Earlier this week I read an article on Forbes titled “Marketers Have It Wrong: Forget Engagement, Consumers Want Simplicity” in which someone from Corporate Executive Board suggested that all the focus on creating engagement through social media is a mistake.
Brands should rather be creating the simplest possible route for consumers through a decision-making process to get them from prospect to purchaser with the least opportunity for confusion or distraction, is the argument.
Now on one level I’m not going to argue – it’s just common sense after all. And on another level, the thinking is a close cousin of our own One Brand World view of creating a straightforward and consistent path from the customer’s Zero Moment through to the Last Ten Feet and conversion, so I can find some common ground there too.
But it’s all a little bit as much “one size fits all” as the approach that assumes everyone wants social engagement.
We’re occupying a time when the channels by which we can communicate with brands have never been more plentiful, and as consumers we have an unprecedented degree of control over our interactions. So given evidence that some people do indeed appreciate their ability to interact socially with brands (even if in a lot of cases the motivation is “What can I get out of this?”), we probably shouldn’t be throwing that baby out with the bathwater.
Part of the reason we look at the One Brand World through the eyes of the customer, not the brand, is that we want all the ways a customer chooses to view a brand to be consistent, which means examining their motivations in looking at the brand in the first place. One thing we pretty much never find is that there’s only one reason, or one desired outcome for all audiences, and assuming that everyone’s just after the fastest route to purchase completely ignores all the other reasons people might visit.
Some users need assistance understanding their needs. Others are evaluating options, and having a chance to engage with a brand might weight their thinking in its favour. Still others are already customers and potential advocates, and we need to give them routes to get involved and start to advocate. And yes, some have already made their minds up and want to get to the ‘Buy Now’ button as quickly and easily as possible.
It’s one thing to strive for simplicity and a purer approach to pushing people through a sales process, but let’s not abandon the people who need something else, especially if that something might be an engagement with more potential benefit than a one-off quick sale.