Melissa Pickle

Customer-centric Marketing: 5 takeaways on consumer behavior from researchers and strategists [Part I]

June 14th, 2016

At MarketingSherpa, we’re in the planning phase for MarketingSherpa Summit 2017. With the interest of our customers’ experience at the core of our every decision, we conduct extensive research to select the most thought-provoking and applicable keynote sessions for our attendees.

During our research phase, we have identified 10 key takeaways from leading experts (both academics and practitioners) in marketing. That’s a lot of key takeaways, so we’re breaking it up into two digestible bites. Read on today for insights around customer centricity, empathetic marketing and “less is more.”


Takeaway #1. Customer centricity does not mean doing exactly what the customers want

Dr. Peter Fader, Professor of Marketing at University of Pennsylvania and Co-director of the Wharton Customer Analytics Institute, explains that while performing at the level of meeting or exceeding customers’ expectations is a component of customer centricity, it should not be a blanketed approach for all customers.

According to Fader, truly customer-centric organizations do not treat all customers the same because they do not provide equal value to the company. Most of us are aware that we should identify different segments of customers. Fader establishes that while segmentation itself is not a new idea, how it is conducted has evolved from simple demographics to customer lifetime value. He suggests companies organize themselves around different customer segments rather than different products. Then, organizations can deliver products appropriate to their segments of customers.

In summation, to truly become customer centric, companies need to identify and invest in the right customers.


Takeaway #2. Empathy fuels connection

To deliver products relevant to the segments we’ve identified, we need to understand who these customers are, how they experience things and determine their needs.

Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, explains that feeling with people strengthens our connections. To exercise empathy, we must assume another’s perspective, reserve judgment, acknowledge the emotion and communicate that emotion. A customer-centric marketer’s best tool is exercising empathy. When we understand our customers’ needs and pain points, we can more easily design and promote solutions to these issues.


Takeaway #3. Customers don’t know how to value things

It is a marketer’s responsibility to be a “Choice Architect.”

According to Adam Alter, Associate Professor of Marketing at New York University, consumers’ decisions are anchored by the value of the information around them, and choice architects set up people in making decisions.

Alter’s research shows that subtle cues — within the information in our heads, social interactions and physical environment — can influence consumer behaviors. For example, he says, most people relate to things that begin with the same letter as their first name – the majority of people who made donations to Hurricane Katrina had first names that began with the letter K. Marketers need to understand these cues and incorporate them into offerings they present to consumers. Conveying context helps shape value for consumers, which helps them in their decision-making process.


Takeaway #4. Less is more

When the process of choosing becomes confusing or frustrating, choice is not viewed as a benefit but rather a burden.

Dr. Sheena Iyengar, the S. T. Lee professor of business at Columbia University, describes this as the choice overload problem. Her research shows that when people are presented with 10 or more choices, they consistently make bad ones. Unlimited choice is more attractive in principle than in reality, she said.

“The value of choice is to perceive differences between the options,” Sheena said.

When people are faced with a multitude of choices, it is not possible for them to calculate the value of each option. This leads people to poor decision-making, including not choosing at all.

Sheena suggests four mechanisms to help people make better decisions: cut, concretize, categorize and condition for complexity. A reduction of options can lead to the improvement of purchase experience for the customers combined with an increase in sales and reduction in costs for companies.


Takeaway #5. You can shortcut the decision-making process

In a society with short attention spans and inundation of information, brands have a limited opportunity to make an impression. If the right impression is made, it can open the gateway to a relationship.

According to Sally Hoghead’s research, there are seven triggers that fascinate people and can lead to immediate decisions and customer loyalty:

  • Power – taking control
  • Passion – irresistible attraction
  • Prestige – increase respect
  • Mystique – curiosity
  • Alarm – urgency
  • Vice –challenge the norm
  • Trust – builds loyalty

Every one of the above triggers evokes a different type of response, she said.


Come back Thursday for five more marketing takeaways from industry experts. We’ll cover insights around innovation, predicting consumers’ behavior and more.

Call for Speakers for MarketingSherpa Summit 2017 — Tell us your story for a chance to win a MarketingSherpa Award and a trip to Summit [deadline June 17, 2016]


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Customer-Centric Marketing: Symantec reduces churn by 3% through digital experience design [MarketingSherpa Case Study]

Customer-Centric Marketing: Multichannel campaign increases app engagement 56% for station [MarketingSherpa Case Study]

Customer-centric Marketing: How transparency translates into trust [From MarketingSherpa]

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