For all the talk about customer centricity, there’s a dirty little secret that no marketer will easily admit to: Marketing — as a discipline and as the core of most traditional business school marketing curricula — is inward-looking. Take the much-vaunted four Ps: build the right product, price it correctly, put it in the right place, and promote it to induce purchase. It’s all about the brand, not about the consumer. The consumer responds predictably, robot-like, to the various strategies cooked up by marketers.
Meet Homo economicus — the rational consumer. The foundation of modern marketing. Shhhh! Don’t tell anyone. She doesn’t really exist.
It’s taken a while for the marketing community to even talk about this. When I was at the University of Chicago, I sat in Richard Thaler’s Ph.D. class on behavioral economics, which was, even in late 1990s, well ahead of its time and disconnected from the MBA curriculum of the abovementioned four-P flavor. In 2011, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman offered two very different thought systems for mass consumption in Thinking, Fast and Slow. Thaler recently reviewed the Michael Lewis (of Liar’s Poker and The Big Short fame) book on the collaboration between Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Here’s the basic idea: There are two systems that drive our decision-making. The first is highly analytical and was presumed to be the epicenter of our rational being.
Successful business leaders drive their organizations to create experiences that continually meet or exceed customer expectations. At our CX Forum in Sydney on May 9, Forrester thought leaders and a world-class roster of industry innovators will come together to explore the current and emerging best practices for the design and delivery of exceptional customer experiences in digital channels.
I recently caught up with one of our keynote speakers — Christine Corbett, chief customer officer at Australia Post — to discuss the importance of creating and nurturing a CX-driven culture. Here’s what she had to say:
How has the age of the customer affected the postal service? How have your customers’ needs evolved?
While the rise of the digital economy has created challenges for our traditional letters business, it has opened up exciting new opportunities for Australia Post in parcels. With the rapid growth in online shopping, our customers are looking for greater access, convenience, and choice in the way they transact with us. They are looking for omnichannel experiences: digital for simple transactions, with the option of face-to-face when they need more assistance. More than 50% of our customer interactions are now digital.
Our customers are also looking for more personalised experiences, particularly with parcel deliveries where they can elect to have their parcel left in a safe location of their choosing if they know they’re not going to be home.
What has Australia Post done to improve its customer experience?
We have four key customer focus areas that we have aligned our teams around: creating seamless experiences across channels; listening to customers and taking action; knowing our customers; and empowering our people.
“Platforms” are fast becoming all the rage in the B2B context. Several traditional businesses like GE or Siemens are claiming to either offer or become a platform operation. A big driver for platforms in the B2B context has been the success of consumer-focused platform businesses like Amazon, Uber, or Airbnb.
Although the reality of B2B platforms looks more mundane than the hype, platforms in the B2B context offer real benefits to ecosystem participants. In the B2B context, the emergence of business platforms, like SupplyOn or GE’s Predix, primarily delivers new opportunities for enhanced customer engagement and operational efficiencies and agility.
Business platforms empower ecosystem participants to successfully cater to emerging multistakeholder environments through real-time, near cost-free, and omnidirectional information exchange. Business platforms empower ecosystems by facilitating the information exchange between products, partners, customers, and vendors. Business platforms support:
The infrastructure that connect ecosystem participants. Business platforms help organizations transform from local and linear ways of doing business toward virtual and exponential operations.
A single source of truth for ecosystem participants. Business platforms become a single source of truth for ecosystems by providing all ecosystem participants with access to the same data.
Business model and process transformation across industries. Platforms support agile reconfiguration of business models and processes through information exchange inside and between ecosystems.
As the product development process and product usage creates higher volumes of data, PLM is a necessary tool to consolidate disparate sources of product information. From this repository, engineering can use product usage data to inform next generation products, operations can improve product development processes, and business stakeholders can focus on linking products to holistic customer experiences. These opportunities reveal the benefit of opening PLM up to stakeholders beyond the product development organization, thus bringing the customer closer to product ideation and development.
A catalyzing functionality in this democratization of PLM are role-based applications which open once-complicated PLM software solutions to new users across the organization. These applications improve usability, solution adoption, time-to-market, and collaboration by incorporating more cross-functional input to the product development process. PLM vendors, large and small, are rolling out role-based application modules for customers, and end user buyers say they are beginning to get requests from their internal constituents for this type of functionality.
Emerging consumer technologies such as bots, intelligent agents, extended reality, connected objects, and IoT will not replace mobile — instead, mobile will be the key to unlocking these new touchpoints.
Facing limited budgets, marketers feel pressure to prioritize much-hyped new consumer-facing technologies over their foundational mobile work. Jumping directly to the latest shiny objects of VR, IoT, etc., without first implementing a proper mobile foundation is a costly mistake, as marketers will not be able to effectively scale innovative technologies beyond a small testing audience. With over 5 billion smartphones forecasted to be in use worldwide by 2020, mobile will play a key role in activating adjacent connected experiences.
