Does your customer engagement approach actually keep up with your customers? Activity that was once deemed cutting-edge can quickly fall out of date. Philip Otley dredges through the relics to suggest the habits worth breaking in 2017.

There are many attributes that define the modern-day customer but it’s hard to go past ‘empowered’ and ‘informed’.

A decade ago, building a powerful brand that generates attractive profits was often a matter of taking an OK product, setting pricing based on limited competitive offerings, crafting a powerful brand message and delivering a clever campaign to gain more than your fair share of recognition, sales, etc.

These days, your typical customer can effortlessly Google for a review of service, swap a local department store for an overseas retailer, or WhatsApp a friend for real-time recommendations. They’re happy to mix and match luxury products with value-for-money purchases and they aren’t wedded to individual relationships with retailers.

The customer’s biggest pain point? Brands that still operate as if loyalty is a given, without bothering to accept this new reality or put their needs front and centre.

Despite this, too many brands continue to base their marketing strategies on a situation that no longer exists. Given that the new year is a time to reassess and refresh, here are five quick suggestions for marketing activity you could stop doing in 2017. And we all know that sometimes it’s the thing we stop doing that clear the way for doing new, better things.

1. Say goodbye to (traditional)

One of the marketing world’s most-loved beliefs is that you can understand your target consumer by dividing your customer base into multiple segments with (sometimes) associated personas. Done and dusted as a one-off exercise. Probably based on demographics (we’re all targeting that 24- to 36-year-old female shopper, right?).

Unfortunately, this doesn’t fully account for the fact that an individual’s interactions with a retailer hinge as much on occasion as they do on buying habits. The customer shopping leisurely for their daughter’s birthday will display dramatically different characteristics when swinging past a grocery store to buy ingredients for Thursday dinner.

In 2017, using machine learning and artificial intelligence to glean actionable insights into more granular customer segments should become business as usual. Using others’ data to augment your own hard-earned insights is also a natural thing. The technology exists and now’s the right time to embrace it.

2. Stop investing
in your ‘digital channel’

If you’ve spent the last few years investing in a digital channel or hiring a digital director, you’re not alone. But if digital isn’t yet embedded in everything you do, it’s worth remembering that today’s customers don’t differentiate between digital and physical touchpoints. They expect seamless customer journeys — whether this means an in-store employee with access to their online wish list or a social media promotion that also extends offline.

These days, treating your digital channel as a silo runs directly counter to your ability to put the customer front and centre. Operating your online business as if it’s separate from the rest of your organisation sends the message that you don’t understand your customers or take their expectations on board.

3. Can those plans
for a mobile app

In today’s fast-paced marketing world, we thrive on hype and trends. But this can lead to short-lived endeavours, such as Twitter’s video platform Vine, which announced its demise in October 2016 after just four years in action. Mobile apps that aren’t extraordinarily useful belong in this category, despite commanding the time and resources of development teams eager to launch the latest answer to Uber.

The fact that customers’ smartphones only include a limited amount of real estate means that they’re increasingly unlikely to download your app or keep it updated as time goes on.

Unless you can conceive an app that makes a task radically more simple, cheap and/or fast, marketing strategies such as conversational commerce — which uses messaging apps and other natural language interfaces to engage with your customers — will be much more powerful in the coming year. They also share the advantage of in-built measurement and analytical platforms, something still absent from too many mobile apps.

4. Don’t engage
in every social channel

The instinct that tells you to launch a mobile app is probably the same one that insists you have a presence on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat — without thinking about whether this deepens your customer relationships or serves your brand’s long-term goals.

It has also led to an influx of brands that use social media channels without taking the time to acknowledge that each platform demands specific etiquette. Failure to do so can see credibility seriously suffer.

In 2017, instead of trying to be present on every social media platform, try focusing on the channel that serves your interests best. For example, publishing shoppable posts on Instagram can be a powerful marketing asset for fashion retailers; tweeting discounts on Twitter could risk alienating fans of the brand.

5. Throw away
your (generic) catalogue

The print catalogue, advertising deep discounts and upcoming promotions, is one of the biggest cornerstones of today’s retail world. But, by the time customers receive a catalogue in their mailbox, products are often out of stock at their local store. The fact that both print and digital catalogues are often highly generic and overlook a customer’s tastes, buying habits and preferences adds an extra layer of alienation.

Despite this, using data gleaned from customer behaviour to craft personalised, relevant catalogues and distribute them in a timely manner can still strengthen your customer relationships and bolster brand loyalty and sales.

This year, banish the urge to spam your user base with a bland offering that’s out of sync with their desires and make your catalogue count…even if it’s still delivered into a physical mailbox!

The start of the year is the perfect time to take stock of your marketing activity and invest in real-time capabilities that are relevant to your customer rather than accepting conventional marketing wisdom or slavishly following trends.

Over the coming months, it pays to remember that the things that you stop doing when it comes to marketing are just as powerful as the things that you do. What else could you quit this year?



Philip Otley

Philip Otley is a former partner in PwC Australia’s Experience Centre.

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