By Ravi Dhar, George Rogers Clark Professor of Management and Marketing & Director of the Center for Customer Insights, Yale School of Management

The greatest challenge facing marketers today is driving consumer engagement with the right products and information. It’s challenging enough crafting product and communication strategies when consumers know what they want, but what about when they don’t?

Companies build a stronger relationship by engaging with their consumers in two ways:

  • Cut through the clutter by providing relevant information.
  • Discover preferences and information they did not even know was relevant to them.

 Relevant personalized marketing, naturally, is easier when shoppers know what they want. “Looking for a dress for your cousin’s wedding? Here are some options based on what we know you like.” In a recent survey conducted for Xerox Corporation by Harris Interactive, a clear finding was that people do value information and offers related to their specific interests. Here marketers can add value by taking into account not only what consumers want but providing it at the precise moment when they want it.

At a time when all of us are bombarded with information, relevance really is the key to adding value and thereby building trust.  Any business that can help make sense of today’s overflow of information is going to come out on top. We see this already with brands like Google and Yelp that capitalize on their position as trusted sources of relevant information.

Ask Me What I Want

But marketers can do even better by appealing to preferences that consumers are unaware of. What if Apple had asked consumers about the next thing they needed in a smartphone?  The answer would probably have been improvements on existing dimensions and not touchscreen technology, or any of the other category-creating innovations that have raised them to cult status today.

The lesson here is that sometimes consumers do not realize precisely what they want. And helping them in this process of preference discovery, to understand what they truly want, is an immense source of value creation. Marketers that help consumers with the process of discovering unrecognized preferences and as a result, unmet needs, will create loyal customers.

For companies looking to build strong relationships with customers, the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity is the same: to create processes that help gather relevant information and quickly discover unrealized needs.

The content shared in this blog post is the author’s opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of Xerox.