You may be familiar with the customer decision journey, if only how the idea relates to your own process of  hunting, gathering, weighing and measuring.  There have been some really interesting posts over the past 6-12 months discussing the evolution of the traditional sales funnel into a new framework that reflects information accessibility, technology ubiquity, and the manner in which our culture has rapidly shifted to actively seek and consume bits of media through myriad of channels.   Facing a new year, the way marketers used to think and act, and the way consumers (myself included) are behaving now started me thinking.  Where does the real opportunity lay for customer-centric brands in the future?  We have to start by looking at behaviors.  I thought it made sense to categorize them with the letter C.

The new customer decision framework (which I believe has not entirely surfaced, at least in a singularly finite format in which we had adopted the sales funnel of the 1990′s to say 2008) places great importance on the influence ratings, reviews, recommendations and other collegial inputs offered by consumers.  The shift from deeply brand-centric control to higher levels of personal control (what one interprets, from whence they gather/seek bits, where importance is placed, the filters used to determine selection) affects brand planning strategies and execution.  The emergence of vehicles like Yelp! has grown traction in part due to our general mistrust of brands and the manner in which many continue to communicate to (note I didn’t say with) us as prospective customers or influencers.

In short, the homemaker in New Easton offering three out of four stars for a pair of shoes I’m thinking of buying carries more weight than the ad I missed in the general interest magazine I no longer read.  But I digress, starting a discussion about messaging, consumption habits and transparency.

What I wanted to share with you is a look at the customer of 2011, with the letter C as the theme.  In a nutshell:

  1. Consumers exercise choice in the media channels they’re active in, and may use learnings assimilated their to determine their needs.
  2. Consumers exercise control over all the input sources they’re exposed to, placing weight in a subjective manner.  Findings may affect previous thoughts about the priority of needs (features, functions, services, aesthetics, price, etc.)
  3. Filtering leads to a decision to close, to conduct the transaction.  We may then share that action with our network in search of support for our decision.  Contrary opinions may be internalized, views held until we’ve had time to explore/vet/try what we bought.
  4. Because we decided to part with our hard-earned cash and placed our trust in a brand, the post-purchase phase holds tremendous opportunity to “hold” us, whether that means captive (as with a defined service agreement where its imprudent to cancel) or cradle (as with treat with care, continue serving our needs with an eye to long-term relationships.

4Cs of the 2011 Customer 288x300 4 Cs of the 2011 Customer

I’d love your thoughts.  Remembering that this is a high-level perspective, what would you change or add to this view?  Thanks for helping make this a stronger analysis.