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Customer Engagement Product Design Reaching New Customers UX Design

UX design: Define the problem, not the solution

About this series: In the fast-paced business world, it’s all too common to hear about companies striving to become “product-led” and chasing after metrics like velocity and conversion rates. While these numbers undoubtedly hold significance, they often overshadow the underlying force that drives the success of great products: design. Design is not just about aesthetics; it’s about understanding your customers, empathizing with their needs, and crafting solutions that meet and exceed their expectations. In this exciting three-part blog series, we will dive deep into the realm of design and design strategy and its pivotal role in achieving business goals. Let’s unlock the potential of great design as the ultimate path to great business.

Understanding the cornerstones of great product design

In the ever-evolving landscape of product design, success hinges on the ability to navigate a maze of user needs and expectations. Understanding the need at hand and then defining the actual problem is a crucial first step that can make or break the entire journey. You might have a fantastic idea for a product but if you aren’t drilling down to the true problem that this product is solving, then you aren’t going to be able to truly satisfy customers. This design stage uncovers true pain points for customers to ensure your product is solving the right problem and a real problem. Understanding user needs and defining the problem are cornerstones of successful products, ultimately paving the way for continually high business value.

Empathy: The heart of a user’s needs

User needs are the foundation of good design, placing the customer at the very heart of the product development process.  It’s imperative to empathize with users’ unique experiences, desires, and pain points when creating designs that resonate. User needs specific to a problem serve as a constant reminder that humans (specifically users) are at the core of the design process. By placing the human at the center of design, user needs act as constant reminders that the end goal is not just a product but a solution that addresses real-life challenges.

Moving from good to great design requires more than just a surface-level understanding of desired functionality. It requires a combination of both qualitative and quantitative UX research techniques that delve deep into user needs. First, quantitative UX research methods provide a structured and data-driven approach to learning about user behavior and preferences. Understanding the numerical data and statistical analysis can help you quantify user interactions, preferences, and performance. Surveys, questionnaires, A/B testing, and analytics tools are common examples of quantitative research techniques. Teams don’t need to use all of them every time, but carefully selecting a combination of methods will bring some helpful data to the surface as you assess user needs. These methods allow for the identification of patterns and trends, enabling UX researchers to create informed hypotheses about user needs. Quantitative research complements qualitative research by offering a more objective and measurable perspective, providing the necessary data to think through problems and have support for business decisions.

Qualitative user experience research methods provide valuable insights into the intricacies of user behavior, emotions, and perceptions. These methods delve deep into the more nuanced and harder to quantify psychological aspects of user interactions, aiming to understand what users do and why they do it. Qualitative research techniques, such as in-depth interviews, usability testing, and ethnographic studies, offer a way to channel the individual perspectives and experiences of users. Open-ended questions and real-time observations can help researchers uncover users’ needs, pain points, and desires, shedding light on the nuances that quantitative data often cannot capture. Qualitative research is an indispensable tool for human-centered design, enabling designers and businesses to truly understand user needs on a deeper level.

User needs are the baseline of effective design and encapsulate the essence of what the user truly desires and values. Before jumping to solutions or pixels, design teams must first empathize with their target audience, truly understanding their hopes, aspirations, and pain points. Taking the time to crystallize the human-focused needs and desires of the users ensures that every design decision is rooted in empathy and a genuine desire to enhance the user experience. Businesses that research, prioritize, and build products for these needs are not only better equipped to stay competitive in an ever-changing market but also to forge lasting, meaningful connections with their customers.

We know a thing or two about consumer values. Check out our post on the new persona playbook.

Crafting the perfect product design problem statement

With a solid understanding of user needs in hand, next up is crafting a clear problem statement to fuel product creation. A well-defined problem statement encapsulates the precise challenge that needs to be addressed, serving as instructions for design teams. Outlining the problem’s scope and context ensures that the design effort remains aligned with the customers’ real pain points and needs, allowing for a solution that truly resonates with them. This clarity and alignment fosters creativity and innovation in finding the optimal solution. It ensures that the entire team is headed in one direction, toward solving one problem. A well-crafted problem statement that is based on solid UX research guides the design process toward an excellent customer experience.

When thinking about the parts of a perfect problem statement, you must consider the person as well as the problem. This might be a problem that only a certain type of person has or a problem that lots of people have but only at specific moments in their lives. The person in the middle of the problem is just as important as the problem itself and cannot be separated from the problem statement. In addition to the who, problem statements must also consider the why but without the how. When the right amount of research has been done, there should be no trouble succinctly explaining for whom the problem exists and why. As the team sets out to create a solution for this problem, user needs and problem statements come into play. The goal is to reach an actionable problem statement that defines for whom you’re  building the product or feature and why.

The positive impact of a clear problem statement reverberates through the entire business ecosystem. First and foremost, it reduces the risk of costly missteps in product creation. By defining the problem clearly, teams can avoid the pitfall of investing time and resources into solutions that do not address the root issues. It ensures that design efforts are aligned with the actual needs and pain points of the target audience and that the team is setting out to solve for the user and their why. As a result, products are more likely to resonate with and create value for users, leading to enhanced customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy. A great problem statement empowers businesses to differentiate themselves in the market, gain a competitive edge, and drive sustainable growth. In sum, a clear problem statement acts as the catalyst for great design, and when design excels, so does business.

Wrapping Up: Great design, greater user experience

In the realm of product design and business success, two critical elements stand out as paramount: crafting well-defined user needs statements and clear problem statements. These statements act as the guiding light that illuminates the path to exceptional design and, in turn, outstanding business performance. User needs statements distill the essence of what customers truly value, enabling design teams to create products that resonate, cultivate customer loyalty, and fuel lasting trust. Clear problem statements also serve as a map for design, defining the challenge, scope, and objectives. They streamline decision-making, stimulate innovation, and ensure that design efforts align with real customer needs, ultimately reducing the risk of costly errors. The result is a positive ripple effect that enhances customer satisfaction, differentiation in the market, and sustainable business growth. In sum, these foundational statements are the key to unlocking the synergy between great design and great business.

Are you ready to embrace great design and improve customer experiences? We’re all ears. Let’s talk about your next project. And there’s more on the way; stay tuned for the second installment of this series! We’ll delve into how collaboration leads to the best design outcomes.

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Customer Engagement Reaching New Customers Strategy

Convergent commerce: Going beyond omnichannel retail this shopping season

The holiday season is just around the corner, and that means Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the annual avalanche of gifts, deals, and shopping sprees is practically upon us. It’s that time of year when consumers embark on an epic quest to find the perfect presents and snag the best bargains. But for frenzied holiday shoppers, a poor shopping experience goes over about as well as coal in the stocking. 

While overall holiday spending is expected to stay relatively flat with last year, shoppers are expected to purchase fewer gifts to balance the effects of inflation. That means retailers are likely competing for fewer total purchases. At a time when cost consciousness is high and consumer loyalty is low, brands that can offer consumers a friction-free, customer-centric experience all tied up with a bow will be the winners this holiday shopping season. 

Let’s delve into the latest shopping trends, highlight some common shopping experience pitfalls, and provide valuable recommendations to ensure a seamless and enjoyable holiday shopping experience for your customers that puts your brand on the nice list.

Macro Trend: What is convergent commerce?

Shopping has become an increasingly multi-channel experience, blurring the lines between digital and physical shopping experiences. While data suggested that preference for online retail was waning heading into 2023, e-commerce is expected to be a major channel for holiday spending with over 60% of consumers planning to do at least 40% of their shopping in that channel. But with channels evolving and new channels emerging, channel preferences get increasingly difficult to predict. It also makes the notion of omni-channel retail where a seamless shopping experience across several channels a less desirable goal. 

Consumers are less interested in retailers creating curated multi-channel experiences and more interested in climbing into the driver’s seat themselves. Consumers want an anytime, anywhere commerce experience where they call the shots and execute their shopping activities—from browsing products on live streams to comparing prices across brand apps and AI-powered search, checking items in person for quality, ordering online to ship directly to gift recipients and everything between—wherever they want, whenever they want based on their changing preferences. That’s convergent commerce. It’s a shift from an experience that offers optionality (online vs. in-store) with parity, to frictionless fluidity. 

If that sounds like a tall order, that’s because it is. Shifting from either/or considerations for the retail channels you engage in to activating across multiple channels at once in an integrated and seamless way requires considerable thoughtfulness. Convergent commerce relies on a data-informed (and frequently validated) understanding of what your customers value and their shopping preferences, strong data quality management, and a commitment to breaking down silos across teams, technology stacks, decision-making processes, virtually every facet of your business.

But it’s also a tremendous opportunity to create a consumer experience that’s truly differentiated. Consumers aren’t looking for more of the same; they want experiences that are uniquely tailored to them. And for brands that embrace the concept of convergent commerce, a powerfully divergent experience that sets them apart from competitors can be the reward. 

Micro Trends: Delivering a better customer experience now

According to the National Retail Federation, this holiday shopping season is already underway with over 40% of consumers reporting they planned to begin their holiday shopping in October or earlier. That means today’s consumers can’t wait for your brand’s future convergent commerce strategies to take shape. And brands can’t let perfect be the enemy of progress when it comes to making this year’s shopping experience the best it can be. So what can brands do to better meet the needs of holiday shoppers right now? Reflecting on my own shopping experience, there may be more opportunities for quick wins than many retailers realize.

As both a holiday gift giver and receiver, my shopping considerations are the same as a lot of other holiday shoppers this season. Even though I regularly start my shopping before November, I’m always short on time. So convenience is key for me and online shopping is a great fit. I want to give gifts that feel personal and thoughtful, but with family all over the country, I’m concerned about the costs and potential delays of shipping. So like 55% of Americans who will buy at least one gift card this holiday season, experiential gifts in the form of gift cards, passes, tickets, etc. are high on my list. In what will be the dominant shopping channel (online) focusing on items that are subject to fewer inventory, stocking, and supply chain disruptions than a lot of other gift categories (gift cards), my shopping experiences have included a surprising amount of friction. So my gift to you is three ways you can ensure the holiday shopping experiences you’re serving up don’t leave consumers with a “bah humbug” feeling:

Consider the End-to-End Experience Gifting Experience

The actual purchase is only half the journey, but the gifting experience begins and ends outside the shopping cart. From the ability to effectively manage an influx of traffic from holiday browsers to ensuring gifts can easily be returned or exchanged, brands must consider the end-to-end experience to eliminate friction for both gift buyers and recipients. 

There have definitely been times in my own shopping experiences where a slow, laggy, friction-filled experience has driven me to abandon ship. In fact, this year I’ve begun using the app released by one of my favorite body care retailers. I’m a bargain hunter, but I’m not great about remembering to use my coupons before they expire. I was drawn into the app by the wallet and loyalty points features that keep track of both and give me anytime, anywhere access to them right from my phone. I could shop from the app, but I like to be able to “smell before I buy” when it comes to body products and using the “pick up in store” feature allows me to browse only the inventory I can actually test in the store. Unfortunately, the popup for selecting a store by zip code or my current location just spins. This has been the case up to the time of writing this post despite multiple app updates. So I’ve got two choices when faced with this friction: I can abandon the app and move to the website in hopes of a better experience or I can say “Scrooge it” and move onto something else. 

