Leveraging Individualized Customer Micro-Moments

Leveraging Individualized Customer Micro-Moments

January 23, 2017
8 min read

We now live in an experience economy. Content creators, influencers, media platforms and advertisers understand the fundamental shift that gives us ONLY seconds to spark customer attention, and minutes to action appropriately to maintain that attention.

How We Got Here: Personalized Marketing Is Not New

For anyone that has come from database marketing world, we have embraced one-to one marketing from the time Peppers and Rogers evangelized its value in the 1990’s. The principles have not changed much,

…one-to-one marketing (also called relationship marketing or customer-relationship management) means being willing and able to change your behavior toward an individual customer based on what the customer tells you and what else you know about that customer.

Mass marketing has developed a one-to many message, in an attempt to find the relevant few in the crowd, and inspire them to purchase. However, direct marketing’s evolution to target at a more granular level in seeking relevance, created a movement that has gained increasing headway today.

We’ve gone beyond demographics to begin to infer intent based on search behavior.

When Google cornered the term, ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth), they seemingly uncovered true understanding of human intent. It allowed us into the mind of the consumer, understanding purchase funnel activity and allowed us to refine our understanding of the consumer and how they make decisions. Google defined ZMOT this way:

the precise moment when they [people] have a need, intent or question they want answered online.

Google went to to convey,

A brand that answers these questions at just the right time scores a double win: It helps improve a consumer’s life and stands to gain a competitive advantage over brands that don’t.

Social data has accelerated this understanding. For someone who came from banking my exposure to social networks and the dynamics that that occur within communities allowed me to discover the level of transparency and authenticity that existed among people who truly cared about their communities.

Community Perpetuates Because of Shared Values

This is caring exemplified. The level of opinion and discussion among a variety of niche topics like current events, climate change, celebrity gossip also gave way to individuals sharing personal stories – personal and professional challenges and successes, moments of pride, and serendipity. Suddenly the forum that came together because of the one topic or event was nurtured by sheer caring.

I realized this when I worked at Yahoo! Answers. There was a reason people kept coming back to ask and answer questions. And perhaps it started out with wanting to be the Yahoo! Guru – the all-knowing expert. But it grew into an online place where people asked questions just because they wanted to re-ignite a conversation and spend some time where their opinion was valued. I always knew there was something special when one of the strongest properties on Yahoo! continued to drive reach, frequency and engagement but failed to monetize.

There is no direct correlation between traffic and purchase. This is an inferred result. Our team was successful at helping to nurture the communities, and keep them safe. But we realized that putting ads on the site did little to give advertisers any attention. As far as the community was concerned, they were blind to the ads. They were there for other reasons. These content creators and engagers had developed a new virtual coffee shop to meet their peeps, when they could spare a moment.

It’s these communities that have shifted consumer attention from marketing messages to information sources they trust. This has hampered performance for the modern-day marketer and has challenged them to discover ways to capture the coveted consumer attention and keep it.

Enter “Micro-moments”

In an era where mobile continues to be ubiquitous, so too have behaviors shifted rapidly from desktop to mobile. For the first time, volume searches have been overtaken by mobile and, in the process, has begun to introduce more time and location relevant behaviors more closely related to purchase intent. Google brought recognition to their new term, “micro-moments”  that signifies:

those small but critical windows when a customer demonstrates intent by reaching for their phone to act on a need in the moment.

Brian Solis wrote about the the customer micro-moment. He stated this:

Google found that in these micro-moments, customers focus their actions by intent, search based on context and desired outcomes, and expect everything to move at the speed of mobile. These behaviors are most often based on the following activities:

  • I-want-to-go…
  • I-want-to-know…
  • I-want-to-do…
  • I-want-to-buy…

Where Micro-Moments Go Beyond the Search Box

Brian referenced these principles behind micro-moments that will re-architect the mobile experience: 1) designing for intent 2) understanding context 3) built for speed (right time and right place).

The concept of an always-on market that needs retail to adapt to the more impatient consumer also brings with it a well of data that can guide businesses to provide for the best experiences.

I would argue that micro-moments, while readily apparent in some cases, may be nuanced in most cases. What people do in mobile continues to be a “fragment” of their lives. While intent may be gleaned by how consumers interact with their apps, what they read, what they click on and what they search for, these are minimized by the events or moments that may, for the most part, not reveal any consumer intent. However, they could also be significant business triggers that can inform a potential purchase opportunity.

Consumer intent may not be readily apparent;  but for a business, consumer life events, in and of themselves, present their own opportunities

TODAY we espouse the value of content. IMAGINE a real estate agent who is writing a post about tips to finding the perfect house. AND while he’s writing that post, the prospective client he just met a week ago just closed on their first home. He missed that window of opportunity.

We begin to realize that micro-moments, while customer-led, do NOT always overtly signify an intent to purchase. And this is where the definition changes. Micro-moments present themselves everyday. What we share, the content we read, those to whom we speak, the topics we convey, the important and not-so important moments we capture – contribute to these perpetual life events. These contribute to these digital breadcrumbs that lead the customer to an intended path, either consciously or subconsciously. Each micro-moment presents itself and with technologies today provides the business with a perspective –outside their controlled purview – in near real-time.

If you had “more context” about your customer – those micro moments that were time-relevant and business-relevant and you had the opportunity to do something about it YOU would seize that opportunity. This context is the knowledge gap. It is also the holy grail that allows the business to build and nurture enduring relationships with its customers.

