This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.
To say that technology has changed the way our world functions would be an understatement. From an era where brands connected with consumers through direct selling and mass-market advertising, the customer journey has evolved dramatically with the advent of social, mobile, cloud and the Internet of Customers.
Consumers are accessing information very differently today, delaying their conversations with sales staff, so much so that they will have traversed more than half their purchase journey before actually engaging with salespeople (CEB). Research by Deloitte revealed 49 percent of in-store purchases made in 2014 were digitally influenced.
Fuelled by the increasing availability of mobile devices, and connectivity through digital technologies and platforms, the rate of disruption in the consumer market is expected to continue rising. What will the role of sales be in a world where the Internet of Customers is the reality, and how can brands remain competitive in an increasingly crowded retail landscape?
An Internet of Customers reality
With the overabundance of alternatives consumers have today, brands can no longer rely solely on their offerings to edge out competition. Instead, the key lies in one-to-one precision marketing, and in delivering a highly personalised experience from start to finish.
A Gartner study found that 89 percent of companies expect to compete solely on customer experience by 2016. To overcome the challenge of hyper-competition, brands need to invest in creating personalised customer journeys derived through customer insights. Through this, companies can engage with their customers at every touch point along their purchase journey — delivering the right information at the right time and through the right channels — in order to influence purchasing decisions and build deeper relationships with their customers.
- Analytics as the dominant sales tool. If the customer purchase journey is the roadmap to your customer's heart, then analytics are the coordinates to help companies plot every point on that map.
A recent global study conducted by Salesforce on the State of Marketing ranked marketing analytics as the second most important technology to the customer journey, right behind mobile applications. While predictive analytics represent the next phase of analytics innovation, adoption is increasingly shifting toward non-IT functions like marketing, where decisions regarding customer engagement are made (Forrester). With the right mix of information and insights, sales and marketing teams are better able to pinpoint trends and potential areas for growth, and thereby leverage opportunities for conversion to actual sales.
- Keeping pace with customers via mobile. Mobile is another key trend that sales teams can't ignore. Not only has mobile technology given consumers immediate access to information that can influence their decision-making process, the rise of mobile payments also mean that more customer purchase journeys are ending in the mobile space.
IDC's latest report estimates that mobile payments worldwide will grow 124 percent from 2015's estimate to hit US$1 trillion by 2017, with Asia Pacific leading the world in mobile payment development. Businesses are also moving towards connecting with their users via mobile marketing. Our State of Marketing report revealed that 70 percent of businesses surveyed considered mobile marketing a critical enabler of products and services, and planned to significantly increase expenditure on social and mobile this year.
With customers and prospects expecting to be able to purchase directly via mobile applications, companies who are able to deliver a seamless, yet highly personalised online-to-offline experience on mobile by integrating social, marketing, sales and services will stand to gain.
- A collaborative culture While the right insights can help companies create personalised customer journeys that speak to their customers, delivering that holistic experience requires the cooperative effort of every function in the organisation. Salesforce's global State of Sales study found that companies who take a collaborative approach to sales were three times more likely to succeed than those who viewed sales as a standalone function.
For example, information has to be shared across marketing and sales teams in order to gain a complete view of the customer's journey. Employee satisfaction is also crucial in ensuring that staff are able and willing to deliver that personalised experience to customers. All departments need to work closely with their IT team to identify the right solutions that best suit their needs.
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