The buck stops here: with marketers. Ad vendors: ignorance or fraud?
Book review: A few good ideas on an important topic, which falls short in part because of the very hubris it criticizes. An honest and more useful title would be: “Some ideas for better customer experiences”. It’s mercifully a light read, the introduction chapters make some interesting points (for instance that companies depend on appeasing the financial god’s short term requirements which is putting their long term viability in jeopardy) although clearly on shaky ground when talking about economic history.
The ideas ranked by usefulness:
“Great customer experiences satisfy our higher objectives.” A more useful way of putting it: we need to keep an eye on what our customers are actually looking for (which they may not be expressing correctly as they’re not product experts) and what they actually value and are prepared to pay for; so we’re talking about core, not necessarily higher, objectives. Marketing has long known this (at least anyone who read Theodore Levitt’s Marketing Myopia) but companies have drifted farther and farther away.
“Great customer experiences set and meet expectations”. Indeed.
“Great customer experiences are effortless / stress free”. This can be understood as the equivalent of good industrial design: if it’s good the customer won’t notice it; which doesn’t mean it will be effortless and stress free for those designing the better experience.
“Great customer experiences strongly reflect the customer’s identity / are socially engaging / consider the emotions”. Our customer’s reasons for buying our product have social and psychological components which we need to take into account; particularly when our customers are interacting among themselves on the web; old style advertising knows this but the noise it generates is widely ignored by consumers, we now have the opportunity to respond, attract, seduce, cut through the noise, instead of throwing mud at our customers.
“Great customer experiences put the customer in control”. A more useful idea is that great customer experiences take into account that the customer already has more control.
So that’s four nice ideas for the price of seven. Now to the not so useful “principles”:
“Great customer experiences leave nothing to chance”. The problem is the customer experience then becomes a huge, never ending inward looking project; companies need to choose where to invest to improve their customer’s experience the most.
“Great customer experiences indulge the senses”. This sounds like smell-o-vision and design frippery: good design makes the experience more productive, easier, gets out of the way; we want to help, not to wow with clever design.
Stuck on advertising and investor storytime: “Investor storytime is when someone pays you to tell them how rich they’ll get when you finally put ads on your site.”
“most online advertising doesn’t follow your interest; it competes for your attention. It’s a barrier you have to overcome… to get to the article or interaction you want”. Amen!
“our attention, as viewers, is worth only a penny an hour to Facebook’s advertisers”
“Targeting to intent (as Google’s search ads do) works well, while targeting to demographics, psychographics or stated interests (as Facebook does) works marginally better than not targeting at all.”
Advertising on the web downsides:
- Advertising implies some sort of surveillance.
- Generates clickbait, “but little thoughtful engagement”.
- Centralized, bigger companies buy start ups.
- Personalization creates silos.
I would add a 5th downside: companies are out of the loop of their customers’ experience, are missing out on the opportunity for their customers to achieve better results with their products, to enable customers to contribute to the overall experience, for instance by telling companies which options they’re looking for, appreciate more and would be willing to pay for.
Micropayments are part of the solution; web solutions are now within the grasp of companies to engage their customers directly, ditching ads altogether.