techniques make it possible to collect, track, analyze and optimize the huge amount of structured and unstructured information created by these new relationships. Access to detailed consumer data can be an asset for manufacturing companies, but understanding and optimizing the data and the complex communications remains challenging.
Consumer communication now occurs simultaneously in multiple media channels, including social, mobile, email and text — all of which generate a variety of data that must be managed in real time, while it’s still relevant. Record levels of media saturation (experts estimate that consumers now see thousands of marketing messages every day) mean manufacturers must deliver tailored messages in the right format, at the right time, to the right consumers.
These communications can affect an entire manufacturing company — from marketing to customer service. Traditional consumer-insight tools (panels, surveys, syndicated data and one-time promotions) can’t keep up, and most manufacturers don’t have the technical capabilities to efficiently capture, assimilate and use these integrated insights to gain a complete view of their consumers.
That’s why manufacturers are struggling to establish scalable and personal connections with consumers based on accrued insights from all relevant data sources. And it’s why a leading analyst firm estimates that by 2017 marketing executives will spend more on technology than technology executives.
So how can manufacturers keep pace, remain relevant and stay connected? By enabling a seamless commerce strategy — the subject of the second half of this two-part series.
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