Customers Are Less Loyal, So Engage Early
By Tim Ellett of The Marketing Centre At first glance, McKinsey’s quarterly marketing and sales report for 2017 – The new battleground for marketing-led growth – is unlikely to shock readers. Drawing on responses from 125,000 consumers and 350 brands, the report is pitched at large FMCG brands working across borders. Core insights include the following:
- Consumers are less and less brand-loyal. 58% of loyalty programme members don’t cash in their points, claim their vouchers, or otherwise follow through on the offers they’ve signed up for.
- Customer journeys do not follow a straight line to purchase but “loop” back on themselves. Consumers have access to more and more price comparison, peer review and personal networking options. Their purchase decisions have become far more diffuse - it’s harder than ever to identify and encourage the moment at which their choices are made.
- Companies have to engage consumers early on if they want to convert. With the specific moment of decision harder and harder to trace, businesses have to exert influence and represent themselves as early as possible. This isn’t a strictly B2C issue either: up to 80% of B2B purchasing decisions are made before the sales process begins.
Businesses of all sizes know these basic truths about today’s consumers, but they don’t intimately understand them, and thus they struggle to respond. To understand the consumer, say McKinsey, marketers have to understand their journey, and the role marketing plays in it. So what does the journey look like for your business?
The sales process starts at the ‘consideration’ stage. Prospects knowing a brand is not enough. The key is to be top of mind, being one of the first people the prospect considers at all. According to McKinsey, brands which are in the consideration stage from the start are more than twice as likely to convert than brands which find their way into the prospect’s mind later on.
This means businesses need to rebalance their marketing efforts towards this all-important stage, ensuring that they’re top of mind when important decisions are being made. They need to drive brand awareness with social media and advertising, connecting buyers to the brand – possibly for the first time – in a way that builds engagement before the need for their purchase arises. Interaction is the main element here. It can be practical (a mortgage broker or bank could offer a free budgeting tool) or fun (creating a bespoke pair of jeans or PC spec). It may offer “insider” deals or offers exclusive to prospects who click through to engage. It may offer messaging around new product launches or new features that create interest or intrigue - but it has to demand and encourage action on the prospect’s part.
Today’s buyer spends more time carrying out more in-depth analysis post-purchase. They go back and review what others say about the product/service, comparing their experiences of the product or service with their peers before and after the sale. They do this to reinforce and validate their purchase decision - but it can help us too. Every buyer who leaves a review or rating is a potential brand advocate - and they have built a closer bond with the brand by doing so. In theory, this means they’ve become more loyal, but the McKinsey report has a warning for us here. 58% of their customer respondents actively take steps to switch brands - so companies have to be on the lookout for new customers as well as retaining the old ones.
The bottom line
The how of marketing, rather than the what, will vary for every brand. It will demand an intimate knowledge of the likely prospects, which requires detailed segmentation. By truly understanding existing buyers, businesses can build a multi-channel approach, and allocate marketing budgets to the pre and post sale stages that will bring in others like them. Brands need to ascertain the triggers that “lure” their prospects in, and the incentives that encourage them to stay connected, and address these constantly in a marketing strategy that offers value to prospects before they know they’re prospects. Since digital marketing is often the first point of contact between brands and their prospects, companies have to ensure that their digital content is memorable, interactive and valuable, keeping them top of mind for when the triggers arrive. Tim is part of the Eastern Counties team at the Marketing Centre. He is a senior marketing professional with extensive international exposure in Europe, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand, working at Board level both agency side and acting as a Part Time Marketing Director. Tim is an expert in brand development and building customer engagement working at National Government level in Jordan and with local government in Abu Dhabi and New Zealand, as well as for major corporates like Dubai Bank, Qatar Airways and BP.