Bursting the bubble
Most referral systems are not based on objective information, and are often linked to the same back-end services.
Search engines and social media algorithms have changed over the past few years. The Web has become more personalised, and more focused on end-users and their behaviour.
The challenge is that this is becoming an echo chamber of information, where users are not able to receive either new or unrelated data.
Social media feeds are tailored to friends who users chat with most and those who the algorithm predicts they would be interested in. What about a long-lost friend a user wants to see some updates on - and catch up with - but his/her news feed has decided is not important in his/her life?
In a world where every experience is tailored to a predictable end, the filter bubble people find themselves in can create a fictitious existence where only their interests and their viewpoints are being shared and discussed with all the people they think matter.
This filter bubble then creates a customer experience based exclusively on a selected amount of curated information linked to user behaviour. What would happen if I was looking for something or somebody with an opposing viewpoint? This is something I am not always comfortable with.
Trapped in the bubble
Companies are creating recommendation engines and other systems of social referrals, but the reality is most of these referral systems are not based on objective information, and are often linked to the same back-end services.
Companies often provide competitive quotes, but when the client starts doing its own comparative shopping, it finds many of the 'so-called competitors' are simply delivering the same solution under an alternative marketing brand.
What is the value-added solution being offered to the customer? Is the saturation level of this bubble stifling diversity?
The industry is also facing some challenges regarding this situation. With the advent of 'fake news', groups of people are now questioning the validity of their information and are subjected to a user experience which is essentially fake.
The independence and objectivity needed to make the right decisions within the business environment is often ignored.
They're getting referrals and suggestions from companies with an army of social media marketers, suggesting services they have never used, for people they hardly know, based on profiles that are dubious at best!
A world is being created where people are surrounded only with what they want to hear, instead of giving them opposing and sometimes paradoxical info.
The independence and objectivity needed to make the right decisions within the business environment is often ignored, but the free market system people believe in so vociferously needs also to be free from echo chambers of comfort, allowing customers to decide on the facts, compare products and services - and then make a decision based on real requirements.
How, then, do companies market to people stuck in the bubble? One could suggest the competitive edge is only at scale and not available to any smaller competitors.
The reality is to focus on the niche, to find those clients who are looking for something different from everybody else... the unique touch and the attention to detail. Then find ways of inserting quality metrics, with objective results to the market.
The days of competing on function and functionality is long gone, and the ability to service customers not just based on the user journey, or looking at moments of truth, is not enough to grow large customer bases.
A company should be able to map and predict the journey, and also look at the back-end processes, and understand what the ecosystem of process and workflow through the whole company is.
A company can't just fix broken processes and then expect the market to want its product or service. The way it markets and provides context for its solutions helps its clients understand and formulate their own expectations.
The customer service culture a company has differentiates its value proposition to the market, not by price alone. The fact that customers are also increasingly in this bubble means a company needs to adjust its focus, understand who its customers are, what their buying patterns are, and how they make decisions.
Customers are able to anticipate that the marketing company activity is based on user data. If the connection is not carefully managed and the communication that comes through looks clumsy (with odd associations to their behaviour), the millennial generation - which follows a strict trend of only following and liking trusted sites - will pick up the lazy connections based on their Internet search criteria.
In an era of personalised service and personalised search, companies also need to create the space for surprises and for unique experiences. The customer of the future is not just buying on price or service, but on the whole experience. Faced with so many choices, providing a solution that innovates and disrupts the normal business as usual model might be a company's competitive advantage.
When developing a strategy to attract these types of customers - the kind that companies would normally not have access to due to the type of relevance algorithms used by browsers - companies need to start thinking of the customers: where do they spend time online? Do they spend time that would appear normal to most marketing companies?
If companies can focus on the outcomes (not just sales or buying behaviour, but the need to be part of a community of people using the product), they will be able to start developing user groups, and other more focused media channels. These groups or channels have the capacity to reach those customers that seem to be so far out of the normal market segments, or the clich'e companies have about their customers.