Changing Winds of Marketing and Customer Experience (CX) – Here’s Why You Should Adjust Your Sails Too

It’s a no-brainer that with all the technology disruptions, marketing as a function has evolved dramatically but I’m not going to tell you that. I am going to tell you how does it affect YOU – whether you’re student or a practitioner. Marketing has evolved from concepts to reality and from reality to expectations. As consumer touch points are increasing, managing customer expectations has become extremely important for brands, and to do so the brand managers and marketers keenly have to observe and listen to what the customers are saying.

As a B-School that matches steps with industry trends to produce leader-managers who hit the ground running, FIIB ensures that the students have multiple platforms to learn and tackle the challenges the businesses are facing in the current economic and business scenario. At one such recently held forum National Marketing Conference, 2018 at FIIB, how to manage customer expectations on diverse touchpoints was the major theme that churned out in all deliberations by industry practitioners and research scholars.

What’s the customer’s mindset now ?

According to a recent survey by Business Standard, the footfall during Dhanteras and Diwali which is considered the peak season for sales for clothing and electronics in North India especially Delhi, was approximately half of what it was 2 years ago. At the same time, flipkart, the e-commerce giant now backed by Walmart announced that they have got orders from 98% pincodes of India during the same season. In conclusion, for consumers it’s no longer about just the product. It’s about the whole experience of browsing products to the ease of payment. So, for brands to operate both offline and online, it’s important to exceed expectations everywhere. Also, brand strategies change based on this pivotal point of experience.

What do you mean by customer experience(CX) ?

Customer experience is the sum-totality of how customers engage with your company and brand, not just in a snapshot in time, but throughout the entire arc of being a customer. Each individual’s customer journey: the path from awareness to purchase is unique, and social media definitely has a substantial impact on that journey. For some products, those with a simple value proposition like wine; that journey can be a quick one. But when the product involves a unique value or a huge investment like an Apple iPhone, there is a need for many more marketing touchpoints to consider before customer decides to buy. A touchpoint is points of customer contact from start to finish, it could be the brand’s facebook page, website/app, the physical store to the delivery service. The days of focusing on a customer’s last touchpoint as the Golden Egg of conversion are over. To take customer experience to customer delight, marketers need to focus on how various customer touch points fit together. According to Mr. Manav Adlakha, Regional Sales Head, Grover Zampa Vineyards, “Customers need to be delighted as per their expectations and desires. We rely heavily on customer engagement & dissemination of information about our premium spirit offerings through our catalogs. To address concerns of our loyal customers, we trust our expert Sommeliers who assist and understand customer preferences, sentiments and expectations better” .

How to manage customer expectations?

The customer experiences are something which are not in full control of the company because experiences inevitably involve perception, emotion, and unexpected behaviors on the parts of customers. People don’t behave like robots, and no matter how well we craft an experience, they will not perceive exactly as we anticipate or hope. Customer experience often seems ethereal, something which appears as if by magic, and only certain companies especially the GAFA companies (Google, Amazon, Flipkart, Apple) are able to conjure it on a regular basis which is not the case. Customer experiences spring from concrete, controllable elements known as the touchpoints. So to craft a great customer experience, company requires enormous amounts of collaboration across groups that often work independently and at different stages of product development stages. In many cases marketing, product design, customer services, sales, advertising agency, retail partners must also be working cohesively to create even a single touchpoint.

What’s the impact on brand managers and marketers?

The “Better”, “Faster” and “Proactive”, need fulfillment is the only guaranteed way to lead the success of being a customer experience driven organization. Listening to consumer needs and adapting as per the needs are the two important pillars of customer centric organizations, who capitalizes on the customer experiences. It is rightly said that: “Good marketers see consumers as complete and holistic human beings with all the dimensions real people have.” – Jonah Sachs. Marketers from around the world have turned around the traditional marketing scenarios. For instance, Google and Facebook have brought experience of virtual reality into revolution. During the last decade marketing in India has focused on utilizing its IT industry. Information technology infrastructure has accelerated in the country as well as the company level, Alibaba has backed Paytm, Uber has hit the streets, Google and Facebook have captivated Indians with their apps. IKEA has entered the market as well.

What should management graduates learn?

It’s important to that today’s management graduates understand these changes in two dimensions – one as a consumer themselves, two as a manager and marketer. A keen eye to detail on the efforts of big brands to manage experience to their own observations on what would make them as a consumer experience delight when they are out in the market. Spending 10 minutes online researching these trends and participating in conferences/forums would be highly beneficial to curious young managers who would be familiar with know-how of market and be ready to implement them in the corporate life they’d be stepping in to.

What should B-Schools do?

To bridge the gap between employability and education, B-Schools need to concentrate on experiential learning opportunities emphasizing on contemporary marketing and management practices. At FIIB, the annual 12+ conferences and numerous industry interactions focus on this aspect of learning. Ms. Radhika Shrivastava, Executive Director, FIIB said, “Given the technology disruptions that are ongoing, brands are under tremendous pressure to creatively improve their technology offerings in the entire marketing value chain – product promotion, quality, customer service, delivery, complaint handling, and social responsibility, among others. The focus is on delivering first class ‘customer experiences’ in the face of ever-rising customer expectations. Through their unique insight, inspirations and innovative ideas, the speakers at the conference deliberated on this critical issue of managing the customer’s journey using the latest in AI to drive business results. This gives our students a unique experience to network and learn from the experiences of the practitioners they look up to” . Every B-School has to now rethink the way they teach core management to students so that they are job-ready.