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We’re almost there, Christmas Eve is round the corner! You might think that shoppers have already completed their purchases and are obviously busy wrapping up sweaters, slippers, and toys. Well, think again.

Today, last-minute purchasing is the new standard: 70% of last-year shoppers confessed they still had shopping to do in the week before Christmas; even more, the busiest day of the month is December 23. No excuses: there still is a lot your Brand must do before you can enjoy the holiday break.  

According to Think With Google, nearly 61% of customers are open to buying from new retailers during the holiday season - and in 2017 half of them actually did this. There is a market share up for grabs; will you be good enough to acquire these new customers and retain the ones you already have?

Here you can find three mandatory requirements to come up with the perfect holiday strategy.

EFFICIENCY AND AVAILABILITY

As purchase options are increasing, people start feeling overwhelmed by decision, and demand for ease and transparency. They expect to find online up-to-date information, including prices, hours, discounts, and stocks availability. Assisting them where and when they need can be an opportunity to convert new customers.

Moreover, people have less time and more to do. They are looking for the perfect, easy-to-find gift, in the spare minute or two between yoga class and the umpteenth Christmas party. If you wanna get their attention, be quick, be smart, be relevant!

No one wants to waste time switching from a page to another of your website or to call the local store to find information about products or opening hours. Be available across multiple touchpoints, offer simple solutions to their questions, and let them find easily what they are looking for, even before they knew they want it.

It is more critical than ever for Brands to understand their customers and provide accurate and frictionless experiences, from the retail store to the digital properties.

MEMORABILITY

Last-minute shoppers are more likely to buy from different brands; it also means that they tend to be less loyal. This is a proper reminder of the importance of nurturing the relationship using everything you have: tailored suggestions, personalized offers, contests and gamified experience.

Even if you focus on digital, do not forget your physical presence: experiential retail is the best offer you could deliver for Christmas, and not only for your already-acquired customers. Especially during the holiday time, people want to feel inspired and delighted; they want to feel cuddled and rewarded for the time they spend with you.

For examples, visiting Casper - a company specialized in mattresses - customers can take a nap while shopping. It is one of the greatest experiential retail this year: it lets customers try the product scheduling a 45 min nap at the latest New York City showroom. Just as simple as brilliant.

Another way to grab the attention and stay relevant in their mind is to offer them more customization than ever. With this mind, the UK retailer John Lewis helps their customers get the perfect tree, choosing a personal style of decorations. From the “treetorial” to the “full festive works”, every person can contribute to design the final product. “It’s down to the Pinterest effect”.

ALWAYS ON

Christmas may end up at December 25, but shopping doesn’t. These past years, the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve have been just as busy as any other day of the month. People keep going on shopping for almost two weeks after. It is the final rush.

With all the gift cards to spend, the unwanted presents to return or the appealing deals, there still is a lot to do to convert new customers. Abandoned shopping cart reminders, upselling and tailored suggestions, made available by the data gathered during the shopping frenzy, are crucial to finding the opportunities to clear out the excess inventory.

Internet and mobile technology have rewritten the rules of shopping: customers have greater accessibility to different sources of information and different choices, and expect Brands to give them more and more every day. Are you prepared to give the best shopping experience this Christmas?

Photo by louis amal on Unsplash

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Think about the brands that make a difference in your everyday life. The ones that make your life easier, better. Offering you exactly what you need, at the exact moment that you need it.

These brands have the power to influence your decisions, inspiring you day by day. These are the companies that Prophet calls “relentlessly relevant”.

In this article we give an overview about U.S. market, with the purpose to find some relevant aspects that can help marketers understand what people value the most. This perspective gives brands a different approach in order to unlock growth.

THE BRAND RELEVANCE INDEX

The Brand Relevance Index was launched four years ago and is performed country by country, with the aim to distinguish the differences that exist within people and markets from various part of the world.  

The crucial point of this ranking is that it is made by surveying more than 40.000 people to list hundreds of brands on many aspects and attributes. According to Scott Davis, “customers are the real only experts” and the choice to start from their perspective to investigate the brand relevance is determinant.

The BRI is based on 4 principles:

  • The inclination to think, make investments and create with a customer-oriented vision;

  • The capacity to meet customers needs, offering products where and when they require them;

  • The ability to provide emotional experiences and ideas that inspire customers day by day;

  • The inclination to continuously reinventing themselves, finding new and creative ways to anticipate unexpressed needs and desires.

The results are mostly congruent to the expectations: tech giants are still dominating the top of the list and, besides few big movers and some surprising entrances, the most famous brands are meeting the expectations.

