3 Tactics for Brand Survival in the Age of the Customer

We are all living in what Forrester Research famously proclaimed “The Age of the Customer.” But some brands are living better than others — for that matter, many are just barely hanging on.

The Age of the Customer heralds a decisive, disruptive shift in the balance of marketplace power. Consumers now control relationships with brands, not the other way around; they expect to get exactly what they want, when and how they want it. With empowerment and entitlement continuing to climb, brands face two options: keep pace or perish. Moving with their customers means recognizing them as individuals — in real time, across devices and channels, and meeting (or, better yet, exceeding) their ever-increasing expectations.

Always-on customer identity resolution is the answer. It’s the engine that drives continuous engagement and creates the truly relevant, personalized experiences that foster long-term brand loyalty and retention. In short, it’s what separates the brands who are crushing it in the Age of the Customer from those who are getting crushed.

“5 Things Marketers Must Do to Master Identity Resolution,” a live webinar hosted by Signal on Oct. 12, tackled the subject head on, bringing together guest speaker, Forrester VP and Principal Analyst Joe Stanhope and Signal Chief Innovation Officer Blane Sims to address both the obstacles and opportunities. Here are three tactics for navigating the road ahead. 

1. Ignore the status quo.

Surviving the Age of the Customer begins with ditching antiquated business methods that no longer make sense — for example, traditional stop-and-go customer onboarding approaches that yield results limited to the life of a campaign (usually no more than a handful of weeks).

“Each time the brand wants to reach a customer, it must start all over again. No less problematic, brands can’t capture and process customer interactions in real time, meaning it takes days and sometimes even longer to update profiles,” Sims explained. “In addition, customer IDs are siloed between internal systems and external channels, creating a drop-off of data between systems and multiple sync points.”

2. Embrace the future.

“Succeeding in the Age of the Customer means harnessing customer context,” Stanhope said. “Identity is the connective tissue for contextual marketing.”

Identity-based customer approaches recognize and reach customers deterministically, treating them as the singular individuals they really are, rather than guesstimating based on incomplete, rented or outdated data sets. Because the identity asset is always on, it gets richer over time, and it’s available for continuous activation and closed-loop attribution.

Building the unique customer profiles that power identity resolution extends beyond collecting traditional identifiers (like names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers) or documenting the customer’s relationship history with the brand (e.g., which campaigns she’s joined, how she responded and what she purchased), Stanhope said. Situational context is absolutely critical as well.

“It’s not enough to know someone is reaching out from a mobile device,” Stanhope explained. “You need to know where they are, and what’s happening, to understand the precise moment to know when and how to engage with them the right way. We need identity to create coordinated customer experiences and deep customer insights.”

3. Think bigger.

Identity resolution is more than the foundation of the customer-focused strategy necessary to thrive in today’s competitive environment, Sims said.

“It is also an asset that will increase in value as the brand’s customer strategy matures from media targeting to analytics to individualized experiences. The outcomes are improved customer lifetime value, increased loyalty and retention, and better [return on ad spend] and [return on marketing investment].”

Sims cited Silicon Valley darling Airbnb as an example of identity innovation, noting that its online hospitality platform offers a single view of each traveler throughout all phases of the customer experience. “Airbnb built an entire business on customer identity,” he said. “Former challenger brands are now competing and winning with identity as the differentiator. The good news is that there’s not a limited supply of good customer experiences in the world. Any brand can deliver better relationships.”

That ability to deliver better relationships and more substantive, seamless experiences will grow more essential as the Age of the Customer rolls on, Stanhope said. “Identity is the next competitive battleground. Consumers expect contextual engagement in the moment, where they want it and how they want it. And if they don’t get it from you, they’ll find a brand who’ll give it to them.”

Looking to continue your master class in identity resolution? View the complete 45-minute webinar here. 

Originally published October 25, 2017

Jason Ankeny

Jason Ankeny was formerly Signal's Director of Content Marketing.

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