Get Ready, Get Set, Go!
Consumers are talking about your products and services through a number of different channels, whether you like it or not. They are talking with friends and family, tweeting about it, or posting on another social media channel. It is easy for consumers to talk about your products through just about every medium imaginable, especially through the singular device that is firmly fixed in the palm of their hand. Consumers shout out to the universe their feelings on your products.
Welcome mobile devices!
A little over 5 years ago I entered into the world of mobile websites. I helped organizations from fortune 100 to fortune 1000 create a mobile strategy. At the time, about 2 percent of incoming traffic originated from mobile, but businesses were gearing up for the coming storm and for a deluge of devices hitting their network. Business—retail, specifically—needed to prepare for a world in which mobile devices would very likely overtake desktops as the primary devices hitting their networks. Smart phones and other mobile devices have spawned multiple industries.
Some companies embraced the coming deluge and created strategies that included mobile and social experiences while others resisted. The resistance was not about whether to do it, but how and when. The reason for their delayed reactions was simple. Many companies lacked the internal resources, knowledge, and foresight to understand the implications and to act on what was coming towards them at breakneck speed. Others realized that if they were going to tackle the challenge, either internally or externally, they needed to do it fast to get ahead of the curve.
The question then was: Should we build it with inexperienced internal resources or buy it from a resource that had developed domain expertise?
As a result…
What has happened since has been a move towards a single strategy to build a framework that provides a responsive solution where consumers can gain access to the same content on any device and have the same experiences. (Yes, there are other strategies; I saw this on the forefront of the m.dot business. At the time, there were pros and cons to each, but since then there has have been a move away from m.dot solutions en masse.)
Obviously, most of the buying public now has a smart phone or other mobile device and has access to your content 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But consumers don’t want to just access your business’s content in a consistent way anymore.
Businesses must now prepare for consumers to offer advice, suggestions, rants, raves, and just about everything else—and listen. Just like 5 years ago, some are ready; others not so much.
These folks either do not understand or have decided to put their heads in the sand and hope the problem (not really a problem—more of an opportunity!) will simply go away. A few believe that “the customers do not really know what they want, so we will tell them” group. Neither strategy will work in the coming years.
The ones who have been trying to prepare, so far, have used surveys and focus groups along with social listening tools to dragnet the mentions of their brands that can be overheard and corral all that data to make sense of it. There are pitfalls and blind spots in these analyses.
More importantly, the consumer doesn’t know much about these attempts to listen!
Think of the difference between meeting someone new at a coffeeshop who strikes up a conversation and seems to really listen to you—versus noticing that same person sitting behind you, obviously eavesdropping on your conversation with a friend.
No relationship is cultivated when the business eavesdrops on its consumers.
The best strategies will cooperate with the buying public head on and take advantage of a consumer’s willingness to have a conversation and to generate ideas.
Treat cooperation with customers for idea generation as a problem and your business will suffer. Treat cooperation as an opportunity and an important facet of your business and your business will benefit.
What to do?
The method is up to you. Here is the reality. Business will have to do more than just listen. Whether the strategy is to actively solicit input or passively listen, business needs to respond and respond with real action.
Be prepared to meet your customer on the same playing field and in or near real time. This gives the consumer a sense that your business is not only listening but is also concerned about how he or she feels—and is ready to take action. No matter what strategies you employ to listen to the public, make sure you have the ability to respond quickly.
Next time, we will discuss what other options and responses are available to businesses when customers are looking to see products improve and meet their changing needs.
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