A new drinking game – take a shot anytime someone in retail mentions the term “customer-centric.”
Or some variation thereof.
“Put the customer in the center of all decision making”
“More data, insights and analytics will make us more customer-centric.”
“We’re embracing customer-centricity in our buying strategy.”
If we translate what retailers are really trying to say: we need to drive full-price sales, repeat purchases, preserve gross margins and prevent (or at least reduce) excess inventory at the end of the season. This signals that retailers are running out of innovative ideas. Instead, the approach is to go to the customer (encircle them?) and ask “What would you like us to do?”
This is odd because being off-center is quite powerful – consider photography.
Photographers are best suited to NOT put the subjects of their work directly in the center – these are lessons in framing, composition, and the so-called “rule of thirds.” This way, the artist uses the available, negative space to create a compelling story, not just an image. The only time where the subject is dead center is in the most unappealing of photographs – think passport photos or even a mugshot.
With a focus on the customer, the brand only delivers on current needs and short-lived trends. Instead, brands must think about creating need over the long term for the products customers didn’t know they wanted. Or, are there new customer segments or markets worth pursuing?
Consider the case of Modelo Beer, it’s overtaken Bud Light as the top-selling beer in the US. Cultural controversies aside, the Modelo brand doesn’t make a move without keeping Hispanic customers in mind. They never want that customer to say “That’s not my Modelo.” If an ad doesn’t perform with both Hispanic and non-Hispanic consumers, it won’t run.
So, as the brand expands, the core, Hispanic customer is always present in the frame, not dead center, but instead anchors the entire image.
Maybe we should start talking about an “off-centric” strategy.