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Customer-Centric Marketing: Placing Customers at the Heart of Your Brand

Melissa Megginson Axtell, Director of Community Marketing

Feb 26th 2022

Headshot of Melissa Megginson Axtell

 

It’s time to make the world revolve around your customers.

Marketing strategies never stand still for long. Today, the focus is starting to shift away from the brand and toward the customer. Nothing demonstrates this better than the rise of UGC (user-generated content) and we see even the biggest, most expensively curated and carefully controlled brands populating their social feeds with customer-created imagery.

Additionally, we’ve seen increased demand for (and indeed, the expectation of) personalization when it comes to retail experiences. A “one size fits all” approach hasn’t been accepted in ecommerce circles for several years The rise of direct-to-consumer (DTC) ecommerce testifies to this shift.

In this article, we’ll explore some of the ways that brands can enjoy enhanced success by taking a more customer-centric approach in their marketing and beyond.

Customer-Centric Marketing: Why Is It So Effective?

Let’s start by looking at some of the psychology underpinning the impact of choosing to market in a more customer-centric way. In a departure from more traditional marketing approaches which place an emphasis on a clearly defined brand, customer-centric marketing shines the spotlight onto an audience’s desires, habits, needs, and preferences, prioritizing them above all else as far as promotions go.

Why does it work? Aside from ensuring customer alignment, customer-centric marketing also makes space for shoppers to feel a deeper connection to the brand they’re choosing to purchase from. A customer-centric approach enables customers to feel as though they’re part of something bigger than ‘just a brand’. They feel a sense of community and identity, which resonates with some of our most instinctive and deeply rooted desires as social beings.

We know that personalization (a core component of a customer-centric strategy) is appealing to audiences: 80% of shoppers are more likely to make a purchase if a company has adopted a personalized approach. Additionally, providing social proof (such as reviews) is an essential element for building trust — and it gets real results. 79% of people say that social proof, such as user-generated content (UGC), highly impacts their purchasing decisions.

What’s Needed to Deliver This Experience?

So far, so good — the concept of customer-centric marketing ticks a lot of boxes on paper, but what’s the best way to go about executing this strategy? In order to position your offering to your customers, you need to really understand them!

Data is your passport to success here. However, not all data is equal. When it comes to building a customer-centric marketing strategy, you’ll ideally want to lean on the insight from first and zero-party data. Not sure exactly what you should be looking for? Learn more from our recent article, demystifying data types, which outlines a few best practices.

When you work with first and zero-party data, you know you’re leveraging insight your target audience volunteers — nothing will get you closer to their preferences, habits, and desires. Get creative in how you collect and request data of this nature. Remember, transparency and compliance are key. Customers are typically happy to provide additional information in exchange for better personalization and more targeted offers.

Throughout the rest of this article, we’ll dive into some key ways that you can deliver a more customer-centric brand experience…

1. Leverage Reviews On-Site

If you want to put customers first, reviews are one of the most effective ways to give them a voice and presence across your marketing and sales channels. Integrating reviews into your ecommerce store helps curious shoppers make more informed purchasing decisions.

This increased consumer confidence can have a profound impact on your success metrics. To give just two examples, shoppers interacting with Okendo’s review platform are 4-5x more likely to convert, while merchants using Okendo bump up their AOV by an impressive average of 10%.

Letting your customers talk about your products’ quality, your customer service, and more adds a more trustworthy tone to your marketing efforts. 88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and 72% say that positive reviews and testimonials make them trust a business more.

What are the opportunities?

Brands can leverage reviews to make their shopping experiences even more customer-centric. Okendo’s Attributes feature, for instance, allows customers to actively filter reviews and find those most relevant to them, which helps drive shoppers to convert with confidence.

Additionally, by giving browsing shoppers access to additional voluntary information, you’re also giving them an opportunity to proactively find answers to any questions they might have about products. Not only does this practice create a more streamlined and satisfying customer experience (no need to wait for a reply), you’re also shortening the pathway to purchase and reducing the burden on your support team.

2. Learn More About Your Customers From Reviews

As previously mentioned, zero-party data offers a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the customers you’re courting. Reviews can provide a steady stream of it,, so if you’re ready to optimize your collection methods and fully leverage the opportunity for insight, reviews can become a fundamental part of your customer-centric marketing strategy.

When it comes to data collection, the more detailed the review, the better the insight. Enhanced review capture means every review that’s submitted helps you learn more about your customers. Additionally, giving them the chance to relay their full experiences helps them feel appreciated and respected. Again, Okendo’s Attributes feature gives your customers a chance to provide a comprehensive view of their experiences of your brand. By linking their review to personal demographics and behaviors, they’re able to convey a much more contextually relevant view.

