New technologies have put customers in the driver’s seat of the marketplace — giving them power over which brands sink or swim in the digital age.

On the 200th birth anniversary year of Karl Marx I dare to take little inspiration from his theory of Dialectical Materialism to set a context to the data driven marketing today. If Production Orientation was the thesis, it created the anti thesis of Customer Orientation, genesis of all the marketing theories and practices. And today due to technology, we are witnessing the synthesis where customer is the centre and control of everything. Customers want one on one dialogue with the brands. So what are the challenges that marketers face in this evolved marketplace –

Omni-Channelvorous Customer – Today customer has a multitude of channels to communicate with brands, with each other or about brands with each other. To the digital channels like website, apps, e-mails, social media etc and physical channels like the call centre, dealerships or relationship managers, with advancement of technology, the customer now has the option of responsive channels as well, like the retail kiosks or telematics which help brands reach customers proactively.

Managing Market Optionization – To the multiple channels for the customers to communicate, the options of channels to transact have also multiplied. Right from search to buy to pay, there are now multiple formats emerging both in the physical and the digital space. Further to this complexity, a spectrum of categories are facing the ownership vs usage debate like music at one end and automobiles at the other.

Measuring Marketing Attribution – The challenge of attributing the ROI (return on investment) correctly across the value chain, with the transitions discussed above have become even more complex. The debates on how the number of likes or views are connected to the business continue. With the communication channels operating in silos and transaction channels not being integrated, the market eco system is throwing up a lot of data but it is impossible to attribute the cause and effect rightly.

In this dynamic CEO system it is critical to give a method to the madness for brand success. It is imperative to have a data driven customer experience strategy which the customer should find attractive, engaging and rewarding for her to come back to the brand repeatedly. We need to move from a noisy push approach of bombarding customers with incentives and messages to a pull approach of creating opportunities that the customers will find rewarding, always. To enable this I would like to recommend an aggregated 4 Point approach with due respect and apologies to Dr.Kotler. The recommended new 4 Ps are as follows –

Positioning

Today’s hyper competitive, undifferentiated landscape has made positioning even more critical. The customers today don’t buy just a brand, they make choices basis multiple benefits they seek, many outside the core brand benefit arena. In this age of the customer, brands need to co-create the brand and product with customers, to truly demonstrate value and customization. No wonder the size of the customer segments is changing from one core macro segment of millions to many micro segments of thousands to millions of segments with the size of unity – one customer with one issue which she believes is unique.

It is the strength of positioning which will helps the brand interact with each customer individually with a unique proposition but will still remain one brand. One robust positioning that can come up with millions of propositions.

Platform

A robust positioning can help evolve a versatile platform – an ecosystem around the brand where other complementary brands/services can also join in to create a much higher value for the customer. The platform brings together the entire communication and the transaction landscape in a simple yet exciting manner. An example is Nike which, though in the business of making sports shoes, created a platform of health – an ecosystem of the website and health app linked to the shoes and the health wrist band. Now Nike literally had the pulse of the customer. The hospitals could create a platform around care, on which pharma brands, equipments, aids, accessories and other services can also participate.This will help them move from the reactive and transactional ‘treatment’ relationship to the holistic and proactive ‘caring’ relationship. The platform can become the marketing asset that a customer will proactively, excitedly and continuously get pulled towards, for a dialogue.

Performance

Once the platform has been created, it is imperative to define the right set of performance measures. The right KPIs will help get the measurement right, enabling right decisions. Many KPIs of earlier era may not be relevant today, like many companies are moving from measuring market share to measuring customer share. It is recommended to define macro and micro KPIs, depending on the size of your marketing budget and sophistication of chosen media. The macro KPIs may focus on the combined performance of your overall marketing and advertising ecosystem, whereas micro KPIs may focus on the specific performance of a particular channel or tactic.

But while consumers operate in a multichannel world, the metrics of their interactions are still siloed. As an approach we have been measuring consumer activity in each channel but not the entire consumer journey in an integrated manner. There are many examples where the customer has given thumbs up to experience with each individual channel but has given thumbs down to the overall journey. We need to capture customer data in real-time, across channels and devices for accurate interpretation of results and thereby right business decisions.

The rapidly changing marketing environment often feels like a moving target that’s impossible to hit. Yet the volume of data available today should make it possible to find metrics and analytic opportunities that take advantage of unique insights, are understood and trusted by the top team, provide proof of progress and lay a foundation for more sophisticated approaches to tracking marketing ROI.

Program

Now that our 3 Ps are in place, a robust positioning helping us build a truly versatile platform with the right performance measures in place, it is now time to truly harness the power of the fourth P, which is the program. Now communication need not be a multitude of disparate campaigns (ATL/BTL, traditional vs digital etc) but a comprehensive program.

The starting point is understanding the end-to-end journeys customers take to accomplish a task. These journeys are often complex routes across websites, social media, stores, customer service, and myriad other interaction points. These journeys should become the unifying principle for the business. This requires an integrated process, so that each part of the business delivers consistent, timely, and relevant content as part of a complete customer journey experience.

We should blur the lines and look at the entire program from the customer’s point of view who is communicating through channels basis not what she should do but basis what she wants to do.

It is my belief that taking this new 4Ps approach can break the siloed thinking chains of our minds, and the brands and the customers can do a tango to the beat of data.

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