While a third of the top 21 brands is owned by three companies - Google, Disney, and Sony - none of them stands in the top 5. Instead, Apple is still the most relevant brand, for the fourth year in a row, while KitchenAid and Nike moved into the top 10, replacing Disney and Pixar.

Prophet presents four key findings, common to all top brands: all the companies on the top of the list are constantly reinventing themselves, in order to build a specific, strong community around them. Furthermore, they still are focused on customers and their needs and desires, while trying to inspire them and chasing a higher purpose.

GIANTS AND NEWCOMERS

Tech giants are on the top of the list: 8 of the top 10 are inherently digital and experiential, most born in the last 20 years. How can traditional, brick and mortar companies keep up with the wave of newcomers?

Looking at KitchenAid, a company started in 1919 that has just moved into the top ten, it shows the way to winning customers’ mind and heart: reinventing and renewing is the key to stick out of the ordinary and to emerge from the obsolescence.

Top brands have the commitment to stand ahead customers’ needs and to surprise them, continually reshaping experiences and expectations, in order to offer ever-greater involvement. It’s not just a prerogative of the newcomers.

Older brands, such as Dyson, Chevrolet or Ford, have recently broken into the top 50, confirming that there still is a room for historical brands, if they can keep the pace, transforming themselves while remaining true to their roots and consistent with the brand heritage.

Furthermore, the youngest customer base has a preference for these companies too. While these customers have always been known for being social media obsessed, this stereotype is no longer true - it has never been, probably. In fact, besides all the posting, tweeting and snapping, social media brands aren’t the most relevant to their lives.

On the top of their list there is Netflix, confirmed as the best entertaining media. Due to its ability to offer suggestions tailored to individual preferences, and to increase the content base with new, peculiar projects, it keeps reaching the highest “make me happy” score. Definitely one of the best recently born brands. 

SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS

It’s evident that among millennials, all the social media platforms are losing ground; especially Facebook, the biggest mover of the year (-102 positions). However, this drop is seen in every age and gender demographic as well, confirming that this decline is not ascribed to the youngest base.

The decreased usage of Facebook is imputable to the lack of trust and interest. The “fake news” attribution, and the numerous big data breaches have brought down the brand reputation, making people doubt about its value.

Partly, this drop may represent a natural shifting to other parts of the social ecosystem, as people are always looking for the best place to express themselves. Instagram is still running the photo-framed social interactions, WhatsApp is the most used messaging system, and YouTube is the natural place for video sharing.

Nevertheless, all these social media platforms don’t seem to be considered as “relevant” to people: no one of them is ranking on the top 50, except for Pinterest.

INSPIRATIONAL BRANDS

Among social media, only Pinterest is winning customers attention, ranking third in the overall list, and first among “makes me feel inspired”.

Delivering great experiences and promoting relevant ideas, is one of the most important aspects of relevance, that results in the opportunity for brands to create a deeper connection with their customers. People want brands to express a unique model of thought, that is consistent with the brand image, and which customers can relate to or get inspiration from.

Likewise, Android is perceived as “The People’s Platform”, making its openness and ease to use a major of the brand characteristics. Its usage is worldwide - actually 86% of mobile devices - and people have the perception that it is accessible and futuristic, and gives them the power to contribute to its development.

Both these aspects - letting people get inspiration from each other and from the brand, along with showing a purpose to chase - result in the opportunity to build a strong community that shares a common view and meets common values.

The few takeaways presented in this article are just a small part of the relevant aspects that can be observed looking at the report by Prophet. The starting point to study the relationship between brands and customers, that it is the most important element when shaping brand personality in order to become relevant, meaningful and essential to customers’ lives.

Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

Download our brand new report, Digital Innovation in Retail & Fashion, and discover why you must know and understand your customers before even thinking about selling, and how you can use personalization to deliver relevant experiences that drive loyalty and increase value.

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Gartner has just released its insight for the ten key trends you can’t afford to ignore in the next year. These Gartner Top 10 Strategic Technology trends are expected to impact and transform industries through 2023.
The core concepts presented are all about shift and change and disruption, as technology is becoming an inextricable part of our world.

Three themes dominated the speech:

  • Intelligence. Increasingly the engine that drives future capabilities. An intelligence-ai driven future;
  • second is digital, in an increasingly blended fashion;
  • then mesh, as the importance of ecosystems.

In 2019 we will look at these three things coming together in an increasingly integrated fashion.

1: Autonomous things
Whether it’s cars, robots or agriculture, autonomous things use AI to perform tasks traditionally done by humans. By 2021 10% of new vehicles will have autonomous driving capabilities.