What are the opportunities?

Once you start to build a clearer picture of your audience, you can put the data to use and make your marketing more customer-centric. Use this data to build lookalike audiences and refine your marketing personas, ensuring that your messaging is more relevant and resonates with clearly defined customer profiles.

You can also apply much sharper segmentation to your future communications and marketing campaigns, to personalize everything from promotions to photography. Finally, use the insight that you’ve gleaned to remarket to customers based on their preferences and purchasing habits. Again, the goal here is to let the experience that your customers are telling you they prefer, be your guide.

3. Offer a Customized Experience Through User-Adjusted Preferences

Perhaps the ultimate form of ‘opt-in’ personalization, user-adjusted preferences are becoming increasingly common. They’re a great example of customers’ general willingness to provide additional insight and data when they know the outcome will be a more personalized, relevant, or rewarding shopping experience.

From quizzes to customizable navigation, there are many ways you can let shoppers set their own parameters and preferences in your store. As always, transparency is key, so be clear and direct when communicating the benefits of opting in.

DTC brand Function of Beauty is an example of a company that goes all-in with personalization, offering customized products and a buying experience that’s fully centered around customers’ preferences and goals. Clear CTAs across their store invite customers to complete their hair care, skin, or body quizzes. They then receive relevant product suggestions. In a similar vein, Sephora offers virtual skincare consultations and on-site quizzes to refine product recommendations (with customers’ knowledge).

What are the opportunities?

You may have noticed a theme by this point, but we can’t overemphasize the importance of the zero-party data that these tactics generate. User-adjusted preferences do more than provide a better and more customer-centric experience — they actively help you collect deeper overall insight, improve your ongoing strategy, and better align your brand and customers.

Again, data gathered in this way can help you build out better-defined marketing personas and lookalike audiences. There’s also an enhanced opportunity to apply segmentation to your future communications and marketing campaigns — the only limit is your creativity.

4. Include Customer Stories on Your Website

Nothing is more compelling than a story, right? Storytelling can play a massive role in developing a more customer-centric ecommerce experience.

Customer stories are an excellent way to show tangible results from your product or service. They also give dedicated customers a voice and platform as a way to recognize them, which is great for building rapport and connection. The positive impact goes beyond the customer featured because it demonstrates to other not-yet-converted shoppers the respect and recognition you give to your dedicated customers.

Brand ambassadors can leverage this effect to help curious consumers self-identify with your brand, feeling a sense of belonging even before they’ve made a purchase when they see positive content coming from a relatable figure.

What are the opportunities?

You can leverage customer stories in a wide variety of ways and across any channel you care to think of, but if you’re looking to create an impact on your website, Okendo’s new integration with Pagefly offers a fantastic opportunity to create compelling, engaging landing pages to showcase your customers’ experiences. Seven pre-built Okendo widgets reduce page-building time and present the opportunity for you to start actively collecting user generated content to help you build out and populate future pages.

5. Leverage Customer Imagery and Video

Finally, you can use customer-generated product imagery to populate your store with additional content that keeps your customers at the forefront of how you position your brand.

Another significant benefit of adopting a customer-centric approach to imagery and media is the fact that beyond being immensely relatable, this content is freely available. Of course, it does require asking for consent. When it comes to obtaining complete compliance with regard to the use of UGC, FourSixty is a great solution, offering peace of mind in this area (and the benefit of beautifully designed, fully shoppable galleries, created from your Instagram content. This means you can sell directly through the images created by your customers — it’s hard to conceptualize a more customer-centric pathway to purchase!).

What are the opportunities?

In addition to providing a truly authentic representation of your brand, leveraging user generated imagery across your marketing and sales channels can also help to build up and foster a greater sense of community in the context of your brand.

Get Ready For The Future Of Customer-Centric Marketing: A Strategy That’s Here To Stay

When looking to improve your wider marketing strategy, we hope this article will encourage you to keep your customers at the heart of everything you do — especially regarding how customers interact with your online store.

Shoppers want a personalized experience, but at the same time, customers are increasingly and rightfully wary about their data privacy. As a result, brands must start strategically planning for collecting first and zero-party data, in a transparent and compelling way — having customers consensually sharing information with a view to improving their experience.

Reviews offer one of the best opportunities to collect this kind of intelligence, and Okendo’s platform gives you the chance to get closer than ever to the customers you’re looking to faithfully represent and serve through a more customer-centric approach to the future of your marketing, positioning and ongoing business.

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