Hotline: The Crux of the Brand-Customer Relationship (Part 11)

Gnarly Challenges

I realised that the challenge had to be linked to the retention and engagement side of the relationship, rather than the acquisition side. Marketers had little or no control on the spends for new acquisition – there was a bidding process for attracting digital customers via the Big Tech platforms. While they could search for more esoteric keywords or sites, other brands could also do the same. It was almost as if a driver discovered a new road to get to a destination faster in traffic, and before one realises it, even that road gets congested as Google Maps re-routes others on that path.

The next possible approach could be to make it attractive for first-time app users or website visitors to transact. Brands already offered discounts for this. When Bhavana ordered shoes from ASIC’s website, they offered her a 10% discount on her first order if she signed up with her email address to receive regular updates. Brands now even offer small incentives to collect email addresses and mobile numbers in-store for new buyers. The challenge remains in converting the one-time buyer into a repeat customer. A friend I spoke to said that 80% of first-time buyers do not return for a transaction – meaning only one in five make a second purchase. Driving a second transaction could be a good candidate for a gnarly challenge marketers needed to address.

On the retention side, the problem could be to improve the omnichannel customer experience. This begins with search on the brand’s properties. As we have seen, most search results suck. The item may be in the catalog but it doesn’t show up when a prospect is searching. This could be a gnarly problem to fix. Then come the actual recommendations – how personalised and relevant they are. Another gnarly challenge. For existing customers, what is the next best product to pitch could also be a problem worth addressing.

I started thinking about some of my own experiences as a buyer. When I wanted to book a hotel room for the vacation, I would have liked to see a floor plan rather than just a list of amenities and a few pictures. Most hotel sites are still stuck in the early 2000s when providing detailed info about the rooms – which becomes especially important for long stays. I had bought two pants from Target and realised that one of them was a bit too tight – there was a “classic fit” (which was good) and a “straight fit” (which was not). So, I decided to return the latter. When I went to the store (a different one from where I had bought), could the cashier engage me with my reason for the return and the possibility of sending me the right fitting pants rather than just refunding the cash with their no-questions-asked returns policy? Could Gap have asked me for my email address and then offered to send me more suggestions for T-shirts with pockets? Could every book that I inquired about and which wasn’t in the store at Strand and Barnes & Noble triggered an email with an offer to deliver it in two days from their warehouse? Could the Hamilton play company offer me some cross-sells after the play – the book by Ron Chernow, the sound-track with the songs, and perhaps other memorabilia? In fact, since I booked via Ticketmaster, do they even know me?

As I was thinking about all these experiences and imagined wish lists of what marketers could have done differently to get more from me, I got that insight – the Aha moment – about the one gnarly problem which if solved could help address many others and unlock a better customer relationship.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.