The best customer is a connected customer. Yet determining how and when to connect seems more complicated than ever. Companies that leverage multiple channels online and offline are creating more connected and therefore more loyal advocates than ever before. If it were easy, we'd all be dominating our industries and capturing customers for life. Today, consumers are so connected they are now detached from the way they used to buy.
Just as everything old becomes new again, customers are loyal to those with whom they have the greatest connection. Providing that visceral, dependable connection has gone beyond the core product to now include digital interactions in ways more measurable than ever.
The key to creating connected customers lies in:
- Understanding the connections your customers have and want.
- Ensuring you enable "connected moments" across multiple channels. A connected moment is best described as "the exact connection a customer seeks (action/interaction/transaction) at a given time (anytime) in a given place (channels).
I use the term "connected moment" because a real connection occurs at a moment in time, and it's that moment that matters. Connection is not simply engagement. Often marketers discuss engaging their audiences. And while this is valid, it is only one of several ways customers need to both feel and be connected. Having a presence in channels is a start. Focusing on engaging for the sake of engaging is less important than focusing on enabling connected moments.
Four ways to translate customer connections to loyalty
Indispensable connection: The customer feels a sense of connection to the product/service itself (what you offer is so valued by the customers that the product/service is the root of the connection)
Shared values connection: The customer is connected to your brand. He or she feels a sense of affinity and alignment with your brand values beyond just the products and services.
The right connection: The customer is able to connect whenever and however they prefer (you make yourself available for the customer to engage, interact, and transact as he or she prefers across physical and digital touchpoints).
Community connection: The customer is connected to a community with which he or she directly associates your brand. Customers often feel connected to brands that support/enable a community -- both physical and digital -- where their passions and interests are aligned with others who they enjoy interacting with.
The connected customer needs
It's a common fact that consumers now -- in virtually all demographic and psychographic groupings -- are actively utilizing both wired and wireless internet through PCs, laptops, tablets, smart phones, and kiosks. And many groups are active in consumer social environments -- with younger generations flocking to various and shifting preferred social interaction. Sites like Instagram and Houzz.com are transforming online communities.
The increased number of ways and means consumers have to interact has driven even more need for unified, omni-channel communications strategies. The rapid increase in mobile devices and their internet usage has further spawned what some refer to as "the app economy," in which applications and services via mobile are more and more valuable for attracting and retaining customers through high-value connection moments.
Ultimately, customers seek information, services, advice, and often escapism related to your products and services. Consumers of athletic footwear are interested in all these things:
- Information: news and reviews
- Services: ways to understand and manage optimal health
- Advice: best footwear and apparel for body/foot type
- Escapism: get lost in games/apps/stories about fascinating fitness heroes
Even in B2B, such as heavy HVAC equipment, these needs exist:
- Information: news and reviews
- Services: ways to assess gear and equipment
- Advice: ways to improve TCO of equipment
- Escapism: stories/forums discussing previously unthinkable futuristic innovations that will transform the industry