Power to the People
2012 was the year when customers really did prove they are king. Whether it was hijacking a major brand’s Twitter campaign and adding a cynical twist (as was the case with McDonalds and Waitrose) or the outcry over a mismatch between brand values and brand actions (as was the case with Natwest’s ‘helpful banking’ motto), customers today make their voices heard.
Marketers today – more than ever before – must have their finger on the pulse of everything brand and customer-related. So with that in mind, what are the key customer-focused trends to watch in 2013?
It goes without saying that brands are increasing their use of social media channels to communicate directly with the customer. Our own research late last year showed that companies will spend more than ever before on social media – about a quarter of their entire marketing budgets.
But this year, we'll see marketers getting smarter about choosing the appropriate channels and content. While Google+ might top the list in terms of supporting search, outlets like YouTube (where some amateur ‘youtubers’ now have audiences in the millions – a potential goldmine for the right brands) will increase in popularity among business users.
Brand to hand
There will be a continued focus on connecting with customers through their mobile devices, be that text messaging, dedicated apps or mobile-optimised websites. With smartphone penetration in the UK among the highest in the world at over 50 per cent, this is a channel that marketers ignore at their peril. Seen as such a personal connection to the customer, if brands get it right, it will be a powerful tool. Get it wrong and you risk burning bridges for life.
Coupled with the increasing importance in mobile marketing is location-based marketing. If 2012 was the year when the term ‘SoLoMo’ (Social, Local, Mobile) hit the marketing lexicon, 2013 is the year when it becomes widespread reality, and moves beyond simply checking in at locations to receive related benefits. Look out for well-connected campaigns that use the most sophisticated technology to tap in to customers based on what they want and where they are.
Technology killed the video star
Expect to see an increase in automated tools like Dish Networks’ Autohop that let consumers actively block advertisements. The power is truly in the hands of the consumer, and brands need to understand how their customers want to be communicated with, when and to what extent.
A re-defining of ‘valued customer’
At the core, here, is the ability to understand who your brand’s advocates are, and the true value of your customer network. 10 years ago, a brand’s most valuable customer was the customer who spent the most, repeatedly, over time. The evolution of a valued customer today measures the likelihood of a customer to recommend your brand to others. But the next step – and something to watch in 2013 - is to understand who might be part of your network that may not currently be a customer of yours, but is, in fact, a substantial source of advocacy and referrals. These brand advocates need to be nurtured, and accounted for in the customer lifetime value, in much the same way as a traditional high-spending customer might be.
Big Data just gets bigger
Clearly, 2012 was the year Big Data came into its own, and CMOs and CIOs recognised the need to work together to tame the Big Data beast. As volumes increase, in the real-time world in which we now live, time to value from that data becomes the challenge. Expect to see an acceleration in the adoption of sophisticated analytics tools to automate and streamline the process from data capture to informing decisions
Kieran Kilmartin is marketing director, EMEA, at Pitney Bowes Software