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There is a real risk for marketers to “lose” customers in our current age of the always-connected customer. This seems at first counter to the thought that more online time would mean more opportunities to engage the customer. It is true that more devices and more channels mean audiences are available in more places, at more times, however, it also means audiences’ scattered attention has made previously reliable customers increasingly elusive.

“New analytics solutions, multi-channel metrics, and better collaboration tools will be crucial in 2013,” says Aphrodite Brinsmead, senior analyst at Ovum. The Ovum analyst says organizations will feel the pressure to understand and pre-empt the needs from the always-connected customer. “Vendors will need to step up and add these capabilities fast, or else risk losing business,” believes Brinsmead. As part of its 2013 Trends to Watch series, Ovum explores the important changes in the customer experience and interaction market, detailing how technologies are evolving to meet new consumer demands and providing recommendations.

This always-connected trend is echoed by Forester Research, Inc. during a recent Webinarthat looked at the challenges of reaching what it terms as the “always addressable” customer.

In the presentation by Darika Ahrens, interactive marketing analyst for Forrester, she notes that in 2010, there were so few “always on” customers that Forrester did not even collect data on them. “But by 2011,” says Ahrens, “we started to see this group emerging and they were already at 38 percent of the U.S. adult population. Recent research indicates that by the end of 2012, we believe the always on customer will constitute 42 percent of adults in the U.S.” She feels this is not a niche audience, given the rapid growth to date, and expected growth in the future.

What does this mean to marketers? While a marketer might think this means that more customers are more accessible via more devices throughout the day, Ahrens observes a real problem with this group. “Despite their connectivity, always addressable customers are harder to reach” Why? Because traditional marketing is starting to be tuned out and people are opting for subscriptions with ad-free environments. This group also expects higher relevancy than other groups. Because they are so connected, people expect what they see and hear to be relevant to them and if it is not; they are not willing to trade information. In a nutshell, there are more digital opportunities today to market to, but with those opportunities comes challenges.

One of the best takeaways from the Webinar is Ahrens’ recommendation to stop thinking about social media and think instead about the person a marketer is trying to reach and ask: “Who am I engaging with directly? What is their history with my brand and who else are they connected to?”

Ahrens says marketers need to understand when, where and why customers are engaging with a company by asking—where is this person when they engage with me? When can they come into contact with my brand and what, specifically, are they doing at that time?

Even though we have a deluge of devices today, (60 million people will have tablets alone by the end of 2012) and that customers have never been so connected as they are today, we still need to step away from the technology and focus on the person to understand what needs the customer has that you can fulfill. Ahrens recommends that marketers ask, “What need is revealed when I consider the people and their context together? What value or service can I offer that will fill that need? What messages or context must I create to delver that value or service?

Only after those questions and lots of research about the customer is done, should then technology be considered, even in this environment today where technology is so pervasive.

“One of the reasons we always put technology last is because it can be a false economy to think about a technology first or a platform first,” explains Ahrens. “At Forrester, we think it is about identifying the person first and from there your strategy flows so that by the time you get to the technology step and deciding what you are going to be using—the mobile devices, the tablets, or web TV or interactions with your digital campaign—it comes together as a final step.”

This reminder is important for marketers that can easily become overwhelmed with the number of channel options available today to reach out to customers. Having the technology be the final consideration puts the customer first. After all, isn’t that where a customer belongs in an organization of any size?

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