2: Augmented analytics
Data scientists have increasing amounts of data to prepare and analyze. Organizations can miss key insights from hypotheses the data scientists can't explore. That’s why “By 2020, more than 40% of data science tasks will be automated.”

3: AI-driven development
Developers will embed AI into applications and use AI to create AI-powered tools for the development process.

4: Digital twins
A digital twin is a digital representation that mirrors a real-life object, process, or system. The focus today is on digital twins in the IoT, which can improve enterprise decision making by providing information on maintenance and reliability, Expect this to grow in 2019.

5: Empowered edge
Expect information processing and content collection and delivery placed closer to the sources of the information, with the idea that keeping traffic local will reduce latency. “Technology and thinking will shift to a point where the experience will connect people with hundreds of edge devices.”

6: Immersive technologies
Conversational platforms, which change how users interact with the world, and technologies such as augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR) and virtual reality (VR), which change how users perceive the world, will lead to new immersive experiences.

7: Blockchain
The blockchain is a type of distributed ledger, an expanding chronologically ordered list of signed, permanent transactional records shared by all participants in a network. Expect blockchain to take off in many industries in 2019.

8: Smart Spaces
Connected to the digital twins concept, a smart space is a physical or digital environment in which humans and technology-enabled systems interact forming an open, connected, coordinated and intelligent ecosystem.

9: Digital ethics and privacy
Customers will have a growing awareness of the value of their personal information and will be increasingly concerned with how it’s being used

10: Quantum computing
Still not ready for prime time, quantum computing will evolve, as an exponentially scalable and highly parallel computing model.

Last but not least, seven digital disruptions you might not see coming in 2019, as they are infused in your day-to-day experience, and their expected impact:

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The future is filled with disruption. But pending disruptions are taking on new forms. This is the tipping point for Gartner's keynote about top strategic predictions for 2019 and beyond, live from Barcelona.

In essence, here is a selection for you of the most relevant insights from Gartner Symposium/ITxpo. 

  • AI evolves into augmented intelligence and is affecting human lives as the presence of technical skills is slowly increasing within organizations.
  • People-oriented cultures resist the dehumanization of the individual, and as a result, culture and privacy become more and more connected.
  • Processes become products, and markets consolidate as customers continue to adopt new technologies.
  • As a result, all organizations have explore AI steadily, and both develop and supplement AI skills with AI automation technologies provided by expert vendors in the different fields (i.e. digital customer experience.
  • Acting more and more with a systemic vision, organization have to learn how to introduce products based on internal processes and data by leveraging the cloud and ecosystems of digital giants.
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What will the future bring for leading brands in the retail and fashion industry?

With the rise of e-commerce giants like Amazon, Alibaba, and eBay, the retail scenario is rebuilt on a digital foundation, where competition is played on the ability to meet an entirely new set of behaviors, expectations, and priorities of today's shoppers.

On-demand services and instant gratification available at any time are giving customers an ever greater control over their purchase journey and increasing their power towards brands. Speed, ease, contextual and individual relevance have passed within a few years from being valuable nice-to-have to essential must-have.

However, few are really trying to bridge the gap between insight and action, and it's the case of leading companies that are using technology to innovate their customer experience with a human-centric approach, changing how they interact and engage with today's customers.

Timberland launched a context-aware email marketing campaign, shaping ads for different weatherproof products to match each user's position and weather conditions in real-time.

Since at least 2013, Amazon takes notice of our shopping behavior and tailors recommendations for every one of us. And as we continue browsing, the fitting personalization goes on.

Even customer support has become much smarter. On companies' websites and e-commerce, chatbots and virtual assistants use natural language processing to help customers effortlessly navigate questions, FAQs or troubleshooting.

In the offline world, we see stores and shop windows coming to life with digital signage interactive systems and 3D contents on augmented and virtual reality.  And even behind the scenes, store analytics is becoming a common practice that will soon have nothing on online analytics, helping retailers to better understand shoppers behavior and measure the impact of different areas in the store environment.

It is easy to see how all these applications have one thing in common: AI.

Artificial intelligence is disrupting the retail industry as it enables marketers to automate and bring on a large scale something that until a few years ago required effortful small-scale processes. That is tailor-made experiences, custom-designed for each individual.

But there is still something wrong with AI today. A missing piece to move from the now outdated customer-centric approach to a people-centric path, more consistent with the evolving needs and wants of today's shoppers. It is predicted to be the future of AI, that will progressively bridge the gap between the offline and the online world. That missing piece is empathy.

