This article was first posted on Lighthouse Insights, one of the most popular social media blogs in India.
During my post-graduation, I often visited a café near my college and I loved the fact that I knew the employees and they knew my order as soon as I got in. It’s a level of comfort and confidence I felt each time I entered the café, which made me visit it more often and endorse it to others too. It’s that personal touch that more brands and products need to imbibe today.
A big challenge is that consumers are spoilt for choice with the plethora of brands available across every category. Take socks for instance. If you go to buy them online, you’ll have to choose among the parameters of type, price, brand, color, pack size, foot size, pattern and discount. Transparency is another aspect. The amount of information that we have on our hands is immense. We can conveniently look at fifty or so options before we make a purchase. This information, exposure and availability raises expectations that consumers have from brands, which may not always be met.
Millennials form a core of this audience, who always seem to want ‘more’. They’re inspired by technology and consider it a boon in every way. As per a Tata Institute of Social Sciences survey on millennials, 78% of Indians surveyed said technology has benefited everyone. They’re using their digital genes to challenge teachers in classroom discussions, countering their boss’s experience with data and bringing new ideas to simplify daily lives.
Research, insights, user testing and sampling
From a brand’s perspective it all begins with understanding your users. Research, insights, user testing and sampling are absolutely essential. The more insights you have, the better it is for creating products and experiences for your customers. Facebook for instance spends a lot of time dogfooding their own products. Reportedly, a Facebook employee spends 50% to 60% of his/her time doing things that are predictable. The remaining 30% to 40% is not defined: employee involvement in dogfooding could well constitute a part of this. One suggestion that resulted in a change while dogfooding was localising the registration for India users: DDMMYY format for India while for the rest of the world, it is MMDDYY.
Crowdsourcing and engagement
A conversation with your customer cannot end today and crowdsourcing is one of the best ways to ensure the same. Global organizations like Doritos, Starbucks and P&G have led the way. Micromax crowdsourced designs for their logo back in 2012. Most recently Tata Group was in the news stating their intention tocrowdsource future watch designs. Starbucks has, over the past 6 years, implemented more than 300 ideas based on customer suggestions and voting. Companies need to increasingly follow an outside-in approach, across a variety of their operation areas, procuring ideas that could make a difference.
Making engagement more experiential
Digital has enabled brands to make a better connect with consumers. Today you can get a 360 degree view of an apartment you want to rent or buy online. You can virtually test the way a particular spectacles frame looks on your face. You can buy apparel from an etailer and exchange it if you’ve made a wrong choice. Adidas most recently organized a multi-sport event, across 29 venues in Delhi NCR called Adidas Uprising. Kingfisher created a Good Times Dispenser that dispensed beer cans depending on the number of headbangs you do in front of it. Tons of experiments are also being done with virtual reality and its application beyond gaming. This could totally raise the level of experiential marketing.
Pursue a purpose or raise a cause
One of the most powerful mediums of connecting with your consumers today is associating with a cause that’s close to their heart. Aircel’s Save The Tiger initiative was a classic case, where a brand, unlike all of its competition, made us aware of the number of tigers remaining in India and how critical the issue was. This not only helped them create a differential positioning, it was a cause that people associated with. Globally the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge helped secure eyeballs for the cause of ALS. Most of the marketing campaigns run by P&G or for Dove are also based on social experiments that raise a cause or a purpose. Be it P&G’s ‘Thank you mom’ campaign around the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games or their recent ‘Like A Girl’ campaign.
These campaigns, because of their appealing message, help connect with consumers better and leave a business impact too. For e.g. P&G’s ‘Like A Girl’ campaign increased the purchase intent for Always, a brand of feminine hygiene products, from 42% to 46%. With teens, it grew from 40% to 60%. Brand share grew +1.4pts, to 59. Similarly from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, 17 million videos were created, 159 countries participated, 70 billion video views were counted and $220 million were raised.
This is really the core. All consumer insights should finally result in a product that can be highly personalized. The more the personalization, the more would be the connection with the consumer. Take SwiftKey, the keyboard app, for example; it understands your typing patterns and makes recommendations to make you more efficient in written communication on your phone or tablet. Or the Zomato app; as soon as I launch it, it says ‘Hello Karan!’ and then depending on the time of the day, it asks me if I’m looking for breakfast, lunch or dinner options.
From a marketing angle, fashion retailer Nordstrom leveraged its Pinterest following in a unique manner. They tested out tagging its top pins in stores. They also created an in-store iPad app for store associates to match top Pinterest items with current in-stock items in the store. These in-store marketing tactics acted as a reminder to customers to check out their Pinterest to keep up with the hottest new products, and it also gave products in stores with those tags on them a hotness factor promoting more sales.