Consumer • Digital • Growth

Is India ready for Customer Advocacy?

I am member of this esteemed technology committee of retail industry and one of our key contribution every year is to organize a technology event for the industry. We start deliberating few months in advance on the theme, key content and the speakers to be invited. Every member of the committee brings in his/her own experience, knowledge and network of relationships to make this a marque event of the industry every year.

This year we start preparations last month and after having finalized the theme – Digital India – Digital Retail, we started exploring the topics for discussion in line with the theme and the need of the industry in the current context.

I have always believed if every business starts focusing honestly on their customers then they are not only on success track but also don’t have to waste lot of money of marketing channels. I also believe that acquiring customers may not be very difficult but making them buy from you regularly and making them your brand advocates is most important. I always advocate that major portion marketing budgets shall be spent only on this and not for acquiring new customers. Hence whenever I have an opportunity I try to push these ideas on others.

While we were discussing “Customer Management” topic for the event I shared my views and was very keen that we must have a session on “Customer Advocacy” as well. Many of my colleagues in the group were not very welcoming since they felt India is probably not yet ready for advocacy. Whereas, I feel this is nothing to do with the readiness of a market but the brand. Customer advocacy is part of every brand marketing cycle if the brand has established it’s original proposition in the minds of their customers. In fact most of the times if the brand is truly delivering the promised value its customers automatically start talking about it to others. They do that not to influence others but out of sheet excitement of sharing their brand experience and they actually land up being brand advocates. So the marketing teams need to be empowered and focused on ensuring that brand delivers its promise truly to its customers.

I was talking to the CMO of a large brand and asked him why CMOs are not able to have control on brand delivery! His answer was that in India most consumer companies operate in silos. Marketing communicates the brand in the market whereas the delivery is controlled by the operations or customer service team. He seriously felt that the time has come when this problem is discussed at the board level and businesses, especially consumer businesses, start implementing required technologies and processes to bridge the gap between marketing and delivery team.

Yes, technology can play a very important role in tracking and delivering brand value to its customers. Is this the reason, recently some of the e-commerce brands have already moved to advocacy as the strategy for their growth. If you look at the new campaigns of Flipkart and Amazon these are very strongly communicating that they feel very confident of the experience they have delivered to their customers till now.

A guy staking his annual increment while advocating Flipkart to his boss or a to be bride risking her wedding wardrobe with Amazon are very strong and bold messages. I am sure they have enough reasons to believe that their customers are ready to advocate their brands. Particularly since both these brands are technology driven on delivery and service they have enough reason to be confident of their readiness on advocacy based marketing.

If advocacy is the key aspect of their marketing strategy then I am sure brands need to work towards putting the required technology and processes in place and the time has come for Indian retail industry to take this more seriously.


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