Today’s consumers have no shortage of options. Every decision they make comes with an endless number of choices, constantly evolving to fit their ever-changing preferences. In today’s fast-moving environment, brands are struggling to stay relevant and top of mind with consumers which is why consumer first marketing is so important.
When trying to address consumer first marketing, many brands look to digital but fall prey to shiny-object syndrome. They see DTC, big data, social media and e-commerce as solutions for their struggles rather than tools to help overcome them. They run whole-heartedly towards these shiny objects, investing thousands (and sometimes millions) of dollars into these tactics, hoping that it will enable them to better reach and understand consumers. But, without a true consumer first approach, these tactics won’t be successful.
Having a consumer first strategy is a prerequisite for success today. But, what does that mean?
Consumer First Marketing
Consumer first thinking is actually pretty straight-forward: it’s thinking of the consumer, first. It means putting yourself in their shoes, understanding their challenges and catering to them. It means creating products and services that are intended to make their lives better or easier. True consumer first thinking goes beyond driving reach, pursuing trends or developing innovative products and reaches into the heart of the consumer, understanding their wants and needs and offering a product or service that addresses them.
Starting at the Top: Developing a Consumer First Strategy
This thinking must start at the top and flow into every element of your business. Understanding the consumer’s perspective and challenges and developing a strategy that aligns with those is pertinent to being a true consumer first company. In order to do this, you must look for the “why.” Why is your consumer acting a certain way? Why is there a pain-point in their path to purchase? Why are they buying your product? Why are they buying your competitor’s?
Understanding the “why” will allow you to get to the heart of the consumer’s challenges. Once you understand that, you’ll be able to craft a strategy that solves for the true problem, rather than developing a band-aid solution. While developing your strategy, you need to make sure you’re always re-centering on the “why.” It’s easy to get distracted or fall down rabbit holes, so don’t be afraid to backtrack and to ask yourself, and your team, “why?”
Consumer First Marketing in a Data-Driven Era
Today, companies have a wealth of data readily available. Data on when, how, where and why consumers shop. Companies invest in path to purchase data, preference data, browsing data, and so much more. In fact, many companies are drowning in data.
To be consumer first, data is extremely important. But, equally important, is leveraging smart data over big data. This means that before you invest money into a new data set or solution, you’re asking yourself “why?” Storing massive amounts of data can get expensive and messy – so having a data strategy that aligns with your overarching consumer strategy can be helpful.
But, what do you do with all that data once you have it? Today’s consumers expect everything to be personalized. This goes for the marketing that you use to attract them to the product that you sell them to the contact center that you use to communicate with them. Every touchpoint should be as personal as possible, and data is the key to doing this right.
Your digital marketing strategy, for example, can leverage your data to create personalized ads that cater to an individual’s preferences by changing the promotion, color and even placement. By leveraging A/B testing, you’ll gather a wealth of performance data to improve your digital marketing capabilities and ensure that you’re speaking to consumers in a way that resonates with them.
Going beyond marketing, data can be extremely important when we think about innovation. All the data that you’re collecting can help you understand your consumer’s “why” and will allow you to change course if necessary. It will also enable you to think about the future, understand how your consumer’s needs are changing and ensure that you stay relevant by incorporating their changing needs and preferences into your product and strategy.
Listening to the Consumer
Being a consumer first organization doesn’t stop at the strategy. Once you’ve developed and implemented a consumer first marketing plan, you need to make sure you’re constantly listening to the consumer and adjusting. This is where feedback loops can be extremely helpful. Organizations need to embrace open lines of cross-functional communication. If consumers are unhappy and sharing that sentiment on Twitter, then the quality and product teams need to be looped in. If consumer shopping habits change, then supply chain and sales needs to be advised. Consumer first companies need to have strong cross-functional communication to enable them to ever-evolve with their consumers.
As Dynamic as Your Consumer
It’s no secret that big companies struggle to move at the same speed as startups. While a slower approach helps companies avoid risk, it can also hinder innovation and creativity. To be truly consumer first, companies need to be able to move at the speed of their consumers. Red tape prohibits the ability to move quickly and take advantage of consumer trends and discussions. One of the best examples of a company that was able to act quickly, is Oreo during the 2013 Super Bowl. As you may remember, there was a blackout during the game, sending many into panic. Oreo, on the otherhand, took advantage of this opportunity and shared their now famous “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet. Many crowned that tweet as the real winner of Super Bowl XLVII.
Power out? No problem. pic.twitter.com/dnQ7pOgC
— OREO Cookie (@Oreo) February 4, 2013
It seems like just a simple tweet, but in reality, that tweet was the outcome of multiple teams and agencies working together for years to build an organization that was able to move quickly and comment on culture. Without the right processes in place, Oreo could have easily had a great idea that was lost in approval cycles. Instead, they worked together and were able to act quickly to take advantage of a moment.
Consumer First is no Longer an Option
Consumer first marketing and thinking has been talked about by many companies for a long time, but today’s consumers now expect such a mindset. With so many options to choose from, their loyalty will be won by brands that resonate with them and put them first. Companies that meet their needs, understand their wants, and align with their values will be the ones to stay top of mind and win at checkout. And, being consumer first is about more than just talking the talk; it’s about truly understanding your consumer’s why and building an organization that is centered around that idea. It requires dedication and collaboration from all team members and the ability to be nimble and act quickly.