If you want to avoid turning gift givers and recipients into Grinches here are some tips for ensuring your delivering a gifting experience that sleighs from the first mile to the last:

  • Get your website traffic-ready: There’s nothing more frustrating than a website that takes forever to load. Consumers have zero patience during the holiday rush. A slow website will send them searching for alternatives so your website should be a well-oiled machine. Test its loading speed, ensure mobile-friendliness, and fix any broken links or errors. A smooth online journey will make customers stay and shop. 
  • Take deals directly to customers: Utilize customer data to provide personalized recommendations and offers. Making your customers feel special by proactively showing them that you understand their needs and preferences will help bring them to you.
  • Offer clear and flexible pickup and returns: With consumers moving between physical and digital channels across the customer journey, offering clarity around return policies and flexible pickup and return options will better allow you to meet customers in their channels of choice. Offer the option for customers to order online and pick up items in-store or return online purchases at your physical location for maximum convenience.
  • Have strong support standing by: The holiday season means long hours for your customer support team. Failing to respond promptly to inquiries or complaints can lead to disgruntled customers who won’t hesitate to share their grievances on social media. Implement chatbots, and set up a system for addressing inquiries and complaints promptly. Social media monitoring can help you spot and address issues early.

Make conversion dead simple

Optimizing high-value actions like purchases to the fullest extent means thinking beyond the point-of-purchase mechanics of your e-commerce platform to other experiential elements. Using language within the purchase experience that makes sense to consumers, providing the information consumers need to solidify buying decisions, making relevant payment options easy to use, and ensuring parity of experience across device types can make or break the buying experience. 

I was recently on the website for my favorite purveyor of chocolates with the goal of building a custom box of chocolates and I found myself getting tripped up at key points in the experience. After selecting the size and type of box I wanted to fill, it was time to select my candies. I specifically wanted dark chocolate and was surprised that there didn’t appear to be any search filters on the page; there was just a typical-looking search bar with “Search for flavors” as the hint text and a magnifying glass at the right edge of the box. I scrolled around the site to make sure the filters weren’t just oddly placed and after finding none, I begrudgingly opted to use the search. As I clicked into the box to search the word, “dark,” I discovered that what was designed to look like a typical search bar was actually a drop-down set of filters, which included a filter for dark chocolate. I proceeded to fill my box and initiated the checkout process and got all the way to the payment screen—the final conversion point—before realizing there was no option to select a store for pickup. At no point in the process did I have an option to choose a fulfillment option other than shipping (which also had a cost). Ultimately, I abandoned my cart after the experience left me with a bad taste in my mouth. 

Here are a few tips for ensuring your conversion experience is as sweet as a box of chocolates:

  • Simplify checkout processes: Your customers are looking for a seamless shopping experience, not a labyrinth of forms and confusing steps during checkout. So your checkout process should be as easy. Offer guest checkout options that prioritize speed and simplicity, enable auto-fill features, and provide multiple payment options. Simplify the process, and you’ll see a boost in completed purchases.
  • Avoid hidden fees and charges: Shoppers hate surprises, especially when it involves extra costs at checkout. Display all costs clearly and be upfront about shipping fees, taxes, and any other charges. A transparent pricing strategy builds trust and encourages purchases.
  • Reduce the pain of out-of-stock items: Nothing’s worse than finding the perfect gift only to discover it’s out of stock, so it’s critical to stay on top of your inventory. Ensure your inventory management software is equipped to prevent overselling, notify customers promptly if a product is out of stock, and suggest similar items to keep them engaged.

Consider people and process

Successful convergent commerce experiences require a seamless transition from one channel to the next. That means that the people and processes underpinning the in-store experience need to be equipped with the tools, training, policies, etc. needed to support customers who began their shopping journey in a digital channel (and vice versa). 

I was gifted a digital gift card to one of my favorite restaurants. Because I have three kids, I tend to opt for take-out and delivery more than in-restaurant dining, and I was looking forward to redeeming my gift card for dinner after a particularly hectic day. However, I discovered I wasn’t able to redeem the gift card on my favorite food delivery app or the restaurant’s website. I had to call in and have them run the gift card over the phone. And because the restaurant offers delivery through its app partners only, I was forced to place an order for pickup rather than delivery. The restaurant is in a very busy area, and having to drive, park, and go into the restaurant completely undercut the reason why I decided to order instead of cook. To make matters worse, the staff working seemed to be confused and inexperienced with the restaurant’s pick-up processes. As a result, I spent 20 minutes sitting at the bar waiting for them to sort it out before I could pick up the dinner I’d originally intended to have delivered. I really love their food, so the experience won’t keep me away entirely. But I can tell you their gift cards won’t appear on my wish list until they offer the ability to redeem them for delivery.

Here are a couple of tips for keeping customers from going from joyed to annoyed as they transition between digital and physical experiences:  

  • Drive brand consistency across touchpoints: Your online and in-store experiences should feel like two sides of the same joyful holiday coin. That means these experiences should feel connected in every way. Avoid creating functional silos between in-store and online experiences when it comes to ease of purchase; redemption of gift cards, coupons, and promotions; and returns and ensure where differences do exist—like offering a broader range of product options online or running online and in-store exclusive promotions—they feel purposed and beneficial to your customers. 
  • Prepare your in-store team: Train your in-store staff to be knowledgeable about your online offerings and promotions. They should be ready to assist customers in placing online orders, redeeming digital gift cards, and answering product-related queries.

In the world of holiday gifting, experience is everything. Shoppers are looking for convenience, transparency, and joy during their quest for the perfect gifts. And gift recipients are looking for ease and flexibility when it comes to redeeming, exchanging, returning, and using gifts. By staying ahead of the latest trends, addressing common pitfalls, and implementing our recommendations, your business can ensure a memorable holiday shopping experience for your customers. Even if achieving truly convergent commerce is still a future destination on your roadmap, implementing these strategies will help you deliver a cohesive shopping experience that supports customers as they transition between online and in-store shopping. This flexibility not only meets the evolving demands of today’s consumers, but also positions your brand as one that truly values creating a differentiated experience that puts customers at the center. No matter where your brand is in your convergent commerce journey, we can help you ensure each step along the way creates value for your customers and your business.  

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Customer Engagement Innovators Series Mindfulness Reaching New Customers Value Realization

The smart money is on treating marketing as an operating expense

As a digital agency CEO with a strong financial bent and a finance leader with deep experience in the agency space, we’ve seen the financial dance between marketing and finance teams more times than we can count. And we’ve heard some pretty creative approaches for classifying marketing expenses in different ways. While there’s no hard and fast rule that’s 100% right 100% of the time, more often than not the most compelling case is for treating marketing as an operating expense. This decision isn’t just a matter of semantics; it can have a significant impact on your business’s financial health and agility. 

Operating vs. Capital expenses

Before we dive into why you should treat marketing as an operating expense, let’s clarify the difference between operating and capital expenses.

What Is an operating expense?

Operating expenses, often referred to as OpEx, are day-to-day costs incurred to keep your business running. Think salaries, rent, utilities, and yes, marketing expenses. OpEx is immediately deductible against your revenue, reducing your taxable income.

What is a capital expense?

Capital expenses, often referred to as CapEx, are investments in long-term assets, like buying a new factory or upgrading your IT infrastructure. CapEx is typically depreciated over time, which means it’s deducted gradually over several years.

Now that we’ve defined these two expense types, let’s talk about why we recommend putting marketing investment on the OpEx side of the ledger.

The temptation of a capital expense classification

While we believe the strongest argument is for classifying marketing as an operating expense, we understand why some companies may be tempted to categorize it as a capital expense. It can inflate the company’s assets on the balance sheet, potentially presenting a more favorable financial picture to investors and stakeholders. Additionally, tax implications can sometimes favor capitalizing marketing expenses, especially when a company is looking to spread out deductions over several years to minimize immediate tax liability. However, it’s essential to weigh these potential benefits against the flexibility and transparency that come with treating marketing as an operating expense to make an informed decision that aligns with the company’s overall strategy.

 In cases where marketing initiatives have long-lasting effects, such as brand-building campaigns, there might be an argument for considering them as capital investments. One area where this argument tends to be the strongest is in investment in digital properties like websites.

Websites can serve as long-term assets, contributing to a company’s brand image, customer acquisition, and revenue generation over an extended period. This aligns with the capital expense criteria of enduring benefits and a useful life spanning several years, so classifying website investment as a capital expense has its merits. By capitalizing website development costs, companies can gradually expense them over time, smoothing out the financial impact.

However, there’s a counterargument to consider. Capitalizing certain marketing costs so they don’t hit your expense line and EBITDA can be enticing, but in the future, these become dead expenses because they’re being depreciated. Doing this over multiple years will lead to carrying depreciated expenses that you’re not realizing tangible return on, which hinders your marketing team from driving a full return on each year’s expenses.

Additionally, the digital landscape evolves rapidly, and website technology becomes outdated quicker than many other capital assets. Treating website development as an operating expense recognizes the need for continuous updates, improvements, and adaptations to keep pace with changing user expectations and technological advancements. Moreover, categorizing website investment as OpEx offers immediate tax benefits, as these expenses are fully deductible in the year they occur, potentially reducing tax liability in the short term.

Ultimately, the classification of website investment as a capital or operating expense depends on the specific circumstances and strategic goals of the company. CFOs and finance teams must carefully assess whether the long-term benefits and gradual expense recognition of capitalizing website costs outweigh the agility and tax advantages offered by treating them as an operating expense. It’s a balancing act that requires a nuanced understanding of the company’s digital strategy and financial priorities.

The argument for marketing as an operating expense

Potential exceptions like website investment aside, marketing investments represent ongoing, essential costs incurred to sustain day-to-day business operations, promote revenue generation, and adapt to dynamic market conditions. Treating marketing as an operating expense aligns with the constantly evolving nature of the marketing landscape and offers a host of advantages:

It gives you the flexibility needed to adapt to rapid change

One of the primary reasons to treat marketing as an operating expense is that it reflects the reality of the marketing landscape today. Marketing isn’t a one-time investment; it’s an ongoing effort to connect with your audience, build brand awareness, and drive sales. In today’s fast-paced digital world, consumer preferences can change on a whim and marketing campaigns must be able to adapt rapidly. When it comes to marketing, you can’t simply “set it and forget it” like you would with a capital asset.

When it comes to marketing, you can’t simply “set it and forget it” like you would with a capital asset.

Treating marketing as OpEx provides greater financial flexibility, allowing you to adjust your marketing budget more easily in response to changing market conditions or business needs. When marketing is a capital expense, you’re stuck with the initial investment, whether it’s performing as expected or not, which can limit your ability to evolve and adapt. As companies take greater control over their data and leverage technologies like AI and ML to execute data-driven decision making at scale, the capacity for ongoing, real-time optimization of marketing activity to drive performance improvement will only increase. With OpEx, you can scale your marketing spend up or down as needed, allocate resources to new marketing channels, and pivot your strategy without making the same level of long-term commitment from a finance and accounting standpoint and without the burden of depreciating assets.

It enables better ROI tracking and more accurate financial reporting

Accurate financial reporting is essential for making informed business decisions. When it comes to marketing investment, treating marketing as an operating expense ensures your income statement accurately reflects the real cost of doing business. This transparency helps you understand the true profitability of your operations and facilitates more accurate forecasting.

