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The Customer Can’t Be Denied

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Boarding a flight to Los Angeles today, I went old school and bought a newspaper. As I settled into my seat I noticed I was the only person within sight that held this form of communication in my hand.

Most people were engaged with their Smartphones while others scrolled away on their iPads. Others were less focused on reading material. For example, I couldn’t help but notice the couple next to me sorting out the selection of Airborne, baby aspirin, and sleeping pills they were sharing before take0ff.

The headline in my paper announced that married couples were now a minority, not only in Florida, but in the U.S. My first thought was to text my wife and congratulate her for making it through 24 years of marriage. Since the flight attendants might have confiscated my Android, I’ll do that later.

My second thought was about just how much our society is changing and, in turn, how difficult it is to “figure out” the consumer these days. Grouping people based on their past purchase history through a data segmentation exercise can produce a certain depth of insight. Research and focus groups can be heavily biased by sample sizes and group dynamics.

Listening in on the social graph probably leads to the most authentic insights about what consumers think, prefer, and actually do in practice. The question is, how do we listen and provide feedback to consumers without seeming like “big brother” or making their experience seem creepy?

And, how do we cope with and accommodate the increasingly “long tail” of customer segments discussed in this RetailWire discussion today?

The digitally connected consumer has done marketers a big favor in many ways. They have chosen to share details of the lives in granular fashion that could not have been anticipated before. They have also taken to communicating in channels that are the lowest of low cost.

Brands can afford to experiment, to test, and to learn in these channels without breaking the bank. But it’s not enough to “listen”, we have to connect the dots of the various interactions across the social graph – posts, check-ins, recommendations, reviews – and incorporate what we learn in a new form of value proposition that enhances customer experience and connects people emotionally with our brands.

If this sounds more like art than science, that just might be where we’re headed.



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