5 steps for consumer goods brands to become me-tailers
In the past, the retail sector itself has dominated the me-tailing debate. But in order to succeed in the digital age, other consumer goods brands need to become me-tailers, too.
The concept of me-tailing has existed for some time now. Loosely defined, it means creating lasting relationships with your customers by offering them a personalised experience at every possible touchpoint, and empowering them to interact with your brand in whatever way best suits their needs.
In the past, this debate has centred around the retail sector itself. This makes sense: retailers already have a good reason to be reachable by their customers on the web, in mobile apps and in stores. But the principles of me-tailing can be applied elsewhere, too - to consumer goods brands, for example.
Over the past ten years, digitalization has a caused massive changes in the brand landscape. Compare Interbrand's top 100 lists from 2004 and 2014: several giants from the consumer goods space - Marlboro, Budweiser, Nescafe - have lost rankings to digital businesses like Google, Facebook and Amazon. The success of these brands is inseparable from their 360-degree view of the customer, as well as their use of personalisation and mass customisation.
In order to regain this lost ground, and to restake their claim in customers' hearts and minds, consumer goods brands need to embrace the same principles and become me-tailers. This can be achieved in the following five steps:
Step 1: Create a me-tail roadmap
Planning ahead for me-tail success means establishing both an inside-out and outside-in view of the brand. Brands must build their strategies around the biggest drivers within their business and acknowledge their current level of digital maturity. But they should also base their decisions on external drivers: "What are the wants and needs of our customers? What sort of experience is our sector expected to provide? And how do we get there from here?"
The point here is that me-tailing is customer-driven - brands need to predict and respond to consumer behaviours, not set the digital transformation agenda according to what they've done in the past.
Step 2: Encourage customers to share
Next, brands can start to encourage their customers to share data.
In order for consumers to be willing to share on an ongoing basis, and for steps three through five to be effective, they need to establish a single identity for each user at every touchpoint, whether the web, mobile, social media or in a physical channel. This lays the groundwork for that all-important 360-degree view of the customer.
As for the data itself, it's important for brands to start simple - capturing a name and email address, for example. Later on, as the benefits of personalisation become more apparent, customers can be convinced to share more of their information.
To provide an example, I recently went to Tesla Motors to test drive an electric car. They collected some basic information and I had the keys within half an hour. But this was enough for the company to start sending me tailored communications, telling me when new models became available and giving me an opportunity to share more of my preferences as a customer.
Step 3: Gather and consolidate customer insights
Obviously, most brands already collect data on their target audience, even if consumers aren't sharing it proactively. Current techniques to capture rich customer information include the use of marketing questionnaires, customer service reports, social listening and so on.
Step three is to get all of this data in one place, rather than in separate silos that are leveraged for discrete sales and marketing efforts in different channels. This will help brands to gain the holistic insights required to create tailored, omnichannel campaigns.
Step 4: Personalise communication
Even before customers share information on their own particular wants, needs and lifestyles, brands can analyse existing insights - location data, browsing histories, feedback in social channels - to segment their audience, tailor their communications and optimise the media mix.
Note that a successful me-tail strategy should not only strengthen the brand, but also convince customers to share more, allowing the brand to continually ramp up its personalisation efforts.
Step 5: Manage continuous innovation
The fifth and final step is to manage continuous innovation. Successful me-tailing demands that brands keep pace with consumer trends both inside and outside of their industry, identifying and analysing their myriad opportunities to innovate. And, crucially, it means listening to customers, and using their wants and needs to drive the business as a whole.
Some innovations will be safer, and some riskier, for the brand than others. But the important thing is to put the individual customer at the centre, delivering the personalised experience that will make them the most loyal to the brand.
As a final aside, it should be noted that some consumer goods brands are already established me-tailers, and are making gains in the Interbrand rankings - and, of course, reaping the business benefits - as a result.
One example is Swedish fashion brand H&M, which ranked 21 in the 2014 list and is currently increasing new store openings by between 10 and 15 per cent per year. Alongside its aggressive brick-and-mortar push, the company has recently made significant progress in expanding its omnichannel strategy, personalising communication and connecting its digital offerings to stores.
Most consumer goods brands already do a lot of their own research. But it's clear that by communicating with the buying public on a more personal level, and by building their own communities in digital channels, they can do far more to make their customers loyal and invested.
Digital customer experience management in retail
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