For its part, marketing efforts have high expectations for delivering quantifiable returns, whether it’s in the context of return on ad spend, reduced cost of acquisition, improved lifetime value, or any number of other metrics used to evaluate return on marketing investment. When marketing is categorized as OpEx, it’s easier to track and measure its ROI in real-time. You can see how your marketing efforts impact revenue and adjust your strategy accordingly. With CapEx, ROI calculations become more complex and less immediate.

It makes your CFO’s job easier

Given our roles and backgrounds in financial stewardship, we know the importance of prudent financial management. And we know that’s the love language of most CFOs. Treating marketing as OpEx actually makes your CFO’s job easier. Here’s how:

  • Clearer financial statements: Treating marketing as OpEx leads to cleaner, more straightforward financial statements, simplifying your job in preparing financial reports and ensuring transparency for all stakeholders.
  • Easier budget management: With marketing as OpEx, you have greater control over the budget. You can allocate resources more dynamically, responding to changes in the market or business priorities. It’s easier to manage and forecast expenses when they align with the business’s actual needs.
  • Reduced risk: Capital expenses carry inherent risks. What if the asset becomes obsolete or doesn’t perform as expected? Treating marketing as OpEx eliminates the risk associated with depreciating assets, offering a more predictable financial landscape.

Take it from us, it’s a great way to endear yourself to your head of finance, which can grease the wheels when you’re looking for approval on decisions that need to be made quickly.

It can send the right signal to strategic marketing hires

This last advantage of classifying marketing as OpEx is an easy one to overlook, but it can be really impactful. Top marketing talent often prefers companies that treat marketing as an operating expense. You might be surprised if this question comes up in an interview for a strategic marketing hire. But when a candidate poses this question, it can be a great indicator of strategic thinking about the level of ongoing business value your company ascribes to marketing. Because they know it demonstrates a commitment to staying current and competitive, being able to tell candidates that you classify marketing as OpEx shows that your company views marketing as a dynamic and mission-critical function and is willing to invest in it continually for long-term success.

Betting on marketing as a dynamic driver of growth

Things are rarely cut and dry when it comes to strategic budgeting, and marketing is no exception. There will always be a need to balance near-term and long-term financial constraints, business goals, and the marketing strategies and assets that support them. And there may be sound business reasons to capitalize on certain marketing investments under particular circumstances. But in general, treating marketing costs as operational versus capital expenses provides the greatest benefit when it comes to optimizing marketing performance, maximizing ROI, simplifying marketing budget management, and positioning marketing as the dynamic level for driving business growth that it is. 

Regardless of how you classify marketing expenses on your budget sheet, fostering collaboration between marketing and financial leadership is key. Driving ongoing conversations between marketing and finance will help ensure that your finance team has a clear understanding of the business context for marketing investment, including the roles that various marketing investments play in achieving business goals, how return on those investments is defined, and what short- and long-term management and stewardship of those investments looks like and requires. It will also help your marketing team understand the broader financial parameter and requirements within which the business operates and the considerations that go into expense classification. 

Sometimes the best way to foster understanding between your marketing and finance teams is with a partner who understands both sides of the coin and can translate between their unique points of view. If you’re looking for guidance or support bringing these critical business functions closer together, let’s talk.

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Customer Engagement Reaching New Customers Strategy

Mastering full-funnel marketing for lasting growth

Many companies have shifted their focus to bottom-of-funnel tactics, like paid search and retargeting ads, as economic uncertainty drives budget constraints and increases the pressure to make sales. However, this imbalanced approach will almost certainly have a lagging negative impact on revenue and ROI.

Implementing a full-funnel marketing strategy can fix the imbalance and ensure long-term growth and sustainability. Let’s look at the full marketing funnel, why stage-specific engagement matters, and how to bring them to life.

What are the stages of full-funnel marketing?

Marketing strategy is often compared to a funnel because of the shape it takes as consumers move through the purchase journey. 

A chart showing the conversion funnel.

Stage 1: Top-of-funnel

Awareness tactics (at the top of the funnel) are broad and cast a wide net to reach consumers. This might include things like radio ads, billboard ads, blogs, or public relations campaigns. 

The purpose of top-of-funnel tactics is to get your brand in front of your audience and generate brand awareness. As such, success for these individual tactics should be measured by publisher metrics like impressions, reach, frequency, and video completion rates or through survey metrics like lift in brand awareness and ad recall. A common misstep we see marketers make is trying to measure the success of a top-of-funnel tactic by the number of conversions it drives. Billboards aren’t going to result in a click-through conversion, but they do influence consumers who may not even know they want to buy your product or service yet. Similarly, an attribution model that ignores the role top-of-funnel tactics play as part of the confluence of factors that ultimately drive conversion can work against you.

Stage 2: Mid-funnel

Consideration tactics (in the middle of the funnel) focus on consumers who are familiar with and evaluating the brand. Tactics deployed at this might include product-specific emails, FAQ pages, and organic search strategy. 

This is the stage where we start to see consumers interacting with the brand so success metrics look different than those in the top of the funnel. Here, we are interested in engagement metrics like click-through rates, social media interactions, rich media interactions, average time on site, pages visited per website engagement, scroll depth, and non-conversion website events (e.g., PDF downloads, webinar registrations, video completions, etc.).

Stage 3: Bottom of the funnel

Conversion tactics (at the bottom of the funnel) get in front of consumers who are ready to make a purchase. Paid search is a major tactic at this stage of the funnel, but tactics might also include website content like comparison charts or savings calculators.

This is the stage at which we measure tactical success in terms of conversions. Consumers, influenced by the awareness and consideration driven higher up in the funnel from other tactics, are now ready to make a purchase or submit a lead form.

But it doesn’t end there! After consumers convert, they move into the loyalty part of the funnel. The tactics in this part of the funnel keep consumers coming back. It might include things like personalized content, rewards and loyalty programs, or incentive campaigns.

The success of your loyalty program can be measured by customer retention rate, customer lifetime value, and repeat purchases.

The lowest part of the funnel is advocacy, which is all about getting consumers to tell their friends about your brand. This often takes the form of customer reviews and referral programs and can be measured by metrics like customer satisfaction scores, online reviews and sentiment analysis, and social listening insights.

Why does a full-funnel marketing strategy matter?

Although marketers like to position their strategy into a nice, neat little funnel, the reality is that the consumer journey is not so nice and neat. It’s also not linear. On average, it takes 8-12 touchpoints with a brand to convert a customer! 

An image depicting the unclear path that often occurs between the first point of contact and conversion.

The beauty of a full-funnel marketing strategy is that it helps you meet consumers where they are in their journeys. It is a holistic, integrated approach that drives repeat exposure and facilitates multiple touch points with customers at different stages of their journey, which is critical for ensuring your brand is top of mind when the moment of truth comes and a buying decision is made.

The negative impact of a bottom-of-funnel approach

Conversion-focused tactics often get the most attention because they produce the most conversions. But consumers can’t convert if they aren’t aware of your brand. Consumers won’t convert if they know about your brand, but haven’t taken the time to consider what it means to them. By neglecting the upper parts of the funnel, you choke the funnel and restrict your ability to drive conversions in the long term.

Unfortunately, many companies get overly focused on the bottom-of-funnel tactics due to the very real and understandable pressure that marketers get from leaders focused only on transactional KPIs. This is especially true in times of economic uncertainty (check out our white paper on how to optimize your customer experience for recession resilience) when driving revenue takes on a heightened priority.

A broken funnel can manifest in many ways:

Poor engagement rates

If you skipped over the awareness part of the funnel, consumers may not be familiar with your brand. Trust and credibility have yet to be established and so they are not prepared to engage with your content.

High engagement, but low conversion

Similarly, if consumers are clicking, but not converting, may not be meeting them at the right point in their journey.

Conversion stagnation

Often a symptom of low-funnel strategies, you may have tapped out your available audience by ignoring critical awareness tactics.

Unintentionally over-indexing on first-time customers

It is 5-7 times more expensive to acquire new customers than to retain existing ones. If your customer base is over-indexed on new customers, you may need to double down on your retention efforts.

Decrease in branded searches

Customers can’t search for you if they don’t know about your brand. Investing in top-of-funnel tactics is crucial to driving brand awareness.

Increase in costs to convert

Persistent increases in cost per lead (CPL) or cost per acquisition (CPA) signal that you are competing for a finite, over-indexed audience and would benefit from upper-funnel tactics.

Bringing a full-funnel marketing strategy to life

If any of the scenarios above sound familiar, it’s probably time to evolve your marketing strategy to adopt a full-funnel approach.

Here are some key considerations when establishing a full-funnel marketing strategy: 

Teamwork makes the dream work

A full-funnel marketing strategy requires collaboration across multiple teams (think strategy, brand, paid media, creative, content, design, PR, email, loyalty… the list goes on!) to ensure thoughtful, cohesive customer experiences. Make sure you are pulling in representatives from all the appropriate teams to drive alignment and ensure consistency.

Measurement matters

An appropriate measurement strategy is key to keeping a full-funnel strategy on the rails. As we described when defining the stages of the funnel, KPIs must reflect where tactics sit within the funnel to properly measure success and make informed marketing decisions.

Similarly, an attribution model can make or break your strategy. Last-click attribution models in particular can influence over-indexing on bottom-of-funnel tactics by assigning credit to the last touch before a conversion. This model puts a thumb on the scale for bottom-of-funnel tactics, limiting the ability to optimize for the distinct goals of tactics that play other roles in the funnel. Linear or data-driven models are generally more effective at assigning appropriate value to tactics throughout the funnel. 

Be patient

The impact of a full-funnel strategy won’t be felt immediately. Upper-funnel efforts build future demand. Building loyalty and driving advocacy takes time. But this strategy sustains growth marketing investment in the long term by allowing you to reach more potential customers, extending the lifetime value of those customers, and generating more profit for less investment by driving efficiencies across the program.

The bottom line: full-funnel marketing strategies work

A recent Nielsen study of CPG brands showed that those with a full-funnel strategy had 45% higher ROI and a 7% increase in offline sales compared to marketing campaigns running in a single purchase stage.

We recently published a case study about how we helped a nonprofit client of ours drive efficiencies in their paid media program by enhancing their bottom-of-funnel paid media program to a full-funnel one. In the first year of running this full-funnel program, our client spent 9% more on paid media year over year, but produced 61% more donations.

Designing holistic customer experiences that drive growth is our strength. Because full-funnel marketing strategy is a team sport that requires participation from multiple teams, internal silos are the enemy of creating a holistic, integrated strategy. At Tallwave, we pride ourselves on two things: 1) relentlessly keeping the customer at the center of what we do at every stage of the journey and 2) driving integration and collaboration in the strategies that drive the customer experience so we can deliver successfully against your customers’ needs and your business goals. 

Ready to learn more about how Tallwave can help enhance your marketing program? Give us a shout!

Categories
Customer Engagement Reaching New Customers Strategy Value Realization

Driven by values: The new persona playbook

Target audience research and persona profiles have become a standard part of the marketing toolkit. Despite the changes I’ve experienced in my 20 years as a marketer as new technologies have emerged, channels have evolved, and customer expectations have become more demanding, the importance of persona profiles has been one of the few constants. A rich persona can be hugely beneficial in driving and informing how we engage with prospective customers, certainly through marketing efforts, but more broadly as well. 

