Aside

Consumers to Corporations: Where’s My Experience?

With a print job deadline looming, I Googled on Kinko’s, figuring I’d get their number and call before I went over. Clicking again for more information, I was faced with the FedEx landing page. Suddenly, my services and solution were reduced to 8-point type–the most subsidiary of subsidiaries–and the services I wanted were nowhere to be found.
Many companies are failing to understand the deep desire consumers have for customization. Instead, the experience consumers often get online reflects what the company wants to push. And there’s a world of difference between what a new customer expects when making their first visit to your site vs. what a seasoned customer who’s made three or four visits would like–to say nothing of a loyal shopper who’s made dozens of visits if it’s a retail site. No wonder enterprise marketers trying to mine the SMB market are ingesting a lot of aspirin–one-to-many is not for the faint of heart.
Consumers feel the need for speed
In the FedEx example, the customer expectation was a quick, focused response to a problem. Ground services, delivery to Beijing, or other aspects of the FedEx portfolio were simply irrelevant. Consumers want powerful, immediate help online–tailored solutions that meet their needs quickly and help them gain closure. The desire for immediate gratification is all-powerful.
Consumers have been over the excitement of sending and receiving files and photos for some time now. They’re complacent about web cams. And trading Avril Lavigne’s new single Girlfriend with their best friend? Been there, done that. Technology itself doesn’t thrill–it’s the ability to morph to me that excites.
If you’re a Blue Cross subscriber, you know what a challenge it is to get coherent information. During a recent visit, I found Blue TV and Blue Radio proudly presented. Yet neither is of interest to me. All I needed was some pricing–the one thing that’s not on the site. The system requires delving into their automated voice system to get to a service rep, with the addition of several passwords before any information is provided. The cryptic data on the site makes it difficult, if not impossible, to compare offers electronically. While actuarial-driven detail makes the healthcare pricing equation challenging, the health insurance company that brings some of the quote methodology used by the auto insurance industry to consumers is pretty certain to win customers. That same company may even provide PriceGrabber-like comparisons, allowing easy shopping for healthcare program and services.
Media snacking for unlimited choice
With Internet search capabilities, it’s not surprising that consumers are fashioning their own versions of what’s desirable regarding the media too. The concept of consumers “snacking” on information on the Web is in direct contrast to an individual with a newspaper subscription. The subscriber receives a single editorial voice. The “snacker” may read news published in Australia, Scotland, the U.S., India and South Africa, creating her/his own international sources with an individualized local flavor that matches their interest in the duckbilled platypus, how to play bagpipes, baseball statistics, recipes for saag lamb and HIV prevention programs. This daily search–while demanding far more personalized information, products and services than ever before–places selection and power in the hands of the consumer. In this scenario, traditional brands that are unresponsive languish, while those that respond to consumer needs and desires (Google, Apple, even Cisco) reap huge benefits.
We’re also seeing this trend play out in areas other than tech, as consumers vote with their wallets and purchase local organic food, press dairies to produce hormone-free milk, buy cars that get better gas mileage, click for customized basketball shoes and acquire personalized business cards from a printer in another country.
The desire for customizable products should parallel the ability to send and receive tailored messages through marketing that can be aimed at highly specific targets. The new mix that will form the model for big brands in the future could be an aggregation of DM, email and Web, peppered with microtargeting, mini-campaigns and experiential marketing. Whatever emerges, you can be sure that consumers won’t stop asking you to serve it “their way” anytime soon.

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