The last mile loss
I have worked for all my career in communications.
Call it advertising, digital, direct marketing, crm whatever..It’s all been about building brand preference leading up to purchase.
Millions/billions of dollars are spent on this every year.
Typically one has to buy at the store.
In the case of FMCG brands this resulted in the Point of Sale battle and the Shelf Space battle.
Who could drown the store most with collaterals hanging in every visible spot.
And how much could one pay the shop keeper to ensure your brand was the one upfront and visible when a customer walked in to the store.
In electronics and white goods, there is the little nudge required from the store sales person. What she/he says would sway the purchase.
In Televisions they would/do adjust settings or light so that one TV seems to have a better picture than the other.
Sometimes, it could be a passing comment about after sales service.
I recall, in India, where the painter could decide what brand of paint should be used while painting a house by the simple comment, ‘The other house I painted used this brand, and in 3 months it started peeling’. Damning words indeed.
As shoppers we all have been there and been influenced to change our preference because of what we saw or heard in the store.
Or as it is sometimes referred to. The last mile.
Marketers now run ‘Mystery Shopper’ programs to check a customer’s experience and use the learnings to ensure the last mile is indeed the Golden Mile.
My experience yesterday with two well known IT companies demonstrated very simply why one is a Winner and the other, well..is not!
We’ve had a Macbook for close to 4 years. Recently the macbook’s been having battery problems. On calling the Apple store someone who answered the phone said that the notebook itself needed to be replaced. After 4 years the notebook there was a yearning to replace the notebook anyway, hence Apple’s recommendation sealed the deal.
I was planning to move to a Window’s notebook for reasons of weak support in India, where the notebook is often used, mobile phone software support and of course price. Also my view that if there is a battery problem, we should be able to change the battery, and not the entire notebook.
And so we went to look at buying a Windows Notebook.
First walked into a electronic superstore where we were greeted with an array of brands. About 50 pieces on display, with prices and no sales person to assist. Oh there were sales people, but they were busy chatting. After hanging about a few minutes we walked out to the Own Store of this Top PC brand.
A sales person came up and we gave our brief. He recommended a choice between 2 models. Then I asked the important Q ‘Can you tell me how to transfer data from the Mac to the PC?’. He was nearly offended. His response covered the points
* I have no idea
* I only know about PCs
* We cannot offer that support
* If you are asking about my personal experience, I don’t think it can be done
* Why don’t you ask the Apple store, next door
Sure enough, we left without buying the laptop.
But having decided to get one as it was needed, we went to the Apple store to just get a new macbook.
What a delightful experience.
Someone to attend as soon as we walked in.
We said we wanted to trade in our current macbook for a new one. They immediately suggested a value for it, which was of course ridiculously low.
And then I made the comment ‘Actually I wish I could change the battery’. And immediately the sales staff offered that we should just replace the battery, if the notebook was working well otherwise.
A battery was bought, replaced at no cost, and a quick 2 minute lesson on extending battery life was given. And we were out in 15 minutes.
At no point in time, did anyone in the store try to sell us a new notebook. We had come to buy one, so if they had made the comment ‘yes the battery will keep your machine going for a bit, but what you really need is the new..” we’d have probably fallen for it.
If the problem was just to do with the battery, then that is all we needed. And that is what we got.
And oh at the entrance of the store there is a poster that quite simply states “How to move from a PC to a Mac”.
The PC manufacturer brand who we went to first, outspends Apple by many multiples in this market. It created preference, hence we went to their outlet. But at the last mile we experienced a road block.
Wonder how many sales they lose in this manner. And what do you believe the typical solution is? More advertising of course. And when it doesn’t show results, there’ll be a new campaign, a new marketing manager and even a new agency
Apple on the other hand, spends far less on the advertising and ensures the last mile is smooth. They earn trust at every interaction and ensures the last mile goes beyond the cash counter to a loop that brings you back into the store.
That last mile can trip brands if they don’t watch out. Many a long distance race has been lost in the final few metres.
Communication strategies need to map the entire customer journey and ensure that there’s not just a seamlessness of brand experience, rather the customer is eased along to the next stage that gets her to the cash counter.
It would be a tragedy if a brand has done all the hard work to get the customer to the last mile only for someone else to whisk them away. Metrics to track them such as foot falls, interest identifiers, price quotations etc should be put in place to catch drop outs.
Make the last mile, the winning mile.