Despite the rapid rate of change that has shaped the marketing landscape, how we approach persona profiles hasn’t changed all that much. I’ve seen personas with different levels of depth and layouts, but they’re generally pretty similar at their core. Most of the time, they include a combination of what your audience looks like, with details like their age, income, job title, and marital status. The more creative ones even include fictitious names and pictures. And the rest is some combination of consumer behaviors, statements, pain points, and information gathered from a fairly small number of representatives of your audience, often through interviews. 

But there’s one big problem with the traditional approach to personas. Nearly all the information they include has very little to do with what you care about most: WHY your customers buy and HOW to get prospective customers to do the same. The good news is we believe we have a better approach. In this post, I’ll share a method for audience research and persona development that taps into a huge repository of existing data to deliver insights on the values that drive your customers’ decisions.

Why Values Matter for Driving Consumer Behavior

Roy E. Disney, nephew of Walt Disney and longtime senior executive for the Walt Disney Company, put the power of values into the most succinct statement I’ve seen yet: “When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.” He understood that, just like our customers, we make decisions every day, not based on our demographics or our past behaviors, but on our values. And brands can tap into that power. If you know which values your best customers share, the values that motivate the buying behaviors you’re trying to inspire in prospective customers, you have the power to know what to do and say to get existing customers to say yes more often and to drive new customers to purchase.

The Disconnect between Values and Demographics

As it turns out, our values have little to do with our demographics. Our demographics might be part of the reason we don’t take a particular action. For example, odds are if I don’t have children, I’m not searching for pediatricians or childcare options. Being childless, which is part of my demographics, is the reason for my inaction. But for people who share the demographic condition of parents, that common characteristic only determines that searching for and selecting a pediatrician or a childcare option is a choice they’re likely to make. The demographic condition of being a parent has nothing to do with which choice they make and why. If it did, all parents would make the same choices. But of course, they don’t. They make different choices based on what they value. That’s why using demographics alone to connect with and influence your audience doesn’t really work. 

I think the values gap that exists within a traditional demographic and psychographic approach to audience research and persona profile development is something that most marketers recognize intuitively. But there haven’t been a lot of better options for uncovering the nuances of what an audience values in a scalable way. That is, until I listened to episode 331 of the Digital Marketing Podcast, The Death of Demographics, An Interview With David Allison. In it, David Allison talked about his book, The Death of Demographics, and the research data behind it that spawned the first big data tool that makes a scalable, data-driven approach to values-centric audience research and persona creation possible. 

The book is the product of a massive global research study known as the Valuegraphics Project (more on that in a minute) that finds that when it comes to values, humans agree about 8% of the time as a baseline. When you group by any demographic cohort—age, gender, income, marital status, you name it—that agreement only increases by 2.5%. So building a marketing campaign around what you think “Gen Z” or “working moms” or “retirees” care about is going to be only slightly more effective than throwing the spaghetti at the wall and deploying your campaign to anyone and everyone. Because while the year you were born, whether you have kids, and your employment status may influence decisions you will or won’t make, they don’t have anything to do with the “why” behind them.

So what will be more effective? The answer is valuegraphics.

The Valuegraphics Project

The Valuegraphics Project is a global mapping of core human values, the drivers behind all our decision making. Through nearly a million surveys deployed in 152 languages in 180 countries across the world evaluating 436 values-related metrics, 56 core human values emerged. And 15 statistical clusters of agreement around subsets of those values, which the architects of this project call “archetypes,” emerged from that research data. Those 15 archetypes can be used as the basis for valuegraphic personas, each representing an audience that is demographically diverse, but highly aligned on values.

So building a marketing campaign around what you think “Gen Z” or “working moms” or “retirees” care about is going to be only slightly more effective than throwing the spaghetti at the wall and deploying your campaign to anyone and everyone.

This focus on values doesn’t mean demographics and psychographics don’t have a place—they do. They can be practical and effective ways to limit your audience based on functional barriers to making the decisions you want them to make. But demographics and psychographics won’t help you understand what actually drives those decisions. You need valuegraphics for that. That audience data triad of demographics, psychographics, and valuegraphics all come together with your audience engagement strategy in the Value Thinking process.

A Venn Diagram showing Values Thinking. Values Thinking is a process for identifying the underlying values that motivate your target audience so you can build an engagement strategy around those values.
Values Thinking is a process for identifying the underlying values that motivate your target audience so you can build an engagement strategy around those values.

Valuegraphics in Action

Chart showing Value Graphics in Action: The U.S. vs the world.
Value Graphics in Action: The U.S. vs the world.

So how do you go about putting valuegraphics to work to better understand and engage your audience? It starts with understanding the valuegraphics profile for your target regions and then surveying your target audience to illuminate their dominant and least dominant valuegraphic archetypes. 

Regional Valuegraphic Profiles

One of the outputs of the Valuegraphics Project is a set of region-specific profiles that tell you the top values for each region. Looking at the regional valuegraphics profile for the US, we know that belonging, family, relationships, personal growth, and health and wellbeing make up the top 5 values for the region. Looking at the top 5 values for the US compared to the rest of the world, we see that family and relationships are valued similarly. But there’s significant divergence between the US and the rest of the world when it comes to belonging and health and wellbeing. 

If you’re targeting a US-based audience, that’s already much more useful than any demographic or psychographic data when it comes to not just getting in front of, but influencing your audience to take a particular action. No matter what else you say, if you can connect your product or service to the values of belonging and health and wellbeing, your efforts will be much more effective at striking a chord than they would be with demographic and psychographic data alone.

Valuegraphic Archetypes

Value Graphics in Action. This chart shows "The Adventurer" archetype.
Value Graphics in Action: Adventurer Archetype.

With the valuegraphic profile for your target region, you’re ready to uncover the most and least dominant valuegraphic archetypes of your audience. Let’s say you’ve surveyed members of your audience and determined that the dominant valuegraphic archetype among them is the Adventurer. This is the 7th most common archetype globally representing 10% of the population. So you’re already getting much more narrow than the regional profile. When you get down to archetypes and the values they contain, you’re tapping into a currency that not only drives human behavior, but drives it in remarkably similar ways for those who share these values. 

Comparing the regional valuegraphic profile of the US with this specific archetype, two points of meaningful distinction in the top 5 values are immediately apparent. Experiences aren’t in the top values for the region at all, so focusing on this value will be uniquely resonant to this group. Personal growth is in the top 5 values for the region, but it’s ranked much higher for this particular archetype. Tapping into these values will create an engagement strategy that’s uniquely relevant for this specific audience. So in this example, we’ve deployed a valuegraphic survey to the kinds of customers we want to find more of. And in analyzing that data, we uncovered the Adventurer as the dominant archetype. How do we get from here to a values-driven persona that marketing and other teams within our business can sink their teeth into? 

Building a Better Customer Profile: Valuegraphic Personas

We’ve taken this process one step further to create personas based on the valuegraphic profiles we’ve built around specific audiences. One of the first things that makes these personas stand out from the traditional fare is what they don’t include. What you won’t see in this kind of persona are the demographic elements you typically see (a picture, fake name, age, and bio). That’s by design because they generally have nothing to do with the action we want to compel. And including them can imply that they do. Best case scenario, it’s not helpful. Worst case scenario, it can cause us to arbitrarily limit our audience and cut us off from engaging with values-aligned prospective customers.

Here’s what you will find in one of our valuegraphic personas:

  • The valuegraphic archetype(s) represented and a brief description of it, including contextual statements from people who share the archetype(s)
  • Statistics on how common this persona is in your region and their degree of values alignment
  • Highlights of the most and least dominant values, which serve as driver and detractor values respectively
  • A list of qualities and characteristics that are virtually certain (in that they’re true for 90%+) and highly likely (75-89%) to be shared by people who represent the persona and implications for your brand

The information in the first three bullets helps us start to get inside the minds of this persona. But the last bullet contains the gold nuggets that have actionable impact on marketing and beyond. The certainties and likelihoods for valuegraphic personas cover broad and sometimes unexpected ground, from unique perspectives on values to common behaviors and preferences related to travel, mobility, money management, leisure, the list goes on. And they can inspire insights that can influence everything from product and service innovation to content and creative, targeting, affinity and partnership marketing, and more. And these insights aren’t the product of a handful of qualitative interviews; they’re the product of a massive global research study that included analyses on massive quantities of research data at a level of statistical rigor that would exceed the requirements of most major universities. 

Beyond B2C: The Value of Valuegraphics for B2B Brands

It’s easy to see how a valuegraphics-based approach to target audience research and persona profile development applies to B2C companies. But the applicability to B2B companies might not seem as obvious because in these scenarios, we tend to adopt an institutional view of our buyers. In reality, purchase decisions for businesses are still made by human beings (and in most cases, multiple human beings). That means that not only is the concept of connecting with the values of your buyers still very much in play, one could argue that the impact is compounded given that purchase decisions are made by multiple decision makers. So if you’re engaging in a way that’s not aligned to your target audience’s values, you’re going to hit the same snags over and over again with multiple decision makers. 

In the context of the traditional approach to target audience research for B2B companies, it would be typical to develop buyer persona profiles for the different stakeholders who play a role in making purchase decisions and develop distinct persona-specific value propositions for those different decision makers. In the context of valuegraphics, the same logic holds. Illuminating the values that drive decision making for your cadre of B2B buyers will make you more successful in aligning to those values and compelling the desired action.

Evolving Your Approach to Understanding and Driving Consumer Behavior

With the execution of the Valuegraphics Project, we now have a way to leverage a much bigger body of data in the art and science of developing persona profiles. As marketers and growth drivers for our businesses, that gives us the ability to develop a deeper understanding of our audience at scale and parlay that understanding into action both within and beyond our marketing strategies to align better, resonate more, and compel action more effectively. As the world around us grows increasingly privacy-sensitive and the data at our disposal to drive reach with our audiences becomes more limited and nuanced, the brands who know their audiences best will have the greatest advantage. 

If you’re ready to evolve your approach to target audience research and harness the power of valuegraphics data to drive your market engagement strategies, I highly recommend checking out David Allison’s book, The Death of Demographics. Or better yet, give us a call for the CliffsNotes and our playbook for putting it into action.

Categories
Reaching New Customers Strategy

Swift Moves: What Marketers Can Learn from Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce

The suspected budding relationship between Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce has become a major media moment. Whether you’re team “ Tayvis” or “Swelce” (or you remain unaffiliated), it’s almost impossible to escape the very real effects this speculated pairing is having on pop culture, whether romance is real or not. But what does this celebrity romance have to do with marketing? Well, hang on to your Eras tour T-shirts, because there’s more to this story than meets the eye.

Let’s explore how the “shipping” of Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce by both music and football fans alike has sparked newfound engagement within the NFL community and the lessons marketers and growth leaders can draw from this phenomenon. …Are you ready for it?

Electric Touch: The high-voltage power of unexpected partnerships

When marketing strategies get a little stale and your standard playbook starts gathering dust, a creative and unexpected partnership can be an effective way to shake it off. This is an approach Swift has deployed herself in collaborations with unlikely artists like Kendrick Lamar in “Bad Blood.” The media attention on Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s apparent joining of forces is a great reminder that successful marketing often involves unexpected partnerships and the value of being open to collaboration opportunities outside of our comfort zones. 