We have identified 10 key factors for an empathic customer experience. You can find them in the "Digital Innovation in Retail & Fashion" report, now free to download.

Photo by Alejandro Alvarez on Unsplash

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Growing a happy customer base is the key to success, we all know it. We usually look at the bright side - how Brands could and should deliver the best possible experience. This time we want to focus on the dark side of the DCX.

In a nutshell, are you willing to delight your customers with amazing experiences? Do you work constantly to improve your strategy? If the answer is Yes, do not read this post. Or maybe you should. Warning: this is a (not so much) ironical post.

When creating a business strategy, most companies do not consider the importance of a well-rounded customer journey. They simply look at the tip of the iceberg - made of standard recommendations - not considering the uncovered area, that refers to valuables experiences.

MAKE YOURSELF HARD TO FIND

In love, the winner is the one who flees. The same way, you could be tempted to run away from your customer’s attention, hiding and making yourself hard to find. What better way to start a relationship than to be desired, right?

If you want to deliver a horrible customer experience, the tipping point is to make your customers feel upset. Forcing them to struggle, testing their will to find information about you or your products. The result? They will soon turn to your competitors.

The best view comes after the hardest climb, right? No. Not when talking about the customers and their experience. It’s essential to make sure that people can easily find what they are looking for, whether it is the localization of your store, the price of your product or the contacts of support.

Today’s people are always on the move and connected. They don’t want to waste time and request immediate answers to their questions. 75% of online customers expect help within 5 minutes. If you’re not there, you’re anywhere. Digital and mobile technologies got them used to the easiest, fastest and the more natural way to do things; they expect your brand to do the same.

In this scenario, the worst thing that you can do is to believe that you don’t need to oversee as many touchpoints of the customer journey as you can, online and offline. Do you want to be bad at DCX? Hide where none can find you!

DO NOT UNDERSTAND CUSTOMERS

Sometimes, even when you’ve been working so hard to make them run away, customers still have the guts to believe in you and your product. They want to connect with your brand at all costs. How can you escape from this heavy task? Easy: show no understanding at all of the channels.

In this era of constant data flow coming through all sorts of touchpoints, so many companies get lost in the stream, stuck with no idea of who their customers really are and where they are. All the information in this world is useless if you don’t know what to do with it.

Just think about social media, the perfect place to build useless strategies, waste your budget and not reach your audience anyway. One of the first things they teach you in a marketing course is that no brand/product is similar to another in terms of target audiences and channels.

Do you want to be irrelevant? Throw your messages and contents to a random audience using randomly chosen channels. Otherwise, find the perfect platform to interact with the right audience: think about your buyer personas and look for the right place to find them.

Most customers use multiple channels to complete a purchase; improving your omnichannel presence is a must if you want to maximize the opportunities to interact with prospective customers. The goal of a multi-channel strategy is to give your potential customers the chance to choose where and when to talk to you and buy your product.

Not only the presence on social media is important to build a good community; it is necessary to find the right way to interact with your customers, using all the channels they are connected to.
And before you say, no, posting and tweeting are not enough to make your presence relevant.

Delivering meaningful experiences means having a cohesive message across a number of channels, and a continuous evolution as the data about your customers’ behaviors and needs increase. You need to keep moving fast to be one step forward your competitors.

TREAT YOUR CUSTOMERS AS NUMBERS

After everything you have done to make them run away from you, if they are brave enough to buy your product, you can always change their mind with terrible customer service. Treat them like a number, not the most valuable asset of your company. That is the ultimate recipe for disastrous customer experience.

Keep in mind that the customer journey doesn’t end when a lead converts into a customer. It just starts there. People will judge you for your ability to offer good and timely support to their requests, whether they need advice or fixes.

People consider bad service experiences like waiting too long on the phone, being rebounded from office to office, having to explain the same issue to multiple service agents, or having to mail back a product ordered online.

When your customers feel they are being ignored or underestimated, they will share their experiences with the community. You know what that means? Bad reviews. If you do not accept your customer’s feedback, remove them, or reply with rough words is the worst thing you can do to improve your brand reputation.

You might get an enormous number of mentions through social media, even launching a trending topic, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to be good for you. “Any press is good press” doesn’t work for marketing in the digital era.

People want brands to take their responsibilities, to act wisely and kindly. They want you to break the rules only when it’s for a worthy cause, not to get attention. Invest in your reputation with a long-lasting relationship, or you’ll end up as a shooting star.

A very well known example of bad brand reputation is Comcast, that provides one of the worst customer service all around, with customers usually complaining about the difficulty in reaching live support and, last but not least, for the hidden fees and extra-payments.

