AmazeRealise strategist Terry Markle discusses where manufacturers unfamiliar with building a successful digital strategy should begin.
The influence of social
Customers don’t just use social media networks for peer opinion when considering a purchase. They turn to YouTube for product demonstrations and recommendations, to brand and retail websites for ratings and reviews, and to independent bodies like Good Housekeeping and Which?.
But social plays a much wider part in the customer experience than simply influencing purchase decisions. It has also become an important channel for after-sales service and support, with consumers turning to social media when they have a question or problem.
This responsibility for ‘social care’ is a key point of opportunity for manufacturers. After all, no one is better positioned to offer help on a particular product than the people who made it. Ensuring consumer expectations are being met, and met quickly, requires a coordinated effort between marketing, sales, and support teams.
Breaking down these silos can be a difficult task in even the most forward thinking organisation, but is key to being agile and responsive in today's fast paced economy.
However, ‘social care’ isn’t simply about replying to customer enquiries online. It is also an important tool for promoting self-service, giving you a platform to proactively engage customers, and to answer frequently asked questions in innovative ways.
A recent example of success is Zoetis using social media to reach, engage and share important information and diagnosis benefits with Vets and Farmers who are highly active on particular social platforms.
When leveraged correctly, social media can increase customer engagement while reducing the demand on call centres and support teams. As social becomes an increasingly important tool in your after-sales support, it simultaneously boosts cost efficiencies and customer relationships.
Don’t burn your bridges
The move towards a direct relationship with your customers doesn’t mean you have to eliminate the relationship that already exists with your retailer network.
Retailers have spent countless years building strong relationships with customers and an infrastructure that can be difficult to match. You have an opportunity to use this for the benefit of you and your customers as well as offering a new type of relationship with your retailer that offers them continuing value.
Look at what advantages their physical presence can offer to your customers in terms of an effortless journey, from consideration to purchase to aftersales support.
We created the ASICS Product Advisor to offer a personal approach to a digital user experience in the physical retail environment and this type of experience can be replicated for manufacturing companies.
You can define and design the in-store experience as an opportunity for a new customer to find another way to explore and select from an extensive range, getting knowledgeable advice and ‘test driving’ before committing to a purchase.
Investigating a productive ‘win win’ for your existing retail and distribution network is also good business practice. Instead of effectively fleeing the retail channel in favour of your own, you can open up greater opportunities that invariably benefit the customer.
Customers demand choice and convenience, so think about and look at areas where you can assist or facilitate your existing partner and retailer networks so they can successfully fulfill orders, be it click and collect or immediate delivery from the customer’s nearest in-stock retailer.
We worked with Pizza Hut to do this via Last Mile Fulfillment: distributing orders across the franchise network to meet customer expectations and delivering the necessary and expected brand experience.
If a particular restaurant was at capacity, we helped route traffic, in real-time, across their owned and franchise network of restaurants. Incentives were used to gently nudge potential customers to a less busy restaurant.
This led to operational efficiency across the franchise network, shorter waiting times, and more orders all laddered up to a more positive experience with the business.
This change in behaviour was facilitated using advertising space across the Pizza Hut website and mobile app, but also using targeted adverts to provide incentives for using a restaurant slightly further away.
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