The media attention on Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s apparent joining of forces is a great reminder that successful marketing often involves unexpected partnerships and the value of being open to collaboration opportunities outside of our comfort zones. 

While the generated media attention  is great for driving cross-audience awareness for Swift’s and Kelce’s respective personal brands, is there a more substantial quantitative impact behind the hype? Absolutely. Consider this: the NFL, a sports giant with massive brand awareness and a highly engaged core audience, is experiencing increased engagement from Taylor Swift fans because of her connection to Travis Kelce. In fact, the Chiefs vs. Bears game where a cheering Swift first caught the attention of viewers and sportscasters was the most watched game of the week with nearly 25 million viewers, including a 63% increase in female viewers aged 18 to 49, according to Roku. This unexpected alliance demonstrates that sometimes, the most fruitful partnerships come when you’re willing to break the ice and think outside the box.

Emotional Connection: How soulful and authentic storytelling hits different

When it comes to authentic storytelling and connecting with people on an emotional level, Taylor Swift could teach a master class. She’s poured her heart and soul into her music, sharing her life’s ups and downs through songs like “Love Story” and “All Too Well.” Her lyrics and melodies tap into the human experience, making listeners feel like she’s singing about their lives and her uncanny ability to connect with her fans on an emotional level has turned them into a community of loyal followers.

In marketing, it’s crucial to tell your brand’s story authentically. Customers connect with brands that share their values and experiences. Marketers can create emotional connections with their audience through storytelling, relatable content, or simply empathizing with their customers’ needs. Finding that end game of emotional engagement can make all the difference, so don’t be afraid to share your journey and be as fearless as Taylor when it comes to opening up to your audience.

Staying Relevant: ‘Tis the damn season for a reinvention

In marketing, adaptability is key. Both Taylor Swift and the NFL have showcased remarkable adaptability in reaching and engaging their expanding fan bases in the face of an ever-evolving digital landscape. From her country beginnings in Tim McGraw to her pop reinvention in 1989 and her indie-folk venture in folklore, one thing Taylor Swift is known for is her ability to adapt and evolve with the times. She’s consistently changed her style, not just to stay relevant to an evolving audience base but to reflect the evolution of her own identity as an artist and brand. She seamlessly transitioned from country to pop, experimenting with indie-folk, and all the while, leveraging digital platforms to release surprise albums and engage directly with her fans on social media. The result has been a resounding and quantifiable success.

For its part, the NFL has recognized and responded to the shifting media consumption habits of younger generations and embraced digital platforms to livestream games, share highlight reels, and interact with fans in real-time on social media. Travis Kelce specifically has showcased a remarkable ability to engage effectively with a digital-native audience, elevating his status as both a sports personality and a brand. Kelce’s active presence on platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok allows him to share behind-the-scenes glimpses of his life, showcase his unique personality, and connect with fans beyond the football field. And New Heights podcast with brother and Philadelphia Eagles center, Jason Kelce, has become a dynamic platform where the Kelce brothers engage with their fans on various topics, including sports, lifestyle, and personal experiences. By leveraging the podcasting medium, they’ve created a space for candid conversations, special guest appearances, and authentic storytelling, further solidifying their status as relatable sports figures in the eyes of their fans. The podcast serves as a prime example of how athletes can use modern digital channels to connect with their audience on a deeper level and bridged the gap between traditional sports and the digital age, appealing not only to sports enthusiasts but also to a younger, tech-savvy audience.

By adapting to the digital era and staying attuned to their fan bases’ preferences, Taylor Swift, Travis Kelce, and the NFL as a whole have proven that flexibility, digital prowess, and a willingness to reinvent are essential for sustained success in an ever-evolving digital marketing and entertainment landscape. And you must be ready to pivot and reinvent your strategies to keep up and you can’t be afraid to begin again when necessary.

Crossing Boundaries: Challenging the borders of audience and pop culture

Travis Kelce’s fanbase in the NFL is predominantly sports-oriented. Taylor Swift’s is music-focused. It might be easy to assume that those audiences are mutually exclusive, but they’re not. In fact, Tallwave Product Manager, Anna McKee, sits squarely in both camps. “I’ve been a Chiefs fan my entire life, and I’ve been a Taylor Swift fan since her career first launched. I’ve seen 5 Taylor Swift concerts—two at Arrowhead—and have owned Chiefs season tickets for the last 5 years. I’m right at the center of the Taylor and Travis Venn diagram.” Anna was at the fabled Chiefs vs. Bears game and experienced the phenomenon of this pairing firsthand and then had the experience of watching it from afar catching the Chiefs vs. Jets game a week later. “It was wild how clear the effect was between the two games but in totally different ways. Without the benefit of a TV broadcast to provide a birds’ eye view while I was physically at the Chiefs/Bears game, the conversation was about Taylor the entire time. Whether it was a question out loud or a text or a tweet, everyone wanted to know why she was there, who she was with, and whether it was a PR stunt. Regardless of the speculation, the general consensus with the women I was with was that we didn’t care, we were just excited she was there! Watching the Chiefs/Jets game a week later on TV, the broadcast kept cutting to her, which made it even more real and, in some ways, more exciting.”

“I’ve been a Chiefs fan my entire life, and I’ve been a Taylor Swift fan since her career first launched. I’ve seen 5 Taylor Swift concerts—two at Arrowhead—and have owned Chiefs season tickets for the last 5 years. I’m right at the center of the Taylor and Travis Venn diagram.”

Anna McKee, Tallwave product manager

The steep spike in NFL engagement among women suggests that the apparent relationship has bridged these two seemingly disparate communities, creating a fusion of interests. And Anna’s experience and those like her who are long-time fans of both found another reason to engage more deeply. If there’s one lesson here for marketers, it’s the power of tapping into multiple affinities where possible.

Staying Social: Be a trendsetter, a star

The sudden surge of engagement within the NFL community due to Taylor Swift’s involvement demonstrates the importance of monitoring and staying on top of trends, particularly when it comes to social media. And on that front, Taylor Swift is a force of nature. For example, when it comes to social following on Instagram, Swift’s following outpaces the NFL’s by an order of magnitude. She’s got 273 million, over 9 times the NFL’s 28 million. And Swift’s social power is translating to real gains for both the NFL and Travis Kelce. 

While the NFL is still trying to find its footing on how to maximize its return on the Swift halo effect (posting references to Swift’s presence at the game and then subsequently removing them after receiving some backlash), there’s no question they’ve benefitted. As just one example, with the boon of content focused on Swift and Kelce as a pair, the NFL has seen record views on TikTok content. That halo effect has extended to Travis Kelce, too, helping him pick up 380k new Instagram followers and boosting his podcast into the top spot on Apple’s charts.  

The surface lesson for marketers here is straightforward: an active and engaging social media presence on platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok can help you connect with your audience, share your story, and foster a sense of community. This is particularly beneficial for driving engagement with your audience outside of high-intent moments, which can add up to real value over time as it helps cement your brand in the minds of your audience. But there’s a deeper takeaway about the art of timing. As the saying goes, “timing is everything,” and the Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce relationship proves this point. Their romance coincided with the NFL season and Swift’s record-breaking Eras tour, leading to a perfect storm of increased engagement. This isn’t the kind of thing that’s easy to anticipate, but marketers recognize the brand-building value of this kind of rare serendipitous moment. The NFL did, too. While every move they’ve made to capitalize on that moment hasn’t necessarily been pitch perfect, they didn’t let perfect execution be the enemy of perfect timing, which is a valuable lesson in itself.

End Game: Summing up 

In the ever-evolving marketing world, we can learn valuable lessons from unexpected sources, just like the budding relationship between Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce. Embrace unexpected partnerships, tell your brand’s story authentically, and leverage emotional connections to engage your audience, including in more casual interactions with your brand. Adaptability, engaging diverse audiences, and capitalizing on pop culture can open new doors for growth. And to complete your mastermind marketing strategy, don’t forget the role of social media, monitoring trends, and be ready to seize those rare and powerful serendipitous moments to propel your marketing efforts forward.

Whether you’re ready to see sparks fly between Taylor and Travis or you’ve got bad blood with this attention-grabbing romance, there’s something to be learned from this pop culture phenomenon. Let’s take these lessons to heart, just as we would with our favorite Taylor Swift songs, and create marketing strategies that create a lasting love affair with our audience.

Are you ready for it? We are. Let’s talk.

Categories
Strategy

Make Way for Mom: Why Better Employee Experiences for Working Mothers Is the New Competitive Advantage

The Women in the Workplace 2021 report from Lean In and McKinsey & Co. highlighted that all the slow but measurable gains women have made in all levels of management could be wiped out in a single year by the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on women in the workplace. In fact, the report finds that more than one in three women may downshift or leave their careers as a result. This impact is compounded for working mothers, particularly those with young children, who feel scrutinized for taking advantage of options that make balancing work and the demands of home and family easier and are less likely to feel comfortable sharing their personal struggles with others. 

More than one in three women may downshift or leave their careers as a result of the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on women in the workforce.

At Tallwave, we believe experience is everything. Employee and customer experiences are inextricably linked—great employee experience is a key driver of great customer experience. It’s impossible to sustain one without the other. Conversely, when companies create employment experiences that fail women, they’re setting themselves up to fail their customers. With women making up 51% of the overall population and 57.8% of the labor force, losing ground on female representation in the workplace could have devastating effects. The state of our female workforce hangs in the balance, and with it, the health of the companies that depend on their valuable contributions.

Also read: Crafting Employee Experiences That Improve Customer Experiences
 Here at Tallwave, 54% of our employees are women, which means more than half the work taken on by our company—and more than half of the value we create for clients—is in the hands of women. As a customer experience design company, it’s important for us to both reflect on the experiences we’re creating for the women among our own ranks and to serve as a thought leader for brands that recognize the unbreakable link between EX and CX. So we did something far too few companies do. We invited a group of working mothers at Tallwave to get together for a discussion facilitated by our VP of Marketing, a working mother of three herself, to share their perspectives on what’s working within employment experience for working mothers, what’s not, and the recommendations they have to help companies better support women. 

Create Space for Employees to Bring Their “Whole Selves” to Work

The idea of needing to give employees an invitation to be who they are at work may seem startling, but what we discovered from our group of Tallwave moms was that the ability to bring your “whole self” to work, including sharing the demands you face at home and the need to harmonize them with the demands of work, is not a given. For Martha Schulzinger, a program manager at Tallwave and mother of two, the ability to be her authentic self at work isn’t something she takes for granted. “Tallwave has proven time and time again that I can be my authentic self and I won’t be shunned for it. I’ve worked in some pretty toxic places where you can’t bring your whole self to work and it’s a constant struggle.” 

Her experience in an environment that embraces her entire identity, including the demands of motherhood, has also led to deeper bonds with colleagues and even clients who have seen her in “mom mode.”  “Being able to be your authentic self and knowing the people you work with aren’t going to judge you if you have a kid there with you in the room has been kind of magical. My teammates have seen my kids grow up. Even some of our clients have seen my three-month-old become a two-year-old. They’ve seen him grow as he’s come in and out of the screen, and that’s pretty neat.”