EXTRA: CHARGE & CHARGE

Charging an extra fee to surprise customers is the ultimate step for the worst customer experience people have ever seen. There is nothing more irritating and disappointing than being charged an extra fee, unexplained and unexpected.

Customers want to be sure that all the information, prices and fees are clearly declared. Not acting in transparently forces your customers to contact you to get information or, in the end, to ask for a refund. It affects brands perception, and decrease loyalty. Is this what you want?

Ultimately, you must remember that the road to DCX hell is full of good intentions.

Photo by J W on Unsplash

Download our brand new report, Digital Innovation in Retail & Fashion, and discover why you must know and understand your customers before even thinking about selling, and how you can use personalization to deliver relevant experiences that drive loyalty and increase value.

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Every day, enormous amounts of money around the world are spent on advertising tailored for socio-demographic groups. But demographic analysis is only part of the story about your customers.

If you want to get the whole story you must start considering your customers as people, rather than merely seeing them as someone buying the product that you’ve got. To do so, you need to stop relying solely on an objective-based perspective and start getting a more in-depth view of your customers.

Qualitative information such as customer personality can show you more clearly what is important to them and how they make buying decisions. Moreover, as customer personality relates to their attitudes and behavior, it can be useful for developing your products and services as well as for creating powerful communications.

For example, you probably didn't know that extroverts:

  • Look for the hedonic value of products (see notes 5; 4)
  • Feel more positive consumption emotions and affective commitment towards brands (6; 7)
  • Use more word-of-mouth communication (11)
  • Tend to be highly fashion-conscious (9)
  • Are more favorable toward transformational ads than informational ads (8)

While if you are dealing with conscientious customers, you should mind that they:

  • Look for the utilitarian, functional, task-related, and rational value of shopping (4)
  • Tend to be prestige-sensitive (9)
  • Manage their money more because they are future oriented and have positive financial attitudes (3)
  • Are more favorable toward comparative ads than non-comparative ads and informational ads than transformational ads (8)

And if your customers are open-minded, consider that they: 

  • Support technological innovation (13)
  • Place greater importance on reliability rather than on style when buying a computer (10)
  • Are less prestige-sensitive (2)
  • Tend to make more online purchases (1)
  • Are more favorable to recycled and sustainable products (12)

These are some of the personality traits included in the Big Five Model, also known with the acronym OCEAN: Openness to experience; Conscientiousness, Extroversion; Agreeableness; Neuroticism.

One of the major arguments against the use of the Big Five Model - and personality traits in general - in marketing is the difficulty of obtaining such kind of information about customers.

However, the expanding of digital and social platforms makes available terabytes of data about users, including subjective qualitative data. This gives marketers the unprecedented opportunity to understand customer personality and deliver AI-driven personalized contents on a large scale.

This is more than moving from a partial view of customers to a more comprehensive one; it is shifting from a merely commercial approach, what we know as "customer-centricity", to a more intimate and long-term relationship, what we will call "people-centricity".

To enter this new era, start thinking about it: how will you enhance your marketing when you also get the human side of customers?


Photo by Marina Vitale on Unsplash

Notes:
(1) Bosnjak, M., Bochmann, V., & Hufschmidt, T. (2007). Dimensions of brand personality attributions: a person-centric aproach in the German cultural context. Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, 35(3), 303-316.

(2) Casidy, R. (2012). An empirical investigation of the relationship between personality traits, prestige sensitivity, and fashion consciousness of Generation Y in Australia. Australasian Marketing Journal (AMJ), 20(4), 242-249.

(3) Donnelly, G., Iyer, R., & Howell, R. T. (2012). The Big Five personality traits, material values, and financial well-being of self-described money managers. Journal of Economic Psychology, 33(6), 1129-1142.

(4) Guido, G. (2005). Shopping motives and the hedonic/utilitarian shopping value: a preliminary study. ACR European Advances.

(5) Matzler, K., Bidmon, S., & Grabner-Kräuter, S. (2006). Individual determinants of brand affect: the role of the personality traits of extraversion and openness to experience. Journal of Product & Brand Management, 15(7), 427-434.

(6) Matzler, K., Faullant, R., Renzl, B., & Leiter, V. (2005). The relationship between personality traits (extraversion and neuroticism), emotions and customer self-satisfaction. Innovative Marketing, 1(2), 32-39.

(7) Mooradian, T. A., & Olver, J. M. (1997). “I can't get no satisfaction:” The impact of personality and emotion on postpurchase processes. Psychology & Marketing, 14(4), 379-393.

