Pull Marketing: 3 Revelations About How Consumers Want to Interact with Companies
Many companies believe they're listening to customers. But are they really? And how much do they understand consumers in general? Questions like these mean that it's time to take a step away from push marketing for a moment and look into pull. How are consumers who voluntarily approach businesses doing so? And what should this tell companies about how they should market to them?
Here to help answer those questions are:
- Sheri Harrison, interactive marketing specialist at Atlanta-based Internet marketing consultancy Slyce Marketing;
- Mitchell Lieber, president of Chicago-based call center consultancy Lieber & Associates; and
- Rod Witmond, senior vice president of product management and marketing for Atlanta-based financial services loyalty program software and service provider Cardlytics.
1. Consumers first look to their peers for advice—regardless of channel. It could be social media, it could be search leading to blogs, it could be another channel—but they're all looking for reviews in order to do research before they buy, Harrison says. Retailers can even see customers using their phones to read product reviews in the store, she says.
"The large majority of consumers rely on user reviews to help guide their purchase decisions instead of being led by brand advertising," Harrison says. "According to a survey of 3,331 consumers by Deloitte's [Global] Consumer Products group, almost two-thirds (62 percent) of consumers read consumer-written product reviews online. Of those consumers, more than eight in 10 (82 percent) say their purchase decisions have been directly influenced by the user reviews, (either influencing them to buy a different product than the one originally intended or confirming their original purchase decision.)
"The vast majority prefer to begin their search with a search engine rather than going directly to an established company website or e-commerce leader," she continues. "Personalization search engines, such as bidfessional.com, have a big impact. Sixty-five percent of consumers are making purchases based on automated recommendations."
Harrison says three proactive methods marketers are using to positively influence brand perception and, therefore, consumer reviews are:
- Creating Google Alerts to find mentions of the brand, while actively participating in social media to quickly "solve issues and rectify complaints" publicly;
- Evolving search campaigns to match user intent and provide relevant answers; and
- Providing incentives to customers who'd like to share positive reviews.
2. So consumers may use the Internet first, but they'll call if there's a problem, such as a website glitch or a product that's too complex to understand without explanation. Be ready for it, Lieber says.
"Companies that have Web sign-ups for products, services or accounts require call and contact center support—including Web chat, if appropriate," he says. "Many of our clients find that there are hiccups with Web-accessed information or ordering. Support becomes a must to preserve revenue in sales situations, and to improve customer experience and satisfaction in service situations. Some companies plan for this, and others discover the need and begin providing ad hoc service. As time passes, they realize the service is more effective if it is formally planned and organized as a call center function."
Some proactive steps Lieber says marketers can take include:
- Training representatives, as well as educating them about the products;
- Having a process in place to deal with situations without immediate answers;
- Optimizing "first call resolution, which is highly correlated with customer satisfaction";
- Staffing appropriately for busy times;
- Realizing that outsourcing doesn't absolve companies of any responsibility in the customer's eyes—a poor customer experience is a poor customer experience; and
- Tracking and testing is a must for improvement.
3. Analytics show what consumers do, reflecting what they want, Witmond says.
Transaction-level data are especially helpful to show consumer desires, he adds. The information shows, for instance, when customers buy from competitors. "The market analysis should show how much market share you have in your category, as well as how much your 'loyal' customers spend with your competitors. Through a rich, transaction-oriented approach, merchants can look at the levels of activity by competitor to understand true market opportunity based on actual transactions—not on samples or surveys."
Data can often reflect reality more than assumptions can—say, about consumers not wanting to see advertising on social networks. Harrison says: "Many consumers welcome advertising on social media properties. According to razorfish … 40 percent of consumers have made a purchase based on an ad seen in social media."