Pre-empting Consumer Intent With a Truly Customer-Centric Approach

March 6, 202010min

Customer-centricity has been the CX and marketing industry promise of the past decade.

It has been hailed as the crucial ingredient to generating lasting loyalty because it is a fundamental shift in the way businesses view their customers, and indeed how they behave towards them. Essentially, it puts the customer at the very heart of the organisation and allows marketers and CX professionals to respond to their feedback, behaviour, and expectations accordingly.

So, where are we as an industry when it comes to delivering on this? Ultimately, customer lifetime value will be the real measure of success here – and according to new research from Isobar, the industry is lagging behind, as it is revealed almost half of marketers (46 percent) are struggling to meet growing consumer expectations.

Research we carried out at Thunderhead suggests marketers are in denial about the scale of the problem – we found 94 percent of consumers are frustrated by disjointed experiences. Clearly ‘customer-centricity’ is on the agenda, but few businesses are able to back up their efforts with genuine action.

Before we go any further, we need to reset on what it truly means to be customer-centric.

Organisations should consider moving away from viewing their customers as clicks and conversions, and start thinking about them as unique, with their own needs and preferences. Only by understanding customers on an individual level can marketers really build engagement and provide the most tailored, relevant and contextually aware content, utilising already-demonstrated intent to meet customer expectations.

So, what can organisations do to truly embrace customer centricity?

Here are three tips to help get started…

1. It’s not about more data, it’s about the data you already have

Data is an enabler and you probably already have too much. 

Behavioural insights, based on millions of touchpoints, can tell organisations who their customers are, what they want, and what their likely next move is. And the beauty of it is that the majority of organisations already have all of this at their fingertips.

The issue and reality, however, is that most marketers and CX professionals are drowning in the data. The consequences of marketers struggling and trying to make sense of it all can be paralysing.

Marketing teams and CX professionals can improve efficiency and drive greater customer engagement by using technology such as AI and machine learning to use data intelligently at scale. Technology provides a vital role in generating a clear real time view of each customer interacting with a brand. 

Moreover, marrying this together with a layer of context is a crucial piece of the puzzle. This will enable businesses to really harness true customer intent and inform future experiences with greater precision.  

Ultimately, demonstrating a clear understanding of who a customer is will be the foundation of a lasting relationship. Failing that could have drastic consequences, as almost nine-in-10 customers (87 percent) admitted to negatively perceiving a company that sends them information which lacks understanding of them as individuals and their unique context.

2. Connecting the omnichannel dots

When we talk about connecting the millions of consumer touchpoints, this needs to be all-encompassing.

Gone are the days that consumers might use one or two devices to interact with a brand. Nowadays, a customer’s journey might start on mobile while on the morning commute, switch to desktop once they get to the office, and then be picked up via a tablet device when relaxing at home in the evening.

They may even pop into a store at the weekend or make a call to the call centre.  

 Above all, consumers expect to be able to pick up where they left off, for the experience to be easy and to feel ‘known’. So, marketers and CX professionals need to be savvy when it comes to joining together these activities and behaviours. 

The industry needs to move away from ‘multichannel’, to instead be thinking about how best to implement ‘omnichannel’ approach. If an organisation’s strategy doesn’t consider the entire customer journey and the touchpoints traversed, their profile of each customer will likely be incomplete.

So much so, marketers and CX professionals could be missing key signals that are the difference between keeping a customer or not. 

If that’s the case, it’s time for a rethink. 

A true omnichannel strategy connects every bit of customer behaviour and context, however big or small, digital or physical. This is a huge factor in orchestrating customer journeys and understanding where the intent lies. And while omnichannel understanding isn’t immediate, connecting two channels is the starting point and the route to improved Customer Experience. Adding new channels is the correct long-term strategy, and becoming fully omnichannel need not be daunting.

3. Building a long-term approach

The biggest mistake a business can make is to focus these efforts only on campaigns. Or worse still, throwing out the rulebook at specific seasonal moments.

Think of Black Friday.

A brand has spent months getting to know a customer and building a delicate relationship, but in a moment of mass marketing, hounds them with irrelevant offers to shift products. It’s not customer-centric, it’s brand-centric. True customer-centricity is always-on, not a sporadic, part-time bolt-on.

Harnessing existing data and making sense of real-time behaviours over time will equip marketers and CX professionals with the insights they need to provide individual, richer experiences that have far more value than one day of discounts.

However, we mustn’t be blind to the fact that data has a short shelf life, as described by Forrester’s Mike Gualteri as “perishable insights”.

Collecting data is not a tick-box exercise, and professionals cannot sit back thinking the job is done, or that they have ‘enough’ data. Existing customer insights expire as soon as that same customer clicks, browses, or visits again, and again. Adaptive, real-time insights are key.

While this may all seem like a complex process, in actual fact, it’s easier than most organisations think. Journey orchestration is the answer. Orchestrating the appropriate response for an individual based on real-time insight and understanding intent, then delivering what the customer needs in the moment, is what helps brands stand apart from the competition and what sets them up for longer form success. 


Jason Hemingway

Jason Hemingway

Jason Hemingway is CMO at Thunderhead.




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