(8) Myers, S. D., Sen, S., & Alexandrov, A. (2010). The moderating effect of personality traits on attitudes toward advertisements: a contingency framework. Management & Marketing, 5(3), 3.

(9) Myszkowski, N., & Storme, M. (2012). How personality traits predict design-driven consumer choices. Europe’s Journal of Psychology, 8(4), 641-650.

(10) Nevid, J. S., & Pastva, A. (2014). “I'm a Mac” versus “I'm a PC”: Personality Differences between Mac and PC Users in a College Sample. Psychology & Marketing, 31(1), 31-37.

(11) Ranjbarian, B., Forghani, M. H., & Ghafari, M. (2013). Personality traits and the use of word of mouth communication as a source of travel information among inbound tourists who visited Isfahan. International Journal of Academic Research in Economics and Management Sciences, 2(3), 20.

(12) Sandy, C. J., Gosling, S. D., & Durant, J. (2013). Predicting consumer behavior and media preferences: The comparative validity of personality traits and demographic variables. Psychology & Marketing, 30(11), 937-949.

(13) Wood, S. (2012). Prone to progress: Using personality to identify supporters of innovative social entrepreneurship. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 31(1), 129-141.

Download The 7 Pillars Of The New Customer Loyalty to define the foundations on which to build your engagement and loyalty strategy, create innovative experiences and establish a lasting and valuable relationship with your customers.

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One-to-one marketing is a strategy of customer relationship management that relies on the personalization to foster customer loyalty and make a better return on marketing investment.

The idea behind it is that one size doesn't fit all when it comes to communication; so, treating each person differently is essential to be convincing, persuasive, and effective. To empower your strategy, in fact.

This is true between Brands and customers as much as between human beings. But, while people's capability to adapt their communication depending on the interlocutor is potentially endless, determined by their social and empathic skills, Brands often do not have this ability.

To some extent, this is due to what kinds of data Brands possess about customers, which are incomparably lower - in the number and types - compared to those that people have or can get.

“Demographic and behavioral information only give marketers part of the story they need to effectively segment a customer base. The problem with both of those types is that they do not tell us why people are doing things, which, as marketers, is the most important thing for us to know.” (Susan Baier)

By using only socio-demographic data, all customers that fall in a specific category (i.e. new moms, Millennials, Londoners) would be marked identically. These are necessary information but, taken alone, will lead you to a vague image of your customer, and few indications as to whether they will be interested in your product.

Adding “soft”, subjective and qualitative data to traditional “hard”, socio-demographic data like age, location, and economic status enables the understanding of who your customers truly are and why they make certain choices, so that you could envision what they will appreciate most and how they will behave in the future.

We are talking about customer attitudes, aspirations, values, lifestyle, and personality - so relatively stable information - on the one hand, and about their feeling, perceptions, and emotions - which are temporary and contextual - on the other.

Unlike hard data, soft data are not readily available. To find them, you have to dig a bit deeper into the virtual and physical touchpoints where your relationship with customers takes place.

What are these touchpoints? Here are four that represent optimal sources of soft data.

SOCIAL PROFILE
The social profile is undoubtedly where you can find the most heterogeneous information about a user: images, videos, text posts, self-descriptions, likes, comments and content sharing offer a comprehensive picture of a user's interests and way of thinking, but also of his/her hobbies, lifestyle, and personality.

WEBSITE AND ECOMMERCE
The massive amount of data resulting from a user's behavior on your brand's website and eCommerce can be analyzed and interpreted at different levels of depth. For example, for a fashion brand, information can go from what the user has purchased to what are his/her own style and emotional relationship with clothing.

STORE
If you think that customer analytics have to do only with your digital properties, you are wrong! By recognizing biometric and audio cues with in-store analytics solutions, you can identify customers’ in-the-moment feelings and state of mind.

For example, facial recognition technology and GSR sensors can be used to show:
• What areas of your store are most engaging
• Whether and when customer feel stressed or disengaged within your store
• What products and elements are most appealing
• What emotional reactions your store layout and your shop window generate

CONVERSATIONAL INTERFACES
Today they are almost exclusively employed as customer support tools, to answer simple questions and provide guidance in well-circumscribed domains, but conversational interfaces (the so-called “chatbots”) can potentially become much more.

If put in the role of "virtual interviewers", they become a new tool to perform market research, both quantitative - by administering a structured questionnaire - and qualitative - applying natural language processing to open questions.

What is important to be aware of is that your online and offline properties can offer much more insights than you already collect, and these insights can help you build a picture of your customers as "people", not just consumers.

