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Brands: Does someone else understand your customer better than you?

By: Kate Roe

In an omni-channel world, success relies on being able to reach consumers in as many places as possible – that’s a fact. Online, most brands are using social media, search engines, digital payments platforms, marketplaces and more to increase their virtual engagement levels.

However, being everywhere does not always translate into stronger customer relationships. Having so many touchpoints – direct and third-party – can often cloud shoppers’ views, particularly in channels where brands don’t have direct control over the browsing and buying experience.

Many brands feel like they’re in a catch-22 situation. They need to be present in all channels to keep up with this notion of the ‘always-on’ consumer, but feel like this means relinquishing some of the control over their customer relationships.

Diluting the relationship between brands and shoppers has two major consequences. First, it attributes sales to partners, distributors and affiliates, rather than maintaining a direct revenue stream. Second, and just as importantly, it drives customer data through other indirect channels.

As every successful brand knows, data-driven insights are critical to nurturing stronger, more personal customer relationships. By encouraging third-party transactions, brands are cutting themselves out of that data loop, and the results are starting to show – according to a recent survey, 80% of shoppers believe the average brand doesn’t understand them as an individual.

This disconnect with consumers is being compounded by the fact that not all brands are trading directly online in all the markets they operate in. As a result, shoppers who visit the ‘official’ website may find themselves being directed to a retailer or marketplace to complete a purchase.

Redirecting to a third party isn’t just inconvenient for the consumer; it can impact brand relationships. As revealed in our infographic: who’s interacting with your customers right now?. Digital River research found that almost half (43%) of people will be put off buying a product through another channel if they can’t purchase it directly from that brand online.

This is becoming an increasing issue for brands as they expand across multiple markets; while they may have a strong direct ecommerce presence in some territories, in others they are reliant on marketplaces or offline channels to facilitate transactions. And as the global/local debate has highlighted, successful international development is reliant on not just growing business networks, but also getting to know the nuances of customer behaviour in each region.

Ultimately, the only way for brands to retain (or regain, in some cases) authority over their customer relationships is to enable shoppers to buy direct from the source. This not only ensures an authentic brand experience from start to finish, but also provides the detailed data vital to understanding exactly what makes their customers tick.



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