The Customer Defines Value, Not the Business

Direct marketing principles defined customer value not by Pepper and Rogers’ standards; rather the business took this stance:

  • How much revenue does that customer give to me? How often do they come to my stores? When was the last purchase they made?
  • This was an age old model called Recency, Frequency, Monetization. Customer value was defined based on company-defined goals.
  • Business treated customer differently based on where they fit within this model.

Online marketing paved the way to truly understanding customer journey.

Understanding the Path to Purchase

Business became adept at modelling the customer path to purchase, predicated on specific triggers defined from years of observation and experimentation. Business was able to help drive consumer consideration down this funnel with measured accuracy. Overtime, this simplified funnel morphed with defined tactics that were specific to each stage. Variations of this funnel provided considerations of user journey on the website, online and through mobile:

With the rise of technology and pervasiveness of information, however, the path to purchase can compress each of these levels so they occur concurrently. The journey from consideration to purchase can happen in seconds as opposed to days or hours.  This is what I surmise :

Does this signify the death of the purchase funnel? It’s an evolution that reveals to business that the consumer purchase journey is dynamic. Information can come from anywhere, controlled and dictated entirely by the consumer. But the paths, while not always predictable, can carry significant weight based on past behavior.

Behavior implies affinity. Affinity signifies propensity. Unlike the limited data access to previously, a plethora of data sources today can leverage behavior from transactions, social media, the web, from mobile, and brand interactions to determine customer-defined value.

Christopher Penn remarked on traditional metrics that have proven flawed and have obscured attribution metrics. He counsels to focus on the down funnel:

Look inside your CRM. How many customers had Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn somewhere in their attribution history? How many customers interact with you on social media now? Focus your social media marketing and measurement efforts on the most valuable members of your audience, either to convert them or retain them…what you must do is determine which ones drive the outcomes your business needs.

Become Customer-Obsessed More Than Ever

I envisioned a time when the value for a customer could be redefined to truly include the needs of the customer – where search attempts to do this, social data can truly enhance this. Imagine marrying the transaction with the social information to not only understand the customer (profile) but perpetually stay on top of their life — the life they choose to share online.

TRUE Direct Marketing and Customer Centricity practices were able to develop half the picture based on the data available. NOW developing a more holistic picture of customer is possible.  How people behave, together with what they purchase, provide significant understanding about them, their affinities and what they value.  These propensities surface meaningful insight to the business. By analyzing these contextual moments, across time and device, we can uncover patterns of behavior and intent that can be mapped to a business opportunity in near real time.

McKinsey’s Digital Personalization at Scale proposed this:

While many companies have been able to personalize with a few product lines or segments, most still struggle to scale across all the ways they engage with customers. And although technology has an important role to play, in our experience, most companies already have plenty of tools. The real challenge is to transform the marketing organization’s processes and practices to achieve the full potential of personalization.

The full potential for customer individualization can be achieved and it does not mean eliminating tools or dismantling infrastructures that have led business to this point. It does, however, require a mindset shift that allows business to leverage their existing systems, stitch the data silos together, to enable a single view of the customer in near-time. Yes, this is possible today!

In addition, transforming the organization goes beyond the marketing function and means creating a culture of incessant listening and engagement.  AI and Machine Learning allows much quicker learning and optimization of trigger events that will drive understanding and performance much sooner.

Campaigns Need to Make Way for Perpetual Engagement

In retrospect, today’s targeting principles still aggregate to “visible” traits and behaviors. Considering how much we’ve evolved in marketing technology, we’ve remained stagnant in truly understanding customer.

Every customer need is different and it presents itself in its own time – and it is dictated at the whim of the customer not necessarily in the life cycle that the business has long ago modelled.

More importantly these needs can be surfaced by analyzing millions of data points and finding patterns that drive more confidence over time.

Getting it “sort of right” does not guarantee someone will buy because the marketer has made inferences based on business-defined models. 

But if you knew right now that the triggers or patterns that drive customer interest to purchase, what would you do? How would you change your approach? Would you reach out and engage him or her in some way?

Micro-moments happen all the time, every second and they continue to define consumer interest and propensities. More importantly, they can aggregate to define clusters and behavioral indexes overtime. And business now has access to this information to better inform their strategies.

But business has yet to capture it.

So today, because of technology and people’s willingness to share more about their lives – the time relevance, and more importantly, the business relevance become intertwined… and much more enticing to the business.

Today we don’t have to guess, but we can learn.

Customers are telling the brands things, exposing moments important to them. The business just needs to connect the dots and begin to build their story that aligns with the customer’s decision journey. These journeys are not static; they continue to change. The business has the ability to keep up and build and maintain relevance today.

Customers don’t respond to ads as much as they’ve done in the past. They are carving out their own journeys, consuming information from people and places they get value. BUT with each mark they make on the world (through data compiled in transactions, the web, and through social networks), they also make insinuations, whether intended or not, about the things they need and value.

And it’s this opportunity that gives business greater leverage to build better connections with their customers.

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Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula", and Founder of Marketing Insider Group. Recognized as a Top Content Marketing expert and Digital Marketing Leader, Michael leverages his experience from roles in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as his leadership in leading teams and driving growth for thriving startups. Today, Michael delivers empowering keynotes on marketing and leadership, and facilitates actionable workshops on content marketing strategy. Connect with Michael today.

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