It started, as so much does these days, with a tweet.
I saw this come across my feed from Zekelman Industries: “Today competition is coming from every corner of the offline and online selling environment, #distributors should be working tirelessly to get inside their customers’ heads and figure out what those buyers need before they even need it.”
I wasn’t sure if that hashtag represented a challenge to Zekelman’s service center customers, or merely an observation about an important facet of doing business in the metals industry. In either case, it intrigued me enough to pursue it further. That single tweet led me through a compelling article at The Electrical Distributor Magazine
, which took me to an interesting report by Accenture, a well-known name in the metals world.
Accenture prepared a report on Hyper-Relevance, the idea that companies must evolve to meet the changing demands from customers through more personalized experiences. According to Accenture, 33 percent of companies that abandoned an existing business relationship in the past year did so “because personalization was lacking.” And personalization goes beyond knowing how many kids your customer has.
“Rather than focusing on customers’ purchasing behaviors and preferences or relatively fixed attributes, companies that offer hyper-relevant experiences focus on understanding customer needs in a given circumstance and the evolving context in which they make their purchase decisions,” Accenture writes.
Such an approach is possible now through the emergence of new technologies such as predictive analytics, artificial intelligence and the like.
Accenture says three steps must be taken to successfully undertake the effort, which is not done without risks. It starts with looking beyond the traditional customer journey. A customer forced to flee its operation in a hurricane suddenly has entirely different needs, and the smart supplier will respond to them.
Second, companies must “rethink data.” Investments must be made into predictive analytics, and companies should undergo collaborations with customers and other shareholders to capture real-time snapshots of consumer behavior. This, however, must also be accompanied by a redoubling in data security measures, ensuring customers have full control of data, that it remains secure and visible to employees only on a need-to-know basis.
Finally, trust must be earned continuously. “They make trust sustainable by establishing a rigorous process and a robust, cross-functional governance structure to continuously measure trust and hyper-relevant effectiveness – and act on their findings,” Accenture writes.
More and more customers expect their suppliers to know more about them, and two-thirds of study respondents said they are willing to share personal information, provided they’re getting something valuable out of the arrangement. “If that value exchange – or the trust upon which it is based – is broken, customers will walk.”