We’ve spoken at various marketing events around the world over the past few months. At these events, we’ve not only shared our insights: we’ve engaged with literally hundreds of accomplished marketers, sharpening our understanding of various brands’ unique needs and goals.
The emerging thread throughout these discussions is that data-led, customer-centric marketing is a laudable, achievable endgame that also happens to come with its own set of challenges. Here’s how to overcome those barriers to become truly customer-first in the digital age.
Marketing teams continue to work in silos
The straw polls we’ve conducted have asked the simple question: “Are your marketing and brand strategies run in silos?” The response has been unmistakable:
“Our business wants new customers, regardless of channels. But the silos we operate in mean we sometimes compete for budgets and exposure. Each team and department is focused on their own targets and isn’t sharing insights to win new customers or plan more effectively.”
Some of the most significant conflicts between channels include offline media vs. online, driving in-store traffic vs. ecommerce, and even brand vs. performance (the subject of our recent webinar with Forrester). Even organizations with sizeable in-house analytics teams have been unable to cross-pollinate their own insights across business units. This is a huge issue in an increasingly omnichannel world. By ensuring they work cohesively from the word “go”, marketing teams can disseminate valuable learnings and work to complement one another, not compete against one another.
Local is underserved in omnichannel
Each ZIP Code and audience segment has its own competitive makeup and decision-making triggers. In fact, it is increasingly apparent that local factors predict behavior far more effectively than traditional demographics. Unfortunately, brands are still ignoring these vital signs in their ongoing fight for customer attention.
Consider that half of all online searches carry local intent, whether explicit or implied. People are almost always interested in the most local touch point of a brand. That, after all, is where these prospects are most likely to end up converting. Be local or be nowhere.
Brands are ignoring reviews
Mixed online reviews are a typical symptom of siloed marketing. It’s all too easy to picture the scene, isn’t it? Reviews are online, so they become the responsibility of the ecommerce team. Sadly, this content rarely makes its way to the retail team via official channels. As a result, countless customer complaints are lost online in a way that never happened when people would complain or seek a resolution in person at a store. Inevitably, the retail team operates with a huge blind spot, unable to analyze online sentiment to enhance the in-store experience. Which leads us to…
The in-store experience falls flat
You may assume that a uniform experience from one location to the next is the ideal scenario for a national brand. But look at it another way: multi-location businesses are ignoring unique local factors, even though customer behaviors and interests vary so wildly across cities, regions, and nations. They spend millions on national advertising but the in-store experience fails to deliver on that promise in a locally relevant way.
Anecdotally, we’ve heard of customers who get so tired of waiting for sales assistants that they go online—while standing in the store—order from the website, and opt for home delivery instead. The brands that are unwittingly creating these scenarios have to ask themselves:
- How does each store deliver on the brand promise?
- Are we taking local factors into consideration?
- What are our customers actually getting from the in-store experience?
Reluctance to engage data-savvy partners
The challenges above are often compounded by the fact that businesses can be slow to realize the value of their data. Why? Because they haven’t yet engaged the right data analytics partner, arguably as a side-effect of various well-publicized data breach scandals. Even so, working with reputable data specialists can be the difference between unlocking your customer data—efficiently, ethically, across multiple touch points—and having it gather dust as an unrealized asset.
The solutions to many of these challenges may be simpler than they first appear. By adopting a ground-up, local-first approach, any national and international brand will be equipped to better respond to its customers’ needs wherever they are. But it is imperative they break down the silos, listen to localized digital signals, and choose the right partners to develop a truly customer-centric marketing strategy.