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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Hyper-Connected Consumer’s Preferred Channel

When you consider all of the ways you need to communicate with your customer - website, mobile device, call center, social media, point of sale, banner ads, direct mail and drip campaigns - do you think: so many channels, so little time? 
The good news is that your customer really doesn’t want to hear from you across all of these channels. And from our research, we have learned that based on your brand, message or offer customers will cluster in large groups that prefer only one or two channels over the others. 
So how do you know what your customer wants?  It’s as simple as asking.  Start by performing in-person research to understand the primary channels and content your customers care about. Then use that knowledge to implement the right engagement channels that will truly support your different customer groups’ wishes. 

After you start "asking," you will find that your customer may be looking for channels and experiences your company may not currently be providing: 

One website is no longer effective. 

In the early days of large website properties, customers were willing to take their time and browse, navigating through different pages and multiple clicks to find the information they wanted. The consumer was just excited the information was available! 

But with an increase in channels, especially mobile, and ever-present Internet access, customers expect personalization. They want fast, easy to consume information that is tailored to their unique drivers and they expect information to be displayed on their screens in a format suited to the mobile experience. 

Your company needs to be prepared to establish and maintain various platforms that allow customers to interact in the ways they want to engage. One website no longer fits all. Savvy companies provide unique website experiences for different customer clusters and have made the move to mobile to provide the appropriate customer experience to the growing set of customers that prefer that channel. 

You can’t control the path. 

Engagement savvy companies refer to their homepage as merely their “largest landing page” because they understand that customers will enter through many entry points.  With each entry point comes the opportunity to wow your customer or to sorely disappoint. 

Use the clues your customer provides through how they enter your site to determine their core driver and capitalize on this knowledge to craft messages that are targeted and appropriate.
Convenience and context is a key driver.

 In a recent consumer lab study, all of our respondents used multiple devices to access the web, such as laptops, tablets and smart phones. Their use was based on proximity and convenience.

At home, the computer was generally their first choice. On the run, their go-to device was a smart phone. There is a growing group of customers that believe they will never use a device more complicated than a tablet. 

Understand that your customer will gravitate towards the most convenient technology, but will expect the experience to continue to be personalized to them and there is a growing expectation that the experience will “remember” where they were in a given process.  If they start a shopping experience at home they want their tablet to let them pick up where they left off while waiting for the kids at ballet and softball practice. 

Times have changed: 

Consumers want to use online or mobile tools for functions that used to only be done in person. Banking is a great example of this trend. It’s all about convenience and what’s most convenient to the customer 

Customers expect to be able to complete any transaction on a smart phone app that they could handle online. When options are limited, it leads to customer frustration and is a risk of losing them to a competitor that is willing to meet them where they are.

By talking to your customer to understand what they want, you can determine where to focus your engagement efforts and learn how to support the hyper-connected consumer’s preferred channel.  The good news is, by asking, you will find that you can concentrate on a few channels and engagement strategies – just make sure they are part of your company’s current plans and in proper order.

About the Author: 
Eric V. Holtzclaw is Chief Strategist of PossibleNOW. He's a researcher, writer, serial entrepreneur and challenger-of-conventional wisdom. His book with Wiley Publishing on consumer behavior - Laddering: Unlocking the Potential of Consumer Behavior - hits bookstores this summer. Eric leads the professional services organization to strategically guide companies on the implementation of enterprise-wide preference management solutions.

Follow me on Twitter: @eholtzclaw | Connect on LinkedIn: Eric Holtzclaw

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