Riding the wave of customer expectation and beyond .


I’ve always subscribed to the idea that anecdotes are not the singular of research. I was dragged up through the Guy Kawasaki school of thinking and anecdotes often smell too much of HIPPO – Highest Important Person’s Personal Opinion.

But bear with me for a second and let’s see if my recent personal experiences resonate with you or fortuitously connect with any actual insight out there in the real world.

Whilst on lockdown I’ve been trying to create clean air between the working week at home and the weekends (still at home). Yes, more sun and exercise perhaps but for me, it’s been about DIY. Working harder on personal home projects for two days has created the right punctuation to protect my mental health for the remaining five where I’m paid to think about other people’s digital experience challenges.

As you all know, DIY related buying has traditionally been done in-store and as a business model, it’s not dissimilar from grocery retail in that the brand you engage with mostly sells other people’s products. They are the connection between you and the manufacturer. They sit in the controlling centre of the B2B2C chain. I accept that we’ve always loved the niche or artisan-style product makers that you can go to direct but on the whole if you want maximum choice and a variety that spans everything from central heating boilers to garden fencing you head down one of a handful of routes and almost indistinguishable customer experience.

So here comes the anecdote – short and sweet. The intensity of lockdown has made time even more precious to me and I’m no longer interested in the middle man. I want expertise and speed. I want all the facts at my disposal, preferably via video, and the highest possible quality guaranteed so that my leap to buying ‘unseen’ comes with no surprises.

I have no issue paying more for your goods because I understand that this new one-to-one relationship requires investment from you but please make it easy and get my stuff to me faster (not an elusive delivery slot in 3 weeks time). Do these small things and I’ll sing your brand from the rooftops and return time and time again to buy your products.

Have you experienced a similar shift while you’ve been locked down and navigating the online retail world? Do you work for a manufacturer and know what’s happening out there?

These are difficult times but ordinary people are just trying to redirect their saved travel expenses into something lasting or desperately needing to find a cheaper way to achieve something they’ve planned.

Have you found yourself wanting to go direct to the very people who make the thing you want? or worse still realising they don’t offer you the choice? Do you work for a brand that needs to take some control back and fire up a direct to consumer approach?

Fear not it’s not just us two. The insight we are getting from our manufacturing clients paints the same picture. The transition to direct is not new and although as customers we think it's pervasive the truth is that e-commerce has moved at a glacial pace for the last two decades but that ends here. Incrementally some global events have accelerated it. Black Friday’s have helped. Escalating Physical Premises costs have helped. The ‘Amazon effect’ on expectations has helped. But only a global pandemic that forces you to stay at home has been enough to shine a light on the have’s and have nots. It's taken something this relentless and sustained to trigger a transformation ripple. It has forced us online in a way I don’t think I’ve experienced in nearly 30 years of the digital. And even as lockdown eases and we venture to shops we’ll now expect a more connected service on and offline.

For those manufacturers who have already started investing in a direct to consumer e-commerce relationship we’ve seen 300, 400, even 600% increases in enquiries, repeat visits and revenue. The shift is undeniable and luckily my personal anecdote wasn’t hot air.

Yes, we are helping brands to ‘make hay while the sun shines’ but more importantly, support them in creating the right customer experience and a strategy that leverages all those lovely new records in their CRM. All stuff that will help them springboard into the next normal and power through the years ahead of us.

For those not yet convinced but wondering what this means for you. I’d encourage you to think about it differently. Which area of your business could you simply stop? What legacy operation could you tear up to redirect investment into this new future? If your existing model means you haven’t got enough sight of what the customer wants then don’t take my word for it. Deploy some Voice of Customer on your brand site and let those not being served tell you how they feel. You can’t stop the tide but you sure as hell can surf on it.

If you’re interested in hearing more about Supercharging the 'direct to consumer' experience for Manufacturers then join us at our next webinar on 16th June at 12:30 and register your attendance here.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences during the Q&A after and if you can’t make it then contact us directly at hello@sagittarius.agency.

Thumbnail Ian MacArthur
Ian MacArthur
Chief Executive Officer
Ian is a digital agency leader that’s gone from ECD to CMO to CXO to CEO. Delivering over 12,000 projects and £1bn raised for UK Charities, he’s been recognised in lists like The Guardian Future 50, The Drum Digerati, BIMA HOT100 and PRWeek Power Book. Winner of multiple Grand Prix for strategy, creative, marketing and transformation Ian is celebrating nearly three decades at the leading edge working with the world's biggest brands.
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