- IMD Business School
News Stories · Digital - Marketing

Focus on customer-centricity first, not technology

In today’s digital world, companies need to be customer-centric and add value by solving their customers' headaches and giving them the best customer experience.
December 2020

“Digital technology is only an enabler. To win in today’s digital world, companies have to be more customer-centric than their competitors” says Professor Dominique Turpin – the Dentsu Chaired Professor of Marketing and the Dean of External Relations at IMD.

With people spending more of their lives at home this year and shifting from offline to online, companies are having to reinvent themselves to stay relevant and seize new growth opportunities.

Speaking at a recent webinar, which IMD organized in collaboration with Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Professor Turpin told members of the EO Chapter in Asia-Pacific, that while people commonly focus on opportunities offered by digital technologies, finding new ways of doing business starts with rethinking the customer experience.

Customer-centricity is, more than ever, your number one key success factor

The fundamental purpose of marketing is and always will be to understand, create and communicate value for customers. That will never change. What is changing is digital technology.

Take e-commerce tech giants like Amazon and Alibaba, for example. What are they doing better than their competitors that make them so successful?

First, they focus on solving customers’ headaches; they don’t ask customers what they want, they ask them about their headaches. They know their customers better than anyone else by continuously collecting insights.

They also innovate in every dimension; and while for most people innovation means product innovation, these companies also innovate in terms of process and business model. They offer more choice than anybody else, personalize the customer experience, and scale up fast.

They also make it easy for customers to buy, return and share their feedback. Allowing people to comment, not only makes customers valued and listened to but also brings value by providing information on how to further strengthen the customer experience.

Leading disruptors are recreating value through the customer experience and focusing on being the best in class in customer-centricity that others want to emulate.

“You need to know your customers better than anyone of your competitors and add value. You have to start with the customer experience, and work backwards to the technology” said Professor Turpin.

Five digital marketing strategies to transform your customer experience

Professor Turpin put forward five generic digital marketing strategies for companies to achieve the ultimate marketing goal – offering greater and more meaningful value to their customers.

1. Using digital technology, fix the basics and solve your customers headaches.
2. Radically improve the buying experience by adding intelligence to products.
3. Turn products into a personalized experience by providing meaningful value.
4. Create connections to communities.
5. Integrate multiple products.

Drawing on many examples from leading and fast-growing brands around the world, Professor Turpin pointed out there are common threads that form part of transforming the customer experience:

• Empowering customers to use products and services whenever they want
• Creating an experience that is simple and customized to individual customers
• Giving customers instant rewards
• Using data to further improve the customer experience
• Connecting people to their tribe and creating fun
• Connecting with business partners to create win-win solutions for everyone

Although most people would start with fixing the basics, Professor Turpin told participants they should pick and choose which strategies work best for their companies; they do not necessarily have to be used in any specific order, he said.

“Wherever you start, the starting point is always the customer” said Professor Turpin.

Focus on customers’ headaches and be agile

With the world around us changing rapidly, agility is the buzzword in the business world today. “Companies need to be agile in order to improve their customer experience” said Professor Turpin.

IMD’s H.A.V.E model helps executives think about how to be agile in leading organizations through change.

Humility – Agile leaders recognize they don’t have the answers to everything and integrate the younger, tech-savvy generation to deliver customer-centric solutions. In some Asian cultures, leaders are expected to know everything and this requires a cultural shift.

Adaptation – In the past, changing your mind was seen as a sign of indecision. In today’s fast-moving world, agile leaders change their mind based on new information; this is a strength rather than a weakness. “Transparency leads to more trust, which is a requisite to do business” said Turpin.

Vision – Agile leaders have a clear sense of long-term direction, even in the face of short-term uncertainty.

Engagement – Agile leaders listen, interact and communicate with internal and external stakeholders, combined with a strong sense of interest and curiosity in emerging trends.

Professor Turpin concluded: “Learning from others and spotting new opportunities will be one of the most important success factors for agile leaders going forward.”

Commenting on the event, Yoon Li Yong, Executive Director of Royal Selangor and an IMD MBA alumnus said, “I was fascinated to learn about the importance of agile leadership in embracing emerging business trends. Professor Turpin’s insights strongly resonated with our members as they look to disrupt and evolve their businesses.”

Entrepreneurs’ Organization is a high-quality peer-to-peer network of 14,000+ like-minded leaders across 61 countries, exclusively helping entrepreneurs achieve their full potential through the power of life-enhancing connections, shared experiences and collaborative learning. EO’s member network is committed to learning and helping each other succeed. Find out more here.