Focus On Relationships And “Word Of Mouse,” Not Transactions

I was recently in India presenting and meeting customers at IDC’s Smarter Commerce event. While there, I had a chance to catch up on some reading, including the Altimeter Group’s report, “Make an App for That: Mobile Strategies for Retailers.” Chris Silva, the analyst who wrote the report, sent us an advance copy because IBM provided some of the data around mobile shopping trends during the holiday season.

If you’re a marketing professional working in the retail business, Silva’s report should be considered required reading. It offers the kind of insights about rapidly changing customer engagement models that some mistakenly ignore to the certain detriment of their careers and businesses. Silva makes very clear that out of all industries, retail has experienced one of the largest disruptions to its traditional business models, thanks in large part to the explosion of mobile devices, which now have become an instrument for the masses. I’d add a qualifier to that sentence: to date. That is to say that the same trends that we are experiencing, witnessing, driving and exploring both as marketers and as consumers — the rise of the empowered customer, ubiquity of mobile devices, increased focus on hyper-local offers — are spreading to other industries as well.

Now consider a guest blog post on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network by Jeffrey F. Rayport, titled, “Retail Revolution: We Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.” In it, Rayport explores the many new retail business models that would not be possible without the collision of mobile, social and local trends. Think about the explosion of “private” sales through GILT Groupe, Rue La La and OneKingsLane. They’re not truly private because you can forward the link easily to your friends whose membership in the private sale club is no more than a username and password away. In fact, these retailers want you to help them spread the savings gospel through “word of mouse,” as Rayport puts it. And that’s the genius of the model: make consumers feel like they’re special and offer them amazing deals for a limited time only. Scarcity plus exclusivity go viral and lead to tremendous brand engagement and loyalty.


Rayport goes on to say that now “e-retail is fueled by emotional connections between sites and users.” Whether you’re a CMO or a marketing practitioner, this trend has serious and far-reaching implications for how you should approach marketing. You’re no longer simply responsible for your brand, but for building and maintaining corporate character across myriad channels. That’s a subtle but fundamental distinction. Focus on relationships, not transactions, and humbly consider that your customers may have a thing or two to teach you.

General Manager of Industry Solutions for IBM Software, Craig Hayman leads IBM’s strategy for delivering high value, integrated industry solutions that enable quantifiable business outcomes for clients in the areas of marketing and commerce, enterprise content management and security, and operational services. Hayman leads the acquisition strategy for IBM’s focus on new market opportunities in enterprise marketing management, web analytics, cross-channel e-Commerce and solutions to enable municipalities operate more effectively, including key strategic initiatives for IBM: Smarter Commerce and Smarter Cities.

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