Forrester’s Consumer Marketing 2019: Building Dynamic Relationships with Customers

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Analysts at Forrester’s Consumer Marketing 2019 event addressed a range of topics with the potential to impact marketers, with a focus on the direct-to-consumer (DTC) business model, which sees companies selling their products and services directly to customers without a third party. The theme that emerged was the need for companies—and marketers in particular—to build dynamic relationships with customers.

Ryan Skinner, senior analyst at Forrester, introduced the concept of “direct to value,” an approach that sees companies striving to deliver maximum value directly to customers. “What the DTCs are trying to tell you is this: Your consumers will tell you in a moment, in a heartbeat, with a flick of the thumb, if what you’re offering feels valuable, but you’re only going to know that if you’re relating to them directly,” he said.

He outlined marketers’ main challenge in the coming years this way: Explore how to get value to your customers directly, learn from how customers respond, and then deliver more value based on that response. “It’s not about the channels; it’s not about your delivery; it’s not about your products; it’s really not about you at all; it’s about the relationship you’re able to establish directly with these customers,” Skinner said.

Then companies need to evolve their loyalty programs to become two-way streets where company and customer alike benefit, said Emily Collins, principal analyst at Forrester. “Customer loyalty is as much about the loyalty that you demonstrate to your customers and the value that you deliver to them as it is about what they’ve done for you lately,” she said.

She went on to posit a number of ways that marketers can use loyalty programs as a vehicle for developing more human connections with customers. One such way is being a better listener: “Dial up the customer feedback, do something about it, and show customers that you’re listening to them,” she said, citing beauty retailer Sephora as an example—the company recently relaunched its branded online community as part of its loyalty program.

“[Sephora is] not only using this as a way for customers to connect with each other and connect with the content and their love for beauty; it’s also a listening platform, a direct line for how customers feel about their products, the assortment, how they’re using them,” she said. “[Sephora] uses this as fuel to change the program, to determine new types of experiences that they’re going to deliver to the customer, and so it’s a really powerful source of customer feedback for them.”

Bret Sanford-Chung, vice president and executive partner at Forrester, addressed the current trend of industry disruptors—many of which are DTC companies—going public: Lyft has already done so, and Uber, Airbnb, Slack, and mattress company Casper all plan to follow suit this year.

“As these companies scale to go public, how are they going to continue to disrupt the way they’ve disrupted and create the communities that they have tried to create?” she posed. Citing Adam Morgan’s concept of the Challenger, she asserted that these companies “need to build a ‘lighthouse’ identity, which is a reason for being, an understanding of why they exist, and they need to communicate it insistently and consistently every time they are in the public eye, so that even when you are not looking, you see that lighthouse.”

She said that many of these companies include building a community of like-minded individuals in their missions. “[This] is not a coincidence. Being in a community of shared values not only includes my friends; it also includes the brands I buy from and do business with.”

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