The traditional divide between marketing and sales – a source of many heated debates and endless arguments (witness Marketing Week’s article on a CIM report that caused fevered debate here) – has served through its history a fundamental purpose: the marketer built up consumer awareness and preference during the entire week through relevance and differentiation, and the salesman transformed the shopper purchase intent into action, and on Saturday closed the sale. Sequential almost to the letter.
Marketers addressed consumers, salesmen engaged with shoppers and communications experts dealt with concerns or complaints, each scientifically separating the parts from the whole – the people.
Once again, digital is changing everything. People, at any point in time and at any single touch point, in a store or on any screen, simultaneously research, evaluate, experience, consider, commit, advocate and – importantly – purchase (or not) our products and our brands. Thus forcing the marketer, the journeyman, and the comms expert to talk to each other and strategise the symphony of their messages, the harmony of their actions and reactions.
Everything in our life is, or soon will be, connected – from home to car to office to store. People, now permanently within arm’s reach of a screen, may decide to like, post and buy our brands. No more waiting for Saturday.
This makes it imperative for us to think of a connected consumer/shopper ‘end-to-end’ experience, acknowledging the smart recommendation-enabled system that can instantaneously skew purchase decisions, the semi-personalised pop-up advertorial powered by an on-shelf or on-cart digital screen, or the comparison shopping site that makes it easier and cheaper to buy online even while shopping at a competing store.
In the same way that music led the way for social marketing, fashion is already living in the future. Watch a real-time fashion show catwalk on YouTube and buy your favourite designer clothes on the spot.
Join Kate Middleton for the TopShop sell-out dress. Shop at Bonobos – a bricks and mortar men’s fashion store that doesn’t sell goods except online. Or buy a pair of glasses at glasses.com, where you can try more models or brands on your 3D face than an optical shop could stock in a lifetime.
The power is no longer in the advert that shows the supermodel looking gorgeous in designer clothes, or in the floor salesman on commission trying to make his target for the month: we, each and every one of us, are now in control from the beginning to the end, buying what we prefer and preferring what we buy, in real-time, more and more of the time.
This change is profound, and requires us to rethink not only the way we work but the way we build our careers. Gone is the time when two weeks’ – or two months’ (or occasionally two years’) – passage through the purgatory of sales was enough for the marketer to pretend they understood the shopper and the trade and demand a return to the ivory tower of marketing.
More than ever, we need to earn the sale as much as we need to earn the media; and so it is that some of the best and brightest marketers are embracing a career in ecommerce, a place where marketing and sales fuse into one to serve people’s real needs and wants.
So, Pygmator or Mercalion, ecommerce princess or emarketing prince? As the lives of consumers and shoppers – real people with real lives – gets more connected, we need to hurry and break the silos of our far less connected corporate world, and acknowledge that there is a thoughtful marketer in every salesman, and a convincing salesman in every marketer.