This article was originally published in the Winter 2013 issue of Customer Strategist.
Preparing for the future is no easy task. But savvy business leaders understand that rather than being an option, it’s a necessity. Unless they are well prepared to handle the demands of their customers and cater to changes in their behavior, organizations will struggle to survive, especially as their competitors continue to adapt.
The past years have seen ample emphasis on preparing for the customers of 2020. Business leaders have been looking at the changing landscape to determine what the customers of the coming era will look like. According to Customers: The Future of B-to-B Customer Experience 2020, a study by Walker Information, the customers of 2020 will dictate the experience and with information at their fingertips, they will only want to do business with organizations that know them and their business needs.
Today’s customers are already moving in that direction. Having easy access to abundant information about the products and services they’re interested in means that the buying journey has shifted and customers are contacting organizations they’re interested in later in the process, many times when they’re ready to pull the trigger and make a purchase.
With customers controlling so much more of the sales funnel, digital media, particularly lead generation and search, will continue to play a significant role. Recognizing the strengthening role of digital media, brands have been investing heavily in these channels, and we expect a shift in marketing spend. In fact, a report by ZenithOptimedia notes that after peaking at 40.4 percent this year, television’s market share is expected to decline in 2015, with larger emphasis on other channels.
The shift to new channels has two main drivers: changing media consumption habits among consumers, and the ability in non-traditional channels to gather and act on granular data about customers’ interests and engagement, leading to richer profiles and more relevant interactions.
Specifically, search is taking a more prominent role. More evolved and accessible search capabilities available on digital media provide both customers and organizations with a plethora of data that was previously unavailable to sales and marketing departments. In addition, search is now typically the first step for customers considering a purchase. This reality is revolutionizing the way organizations communicate with customers.
Business leaders have recognized that they need to engage customers on their terms by understanding their behavior and reaching out with information that is targeted to that individual customer’s needs. The one-size-fits-all approach has long stopped working, and customers themselves are demanding a tailored and custom conversation that is based on their needs, takes into consideration information they have already provided, and rather than repeat it, complement it.