- Research Highlight
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Recommendation engines are an easy way to reach new customers, but marketers may encounter unintended consequences due to the inherent biases in the algorithms.
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Digital customer service is becoming more widely adopted, but one place it falls short is in the language and phrases it uses. Many digital service platforms use words that alienate customers rather than engage them; selecting customer-centric language for chatbots and service platforms can make a significant difference in customer satisfaction.
A relatively small number of purchase and return metrics can accurately predict customer profitability — and the likelihood of policy abuse. By using analytics to identify the few customers who cost the company the most money by abusing return policies before they make their next purchase, companies can prevent abusive returns, avoid PR disasters, and boost their profitability.
Retail customers may accept different prices on different channels — but retailers need to manage new complexities to make it work. These include understanding what customers value in each channel and how that affects what they will pay, giving store employees the right language for talking about price differences, and working out operational challenges. Getting it right has a real payoff: Retailers that effectively price differently across all channels see bottom-line growth of 2 to 5%.
In this webinar, Cornell University’s Sheryl E. Kimes discusses the expectations disconnect between companies and customers over self-service technologies.
New research finds that stories about consumers’ positive experiences with a brand significantly increase users’ engagement with brand websites, and stories originating from consumers are especially powerful in shaping brand attitudes in social media. Indeed, companies that aren’t offering experiences that leverage consumer input in brand-related narratives are missing out on important opportunities to connect in a meaningful way with potential buyers.
Many innovative new products don’t succeed. One common reason: Companies don’t focus on understanding how customers make purchase decisions. But paying attention to how customers search for information about what to buy, and how they make guesses about details they can’t easily find, helps predict whether customers will embrace certain product innovations. Companies need to focus on innovations that customers will easily recognize or find ways to alert them to innovations they may not detect on their own.
Consumers are not running away from self-service options — just poorly implemented ones. Managers often underestimate customer’s need for employee interaction during a self-service experience, as well as customer desires for convenience and for transaction speed. “These three areas have a tremendous impact on the implementation of a self-service technology,” write the authors, “and might explain why some self-service applications have received a lukewarm reception.”
How much choice do people really want? Asking people to make their own choices requires time and focus — there’s all those options to consider. Harvard Law School professor Cass R. Sunstein writes that default rules, which establish starting points for everything from rental car agreements to health insurance plans, can save people time and keep them from being overwhelmed by too much choice.
The obvious risk of pay-as-you-wish pricing is that customers may be tempted to offer unreasonably low payment. But organizations as diverse as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wikipedia and Humble Bundle have figured out how to manage that risk and make pay-as-you-wish work.
New research shows that mobile advertising targeted to consumers based on their locations can be effective. This is particularly the case with customers who have shown a high level of interest in the type of product being shown to them. Researchers also think that some users might simply need more time to evaluate the trustworthiness of an app or offer — suggesting that marketers might see delayed responses to location targeted mobile ads.
Retail customers now readily use both online and offline retail channels. To thrive in this new environment, retailers need to reexamine their strategies for delivering information and products. Companies that are successful at navigating the omnichannel environment take a customer perspective and view the activities of the company through two core functions: information and fulfillment. They also consider hybrid online-offline approaches, including inventory-only showrooms and “buy online, pick up in store” options.
New research suggests that a smaller company can benefit by making consumers aware that it competes against bigger corporations. In six lab and field studies, the authors explored the effects of having a large, dominant competitor and found advantages in highlighting a competitor’s size and proximity. “Small brands see consumer support go up when they are faced with a competitive threat from large brands,” write the authors. “This support translates into higher purchase intention, more purchases and more favorable online reviews.”
To many managers, the idea of involving customers in pricing decisions seems counterproductive. For most companies, pricing is a sensitive, private affair. But it may be time to reexamine those ideas. Letting customers have input on prices provides opportunities for customization and can promote greater customer engagement. Opening up customer participation also offers a way for companies to create a new sense of excitement.
These days, many businesses are focused on increasing customers’ positive word of mouth. But emphasizing customer participation — such as providing feedback or suggestions — may be a more important vehicle for generating valuable repeat business. As one COO said, “Levels of feedback is a way we identify our most profitable customers. Those that bother to write to us do care. And they do spend money with us.”
We’re in a new world of omnichannel retailing that includes physical, online and mobile channels. And those channels are blurring. In a recent AllAnaltyics video and web chat, Analytics in the Age of Omnichannel Retailing, researchers Erik Brynjolfsson, Yu Jeffrey Hu and Mohammad Rahman discussed the challenges facing retailers.
Should you offer your best prices to new customers or existing ones? Recent research suggests that the answer depends on customers’ shopping flexibility and the degree to which customers’ value varies. When consumer preferences are highly fluid and the highest-value customers are much more valuable than others, then companies should reward their best existing customers. But if either of those characteristics is not in place, companies should offer their best prices to new customers.
New research shows that marketers who want to determine the value of a particular online influencer need to look beyond just the size of a person’s network connections. Zsolt Katona, assistant professor at the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley, found that the value of an influencer depends on underlying factors in the network structure of that individual with the target set of consumers. Specifically, Katona found that people who provide sole influence over consumers are the most valuable.
Recent technology advances in mobile computing and augmented reality are blurring the boundaries between traditional and Internet retailing, enabling retailers to interact with consumers through multiple touch points and expose them to a rich blend of offline sensory information and online content. In response to these changes, retailers and their supply-chain partners will need to rethink their competitive strategies.
Everyone has experienced the frustration of having to repeat voice commands multiple times before finally asking to speak to a service representative. Many large companies have become so focused on optimizing their business processes and systems that they have become all too willing to forget about cultivating emotional connections with customers. But in order to detect and respond to shifting customer needs, companies need to show more, not less, empathy with their customers.
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