But Martha acknowledges that openly sharing the demands she’s juggling at home wasn’t necessarily something she was immediately willing to do, and she credits colleagues, particularly Senior Consultant and fellow mother of two, Erin Nielsen, with helping her find the courage to be more open about the challenges she faces as a working mom. “Erin has been a role model for me. In the very early days of the pandemic, she had her kids on camera and I was very afraid to do that. But she showed up like a total boss, just owning whatever it was that she needed to talk about. She was present, then the kids would come in, she’d handle them, and come right back to whatever she was doing without skipping a beat. And I was like, ‘Okay, I can do that, too.’ I’m really thankful to her for that.”  

For Erin, it was simply a question of what she was and wasn’t willing to sacrifice as the pandemic caused her personal and professional worlds to collide. “When I realized we weren’t going to be home for two weeks and then go back to the office, I took a step back and asked myself, ‘How do I want to act through this?’ I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my kids’ happiness and pretend they weren’t here so I could keep working. I don’t think I made a conscious decision to test my company, but I’m a mom first and I’m never going to not be.” She decided it wasn’t worth pretending her reality was anything other than it was. “I chose to be my authentic self. And if I got pushback or didn’t feel safe, then I’d know I wasn’t in the right place and that it was time to move on. And I found what I was hoping I’d find, which was a supportive group of people, which was really cool to see.”
Recommendation from the Moms: In both Martha’s and Erin’s cases, their decisions to stop trying to hide what was happening at home wasn’t inspired by overt assurances of support and acceptance, even though that’s ultimately what they found in their colleagues. So what’s the takeaway for companies trying to do better for moms? Don’t assume the mothers in your employ feel welcome to bring their whole selves to work if you haven’t made the invitation. If employees aren’t being explicitly encouraged to be open about how their personal lives impact work or at least seeing leadership model the choices they’re making to balance these often competing demands, they may assume they won’t be supported if they do.  

Know the Difference between Sympathy and Empathy and the Value of Both

While experiencing the sympathetic support of colleagues and managers was a common theme for all the Tallwave moms in our conversation, so was the desire for the kind of empathetic support that shared experience creates. Overwhelmingly, they felt genuinely supported by their direct managers. But in many cases, their direct managers had never been working mothers themselves. As working moms, they craved support from others who’d shared their experiences and they’ve been grateful to find it in other colleagues outside their direct reporting structures. Looking back on her professional experience prior to having children, Erin acknowledged the limitations of her own understanding. “You just don’t get it when you’re not a parent. I certainly didn’t get it, and I put my foot in my mouth plenty of times before I was a parent.” 

Experiential empathy creates deeper understanding, but it can also inspire hope. Many working mothers perceive their career goals, what it takes to achieve them, and how much they can afford to give as incompatible. But having access to other women who have grappled with the demands of working motherhood helps them challenge their own perceptions. This was especially meaningful for Sierra Dommin, Business Analysis Manager at Tallwave. “That statistic about more than one in three women putting their career aspirations on hold really spoke to me. I really want to take the next step in my career and it’s not that I don’t think I have that opportunity at Tallwave. It’s that I don’t feel like I can seize it right now because my kids are so young and I just don’t know how to balance it all. I feel like I’m hanging on by a thread. I feel like I have to just stick it out because adding another stressor to my plate will tip me, and my family will suffer. These two things that are both so important to me seem impossible to reconcile. It makes me feel stuck and it’s really frustrating.” But hearing the experiences of other working moms, particularly those who were further into their motherhood journeys, made her feel more optimistic. “Where I am with my kids and my career, just seeing someone else who’s been through it brings relief. Knowing that others have faced similar challenges and that they’re still here gives me hope.”
For working mothers, being fully present for your family and fully engaged in your family feel like binary choices. And no matter which you make, you end up on the losing end. For Martha, the cost of leaning into her career is guilt. “I’m so happy to be at Tallwave and to have challenges in front of me in my career. It’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of. But every night I go to bed with so much guilt because I’m not present with my children. I work from home and they’re right here with me. They want me to play with them and I can’t because I’m working. I go to bed early so I can have a few hours of productive work time before the kids get up, so I’m mentally drained and too exhausted to do anything for myself.”
As Martha is quick to point out, it’s not that her colleagues aren’t supportive. Many simply don’t share her experience. “My coworkers are amazing and I love them. But there’s just no way for them to fully understand. In between meetings, maybe they refresh their cup of coffee but I’m changing blow-out diapers. As much as I want to give more to my work, I’m also giving so much at home that there’s just nothing left.” This strikes a chord with Erin, too. “I adore my coworkers, all of them. And I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how those who don’t have children have come to the table. But you just don’t get it if you’re not in it. Talking to other moms who have confronted the same things we’re facing—putting up boundaries, finding your own happiness, living through the endless juggle of work and family—these little nuggets go such a long way.”
Recommendation from the Moms: Access to other women striving to harmonize careers and families is an incredibly powerful tool for working mothers. Awareness of other working mothers—particularly those in leadership positions—improves visibility, empowering working moms to feel more seen, heard, and represented. The ability to discuss the shared experience of working motherhood helps working moms find support, seek advice, and draw inspiration. For working mothers whose direct supervisors don’t share their experience, it’s particularly important to provide other paths of access, like employee resource groups, mentorship programs, organized meet-ups, and discussion forums. 

Recognize that Making Work Better for Women Isn’t Women’s Work  

For women who are accustomed to serving as constant problem solvers on the home front, solutioning, actioning, and accommodating may come naturally. But far too often, companies are content to let working moms solve their workplace problems alone, starting with the transition from maternity leave.
While some of the mothers who participated in our conversation had employers who created comfortable places for new moms to pump, that was generally the extent of the effort their past companies put into helping them successfully navigate workforce re-entry. Reflecting on her returns to work after having her two children, Erin’s experience aligned to those of virtually everyone else on the call. “You come back and you’re stressed out and that never stops because you’re trying to figure out how to be a first-time mother, and then a mother of two or three or more on top of everything else. And it’s always on you to figure it out and you just don’t feel like there’s any support there. You’re expected to perform at the exact same level while you’re trying to find time to pump or nurse. You’re forced to start making choices between meeting work expectations and the expectations you had for how you’d care for your baby. And those forced choices never stop.”
As companies look to advance their goals and initiatives, supported in large part by working mothers, they rarely consider the personal impact of the work that working moms must take on. For Chelsey Gloetzner, Product Design Manager at Tallwave, she recognizes that fully embracing the work that excites her may come at a personal cost. “We have a lot of women in leadership, which is fantastic. As we’re pursuing large goals, a lot of moms are doing the work. I recognize my responsibilities in supporting our goals as a manager, and I’m pumped to do it. But I also don’t want to put in an extra two hours every single night to get projects over the line and miss my kids’ childhoods. As companies set goals, they need to recognize how the associated work trickles down to parents.”
As Erin is quick to note, the trickle-down responsibilities don’t just come from companies’ revenue and growth goals—culture-building initiatives are often disproportionately driven by women. In fact, the Women in the Workplace 2021 report finds that compared to men at the same level, female managers take more supportive actions with their teams, helping them manage workloads and keeping a pulse on their overall wellbeing. The report also finds that women in senior-level positions are twice as likely as male counterparts to spend substantial time beyond their normal job responsibilities on diversity, equality, and inclusion initiatives. Throughout her career, Erin has seen not just women, but in many cases working mothers, step up to the plate more than their fair share. “Ensuring our teams are coming together, that people feel rewarded, that there’s a balance of face time and fun activities in our work and that company culture is being strengthened, all those types of activities that keep the ship afloat are often led by mothers because we care and naturally step up. But we can’t keep bearing the brunt of treating the office like our family. We have nothing else to give.”

Compared to men at the same level, female managers take more supportive actions with their teams, helping them manage workloads and keeping a pulse on their overall wellbeing. Women in senior-level positions are also twice as likely as male counterparts to spend substantial time beyond their normal job responsibilities on diversity, equality, and inclusion initiatives.

Recommendation from the Moms: With women making up well over half of the workforce, companies must recognize that every business decision they make will inevitably impact women. And for the working mothers among them, the impact may be much more difficult to absorb. It’s important to recognize that barriers to success for working mothers are barriers to success for their companies, and they should be treated that way. That means rather than leaving working mothers to fend for themselves in an inhospitable working environment, companies should be enlisting allyship from across their ranks to create an environment that better supports them. This can include things like:

  • Confronting gender bias head on. From addressing big-picture issues—like equal pay and advancement—to challenging common daily implicit biases by resisting an overreliance on women to fulfill administrative and culture-building duties, and addressing overt sexism in the moment, a better workplace for working mothers starts with a better workplace for women in general.     
  • Investing in allyship development programs to drive awareness of and support for women in general and working mothers especially.
  • Training managers in active listening and leadership techniques to better equip them to not just listen but to seek to understand what working mothers need to help them succeed in their careers. 
  • Considering the disproportionate burden of emotional labor that women face in company decision making. With women carrying greater responsibility for household chores and caretaking than men, scheduling meetings over lunch, allowing meetings to run late, or requiring sustained >40 hour work weeks will have a bigger impact on working mothers than their counterparts. 
  • Institutionalize support as much as possible and model utilization at the leadership level. Offering things like flexible work schedules, child care, parental leave, job sharing options, and parental leave reintegration support can go a long way toward creating a more hospitable environment for working mothers. Seeing those supports used by company leaders sends an even stronger message.
  • Actively advocate for moms transitioning back to work after maternity leave. The difference between passive support for new mothers to “take the time they need” and actively supporting them through formal programs and resources can be transformational for new mothers returning to work. Companies that know, attend to, and proactively advocate for the rights of working mothers under the Family & Medical Leave Act and Fair Labor Standards Act by helping them become more knowledgeable about their rights and having defined programs and/or policies in place for things like altered work schedules and appropriate pumping/nursing accommodations will be at a significant advantage in keeping working mothers engaged and retaining them over time. 

Final Thoughts

No company succeeds by leaving women behind. While that’s rarely the intent, it’s the inevitable result of not taking deliberate action. At Tallwave, creating an inclusive culture for all employees, including working mothers, has been an ongoing focus. Like most companies, we know we still have work to do. But the fact that this group of Tallwave moms felt safe sharing their experiences, perspectives, and recommendations openly wasn’t the result of simply inviting them to. This kind of open exchange is possible because we make deliberate choices to create an environment where employees feel safe speaking up. Maintaining this kind of culture takes conscious, continuous effort, but it’s an investment we know is well worth making.

Companies that create supportive, empowering employment experiences for working mothers not only unlock greater potential from their workforces than those that don’t, but they also unleash an incredibly diverse and powerful set of skills. After all, few experiences are as effective at developing the kind of patience, creativity, resourcefulness, problem solving, critical thinking, negotiation, diplomacy, tenacity, optimism, and commitment that motherhood requires. And few customers are as unreasonably demanding as children. By creating the conditions that help working mothers succeed in the workplace, companies just might discover that the key to unlocking their own potential has been there all along.

Special Thanks

Tallwave would like to thank the incredible working mothers below who shared their perspectives for this piece and all the women of Tallwave whose efforts are instrumental in our success and the success of our clients.

