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Six ways to read a customer’s mind

By Steve Mbego | March 7th 2018
Customer service operator

The modern customer is impossible to ignore these days. This is largely because digitisation has obliterated the gap between the buyer and seller.

Customers have numerous platforms through which to express their thoughts, as well as compare brands. With the Internet, the power truly lies with the consumer.

According to a past Deloitte consumer review, modern customers are increasingly dictating what they want, when they want it and where they want it. They have become critics and creators, and expect to be given the chance to shape the products and services that they buy.

Of the consumers involved in the survey, 50 per cent expressed interest in being actively engaged in the process of making a brand. As a result, businesses that understand how to deal with today’s consumers can derive a strong competitive advantage, gain customer loyalty and create brand ambassadors.

Here are five strategies to best understand the modern consumer to win them over.

1. Create avenues for active involvement

Business is shifting towards co-creation, a strategy that concentrates on customer experiences and interactive relationships.

According to Jeff Fromm, the co-author of Marketing to Millennials, modern consumers prefer to be active participants rather than passive consumers. He describes this phenomenon as giving rise to a “participation economy”.

As a result, businesses should focus on measuring a ‘Return on Involvement’ rather than a Return on Investment.

As a business owner, to avoid losing revenue or customer loyalty, get the public involved in contests, such as coming up with a design, new product name or even a logo.

You can also ask your consumers to share their best experiences while using your brand, and offer the person with the most likes/votes a reward.

2. Provide customised experiences

Under the traditional way of doing business, customers had very limited say on what they’d end up purchasing. These days, though, modern customers want services or brands that provide unique solutions and customised experiences.

In as much as you can, allow customers to design a product they feel will meet their specifications. Department store Nordstrom, for example, allows customers to design their shoes based on a selection of styles and colours.

Closer home, SugarPie Cupcakes allows customers to design the digital cupcakes they’d want.

You can come up with more creative ways to enable consumers to control part of the process. After all, research shows that the modern consumer is willing to pay more for goods and services that provide them with a better experience.

3. Allow for free exchange of information

Modern consumers have limited patience given today’s speed of communication.

In the past, consumers could only reach companies through snail mail or by landline. But with the proliferation of smartphones and online platforms, the modern consumer can reach companies at the tap of a finger, and expects just as fast a response to their issues.

Any delays in addressing concerns can be interpreted negatively and could lead to an online rant about your brand.

Rather than act like this isn’t happening, manage the process of receiving feedback or ideas through social media profiles and consumer forums.

Your marketing communication should encourage participation that leads to deeper engagement with consumers.

4. Use surveys

Consumers today are highly opinionated and are often happy to give their views on ways companies can improve their brands – but it must be convenient for them to do so.

To encourage feedback, your business needs to be seen taking suggestions seriously by either responding to the ideas floated or incorporating them in their value chains.

Through surveys, you can also measure your customers’ satisfaction levels and get insight into areas that require improvement.

5. Take online reviews seriously

Customers rely heavily on the opinions of others to get information about a business or brand. They ask friends who have experienced the brand, or search for online reviews to see what previous customers think about a product.

For instance, when a new club opens, revellers will often share their experiences and compare it to other joints. If they have a good experience, they’re likely to recommend it.

Pay attention to what consumers say about you online. A lot of people are more likely to believe what their friends say about a brand over any advertising campaigns you run.

You can use bots to give instant responses to feedback, or assure those with complaints that someone will be in touch soon.

6. Involve customers in the early stages of product development

The early stages of product development provide your business with the opportunity to hear what customers want.

Involving your target market, through focus groups or online surveys, will help you develop a product that meets their expectations, and gives you a chance to gain brand ambassadors.

Don’t forget that the traditional way of doing business where the customer was the last in line is long gone.

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