Today, thanks to mobile technology, we're in the midst of the true marketing revolution. And it has nothing to do with mobile ads.
Consider a recent experience with Delta. I bought a ticket on the airline's website using my laptop. I phoned customer service to change my reservation. The airline texted me about a flight delay. I downloaded my boarding pass to my phone, checked in at the airport with an agent, and later asked another agent if I could change my seat.
That was six interactions before I boarded the plane. None were with anyone in Delta's "marketing department," but from the airline's point of view, every interaction was a marketing opportunity. And Delta performed well, never losing my transaction history or telling me I needed to talk to someone else. In short, it never forgot who I was. The experience was seamless, and I'll definitely fly with Delta again.
Another great example of a company providing a smooth shopping experiences is Amazon. Its Prime service has so many subscribers because Amazon makes shopping easy. One click on my laptop and a book appears on my Kindle, without me wondering if the two devices will shake hands. Another click and a blender arrives at my house within 48 hours -- or, if I live in the right zip code, in time for dinner.
Both Delta and Amazon offer examples of modern marketing done right. These companies realize that marketing must be constant; every employee has a marketing role to play.
Across the broader business world, however, there is still a disconnect between what shoppers want and what many companies do. In an Accenture study, which canvassed 750 consumers, " fewer than half said they found it easy to complete a purchase using a mobile device." Eighty-two percent said they expect retailers to offer products at the same prices in-store and online but only 34 percent of stores do.
With so many points of contact, businesses now have numerous opportunities to delight shoppers -- but also more chances to disappoint.
For instance, another study by Accenture found that only 19 percent of retailers let mobile phone users start shopping on their device and complete their purchase in-store. This is a lost opportunity for retailers. Adobe's Digital Index has found that consumers take advantage of "ship-to-store" options, when available. In fact, the average retailer offering ship-to-store fulfills one in six orders in this fashion.
Plus, apps and websites have to impress customers within milliseconds by remembering who was halfway through buying a shirt -- five days previously on a different device -- or who prefers a vegetarian meal and an aisle seat. Every instance is either good or bad for the brand, and the marketing doesn't stop when the consumer makes a purchase.
Achieving seamlessness isn't easy. For some companies it will require retooling to get marketing and IT to work together. For others, it will mean new investments in staff and technology. Marketing is about being seen, but behind the best seamless experiences is a mountain of work that the customer never sees. Consumers don't care if a company's online and in-person operations are separate entities in separate states; it's not their problem.
Today's consumers expect to be remembered. And as wirelessly connected shoes, watches, and all manner of appliances -- the "internet of things" -- enter our lives, the number of interactions between consumers and manufacturers will skyrocket. Every encounter of every kind is a way to make sure customers come back for more.