Caroline Meehean

Chelsey Gloetzner

Erin Nielsen

Jen Bonfilio

Jes Pumo

Martha Schulzinger

Sierra Dommin

Categories
Strategy

8 Signs Your CX May be Headed for Heartbreak

For consumers, strong CX is the universal love language. Nothing shows your customers you care like the ability to truly understand and attend to their needs. But as with any relationship, brands and their customers inevitably experience ups and downs. When there’s more of the latter than the former, customers will do what any of us would do in an unfulfilling relationship: they break it off. The good news is, there are almost always signs that can signal you and your customers may be headed for a breakup. The key is to recognize them so you can take action before your brand ends up in the lonely hearts club.

We recently attended a virtual conference with CX leaders from a wide range of market verticals and industries. Through every keynote, roundtable, and one-on-one discussion we had, we saw a consistent trend in how the indicators used to evaluate the strengths and opportunities within the customer experience are shifting. Traditional CX metrics like customer satisfaction and net promoter scores have long been used to provide a holistic read on customer engagement levels and how they change over time. But increasingly, CX leaders are recognizing that these traditional metrics are really lagging indicators – they highlight that a problem has already occurred, but offer limited utility when it comes to taking action.

How can CX leaders identify early when friction is occurring and take action before it translates to a hit to their holistic engagement metrics downstream? It’s all about narrowing focus to specific make-or-break moments within the customer experience and leveraging the operational metrics tied to those moments as leading indicators of the overall strength of the customer experience. Here are 8 signals of distress to look for at key CX make-or-break moments:

Moment of Consideration

Within the customer journey, the moment of recognition is the first time your product, brand or service registers and creates an impression with a potential customer. This often happens when a potential customer bumps into your brand out in the wild, whether they’re served an ad, read about you through earned media, learn about you from an influencer, or even hear about you through word of mouth. Whatever their path to exposure, the moment of consideration comes when that exposure connects to a consumer’s need and inspires them to consider the solutions you have to offer. What happens (or doesn’t happen) immediately following that moment can signal trouble:

  • Site Bounce Rate: Your bounce rate is the percentage of visitors to your website who leave without navigating beyond the page they land on. If you’ve been successful enough in that moment of recognition to inspire a prospective customer to take the action of visiting your website but the experience when they get there isn’t compelling enough to drive further consideration, it’s time to evaluate the strength of your CX in these early moments of the customer journey.
  • Winding Paths: There are many potential navigation paths through any given website. But paths that follow a logical sequence for consideration are fewer. If your path to conversion data shows that prospective customers seem to take the “scenic route” and miss key consideration content on your website, that can signal that prospective customers aren’t finding what they need.

Moment of Commitment

If you’ve made a positive impression on a prospective customer and inspired them to take action to actively consider your product or service as a solution to their need, the next make-or-break moment in the customer journey is the moment of commitment. This is the moment a consumer demonstrates real intent. But there are signs that can indicate barriers in customers’ paths:

  • Failure to Advance in Conversion Flows: For any digital experience, there are high-value actions you want consumers to take. Taking those actions often requires customers to complete multiple steps. If you’re seeing significantly high drop-off at one of these steps compared to the others, that can signal that the customer is encountering friction at that point in the process.
  • Cart Abandonment Rates: The act of putting a product into a cart is a big signal of purchase intent, but there are a number of reasons a customer might not complete the purchase process. If you’re seeing significant and persistently high cart abandonment rates, it likely signals friction in your purchase process.
  • Inconsistent Conversion Rates Across Platforms: Depending on the nature of the commitment you’re asking customers to make, you may see higher frequency of conversion on desktop vs. mobile or vice versa. However, when the rate of conversion varies drastically across platforms, it’s often a signal that customers are encountering friction on one platform that they aren’t on the other.

Moments of Doubt

Moments of doubt happen when a customer has a less-than-ideal experience. For any brand, it’s not a question of if this moment will come—it’s a question of when and what to do about it. For brands that think ahead and craft a strong CX to support these moments, these are golden opportunities to earn brand loyalty. These indicators can signal how well your brand holds up in moments of doubt:

  • Ineffective Call Deflection: Providing customers with effective digital means to resolve problems, either before or during a call for customer support, can be a win/win. It’s a more cost-effective way for brands to solve customer issues and it’s often faster and more convenient for customers. That is, unless the self-service options create a whole new set of problems. If customers deflected to digital self-serve channels are returning to the phone to get their issues resolved, this can signal friction in your self-service UX.
  • Inconsistencies in Inbound Support Requests: When you receive an inbound support request, something has already gone wrong in the eyes of the customer. When something goes wrong in the process of getting help, it doubles the frustration. If you’re seeing sudden spikes or drops in inbound support requests, that can signal an issue within your support systems, which could lead to failing customers not once, but twice.
  • Issue Resolution Time: When it comes to the time it takes to resolve customer issues, extremes are the enemy. Call times that are extremely short can signal that customers may be getting shortchanged by agents that are too eager to get off the phone. Conversely, call times that are too long can indicate that agents are running into trouble and aren’t able to resolve issues efficiently. Issue resolution time on either end of the spectrum can signal unresolved issues and unhappy customers.

BONUS

A classic signal of a struggling CX at any moment is good old fashioned customer feedback. If the experience you’re delivering isn’t living up to your customers’ expectations, they’ll talk about it to you, to their friends, and potentially to the world via social media and other public digital forums. 

Bottom Line

Once you’ve seen the signs from your customers that there’s trouble in paradise, what you do about it could mean the difference between making up and breaking up. A strong CX strategy could be just the therapy you need to keep your brand and your customer together. We’ve got the CX Enhancement Solutions you need to write your happily ever after.

Categories
Strategy

Strategies For Pandemic-Winning Businesses to Maintain Momentum After COVID-19

2020 will go down in history as a year that vastly changed customer behaviors, expectations, and needs for good. And while that was bad for some industries and businesses, others whose products and services were ripe for digital-only and socially distanced environments saw major increases in customer acquisition, engagement, bookings, and overall sentiment.

 

For example:

 

  • Companies like RVshare & Cruise America saw an 846% increase in bookings, as homebound individuals and families sought out adventure and reconnected to nature.
  • Vacation and short-term rentals including AirBnb, VRBO, and AvantStay saw their numbers reportedly triple, and struggled to keep up with the demand.
  • Subscription services experienced immediate growth just weeks into the pandemic, seeing monthly customer acquisitions increase as much as 85%.
  • Grocery stores saw “double digit profits” compared to 2019.
  • The pandemic reshaped the fitness landscape as health and fitness equipment revenue more than doubled from March 2020 to October 2020.

But, as the world returns to some sort of normalcy and consumers begin to venture outside their homes, pandemic-winning businesses are forced to answer the question: What strategies will help sustain recent customer acquisitions and growth? As consumers get tired of doing things they were forced to do during the pandemic, and a resurgence of options become available, pandemic-winning businesses will have to rethink the customer journey and uplevel experiences to avoid their recent success from tapering off.

Business who opt to maintain rather than innovate and improve customer experiences, risk being left behind.

6 Ways Pandemic-Winning Businesses Can Carve a Path Forward

1. Identify Industry Changes & Trends That Will Continue Past the Pandemic

Understand what changed within your industry due to COVID-19, but more importantly, focus on identifying what the staying power of new and emerging trends really are. This will help ensure your business’s time, money, and energy is focused on creating change where it matters most, rather than reactively and wastefully catering to temporary trends that won’t drive long term ROI.

 

For example, according to an analysis conducted by the budgeting app TrueBill for The Washington Post, subscription boxes and services aren’t going anywhere. “Power subscribers” – consumers with 10 or more recurring payments that add up to an average of $145 spent per month – is growing exponentially. In fact, the subscription economy is predicted to grow by $1.5 trillion by 2025, says financial services firm UBS.

 

By understanding the staying power that subscription services have, you may be able to find ways to incorporate unique and convenient subscription-based experiences. Creativity is key. Take for example Tripadvisor. In an attempt to bounce back from hits the travel industry took during COVID-19, they’ve launched a $99 annual program that offers exclusive deals and dedicated service lines to subscribers as a way. Six Washington, D.C. restaurants found a way to play in the subscription economy by joining forces and creating a “supper club” that delivers gourmet meals prepared by different chefs each week to subscribers’ homes.

 

If there’s a will, there’s a way. And there’s a lot of money you may be leaving on the table if you don’t take time to identify trends that are here to stay.

2. Reevaluate Consumer Groups & Update Your Ideal Customer Profile

Consumer groups have inevitably changed, due to COVID-19. Whether it’s just the needs and wants of your existing customers that have evolved, or you find that a completely new customer mix now engages with your products or services, it’s crucial to understand exactly who you’re serving, and how you can create better experiences for them in the future. By gathering and mining audience data, you can uncover new behaviors and update your core personas and customer profiles to inform future customer experience design.

 

For example, the experience and relationship restaurant owners need and want from their produce suppliers changed due to the pandemic. As part of a larger customer journey initiative to better understand everyday business needs and experiences of existing customers, we created and executed a customer survey focused on 1-2 restaurant locations segments for a food distribution company. The intent of the survey was to understand unique attitudes and behaviors that could provide more opportunity to focus on increasing share and loyalty, and to further understand segmentation differences within customer groups. By gathering insights directly from our clients’ customers related to technology and tools, COVID-19 impacts and competition, and perceptions associated with our clients’ existing services, we were able to update attitudinal segmentation within their customer mix and uncover future opportunities for improved experiences.


3. Consider New Customer Behaviors & Usage

With limited options during the pandemic, many customers found new ways to use products and services than originally intended. For example, many rental homes that were typically reserved pre-pandemic for short-term vacations turned into long-term homes away from home. Cars that were previously used to get from point A to point B became safe-havens and temporary escapes for overworked parents. Video communication softwares such as Zoom, Google Hangouts and Skype evolved from connecting business colleagues to hosting virtual game nights, happy hours, and family celebrations.

 

As you mine audience data to uncover new and update existing consumer groups and personas, it’s also important to pay attention to how behaviors or usage shifted during the pandemic. Did customers engage with your products or services in new ways? Were they seeking new results or using your business to complete unprecedented tasks?

 

Use this information to expand the customer experiences you provide by designing, imagining, or inventing new uses for your product or service that provide added value.

 

Also read: 6 Factors Influencing Customer Behaviors in 2021 (With Original Research)

4. Pinpoint ‘Aha!’ Moments Within Your Customer Experience

The “Aha!” moment is when your customers truly “get it.” They understand the value that your product or service provides and realize why they need it – or simply want it – in their lives.

 

Evaluate and pinpoint where “Aha!” moments take place within your current experience by mapping the customer experience using both qualitative and quantitative research methods . Then, using the map, identify ways to either optimize, improve, or manufacture completely new “Aha!” moments to ensure continual value creation and engagement.

 

It’s important that customers perceive value at every stage throughout the customer journey to ensure repeat behavior. Don’t miss opportunities to drive an emotional bond and connection and establish a healthy customer-brand relationship by closing the loop too soon. The experience doesn’t end at the purchase point – the experience you provide creatively continue to drive value far beyond that.

 

Also read: 9 Quantitative Research Methods With Real Client Examples


Example of Customer Journey Mapping

5. Create New, Innovative, and Added Value For Customers

This is where we bring things full circle, and if you opt to maintain rather than innovate and drive your customer experience further, you’ll get left behind.

