5 March 2019

Africa: Customer Empowerment in the Digital Age

opinion

Decades ago brands had enormous power to create and advertise to their customers whenever they had a new product or service launched.

Production was one-sided (brand to the customer) despite several choices available for a consumer to pick from. In today's world, things are different; customers have become more aware, sensitive, demanding and cautious. The proliferation of social media and other relevant Omni online channels are the cornerstones to this digital revolution.

It is worth pointing out about the significance of customer dominance in the digital revolution. Today customers are more independent than ever before, hence brands with credible strategies might just win them over. Customers will perceive a brand's empowerment efforts as not only an attempt to generate buzz but also how their input/ideas will be used in an open community through constructive dialogue. The author of Forrester's report on Empowered Customer Segmentation in Asia, Mr. Anjali Lai, was once quoted as saying, "The power has shifted from the business to the customer. Consumers have rising demands and a new understanding of speed, the brand relationship, and personalization, and these new levels of expectation and standards of customer experience have upended traditional business models.". Lai demonstrates the ability of customers having one-on-one relationships with brands through frequent interactions that live up to their expectations or enter into new levels of experience.

How possible will it be to involve customers in your brand if they are located almost everywhere and at almost every step of your marketing campaign? First of all, you need to begin with sampling your target market. Start by fostering intensive engagement or relationships with your customers in content creation. Intensive engagements require you to have several hours or days to spend with a few of your customers especially if you are launching a new product or reviewing one in the market.

Thereafter, you can also go for a wider engagement level that involves a broad number of customers who will spend less time analyzing or voting your product/service i.e. see MyStarbucksIdea.com for example, a platform where customers interact with different ideas and have equal chance to vote for each. To date, Starbucks has implemented up to a thousand ideas from the pool of ideas. The bottom-line here is, you have to let them in your service, product or content creation process. It will help you understand their wants, aspirations, discontents or misfortunes while interacting with your brand.

One other critical break-throughs to empowering customers ishaving to predict what they want before they tell you. You need to keep an eye on how they respond to your ads, website, online store and content. Track their demands or interactions across devices and locations. Donot lose them out of your sight.

Furthermore, do not expect or assume customers will stay in just one channel for a long time. You need to connect their online world with the offline world to make a seamless and unified interaction. Customers need a variety of ways to pre-order, buy and receive your products/services at their convenient time and place.

As a brand, you have to create ads out of your customer base. Go out there and taste their loyalty to your company. Find out how valuable and effective their feedback is towards you. Sitting behind closed doors developing 'uncalculated' advertisements that force them to have a positive appeal might just backfire. In fact, empowering customers will help your brand reduce marketing budgets that are unnecessary while forging authentic and trustworthy relationships between you and your customers from drafting your first marketing campaign to the last stage of activating it to the world.

Benson G. Mambosho is a Digital Supervisor at TECNO Mobile Tanzania.

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