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4 Ways for Manufacturers to Go Direct and Build the Next CX Frontier

John Katsoulis
Senior Marketing Principal, Oracle Marketing Cloud

Consumer brands have a unique opportunity to leverage disruptive change to grow their organizations and gain market share. Direct-to-consumer eCommerce continues to be a disruptive force, as consumers increasingly want to know who and what is behind the products they buy. Brands need to work with their channel partners to create stellar customer experiences that drive positive win-win results.

Digital Disruption is All the Rage

When brands go direct; it's also good for retailers too. Better manufacturer sites improve both sales, and customer satisfaction across channels. As direct programs continue to drive positive outcomes with retail sales, new technology advancements are revolutionizing supplier-retailer relationships and sales models. Modernizing the customer experience to integrate service, commerce, and marketing helps to streamline the retail buyer’s experience, creates greater transparency, and opens up new opportunities that benefit the entire value-building chain.

As marketing and supplier boundaries evaporate, both suppliers and manufacturers can better engage with consumers at scale for the first time. It’s changing how brands manufacture, advertise, and sell their products. This disruption has brands feeling uneasy about solely relying on traditional supplier channels and has resulted in them expanding their options to own a bigger piece of the customer journey.

Selling to consumers involves a complex mix of players, each owning a distinct role in the management and execution of a brand's growth strategy. Previously, manufacturers and suppliers were more concerned with demand chain logistics, but digital commerce allows them to take more ownership of the customer journey and opens new opportunities for growth. This is where CPG marketers are making their top investments to meet company goals, and there are many examples of B2C organizations making similar investments. Commerce strategy is now top of mind with executive teams, as is investing in comprehensive technology platforms that can handle these complexities while streamlining costs and driving growth.

What Customers Really Want

Consumers want immediate and accurate access to information. Consumer demands for closer brand relationships is a top driver of why brands have gone direct. Over a third of consumers reported that they bought from a manufacturer’s web site in the last year. However, brands must determine what value they will deliver to consumers who buy this way, and how they can differentiate against other channel fulfillment options. Digital transformation is now at a stage where companies are looking beyond their traditional marketing, commerce, and service organizational silos to deliver the next frontier in customer experience. For their customers, this means being on the receiving end of a seamless interaction that demonstrates that both retailers and manufacturers understand them across marketing, commerce, and service interactions. Whether brands are creating a direct channel for the first time, or investing deeper in an existing program, understanding what shoppers want from a direct relationship is crucial and should be built around the following concepts.

1) Provide Customers with Channel Choices

You’d think most brands would have gotten this right by 2018! But sadly, many still lag on this front.  When engaging with a brand, a customer won’t distinguish whether it’s a storefront, a website or a mobile experience.  Consumers crave authenticity and they want multiple options when they decide how to interact with a brand. Offering a variety of customer service resources such as chat, call center, self-service and co-browse service helps customers feel heard, builds trust and creates more loyalty. Brands should also create hyper-targeted marketing and service interactions such as how-to guides and other personalized content about using, caring for, or styling their products. Brands can also provide additional options for customers via social channels and personalized website experiences to drive customer intimacy.

2) Feed the Information Frenzy

Consumers are experts at consuming information and they’re always hungry for more. Direct sites can address what's missing from crowded retail websites – specifically, rich and complete product content to catch the customer's eye. Most consumers use their mobile phones in-store while shopping to look-up information.  Therefore, product content that‘s mobile-optimized will help shoppers find what they need. And, brands should urge retail partners to use online content as a sales resource to help store associates who may be assisting shoppers.

3) Give Customers the VIP Treatment….. Always!

Winning brands are reinventing their CX strategies to ensure they deliver an exclusive experience that shoppers can’t get anywhere else. They know their direct shopper has a higher customer lifetime value (CLTV), drives 70 percent or more of revenue, spends more to have their needs met and are the ideal upsell and cross sell opportunity. To delight them, brands should showcase their complete product range, with special “only available here” styles, colors, and models. Selling products exclusively on a branded site alleviates channel competition and serves as a platform to test new and limited edition products and reduces excess inventory with special sales.

4) Owning the Entire Customer Experience is all about the Data

Marketing, commerce and service teams shouldn’t operate as individual business units when the end goal is to have happy, loyal customers. Marketing orchestration, customer service, commerce, and loyalty interactions should be part of a larger coordinated customer experience, linked at each step while taking advantage of mobile whenever possible. Companies that "go direct" with a focus on extracting value from each CX touch point will position themselves to be disruptors in a highly competitive market.

Building the Next CX Frontier

Without a doubt, one of the biggest challenges of digital transformation is finding the expertise and cultivating the talent necessary to take the brand through the journey. This level of organizational change requires executive sponsorship, the right technology partners, and clear goals. Digital transformation impacts many roles and systems. CIOs have critical responsibilities when a company’s future relies on digital growth and reliance on IT systems. The CMO has also evolved from being responsible for branding and advertising to being more involved with the entire product development and customer lifecycle and in many cases, driving revenue. 

When executives guide teams through successful digital transformation, decisions are bold, change happens quickly, and the organization is focused on execution. Companies that evolve in a staged manner tend to hit more pitfalls than those that swiftly move towards major change. The three biggest pitfalls of digital transformation are siloed mindsets and behaviors, lack of a common culture across business units, and no common view of customers across the organization.

How is your organization prepared to face the future?

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