 

Through evaluating consumer groups and updating customer profiles, you may find that your business acquired new customers during the pandemic that wouldn’t have considered your product or services in a different time. As they start to return to pre-pandemic norms and habits, how can your businesses ensure you can convert newly acquired customers into repeat customers long-term? Well, using your customer experience map and analyses, look for ways to add value.

 

For example, new customers may not know how to use your product or service fully. If that’s not intuitive, you need to add value in the form of content (think opt-in texts, email nurture strategies, website quizzes and tools) or A.I. assistance to help customers use or leverage your product or services in new ways. By doing this, you can help educate consumers and push them closer to realizing value without selling them anything new.

 

Also, find ways to build community. Now more than ever, people are craving connection and want to support brands whose values align with their own and they can see themselves in. Consider connecting with and reaching new and existing customers by leveraging platforms such as Instagram, and TikTok to start conversations, allow people to attend offline events digitally, provide a look into your business “behind the scenes,” and more. The more authentic and human you can make your community and digital presence, the strong connection and support you’ll forge.

 

Also read: Developing Nurture Strategies That Decrease Time to Value 


Validation Strategy & Framework

6. Help Customers Navigate & Transition Into a Post-Pandemic Landscape

Lastly, be helpful. This is just another version of value, but in this case, it’s selfless. It’s not about acquiring, upselling, or converting. It’s simply about doing what’s right and holding empathy for your customers by extending value beyond the reason people are (or were) forced to use your products or services during the pandemic.

 

Play a part in helping them navigate the bounce back to pre-pandemic life in a way that feels aligned with your brand but puts the wellbeing of consumers at the core.

 

Need help envisioning and implementing strategies to maintain success in a post-COVID world? We can help. Contact us today.

Categories
Uncategorized

This Week in CX: CDK, Neiman Marcus Group & Qualcomm Invest In a Better Future

Week over week, we unpack emerging trends, data developments, business model innovations and new technologies that are changing consumer behavior and driving CX expectations of tomorrow. But there are other factors that, especially in 2021, impact how consumers relate to brands long-term: Social impact, responsibility, and philanthropy.

 

We’ve known for many years that authentic corporate philanthropy increases employee satisfaction, morale, and retention, but new studies are revealing just how much it also impacts the overall customer experience, as well. Case in point:

 

  • A survey by Nielsen discovered that 50% of consumers will pay more for a product or service if the business prioritizes sustainability.
  • The 2019 Aflac Survey of Corporate Social Responsibility found that 77% of consumers would “be motivated to purchase a company’s products or services if the company shows they are committed to making the world a better place.”
  • A survey conducted by Clutch found that shoppers believe environmentally-friendly business practices (71%), social responsibility (68%) and giving back to the local community (68%) to be the most important attributes of a company, even above price. Additionally, 71% said they believe it’s important for businesses to take a stance on social and cultural issues.

“We all have a responsibility to make this place better than we found it,” says Tallwave Senior Consultant Erin Nielsen. “That can come in many forms but it shouldn’t just be up to a residential individual. There’s strength in numbers, and money talks. Why shouldn’t companies be the ones driving toward larger, bigger actions? They have the people, the podiums, the funds, and the opportunities to make a bigger difference.”

 

Not only should businesses care about making social, environmental, and/or cultural differences because, well, they should, as the metrics above highlight, it is becoming increasingly paramount to consumers as they decide who deserves their money.

Millennials have proven that commitment to causes is a driving factor behind whether they buy from a company or not.

“Consumers are smarter than they have ever been,” Erin explains. “They have information at their fingertips and are becoming more and more informed about what organizations truly stand for and are empowered to make decisions based on that alone. You see that in specific segments of the market: Millennials have proven that commitment to causes is a driving factor behind whether they buy from a company or not. Let’s take Toms, for example. When they entered the market with a buy one, give one model, they were a disruptor from that perspective. It made me want to give my money to an organization that’s going to do something with it. I can buy Toms or I can buy from a company that doesn’t share where my money goes – whether it be towards an advertising campaign, brick and mortar, or in their pockets. Consumers have choices and they care. Now more than ever, people don’t trust companies at their word. They need to prove that they’re doing what they say they’re doing. They need to live their values and integrate their beliefs into their work.”

 

Basically, if you’re focused on crafting excellent customer experiences and building a bond with consumers that can last a lifetime, you can’t only drive materialistic or time-saving value. You have to cultivate a brand that your consumers can see themselves in and rally around. You’ve got to stand for something, and find a way to embed that into the DNA of everything you do.

Like many of you reading this, we’re still figuring out how we want to show up in the world and be a catalyst for change.

Now, before we share the top stories we’re talking about this week, we do have to make a confession: While we’re experts in many areas, this isn’t necessarily one of them. Everyday, we’re learning, growing, and figuring out how to do better. At Tallwave, we put employees above everything and execute our work from the heart with humans’ best interests at the core, but, like many of you reading this, we’re still figuring out how we want to show up in the world and be a catalyst for change. And that’s OK. We believe, in order for this kind of work to transform our brand and the communities we touch, we must approach it like a marathon, not a sprint. We’ve built a DE&I task force and broken them up into four categories, each focused on cultivating and operationalizing strategies most important to us: Talent outreach, client and marketplace engagement, internal culture and training, and community outreach. We’re listening, we’re learning, and we’re putting actions behind our words to develop the social impact and philanthropic programs that are right for us.

 

These stories and these brands are paving the way. We look to them for guidance, inspiration, and motivation, and can’t wait to join them in the corporate and social responsibility ranks.

CDK Global Doubles Down On Their Promise to Support Inclusive & Equitable Quality Education For All

Last August, CDK Global – a leading provider of integrated data and technology solutions to the automotive, heavy truck, recreation, and heavy equipment industries – announced their commitment to increasing accessibility to quality education and lifelong learning for all. Since then, they’ve directed 90% of their corporate giving to education-related causes, and this past Wednesday, doubled down on their promise by pledging a total of $70,000 to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeast Louisiana, greenlight for girls, and ASE Education Foundation.

“Now more than ever, we understand that not everyone has equal access to a traditional learning environment where they can receive a quality education,” CDK Global’s Executive Vice President, Chief Human Resources and Communications Officer Amy Byrne told Business Wire. “Through our corporate philanthropic partnerships, we are investing in programs that help create the next generation of leaders by improving access to knowledge and enhancing the skills of people from all backgrounds.”

 

CDK Global chose to donate $25,000 of the $70,000 total to the Boys and Girls Clubs chapter in Southeast Louisiana after they were forced to cancel their in-person National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) trade show – which was scheduled to be hosted there – and transition to virtual setting due to COVID-19. The change of plans caused a blow to the community’s projected local economic growth for the year. To make up for it, the funds will make CDK the first-ever sponsor for a new literacy program planned for the 2021-2022 school year – one that will reportedly help 75 children per day to alleviate social challenges, increase school performance, and better prepare for standardized tests.

 

CDK’s partnership with greenlight for girls (g4g) also isn’t brand new. The two organizations joined forces to develop educational materials for girls in STEM subjects back in July 2020. According to the founder and chairman of g4g Melissa Rancourt, the $25,000 donation will help them “achieve significant reach, impact, and resonance to our sustainable development and societal goal… [to] inspire local communities of girls and boys to build their curiosity, abilities, and aspirations in STEM.”

 

Lastly, CDK plans to donate the remaining $20,000 to ASE Education Foundation to help educate, prepare, and inspire a new generation of automotive service workers. The funds will fuel an assessment to evaluate the diversity, equity, and inclusivity of ASE’s educational programs, and will empower their curriculum to reach and attract varied student populations. “The future of the service industry is brighter because of their contributions,” said ASE Education Foundation Present Michael Coley. Neiman Marcus Group

Launches New Campaign Focused on Fostering Black Excellence

 

February is Black History Month so there was no more appropriate time for Neiman Marcus Group to announce their new campaign, “Celebrating Black History By Supporting Black Futures.”

“NMG is a place where everyone belongs, where diversity is valued, and where showing up as your full and authentic self is expected."

Unveiling a multi-pronged strategy that consists of both new and ongoing initiatives, Neiman Marcus plans to use corporate philanthropy dollars to support the Boys and Girls Club of America, as well as improve internal learning opportunities and marketing efforts designated to source and empower Black talent. Additionally, Neiman Marcus Group plans to host a fireside chat for associates and customers between Nikole Hannah-Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winner reporter of racial injustice for The New York Times, and Tracy Pereston, the company’s Chief Legal Counsel. People can RSVP for the virtual event on their site. Upon the event’s culmination, Neiman Marcus Group will make a donation to the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting on behalf of Hannah-Jones.

 

“NMG is a place where everyone belongs, where diversity is valued, and where showing up as your full and authentic self is expected,” said Chief People & Belonging Officer of Neiman Marcus Group Eric Severson. “As we progress on our Belonging journey, our people and their voices are a priceless way we highlight the excellence that makes up our company.”

 

To read more about Neiman Marcus Group’s philanthropic work, visit The Heart of Neiman Marcus.

Qualcomm Releases 2020 Corporate Responsibility & Reveals Plans Through 2025

Qualcomm Incorporated, the world’s leading wireless technology innovator, released its 2020 Corporate Responsibility Report last week, recapping the company’s environment, social, and governance performance (ESG) for the year.

 

“We have had many successes over the last year despite the unforeseen challenges of 2020. As we continue to work toward our 2030 Vision, I am proud to report we successfully met or exceeded our 2020 corporate responsibility goals,” said Steve Mollenkopf, Chief Executive Officer, Qualcomm Incorporated.

Qualcomm Instagram post about corporate social impact

Also read: Solving For a Lack of Diversity in CX

 

Qualcomm is hoping to make significant impacts across four key areas: Purposeful Innovation, STEM Education, Responsible Business and Our People. And they made some significant strides in recent years:

 

  • Over the last two year, Qualcomm increased their female engineer workforce by 17% worldwide
  • They increased racial and ethnic group engineers in the technology sector by 12%
  • Employee satisfaction towards Qualcomm’s workplace inclusivity increased by 10%
  • They launched a Small Business Accelerator program, which helped 33 small businesses transition to a mobile-first digital infrastructure
  • Their Wireless Reach program benefitted more than 20 million people across 48 countries by enabling access to their technology for education entrepreneurship, healthcare, public safety, and environmental sustainability purposes.
  • They conducted their first climate scenario analysis, of which insights are included in the report

Qualcomm's Pledge Through 2025

Despite making major strides, Qualcomm isn’t satisfied yet. While crafting strategic corporate plans through 2025 and beyond, they defined quantitative targets designed to measure improvements pertaining to diversity within their workforce, enforcing more sustainable practices in all areas of business and transforming industries with their new technologies to “build a more resilient economy, and catalyze social change for billions of people across the globe,” said Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf.

 

“In the year ahead, we will start working toward achieving our newly launched 2025 corporate responsibility targets, prioritizing environment, diversity and inclusion, and reporting,” Qualcomm’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Akash Palkhiwala said in a statement. “Among these, we will continue to address and improve our environmental performance through greenhouse gas reduction strategies, reduce power consumption, and work to build a more diverse workforce.”

 

Learn more about Qualcomm’s 2025 goals and ESG performance in 2020 in the full report here

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