Every Friday night at my house is movie night. My wife and I gather our boys around the TV, make up big blanket beds on the floor of our family room, and all watch a movie together. Almost always I’m serving them up “classics” from my youth. Well, I just introduced my sons to the movie The Matrix. (I figure with all the hoopla and buzz Keanu Reeves has been getting, why not let them see his best role – yes this could be debated.) Alas, they loved the mythology. They’re desperate to see the full trilogy, with Reloaded and Revolutions, but I’m worried the entire Matrix canon may be a bit too heady for them.
Nonetheless, my technology-obsessed children totally understand the concept of a virtual world that enamors the minds of humans (far more than I myself grasped it when I saw it in the theater). In the box office smash, people are so content believing all is right with their world, they don’t know it is all show and no reality.
This same scenario seems alive and well in the world of digital marketing. Companies are enamored with their presence online. Our audience (read: customer) is digital hooked into this online world far more than anyone likes to admit. That is where much of their world is taking place. So we marketers aim our messaging into this Matrix, hoping to connect with their psyche and influence behavior. If we’re doing this well, we believe we are in control. We’re not.
No matter how amazing you’re marketing in the Matrix, what is happening in the real world is dark and ugly. Our in-store experiences leave much to be desired. We present ourselves as sleek, sophisticated, talented organizations online, yet when there is real peer-to-peer, in-person interaction in the real world of retail, the experience we provide falls short. We’ve promised greatness yet delivered mediocrity. The glow from our marketing fades and are revealed to be nothing more than a rouse. A façade of friendly, seamless interactions and white-glove service turns to cheap handshakes and inexperienced staff. I wrote a blog about a similar phenomenon several years ago called “Don’t Catfish Your Customers“. Just because you say online you deliver a satisfying service in-store, doesn’t make it come true.
In the Matrix, Neo was handsome, fit, with a great head of hair, capable of doing amazing things. In the real world, he was a bald, pasty nerd with low muscle mass and metal sticking out of his head. We want people to perceive us the way we wish we are. Yet we spend little time preparing our teams to actually be as good as we say we are. We need to recognize the disconnect between our marvelous marketing efforts and the underwhelming sales experience we deliver person to person. Digital marketing has pulled the wool over our eyes. It is time to take the red pill and wake up to reality that communication and customer experience play a more significant role in our bottom line than our marketing mix.
We must spend just as much time perfecting our performance in the real world, as we do in the digital marketing matrix. We’re blind to what is happening, because we’re happy in our virtual utopia. Yet the moment we wake from this, we’ll realize we wasted way too much time dreaming of a virtual world where no one truly buys what we’re selling, but instead have allowed our sales teams to atrophy without proper attention. Dedicate as much time to the real world as you do the Matrix, and you will then be in control of the technology, rather than the technology controlling you.
Prescient, as usual, Joe! I don’t think dealers appreciate the importance of this most basic concept. There will come a point at which the Carvana and Autotrader shop at home experiences stop losing money and start gaining ground. Let us not forget how quickly the iPhone in 2008 transformed consumer behavior, flipping best practices on their head. We simply must realistically consider the customer experience from their point of view or soon be relegated to the next mega-corporation acquisition.
Agreed, Jeff. Even if dealers were able to deliver a seamless, online purchase experience, a certain percentage of people will continue to come in-store. It is where the customer satisfaction experience breaks apart – and will start pushing more to the full, online transaction (to avoid the in-store road to the sale they’re forced through).