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"An insightful and refreshing look at the way consumers and retailers interact in this modern age.”

Sir Stuart Rose,
Chairman of Marks & Spencer plc

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So, who owns the Customer, digitally speaking?

Since the first caveman sold the secret of fire to his neighbour, people have been asking, “Who owns the customer?” Admittedly those that are doing the asking are usually management consultants. The rest of us are generally too busy selling stuff.   

 

Examining the functions of any enterprise tends to suggest that in all probability the sales team and the marketing people have something to do with it. And it’s tempting, seductive even, to point at these guys when things go really well or indescribably badly.

 

But it’s become more complicated than that.

 

There’s a now a new kid on the block. Digital. Peremptorily inserted into the organisation through a leap in technology, perched in a shiny new department and with the CEO’s ear close at hand they evangelise their partisan wares and rail against the status quo.

That Digital is now a key component of the channel mix is beyond question.  Prospective customers can carry out their research and take advice from peer groups before investing their time to go into physical, face to face space and complete their purchase. Some daring types even buy things fully on line or on mobile and almost all of us have become used to dealing with the transactional minutiae of our lives that way. After all it saves time for the important stuff, like, ahem, face to face shopping.

 

But Digital isn’t just another route to market. It can enhance every aspect of the value proposition, cutting lead times, reducing inaccuracies and allowing organisations to respond to customer’s desires in a timely and sometimes prescient way. But if it’s held back in a silo, isolated from the rest of the organisation, it can never deliver its potential.

 

So what about that perennial question?  Well I think we need to define it better in order to find an answer.  I don’t think any enterprise really wants to take possession of Mrs Jones at Number 23, what they really mean is how should they manage their relationship with her and have influence over her future buying intentions.

 

We now know that more than 50% of every purchase decision is emotional and that buyers are heavily influenced by how they feel about a brand.  The collective perception of that brand, and its deliverables is collated in the cloud and absorbed through social media, to be compared and contrasted with our own experiences and turned into a feeling.

 

Digital makes the answer to my question easier to propose but harder to execute. Customer perception is influenced by the myriad of touch points that make up each individual customer/brand journey of interactions. Starting from the very first knowledge of a brand, reaching through the consumption of products and services and all the way to the death of the relationship. Every aspect of an optimised design for an efficient enterprise which perfectly delivers a proposition that meets a customer’s perceived need generates data which can be turned into knowledge and used to continuously improve the stream of future customer and supplier interactions.

 

It’s that simple when you say it fast.

 

But here’s the real insight. Guys, please, don’t make Digital a separate department and confuse the politics of the organisation. Rather, let it pervade every aspect of what you do and infuse the sinews of the organisation.  

 

Ignore internal politics and focus only on that future stream of customer wants and the public’s collective perception of your brand amongst present and future target markets.

 

You know that you can’t own Mrs Jones don’t you?  That would be illegal. But you can do an awful lot to make her want to keep coming back for more.