Millennials have been accused of “killing” a litany of trends, ideas, and even industries. Some may be true. Most aren’t. We’re not here to pass judgment. Where Millennials—and Gen Z—have had an impact is the customer experience.
Traditionally the customer experience was seen from a “one for all” mentality. Marketing stayed generic, informal, impersonal. Brands were built on legacy and recognition. Broadcast messages reigned supreme. At best, consumers would see their name in a subject line or at the top of an email. The brand-consumer relationship was conversion-driven.
That simply doesn’t cut it for Millennials, Gen Z, and increasingly more from the Generations X and above. Recent years have seen a shift in expectations that brands must adapt to or risk becoming irrelevant.
Marketing as a Conversation
Gone are the days when a business can treat its audience as a single, amorphous entity. Now, there is a desire from consumers for a personal connection with brands they love—one that establishes the consumer as a human with interests, feelings and experiences that inform how they spend their time and money.
Marketers spend a lot of time persona mapping and segmenting users, categorizing them using pre-defined profile criteria. In doing so, a core element of marketing can be forgotten: marketers are humans too.
You reading this right now are a human with likes and dislikes. You most likely appreciate when someone takes the time to get to know you—really know you. They ask the right questions, and better yet, they respond to learn more. It’s a back-and-forth where information and value are traded, yes, but it’s meaningful. It’s a conversation.
This is the experience that today’s consumers expect from brands. One that extends beyond the business aspect of the relationship and touches on the humanity of all involved on both sides of the message. One that takes the traditional customer journey and alters the perspective to actually follow its namesake and focus on the steps the customer has taken to get to this point.
The Marketer’s Evolving Role
But conversations are not typical in marketing—or at least they haven’t been. Much like consumers, brands now have access to numerous channels across devices. From email to push to SMS and beyond, marketers are able to create a customer experience that reaches customers wherever and however they prefer, but these messages are largely one-sided.
Marketers have instead invested their time in letting data collection inform campaigns. And it should. However, with the swathe of devices and channels comes a web of data ingestion points that lead to data silos.
Marketers are powerless without their data, but there needs to be a consolidation of that data and a focus on the right data. Quality over quantity, right? That quality, consolidated data needs to be the core driver behind the creation of content and mapping of lifecycle stages. It helps inform more personalized messaging that can be used to spark back-and-forth conversations with users.
In driving a conversation with someone, you learn so much more. Customers now wear their values on their sleeves. So much so that these values—whether they be ethical, political, moral, etc.—are defining elements of an individual’s being. Millennials, in particular, even bring their values into their buying behavior, seeking out brands that share their same values.
To make a stance and share values as a brand has traditionally been seen as a bold move. Today, it’s necessary for establishing an empathetic connection with consumers. As an added bonus, It allows marketers to speak more freely in a more authentic tone that can relate to the audience on a deeper level—a level consumers crave.
By making this transition to empathy, authenticity and transparency, the marketer is able to break down the walls between business and consumer. Instead creating a customer experience that is built on the desire to understand and contextualize each individual’s perspective.
Customer Experience Made Memorable
The shift towards a personal relationship with users is a lofty goal. There’s no denying that, especially when databases and audiences can grow quickly. To scale with your audience, you have to set yourself up for success with a marketing technology stack prepared to support such a detailed customer experience.
With that said, it’s all a moot point if the intention is missing. The first step towards reaching the expectations set forth by today’s consumers is displaying the intent to treat them as more than a conversion and highlight the brand as an authentic identity rather than an organization.
Starting out with genuine intent assures your audience that the values you express are real and your marketing is designed to understand exactly what they want. Which channel do they prefer? What time of day is best for getting their attention? How do they feel about your company and its values? What is going on in the world that might impact their buying behavior? What can we do as a brand to make the customer experience convenient, simple and individualized?
These are the questions that show intent to create a customer experience that takes the humanity of the consumer into account. These are the questions that establish a brand as a trusted ally, demonstrating a concerted effort to improve the lives of its customers to the point where they feel like valued guests.
These are the questions that set your brand up to create a customer experience that is lasting and memorable.