Moreover, analyzing these soft data with artificial intelligence techniques enables you to build predictive models of consumer behavior and individual traits. Then, applying them to your content delivery system allows you to personalize messages, offers, and experiences based on the unique features of each customer, thus taking your one-to-one marketing to the next level.

Photo by Dương Trần Quốc on Unsplash

Download The 7 Pillars Of The New Customer Loyalty to define the foundations on which to build your engagement and loyalty strategy, create innovative experiences and establish a lasting and valuable relationship with your customers.

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We are not always rational beings. Most of the times, we make decisions on an irrational basis, and afterward, we look for logical explanations to justify them.

The same as consumers. Our emotional states and moods play a fundamental role in determining our preferences and choices so that leveraging on these subconscious drivers becomes an excellent way for marketers to promote desired, more valuable behaviors.
In this scenario, nudging may make your marketing more powerful as it shifts the focus towards subtly creating new habits rather than explicitly asking consumers to do something with the promise of 'extrinsic' rewards - usually financial - such as discounts or prizes.

Most of you probably already know what 'nudging' is: a method that uses positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions to influence people's behavior, thus making a certain choice easier than an alternative path without the person actively being aware of it.

But, perhaps, fewer know what nudging is NOT:
- A substitute for marketing, which compliments but not replace. Simply put, marketing makes the need salient and creates the desire while nudging facilitates the follow-through.
- A way to mislead or confuse the consumer. Instead, it should be transparent to be effective.
- A trap or a manipulation, as opting out of nudging should be as simple as the tap of a button.

If McDonald’s employees are trained to offer only medium or large options to customers when taking orders for drinks and desserts and emit the small alternative unless the consumer explicitly asks for it, this is a 'bad nudge'.

We see a lot of bad nudges in advertising, sales, and human relations in general.

Good nudges, on the other hand, are those that benefit the person - whether it is the consumer or citizen - not (only) your business. And there are countless examples out there too: many schools in the USA are using nudging to move students towards healthy choices, as well as to improve learning and academic outcomes; some virtuous companies are applying similar strategies to promote a safer workplace culture; and the UK government has its dedicated Nudge Unit to encourage people to make better choices for themselves and society.

So, how can you harness the power of good nudge to grow your business too? Look at these 3 examples of easy-to-implement strategies.

COGNITIVE EASE

It is pretty intuitive. Our brains are lazy, and we are less likely to do something if we think it’s going to be hard – whether it’s losing weight, quitting to smoke, buying a product or signing up for a service.

One major reason is that perceived difficulty undermines people's self-efficacy - the belief in someone's capacity to execute behaviors necessary to achieve specific goals.

On the contrary, the perception of ease can be a powerful nudge towards engagement and purchasing, as it enhances consumers' self-efficacy and their intention to move on.

This way, Zipcar managed to go over a major barrier to car share use - the belief that shared cars are scarce and hard to find - by subtly showing to users on its website's map how easy a Zipcar is to find and use.

OPTION RESTRICTION 

It may seem counterproductive, but streamlining your offer can help you increase conversions as you nudge customers towards making a decision, rather than being paralyzed by too many options.

For example, having too many social share buttons in a webpage or too many form fields in a drop-down menu cripples users' decision making, thus decreasing conversions.

The same happens in the offline world. An experiment conducted by the New York Times in a grocery store on two different Saturdays found that, after exposing 24 different flavors of jam on the first day and only 6 on the second day, purchases increased from 3% to 30%, meaning that the store sold 600% more jam by just reducing the set of options.

INTERNAL CONSISTENCY 

Once we make a choice or take a position, we feel the need to behave consistently with that commitment.

That is notoriously what door-to-door salespeople rely on: they ask a series of 'easy-to-answer-yes' questions (such as ‘Do you think that a more comfortable bed could improve the quality of your sleep?’) and, once you’ve said yes to one, it becomes harder to say no to the next. They managed to get in; that's why this technique is called 'foot-in-the-door'.

Petitions rely on the same principle because agreeing to take part sets people up to make a more significant commitment further down the line, from a simple signature to event participation and financial support.

Nudging works most effectively when it is used for good, creating a “win-win” situation for both companies and individuals.

We've seen examples here that make one thing clear: nudging holds the potential to move the marketing paradigm towards a proper understanding of the subconscious drivers of consumer behavior. But it is equally clear that it works most effectively when used to create a win-win situation for both companies and individuals.

If this belief becomes a premise, the current distinction between good and bad nudging will turn into a separation of what is nudging from what is not. And naturally, this is our hope.

