When sitting around the conference room talking about how your business treats its customers have you considered what the definition really means, and is it accurate? For most businesses you are referring to the consumers who have purchased a product you offer. That is a very common definition; however, what a customer really indicates is you have a relationship with that consumer. After a consumer makes a purchase you can now engage with them via cross-sell, and up sell programs given the information you have about their purchase history. This is really where the definition of a customer has shifted. Technology and digital media has allowed businesses to engage in a relationship with a consumer who has never made a purchase, or even visited your website.
The biggest evidence of this shift comes via the power of social media. Consumers are providing information about themselves, and indicating which brands they ‘like,’ or ‘follow’ via Twitter and Facebook. These new sets of consumers are opting into your brands communication stream. This is an opportunity to engage in a whole new way. The information shared here can demonstrate how your brand feels about protecting the environment, share pictures about your customer’s use of your product in the daily life, or information about your latest offer. This opportunity has given rise to social CRM. Brands like Jet Blue, Best Buy, Comcast, and others have grown there businesses significantly by adapting this new definition of a customer.
Social media isn’t the only way that the definition of a customer has shifted. Take a look at what Google calls ‘communication extensions.’ This is an example where a consumer can provide their e-mail address without ever clicking through to your landing page. In this example you know the consumer is searching for your products, and is open to receiving ongoing communication from your brand.
Another example is what Gillette did via their ad campaign on the Map My Run mobile app. This campaign provided users of the app the ability to receive a free training guide. In order to receive the training guide the user needed to provide their e-mail address. This is a great example of a brand providing value to a consumer in exchange for the ability to engage in an ongoing relationship. This is something that not possible previously, and a key way the definition of a customer has shifted.
As brands start to absorb the shift in what it means to be treated as a “customer” they will find it easier to create engaging strategies. The focus can no longer be on forcing someone to buy something before they get to enjoy the brand experience, and promise. Your brands ability to connect more personally for customers creates a deeper and lasting connection that is quickly becoming the expectation.