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Weekly FurnitureWorld Media Note #41 from Lance Hanish-MobileFirst: Private Companies Using Digital Means To Engage, Research Customers

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So many in private business wonder if they are doing the right thing. Often they do not want to appear as being ‘too far out of it’. Why? Peer pressure. That’s why they invented consultants. They reassure. They guide. They reason. Yet the difference in belief and doing are starkly different. For instance, seventy (70%) percent of private companies are now doing some form of customer outreach through digital avenues (e.g. email and company websites), with 67% leveraging social media and mobile devices according to Pricewaterhouse Coopers research released in July. These companies are using digital tools primarily to engage in more targeted marketing to individual customers and to engage customers to act as brand ambassadors.

Recent research from IBM has shown that CEOs believe social media in particular will have a bright future in customer engagement: although only 16% of the more than 1,700 CEOs surveyed across the globe currently engage customers through social media, 57% anticipate doing so in the few years, a proportion that places the channel behind only face-to-face methods of interaction (67%), and ahead of websites (55%) and call centers (31%).

Meanwhile, according to PwC, faster-growing private companies that embrace digital tools to engage and learn about customers project 11.3% revenue growth over the next 4 quarters, compared with 6.3% revenue growth projected by private companies that do not use digital tools for customer engagement. Similarly, private companies that use digital means for customer engagement and research to what they describe as a moderate or great degree skew higher in annual revenue ($244 million) versus those that use digital means to a smaller degree ($191 million).

Private companies favor targeted marketing. As PwC found in compiling its “Private Company Trendsetter Barometer” report, targeted marketing (e.g. via email promotions, text messages, pop-up ads) leads among digital methods by which private companies engage and research customers, used by 65% of survey respondents who are employing digital channels for engagement and research. About half of private companies who use digital channels for customer engagement encourage customers to act as brand ambassadors, for example, by posting online testimonials that spread the word via social media. 48% of these companies also use digital means to solicit customer insights for product development, including innovation.

Private companies that use digital channels for customer engagement are upbeat about the benefits, with 76% reporting that digital means help their businesses do a better job of marketing their products/services to customers, and 72% reporting those means helping to improve customers’ experience and overall satisfaction.

Researching customers is still a rarity. Even so, less than half of the “trendsetter” companies that PwC identified use digital tools to research customers. Just 43% use such tools to gather information on customers’ behavior and preferences, and 40% use digital means to obtain demographic information. Despite these lower percentages, three-quarters of the companies that use digital technology in customer-focused efforts report that it helps them obtain better and more useful information.

Why the rush to engage digital? Mobile! With the increase in mobile (tablets, laptops and smartphones), mobile is the key to engagement. Engagement is the key to sales.

We really do live in a new DNAge.

In planning your marketing communications plan…Think MOBILEFirst.

Lance Hanish is Chairman/CEO and Chief of Imagination at Sophis1234 Data.Digital.Direct. He can be reached at  Lance@Sophis1234.com;  Facebook: http://on.fb.me/w88x5m  Twitter: @Sophis1234;  Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/sophis1234/  

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