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The ‘unknown customer’: How can brands adapt when you don’t know who is calling?

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20th Mar 2015
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No matter the size, scale or type of business you are running, it’s widely accepted that it is crucially important to consider your customer strategy at all times. Understanding how your customer engages with you, how they use both online and offline channels and what is the path to purchase is critical for the modern business. The ‘holy grail’ being able to personalise an experience, across channels, that drives customer loyalty and builds brand advocacy.

The problem for brands is the customer is now firmly in control. We as customers have exponentially increasing ways to communicate online and offline; it is then up to brand strategy to deliver consistent levels of service across this. Social media for example is just one channel and one that is more and more frequently used as a way for both customers and brands alike - not only for customer service but to entice people in new and exciting ways. With the ever-increasing user base of networks such as WhatsApp (700m and counting) - as well as younger customers frequently using Snapchat to interact with friends - brands would simply be missing out on huge chunks of always-on consumers that can be easily contacted.

With this scramble to incorporate the next latest and greatest online channel, brands are missing out on some of the more traditional offline channels such as the phone call. Studies, such as this from Retail Research and this from PwC, show 36¢ from every dollar spent in US retail stores is influenced by online channels. It has also been said that of the $2.3 trillion spent in the USA, 11% in 2015 is projected to be online spend. 

A massive 88% is driven by online but spent in store or through a contact centre. Recent research conducted by ResponseTap has shown us the considerable importance of the offline customer journey too; 53% of all respondents we asked really value speaking to someone on the phone to verify that they have their facts and information straight before purchasing an item, and 73% of those would share good customer service with friends and family. Over one in five people (22%) would be willing to feed this information back into social networks online. But when a customer moves from online to offline, how much does a brand know about that customer in order to give the same level of customer service?

So, if we assume that the online journey influences offline spend, then how can brands leverage the online journey information to deliver a better experience at the contact centre? In most cases, unless the customer identifies themselves online, the person on your website is generally unknown. Of course, you know what this ‘unknown’ person has been up to, the pages they’ve visited, how many times they’ve visited your site and how they found your site in the first place, but how much do brands really know about their customers?

As these ‘unknowns’ come to brands in both online and offline guises, there will be a danger that any knowledge on those particular customers will be lost along the way. They may do research online before heading to the store, maybe they call up to clarify something they’ve seen in store on the website before they purchase? In many cases, this means companies will effectively have little or no prior knowledge to these people before dealing with them. So, who are these ‘unknowns’ that are on your website then choose to call?

Personas

Our team at ResponseTap have been hard at work performing research into the customer journey, and have developed five core personas who we believe will offer you valuable insights and answer the question of who ‘unknown customers’ are for brands. Nothing in the world of marketing is all black or white and of course people can share characteristics from few ‘personas’. We have a summary below.

The first group of unknown customers are ‘socialites’, who compare and take recommendations from different communities (online and offline), before making their final decision. They care, they share and they compare. This shouldn’t be a surprise: with social networks more frequently used by brands and customer alike, it has never been easier to connect and share with people, anywhere, anytime. Everyone is a little bit of a ‘socialite’: 57% of all respondents trust the internet the most as a source of information before making a purchase. Brands must understand that consumers have always shared opinions on brands, but now one bad experience leads to a bad review, which travels around the world instantly and is enough to throw a negative veil on the brand’s product or service.

Next are the ‘perfectionists’, who have a clear idea of what they want and therefore will conduct extensive research before purchasing anything. These customers are cautious and hate to be disappointed by nature. Perfectionists don’t make mistakes and are expecting brands to deliver their promises at every single touch point of their journey.

As 20% of our respondents identify themselves as efficient shoppers - aiming at a smooth purchase - the ‘ain’t got timers’ group is one to watch and learn from closely. Busy professionals and families will typically be part of this group - they value brands making the most of their time and offering them a seamless omnichannel customer experience. They will equally trust online reviews and word of mouth from friends and family.

Brands often play on the novelty effect, but our research shows that in real life, not a lot of unknown customers value being the first to purchase a new product straight after it’s being released. Only 3% of the respondents describe themselves as ‘impulsive’ buyers, and 31% of them stated being mainly influenced by adverts. Finally, how could anyone prefer to buy under pressure? It comes as no surprise that only 2% of the respondents identified themselves as ‘panic buyers’; shoppers that think it’s best to leave everything to the last minute - though we’ve all been guilty of it at some time or another.

So, what happens when an ‘unknown’ browses your website and calls? As part of an omnichannel strategy, it is critical brands start connecting the online part of the journey with the offline channels, such as the contact centre in this case. Knowing if the unknown on your site resembles a ‘perfectionist’ based upon their behaviour enables you as a brand to direct the phone call to the right agent at the right time. Do you really want to put an ‘ain’t got timer’ through a long menu and self-selection before they speak to a human being?

Through our new data we have analysed how the approach to connecting the online channel with the offline phone call, a key thread of an omnichannel strategy, can be perfected - identifying nuanced differences in customer habits - but also taking into account the human aspects, a phone call, or a store visit, that bring together the full customer journey. Though this journey has changed, your customers fundamentally haven’t - our personas are there to give more depth into a set of consumers that brands and marketers will be familiar with. Omnichannel should close the marketing gap into one solid loop - if your brand is still figuring out how this works, we’ve put together an eBook to simplify the paths to purchase which you can download here.

Bhavesh Vaghela is chief marketing officer at ResponseTap.

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