Just 10 years ago, we regularly did the unimaginable: We’d walk out of a building and raise our hand, relying on sheer hope that a cab would stop to pick us up. Today, frustration sets in when our personal, on-demand chauffeur doesn’t arrive at the exact GPS coordinates our app specified.
By Michael Fisher, Ed.D
What changed? Technological capabilities skyrocketed — and they took consumer expectations with them.
As consumers become increasingly entitled and expect more from businesses, brands must find ways to swiftly address their evolving needs. With companies from Amazon to Domino’s Pizza introducing user-friendly features at a dizzying pace and consumers sharing buying experiences online, the importance of being a reliable “on-demand brand” only grows.
Brands need to innovate in ways that keep them accessible to and valued by their customers. With ballooning consumer expectations, companies must prioritize initiatives that create maximum value for them. Here are three ways customer centricity pays off:
1. Decisions become simpler.
Customer insights should inform all business and marketing decisions. When you focus on the customer before the channel, you avoid wasting resources on fruitless strategies and channels where customers aren’t active. Chasing others’ actions leads brands astray, as competitors may be misguided or targeting different audiences. Letting customers lead the way removes hurdles from the decision-making process.
Brands fail when they attempt to push features onto resistant consumers instead of making changes geared toward their target audience. The messaging and value you create should directly address your customers’ needs, aligning with their desires rather than forcing them to adapt. Internal stakeholders may voice strong opinions, but your customers have the final say on the value of an innovation.
Prioritizing customer desires alleviates uncertainty. My research shows that 7-Eleven customers leave the store unsatisfied 20% of the time. By listening to shoppers and addressing the data’s underlying drivers, the company could boost revenue without any guesswork or drastic changes. You must satisfy customers however necessary, or they’ll be gone before you can even ask why they’re unhappy.
2. You avoid an innovation arms race.
Seeing competitors unveil exciting features or technology tempts brands to rush into new initiatives. While this may feel like the right response, you should be wary of the impulse to innovate for innovation’s sake. Whether it’s a big brand or an exciting startup venturing into new territory, a wave of followers often runs to do the same. However, companies that see and chase will almost never compete with companies that analyze, plan and execute.
By aligning innovation with consumer demand, marketers remove themselves from industry distractions and return focus to fulfilling their brand promise. Approaches that preemptively satisfy customers set you apart, like the effort-saving emoji ordering at Domino’s.
Smart business strategies stem from research-based decisions. 7-Eleven recently debuted a cashierless payment system in an apparent attempt to compete with Amazon Go. But Amazon Go’s store count hovers just below a dozen, compared to the 60,000-plus locations populating 7-Eleven’s global network. Rather than chasing flashy new industry players, the industry giant could have used company resources to address customers’ unmet needs.
3. Delivering value catches attention.
Consumers want to receive value instantly and without obstacles, known as “frictionless extraction.” Features like Amazon’s one-click ordering have trained them to expect smooth experiences without having to ask for them. If you wait to deliver services until the need has reached a fever pitch, you’re too late. It’s increasingly critical for brands to exceed expectations by digging into behavior data and creating experiences that satisfy desires before they’re stated. United Airlines does this well, texting travelers flight updates and helping them avoid squinting at arrival/departure screens or searching online.
Continuously delivering frictionless value extraction keeps customers coming back. But if you don’t cater to their craving for simplicity, their allegiances can quickly change. With all brands fighting for loyalty, it doesn’t take much for preferences to shift. For instance, poor experiences like app-ordering hassles could cause Starbucks fanatics to acquire a taste for Dunkin’s brews. Convenience has the power to shift consumer preferences — and appetites.
Your brand’s experience can’t get in the way of customers’ daily lives. They care not about your efficiency, but about quickly receiving the desired experience and moving on. Loyalty must be won and retained, and brands should prepare to do both. But you can’t accomplish this alone. To fully tailor interactions and offerings to consumers, you need an external partner to improve reach and delivery.
If you know where customers are, you can be where they expect you. Aligning with your audience’s preferences enables you to remain accessible and allocate resources accordingly. The path to success begins by focusing on your customers and providing the products and services they seek without wasting their time.
Michael Fisher is President of Fluent Dialogue. Fluent are experts in digital consumer engagement, enabling brands to acquire and retain new customers with high lifetime value. Leveraging a wide audience reach, Fluent drives intelligent research, acquisition, and growth strategies helping build strong customer connections.