In the past few weeks, I had the opportunity to sit down with many of our clients across different industries. A marketer at one of the largest CPG brands told me they currently had 18 chatbot pilots across the world! The Chief digital and customer experience officer at a global insurance company told me conversational interfaces is his top priority for the next 3 years. The SVP e-commerce and marketing at a global travel brand think extended reality will become a key differentiator. Beyond, these anecdotes, our quantitative survey among marketers, shows that:
6% use intelligent agents regularly and 18% are piloting or planning to use them in the next year
5% use bots regularly and 40% are piloting or planning to use them in the next year
3% use augmented reality regularly and 30% are piloting or planning to use AR in the next year
As a very late Boomer or — as The New York Times columnist Richard Pérez-Peña likes to call us — a Boomer reboot, I find that I have Millennials on my mind all the time! I’m not on social networks for 3 hours a day; I’m just an avid user. I sleep with my smart phone on my bedside table, and I’m a pretty good multitasker. I work with a group of phenomenal Millennials at Forrester, and I now clock more than a year in terms of researching, writing, and speaking about Millennials in the workplace. As I think about our team of researchers, I’m reminded of a Forbes quote of the day that Caroline Robertson shared with me recently: “If you put Boomers and Millennials together in the same place and with the right setting and conditions, it’s amazing how they spark each other.” I wholeheartedly agree.
Check out our most recent report, “Millennial B2B Buyers Come of Age,” and see if you agree. Shanta Samlal-Fadelle and I coauthored this report, which looks at the impact that the heads-down generation is having on purchasing decisions for their firms. Although 73% of Millennials in B2B organizations tell us that they have involvement as influencers or decision makers, our research shows that B2B marketing and sales leaders are not paying enough attention to this increasingly present and influential constituency. In the report, you’ll hear directly from Millennials regarding their engagement and channel preferences, while Shanta and I provide actionable advice on how to fine-tune your approach to attract, rather than repel, Millennial buyers.
Far from being a soft issue, trust underpins the management of your digital business and digital ecosystems. Trust is one of the most vital elements of any business relationship. But the shift away from linear value chains focused on internal relationships toward more open networks of relationships in the context of digital ecosystems has made trust a critical driver of new revenue opportunities and more efficient operations. As the foundation of your B2B digital ecosystem, trust has a significant impact on your bottom line as:
Multistakeholder relationships are gradually replacing interpersonal relationships. Enterprise customers expect their presales and aftersales engagements with vendors to be coherent and consistent. CIOs must support trust-building technology across the value chain.
Digital transformation that doesn’t put trust at the center will fail. Digital alters business dynamics. Trust is the oxygen of business activity. Without trust, all enterprise stakeholder relationships are suboptimal.
Trust scores will emerge to certify the trustworthiness of business and workers. To overcome the challenges of false identities and data tampering, data custodians will emerge to authenticate identities and ensure data quality.
At the B2B Marketing 2016 forum last October, we had several sessions when we reflected on some external forces that affect our work as marketers. Trends included the movement toward as-a-service business models (our CEO once famously predicted that every business will eventually become a software business), the increasing use of video content in marketing, and the leverage of social channels. These sessions had great attendance, and the feedback was very positive. We had made attendees aware of possibilities that they may not have yet discussed in their own companies.
Similarly, we often pleasantly surprise our B2B marketing subscribers with research reports that appear on our landing page. We provide powerful buyer and buyer-journey data to technology vendors, and we continue to explore the as-a-service theme through a series of reports from Duncan Jones, vice president and principal analyst, who normally publishes for sourcing and vendor management (i.e., procurement) professionals.
Marketers have always carefully calibrated their messages and the audiences they wanted to reach, and, for most of advertising’s history, the process was pretty straightforward. Marketers used content as a proxy for audience, and worked with known and trusted entities to carry out their plans. They bought space, delivered materials to publishers, and ads appeared. That was the process for the first banner ad, too, for AT&T on Wired Magazine’s website on October 27, 1994.
While the intent of marketers has remained consistent as they have embraced digital channels, the process of executing advertising is a lot more complicated. In the intervening 23 years since that first banner ad, hundreds of companies have arisen intermediating tried and true relationships between marketers and media. These companies claim to improve the process for marketers by identifying and reaching audiences without the context of content, using modeling practices honed in financial markets.
But, there are some fundamental differences in the two markets. Financial market regulators would not tolerate, for example, the sort of haphazard standards that are applied to digital media. Any financial institution caught selling fake stock, for example, would suffer severe consequences.
The same doesn’t appear to be true in digital advertising. The result is that the ecosystem is rife with fraud and unviable inventory that essentially robs marketers of their ability to know what they are buying, who they are really reaching, and how to measure their progress. Without that knowledge, they cannot build a sustainable digital advertising practice that performs for them, and that more broadly drives the economy.
While not an issue of ad fraud or viewability per se, recent concern over YouTube ads represents another facet of the ad quality problem. In the past couple of weeks, large marketers like AT&T, Verizon, and The Guardian have pulled their ads from YouTube after discovering that these had been displayed alongside video content promoting terrorism and hate.