I'm in the middle of a twelve day conference stretch from New Orleans to Boston to Las Vegas. What have I learned? NBA players need more off days. But also that we--entrepreneurs, marketers, communicators--are using too many buzz words.
"Connect with the consumer." Obviously. "Business has to be agile." Don't take three months to make a decision, got it. "Allow people to join the conversation." That one wins Millennial bingo every time.
We're complicating the consumer relationship. Somewhere brands lost their way. They saw a decline in consumer engagement, closing retail locations, new digital consumer preferences and an ensuing race for the bottom occurred. Bigger stores, with terrible lighting and no one available to help became the perfect contrast to an online experience that was personalized, had the right aesthetics and created an experience.
There's the word. That's the only one you need. Experience.
You're either creating it or you're not. "Consumers today demand that brands know and deliver exactly what they want, the moment they want it," said Kevin Lindsay, director of product marketing at Adobe Target. "Creating an engaging, personalized experience for thousands or even millions of customers at a time can be challenging. With automation, marketers can create that level of personalization with the click of a button."
According to a recent Adobe study, "78% automate personalized content for web; 88% say automation has led to an improvement in KPIs on website."
Everything in culture, business, city planning is cyclical. People move to the suburbs, they move back. They look to department stores, then boutiques, then malls, then back to small local stores that give them an experience and allow them to be individuals.
Data can make a brand more human.
Data isn't just measurement of what you have done. It's how you decide where you should go. Use it in the beginning to create the right experiences for consumers.
"A business needs to understand their customers down to the individual level to truly deliver a personalized digital experience," said Adam Lavelle, chief marketing officer at Merkle. "You need to map your first-party data against what's available through digital media and use insights to create truly personal experiences to manage customer relationships over time."
"Our experience has to save car buyers time and empower them," said Andy Hinrichs, CEO of AutoGravity. "This generation has grown up in a digital age and expects to do any and everything from their smartphone in minutes. They want to be able to find and finance a car in less than ten minutes."
Be the change you want to see in brands.
But how do the best brands, startups, firms create the right experiences? It starts from the top down. As a CEO, or the creator of a startup, or the owner of a small business it starts with you.
"Organizationally there has to be advocacy at the executive level to ensure all experiences point back to the customer. The ability to innovate, the ability to create a process for customers' experiences--you have to lay that foundation," said Nick Gloe, practice area director, digital experience management, Slalom
You may or may not know the name Blake MyCoskie (CEO of Toms Shoes) but you know his brand, you know what it stands for and you know the experience it creates. Leaders don't have to be famous, they just have to create a culture, an experience and let others embrace that and make it their own.
"An experience brand understands the needs of its customers and aligns its priorities to fulfilling those needs," said Ross Monaghan, Perficient Digital.
We have shifted, thankfully, to brands recognizing that consumers aren't just numbers on a balance sheet or the difference between a good or bad Q3. It's a relationship. And in any good relationship you have to put the needs of someone else before yours.