The role of marketing in a ‘Liquid Environment’

Michael Buckley

Michael Buckley is Accenture Interactive’s Lead for Australia and New Zealand.

Consumer experiences, particularly those with uncomplicated digital transactions such as Uber and AirBnB, are frequently being compared to and referenced in unrelated industries. The ease and simplicity of these platforms raises the question: ‘Why can’t all customer service and payment transactions be this easy?’

This shift in consumer expectations has come as a result of the wave of transformative digital services, driven by the convergence of the Internet of Things (IoT). Innovation has powered consumer’s new ‘liquid expectations’ whereby expectations fostered in one industry leak through to others in a ‘liquid’ manner. From a marketing perspective, the industry will be forced to embrace the changing nature of consumer interactions in order to stay relevant and competitive in an interconnected world.

Traditionally, marketing focused on identifying and eclipsing competitors. While we will continue to see traditional marketing dynamics among technology companies like Apple and Samsung, and retail giants like Woolworths and Coles, these dynamics will be intertwined within a more complex environment. Using these companies as examples, it is evident that the consumer experience has evolved significantly through the introduction of supermarket self-checkouts, and the service standards of the Apple Genius Bar.

Given the chance to pay seamlessly for one product or service, consumers want to pay seamlessly for everything. If they experience personalisation on one channel, they start to expect it across all channels. In both these retail and technology examples, brands have therefore delivered offerings that spread beyond standard expectations; delivering on new liquid expectation.

As digital disruption and technological innovation elevate the competitive stakes, companies are quickly learning they must adapt to rapidly changing consumer behaviour or risk drowning in this new liquidity.

Take Coca-Cola Amatil’s retrofitting of vending machines. The beverage company boosted sales by up to 12 per cent after creating a fresh and personalised vending experience through the installation of touchscreens, video cameras and Microsoft Kinect technology. The marketing team borrowed tactics traditionally employed by technology and audiovisual offerings to sell a consumer packaged good.

Not only did the improvement of the vending machines drive sales, the data created by these connected apparatus is enabling Cola-Cola Amatil to make better decisions about cooler placement, restocking, and wider retail needs.

As the marketing and business focus of leading brands shifts from the competitor to the consumer, brands should consider three critical elements in order to position themselves for success in a ‘liquid’ environment:

Get personal

As people increasingly compare their experiences and develop ‘liquid expectations,’ the erosion of consumer loyalty has been recorded. A global study conducted in 2014 by Accenture found six in 10 respondents were more likely to switch from one provider to another compared to 10 years ago. Of that group, 50 per cent said they would consider future offers from non-traditional players that they may never have previously considered.

In order to foster ongoing and consistent consumer relationships in this environment, successful companies are working to create seamless and personalised transactions. Through a combination of online and offline channels, marketers are beginning to implement creative initiatives like flexible click-and-collect options for busy professionals and digitalised coupons personalised according to specific segments.

A key stage in the development of new consumer loyalty strategies is gaining an understanding of consumer needs. Marketers play a primary role in delivering insight into the ‘liquid’ needs of modern-day consumers.

Placement at the cutting edge

According to a Frost and Sullivan report, the wearables sector is predicted to experience a boom with a compound annual growth rate of 78 per cent from 2014. As the industry grows and consumers become more open to wearable technology, marketers can optimise these technologies as a new frontier in consumer engagement. Whether it be alerting consumers about products they need to replenish on their next shopping trip, engaging with location-based special options, or speaking to individuals based on their health and fitness levels, the possibilities are endless.

The challenge lies in understanding the balance between meeting expectations and intruding on consumer’s lives. Although consumers value content and interactions that reflect their lifestyle and desires, many people complain of ‘app fatigue’ resulting from a market flooded with proliferating channels and platforms.

Marketers’ are in a central position to decide which combination of technologies should be utilised to work with diverse consumer bases.

Staying afloat in a ‘data lake’

Marketers have never had more customer data at their fingertips. This data is used to design personalised shopping experiences that reflect customer habits at home, at school, in the office or on holiday. However, the sheer quantity of available data has been known to paralyse companies. Marketing teams play a critical role in ensuring their companies don’t drown in data. They recognise that success relies on not only acquiring the data, but managing and governing the information.

Having an in-depth understanding of customers’ ‘liquid expectations’ plays a critical role on the path to purchase. Marketing teams must continue to work on ensuring the appropriate use of data, innovative technology and personalisation tactics are embedded in their companies’ DNA.

Tags: data-driven marketing, CMO role, marketing strategy

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