Photo by Caleb Frith on Unsplash

Download The 7 Pillars Of The New Customer Loyalty to define the foundations on which to build your engagement and loyalty strategy, create innovative experiences and establish a lasting and valuable relationship with your customers.

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Blockchain is certainly one of the most hyped words of the last couple of years. Everybody is talking about blockchain - often confusing it with the Bitcoin - and how this technology may change our world, and the way we do business, in the next future.

Decentralization, transparency and ledger immutability are among the promises this disruptive technology intends to fulfill. At the same time blockchain technology is still in its early stages of development. This is the first in a series of articles dedicated to this fascinating - but in some respects still very obscure - topic.

Among many blockchain networks already live, Ethereum is surely one of the most interesting and promising. From a technological standpoint Ethereum has been praised also by the Chinese Government in a recent assessment of blockchain networks.

Ethereum is a decentralised virtual machine empowered with blockchain technology on which developers and companies will deploy smart contracts and has the potential to become one of the cornerstones of 2.0 web architecture.

One of the major obstacles faced when analysing blockchain networks is that in most cases there aren’t comprehensive reports that take into account all the primary/material aspects required to assess multidisciplinary architectures such as Ethereum (IT, financial and legal analysis among others).

Many different elements shall be taken into account (such as the ecosystem the relevant blockchain network intend to deploy, the composition of the development team and the use of the funds raised in the context of the ICO) in order to have a comprehensive and useful framework to understand such projects.

Furthermore, following the issue of the white paper, many projects rely on blog posts, webinars and interviews to inform their communities about the progress in the roadmap; gathering and reshaping the information in an easy-to-read document is certainly not an easy-to-do task.

If on the one side one of the most common buzzwords among the blockchain / cryptocurrency community is “DYOR” (do your own research) on the other side most of the potentially interested people and companies do not have the time, knowledge and/or resources to do their research on a myriad of projects. In fact, DYOR means to carry out your own due diligence for each project, and if due diligence is not your core business it is likely that this will take a lot of time and effort.

Black Swan DAR is issuing a series of professional reports on blockchain networks that focus on smart contract deployment (such as Ethereum). Due diligence is an investigation and analysis activity carried out by third party independent professionals to evaluate risks and opportunities underlying a transaction. 

All the reports are drafted under the same framework, in order to make comparative analysis easier and intuitive. The Ethereum report is divided in 10 different sections related to, inter alia, the ecosystem, the token and its function within the blockchain network, the team, the use of proceeds from the ICO, strategic partners, etc..

The first section of the report is an executive summary, in which the most significant issues and red flags arose out of the due diligence process are gathered. For example, with respect to Ethereum, Black Swan DAR notes that:

(i) Ethereum is an open source multi-layered project which purpose is to create a flexible and distributed platform for decentralized applications (so-called dApps) and smart contracts; the project is open source and is community-driven, with the Ethereum Foundation acting as the leader.

Ethereum combines a generalized peer-to-peer networking platform with a blockchain architecture to deliver a decentralized consensus-based, full-stack platform for developing, offering and using smart contracts and dApps. In order to achieve the flexibility required to deploy smart contracts of any kind Ethereum has a built-in fully fledged quasi-Turing-complete programming language;

(ii) the Ethereum framework includes several different components that, together, are the foundational layer for smart contracts deployment. Among the core components of the framework it is opportune to name, among others, the cryptographic tokens, the address system, the network of validators (miners), the consensus algorithm, the blockchain ledger and the Ethereum virtual machine;

(iii) as Ethereum is a general purpose, programmable, blockchain network, its reference market is the aggregate market for all blockchain applications, including dApps and smart contracts that may be developed over time;

(iv) scalability is perhaps the main issue related to blockchain projects, including Ethereum. The scalability issue was envisaged to be solved in 2017 with the implementation of the PoS (proof of stake) consensus algorithm. Unfortunately, the debate about whether to proceed with PoS and how to build the consensus algorithm is still open, and there is no clear solution planned for the road ahead.

Other sections of interest are surely the section related to the Ethereum ecosystem, in the context of which a thorough analysis of the project is carried out, the section related to the token, in which the function and value of ETH are explained, and the section related to the strategic partners of the projects, useful to understand which players are entering the playing field to support Ethereum.

It might be a breakthrough technology but it is safe to say that, today, the blockchain looks like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it and so claims to do it. These free reports can help you understand what the fuss is all about, and how you can do it safely and productively.

DOWNLOAD THE ETHEREUM REPORT

Photo by Mike Kononov on Unsplash

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