Marketers who think they have mastered data-driven approaches are all aflutter about the next step in customer interaction: prescriptive messaging. It’s not enough to communicate at the right time, right place, etcetera – now we have to tell customers what they want before they know they want it!
But what happens when those messages, meant to be full of convenience and usefulness, come across as bothersome or egregiously incorrect? Is anticipatory messaging worth the risk of annoying or insulting your customers?
Think of how many brands are dropping the ball on the “if you bought that, you might like this” offer. When is the last time you actually took the Amazon offer of some unrelated product because your neighbor happened to buy those two products together? If marketers can’t get that right, how are they supposed to nail the timing and location of your needs in order to ping you with a relevant message?
If apps are built to support a brand ecosystem, loyalty and customer experience have to be center focus. So even though push notifications are still in the kindergarten phase of prescriptive marketing, so many brands are still getting that wrong – and users will just shut it down.
The best examples of brands failing at understanding what customers want before they do goes beyond marketing messaging to auto-updates of functionality. When you rely too much on bad data, you can “improve” functionality more than your customers actually want you to. And just like with poor anticipatory messaging, poor anticipatory product updates can lead to brand fatigue and reduced customer loyalty.
Take the “we know what you want” features of the recent iPhone update. Are you one of the folks that had Apple start sending your iMesssage (sort of like a text but not – thanks to Apple) to all your email accounts, because Apple wanted to be the traffic cop of your text/message ecosystem? That was fun, watching messages pop up at work that really were not meant to be seen at work. And the insistence of turning on Bluetooth with this update – regardless of whether we like it or not – is yet another example.
I have people I prefer to email, those I prefer to text, and a few who get a good old-fashioned phone call. Sometimes, my network self-selects into those categories but for the most part, I know who fits where. I have my contact preferences – Apple needs to stay out of there. Because it doesn’t improve my experience at all to have my text messages showing up on my laptop.
People get nervous about Tesla doing an automatic update to your car to enable autopilot. Of course that strikes a chord, especially among consumers who have been conditioned by brands like Apple to expect a bunch of changes that they didn’t ask for along with the “required update.”
Irrelevance, over-messaging, and over-updating leads to opt-outs and deletions, and the answer isn’t giving the user more controls because there are inherent issues in how those controls intersect with optimal functionality. You’re only as good as the data you have on the devices/applications so if you allow the customer to limit the data they give you, you’re right back where you started.
The bottom line? Don’t get stuck chasing shiny objects. If you can successfully harness the data and execute a well-thought customer experience, keep up the good work. Stick to what you’re doing and do it really well. Despite the temptation to up your game or make the Vice President of Sales happy, don’t overcomplicate and underdeliver. Finally, don’t bundle just because you can – respect the consumer’s choices. Often, it’s just not worth the risk of annoying your customers right into the arms of your competitors, only to realize you didn’t really know what they wanted.