Everyone in marketing is busily obsessing over how the latest devices, technologies, trends, and tactics can help them reach consumers. But there’s not much talk about what consumers want, and even less about their evolving expectations, which — to a large degree — determine how all these shiny new things are perceived.
Consumers’ attitudes about brands don’t change much over time, but the channels they use to interact with those brands evolve. Consumers have existing brand relationships and are generally willing to trade data for convenience, utility, or deals. They expect the brands they care about to care back. Brand loyalists insist that the relationship must be two-way, respectful, and interactive.
Consumers also expect to be heard, especially when they call, click, visit, or buy. To meet and capitalize on these expectations, focus on these three fundamental expectations.
Give ‘Em What They Want
Always be Available
Sam Walton was right. Brands need to be there whenever and however customers want to buy. This means having a 24/7 presence in the channels or on the devices your customers use most. And while not every channel or medium makes sense for every brand, being available, offering several contact options, and making it easy to click, download, print, chat or buy are table stakes. Understanding what each segment needs and providing the appropriate avenue is part and parcel of this expectation.
Give Them Options
Customers want it their way. We’re a nation of gamers who are used to setting the level and choosing from an array of options and preferences. Brands need to abandon the old one-size-fits-all model in favor of giving customers the option to specify the content they want, the format they want it in, and the delivery channel and frequency they prefer. All the research shows that brands that deliver against variable customer preferences drive significant spikes in customer satisfaction, incremental sales, and brand loyalty.
Once set, customers expect brands to adhere to preferences and use them to personalize relevant messages. Your best customers, like your best friends, assume that the relationship is dynamic and cumulative over time. They expect brands to pay attention and to use cues from the conversation or their actions to advance intimacy and understanding. They expect that purchase and activity history will inform branded communications and become filters to curate the messages and offers they receive. This assumption makes re-targeting tolerable and even appreciated. But the flip side is equally true — sending irrelevant, untimely, or out-of-context messages will sour the relationship quickly.
Listen and Respond
Loyal customers pay attention to and care about favorite brands the way family members care about each other. They have opinions about brand posture, products, services, prices, competitors, and people. And they aren’t bashful about expressing them to the brand directly and broadcasting them on social media.
Consumers expect brands to celebrate and shout out positive feedback and to jump on complaints and customer service issues quickly and efficiently. Everyone is a critic or a consumer advocate in two clicks. Understanding consumers’ need to have a say is as important as providing them with the best possible product set. Some businesses have learned this the hard way.
So, before you get carried away with the latest social or mobile trend or ad unit, recalibrate your marketing plan to align with these fundamental expectations. The investment will pay off in spades.