Customer experience and customer journeys are a subject that has been popping up recently at conferences and in articles and blogs. Indeed, most marketers are prioritizing the concept of creating personalized and friction-free customer experiences. However, I wonder how often we ask which customers and whose journeys we are trying to understand and enhance.
This is important because it’s possible that many of us define our customer base in a limited manner — perhaps in a way that is familiar, comfortable and safe. Consider that today’s U.S. consumers are racially and culturally diverse; even within the same race and culture, they are diverse. In fact, census projections indicate that by the year 2020, about half of Gen Z, Gen Y and Gen X will be multicultural, and future growth of Gen Z and Gen Y segments will come primarily from multicultural markets. I emphasize these segments because they are sweet spots for many marketers.
There are also increasingly greater numbers of intercultural relationships and marriages, and these couples have young children, teens and young adults who are growing up in multicultural households. Even non-Hispanic white consumers are increasingly different culturally than they were twenty years ago: They are continuously influenced by other cultures, by the geographies in which they live, by pop culture, by politics and by the whole of the world given how technology has made it so accessible.
Making your brands accessible, relevant and relatable to a broader set of consumers can produce feelings of uncertainty, anxiety and even fear. You might become concerned about stepping out of your capabilities and competency comfort zone. Then there’s the fear of getting it wrong and the impact on career success, including compensation and promotions.
In some cases, your first line of defense might be to resist or to minimize the importance of the work required to manage a broader set of consumers or to delegate it. But doing so can be detrimental to your brand’s success. You may believe you or your team don’t have the know-how, the budget or the time — but these would just be reasons not to act in your brand’s best interest. Multicultural consumers are just American consumers with different mindsets, viewpoints and tastes, and you need them. You must find a way to take the steps to understand them culturally and behaviorally and integrate them into your brand’s implementation.
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To do so, consider the advice of emotional intelligence experts Kandi Wiens and Darin Rowell in their Harvard Business Review article “How to Embrace Change Using Emotional Intelligence.” They suggest managers must travel through four stages:
- Identify the source of the resistance.
- dentify the emotional basis for it (the frame of reference).
- Own that your reaction may stem from your own conditioning and frame of reference.
- Choose to move forward by looking for the business upsides and opportunities in the required change or changes.
Optimizing your mindset, outlook, capabilities and cultural competency as a marketer must become your first line of defense. This alone is key to increasing appreciation of the value various cultural consumer segments can contribute to your top line. Without this foundation, efforts to optimize the customer journey will fall short and effective personalization will prove ever more challenging.
The great news is you already know how to do this. To start, take an objective approach to the analysis by following this process:
- Start by reviewing your company or brand’s goals, strategies and implementation plan. The idea is to focus on the big picture of the business and where it needs to go.
- Open your mind and accept that meeting established goals and implementing set strategies requires a constant search for new revenue streams that align with the business.
- Think of the demographic, ethnic and cultural characteristics that define your best customers and get curious about significant ways the country's demographics have shifted and continue to shift. How is the size of your “core customers” impacted? Are they growing or are they shrinking?
- Run the numbers to determine the impact of this growth or decline on your brand's health now and in the future. Will changing demographics impact your company or brand's ability to achieve growth goals?
- Determine which segment(s) of growing populations consume your product category in a similar way or quantity as your current core consumers and quantify how their aggregate consumption can contribute to your top-line and market share growth.
Working through these steps will help you understand the logic of casting a wider, yet targeted, net. You’ll be surprised at how much more familiar consumers of other cultures appear once you reduce their characteristics to their revenue potential. This exercise will help you define the worth of new cultural segments to the business and what you can gain or lose by tapping or ignoring them.
Accelerating revenue growth requires tapping as many sources of revenue as possible. As such, it's imperative to broaden and rethink the definition of your core consumer and take steps to understand this more diverse set of consumers demographically, socially, culturally and behaviorally.
Terry Soto is a Fortune 500 advisor, speaker and author on revenue growth strategy, cultural fluency and the customer experience.
This article appeared first in Forbes.com