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Understanding your customers to deliver an authentic digital experience.

I recently attended a Marketing to the Rural Sector conference. There were a number of very interesting talks from organisations looking to promote products and services within the Agri-business sector.  The key message that came from the sessions was the need to really understand who your customer is and what their real needs are before you can deliver an authentic digital experience for them.

This got me thinking more about understanding the customer. Often we think we know our customers but do we actually know them? For example do we know why a customer placed an order with us? What really made that difference? We all know what happens when we assume stuff!

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Nowadays it’s clear that the burden of “selling when a rep isn’t present” has shifted to the marketing department. Buyers are self-educating now more than ever. They rely less and less on a sales contact for information and now use the variety of online channels. The NZ Connected Customer Survey 2014 illustrated that 87% of New Zealanders go online daily and 80% of them look on the internet as the first place to go for information about something. Marketing now has to stimulate demand in a crowded online world where the company is competing against ones pet dog photos and friends personal messages. It then has also to nurture buyers until they are ready to engage with the company and one of its representatives.

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With this increased responsibility, a marketer must focus on walking in their customer’s shoes, observing customer trends and conduct more buyer research. Are my customers happy and why? Are my customers spending and why? The answers to the Why’s provide invaluable insights and will help inform and shape digital strategies for content creation, branding, lead nurturing and ongoing customer service. This research also serves as the foundation for creating target customer personas and digital journey maps for engaging with specific customer groups online.

OK great. We’ve done our research and we have some real insights. We can create a digital plan for engaging with our customers. How do we make it work online and how do we measure and optimise it? The good news is that there are tools that can help in this area. Cucumber has experience working with a software solution since 2010 called Sitecore that helps you see an engagement from the customer’s perspective.

Sitecore has grown from a being a very good content management system to a tool that enables a business to create, deliver and optimise customer experiences that span acquisition, nurturing, conversion, retention and advocacy. Sitecore enables your buyer research and persona modelling to be tested. Through its capabilities you can measure campaign success and personalise content through all your customer touchpoints. You can get much closer to your customers and really make them feel unique across the different channels they use. Plus customer data is captured and held in standard database formats that can be utilised by other business tools such as Customer Relationship Management or Business Intelligence software.

As an example Trustpower are one organisation in New Zealand that have used key customer research, buyer personas and Sitecore’ s capabilities to deliver a personalised customer-centric website which is reaping rewards. 

The key to understanding customers is to walk in their shoes, understand from their perspective. Then a digital engagement strategy can be enabled utilising tools that allow successful ongoing customer relationships.