June 19, 2015



The rise of ‘in-completion’

I called a friend recently and before my call had rung out, I received an sms message from him stating “Sorry, I can’t talk now”. What this reinforced to me was what I like to call the rise of in-completion.

I am sure smart phones have enabled this pre-programmed gesture and conditioning to be more common today, but beneath the surface it’s the omni-present layer of technology that is influencing behaviour like this across many channels. This is now prevalent online. If I fill out an application form in my browser, even if I haven’t finished my submission, I have been labelled as an ‘in-completion’ by a layer of technology. Then immediately or after a predetermined delay, I will possibly receive an email or a call depending on how much data I gave away before I abandoned. After all, abandoned enquiries, shopping carts and contact forms make up a significant percentage of a marketer’s opportunity pool.

The ‘in-complete’ journey is configured to drive greater returns on investment. If I had completed the online form and been designated a ‘completion’, I would be sent on another journey. If I don’t respond to either journey, I may then be designated to another journey, maybe ‘last chance’, or ‘lapsed days’ where they might have one more attempt to call and email me.

While this is happening at the consumer face, the business is leveraging its technology, data and human capital in different ways: CRMs and Call Centres, LiveChat, Help Desks and so on. From what we are seeing across a range of industries, the time in which you can respond or promise delivery – the speed to fulfilment – is paramount. Consider your time to achieve success not as how long it takes to get a new member, a lead, a sale or an enquiry, but as how long it takes to satisfy and complete a genuine transaction from end to end.

“Our cost per lead is amazing. Our cost per acquisition is appalling. Our customer lifetime value is below industry average. We get more unsubscribes than new subscriptions”. This quote is from an ROI workshop and a host of frustrated marketers. It’s what I like to call ‘the best looking service on the surface’, where there’s smart in-bound marketing with new visitors far outweighing return visitors and poor customer surveys point to a lack of human engagement, customer service and brand essence. Online marketing and technology can do a lot but it can also turn your brand into a ‘vanilla-bot’.

With all the technology and integrated eco-systems we have, the human capital is still the most critical. After all, who is going to man live-chat and provide instant feedback? A human will ultimately deliver the goods to you, call you with advice, provide some actual service, support it, and ensure your loyalty is retained through to the end of your product cycle. Marketing cloud is a great term, and it seems everyone has an offering here. Dialler technology that can return your call and put you through to the right people is also big news in call centres. Hearing the right type of voice on the other end is still the most important factor, even if you did get the call back 30 seconds after you hit the submit button.

Which leads us back to ‘in-completion’. Whether you do submit, checkout, enquire now, apply now, contact us, or not, even if you started and abandoned, you are already in the marketing cloud of data. In-completion has given rise to the age of programmatic, retargeting and prospecting with cookie-based and data-based marketing. Once you arrive on a website and effectively act or trigger an event, we’ve just learnt something about you. Even if you’re just browsing and haven’t even considered beginning an exchange for more information, we can assign you to a part of our conversion funnel and retarget you for days, or until you wipe your tracks.

For marketers, the media technology behind retargeting and prospecting can be procured on a cost per lead or acquisition basis, meaning marketers only pay when the customer behaves the way they would like. This means little barrier, low cost and widespread media consumption.

At the end of the day, with a proliferation of data and cloud based platforms on offer, the most vital component of any business is the balance between marketing, data technology and its people. And most importantly from a marketing point of view, you need to ensure your brand and essence stands for the quality of your product, is reflective of the customer service and culture, and that customer conversations balance out relevant marketing strategies with humanised communications.

If you do plan to map a consumer journey to help define your success, make sure you map it out from end to end, not just in-bound to call centre or to sales. A customer will think about you from the moment they start to consider a product, through to engagement and delivery, and continuing with customer support and the ongoing relationship that builds towards loyalty and increased Customer Lifetime Value.

Avoid being ‘the best looking service on the surface’ and focus on humanising your technology and marketing. In-completion is a wave that will run its race at some time in the near future. Its risk lies with the proliferation of the medium and the direct links to privacy policies and social opinion.

Develop a balanced focus on ‘completion to customer loyalty’ more than ‘in-completion to completion’. Before too long, every consumer will be saturated with in-completion marketing. Invest wisely and always seek to balance your brand messaging with the right medium.