Being Remarkable · Customer Insight · Digital · Frictionless commerce · Me-tail

Confusing necessary with sufficient

We’re told we have to embrace all things omni-channel, yet Macy’s and Nordstrom, two of the acknowledged leaders in this arena, have yet to move the dial much on market share and profitability.

We’re told we have to digitally enable most dimensions of our business, yet Sears, which has been a pioneer in many aspects of e-commerce and digital innovation for more than a decade, looks to be in the midst of the world’s slowest liquidation sale.

The excellent and provocative work by L2 on companies “digital IQ” frequently ranks brands on the top end of the scale that are laggards on many key performance metrics.

Some will tell you that this proves that embracing a digital first strategy is over-rated or that investing heavily in omni-channel is a mistake.  They are mostly wrong.

The error comes in confusing necessary with sufficient.

There are few brands, especially in retail, that can ignore an aggressive move into frictionless commerce. The customer experience must become more unified.

More and more, mass marketing strategies are dying and it’s becoming extraordinarily difficult to break through the clutter. Letting go of one-size-fits-all strategies in favor of creating more personalized programs is becoming increasingly important.

And we can’t keep interrupting customers with largely irrelevant messages at the wrong time and out of context. Deeper customer insight, coupled with an understanding that smartphones and tablets allow the customer to be untethered and addressable at the moment of need, puts a premium on marketing that is localized.

We are entering an era where a high level of competence in the above three principles is necessary just to stay in the game, to be even marginally relevant, to have a crack at the customer’s consideration.

You can be leading edge on all of these dimensions and it’s still not enough.

What we offer the customer needs to be amplified–that is, it must be truly unique, intensely relevant and remarkable in the purest sense of the word. This is where Sears falls incredibly short and where Macy’s struggles to break out from the sea of sameness that characterizes much of the department store world.

Unfortunately too many companies vaguely embrace all things digital and start gulping down the omni-channel Kool-Aid while ignoring this last critical piece.

At the end of the day, if the dust ever settles, they’ll have spent a ton of time and money on merely keeping pace and not enough on the things that ultimately matter.


Being Remarkable · Brand Marketing · Customer-centric

Say my name, say my name

Recently I’ve been wondering how much Groupon would be worth if they could consistently send me deals for products that actually interest me and aren’t an hour from my home or office.

The potential for daily deals sites, mobile commerce applications and, heck, just about anything in your marketing plan is enormous.

But when your marketing is unfocused, undifferentiated and underscores that you don’t know me, it quickly becomes irrelevant. And that’s when I stop paying attention. And that’s when you run the risk that I start running away from your brand.

It’s better when you know me and show me you know me. That’s when I lean towards your brand and become more willing to collaborate to build something relevant, differentiated and even remarkable.

So, say my name. Ask how you can make your product and service better for me. And then make it happen. Rinse and repeat.


Being Remarkable · Mobile · Retail · Winning on Experience

Bricks and mobile: The 1 to 1 future is now.

Winning at retail is about consistently executing a remarkable, differentiated and relevant customer experience. And more and more, relevant means personalized.

The “holy grail” for 1 to 1 marketing has been the notion of the right offer to the right customer at the right time. The 1 to 1 future envisioned by Peppers and Rogers in 1993 is now in sight, and mobile commerce is a key to unlocking its potential.

If you don’t understand how mobile commerce will transform your marketing and your customer’s shopping experience, it’s time to get busy–and get focused.

Before very long, “bricks and mortar” will give way to “bricks and mobile.”

Consumers in your store (or nearby) with competitive pricing information, product specifications and shopper reviews.

The ability to know when your best customer (or prospect) is in your store.

The capability to deliver targeted promotions or “wow’ experiences at the relevant moment of truth.

Consumers who put their business up for bid and choose the best offer.

The criticality of a well-integrated, nearly frictionless, multi-channel offering.

Yes, a lot of current applications aren’t all that great.

Yes, many offerings suffer from a lack of unique customer identification.

Yes, the technical infra-structure at many malls and stores hinders connectivity.

Yes, mobile applications drain battery power all too quickly.

But the applications and devices will improve. Retailers and landlords are pouring tens of millions of dollars to support mobile and near-field communication technology as we speak.

The future IS happening. Now.

So what are you doing about it?



Customer Growth Strategy

Ruthless Experimentation: What Are You Afraid Of?

Part of any remarkable customer growth strategy is what I like to call “ruthless experimentation.”

Old timey, product centric growth strategy was all about the big reveal.  We spend months and months coming up with our bold new marketing plans and then–at this point, please pause dramatically–Ta-Da!–we see if (hope that?) the customer likes it.   If we are wrong, it’s back to the drawing board for Plan B.

Not only is this cycle unacceptably long, it does not reflect the dynamic realities of what it takes to build and sustain a relationship with your best and most promising customers.   Just about any business has the ability to test and learn on a number of fronts: permission-based email, direct mail, Facebook, Twitter, an in-store promotion and more.  So why do I have conversations virtually every day with executives who are still studying their social media strategy, struggling to develop an actionable customer segmentation or waiting to improve their CRM platform before they try more personalized marketing?

It’s simple: they are afraid.  Afraid to admit they don’t really “get” how something works.  Afraid that they may not hit their hoped for response rates.  Afraid a promotion might perform “too well.”  Afraid to pull the trigger on the “good enough” idea rather than the perfect one.

So what’s the riskier move?  Studying and planning until you have lowered your chance of “failure” to close to zero %?  Or sitting on the sidelines while your competition is out there trying stuff, learning, truly listening to customer feedback and evolving to make their value proposition more relevant and remarkable?

Being customer-centric is a dynamic, learning process.  Accept it, walk through your fear.  Experiment ruthlessly.  Be a linchpin.  And make something happen today.*

* see Seth’s Blog for more on this:

[tweetmeme source= stevendpennis]