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The new product is customer experience
The new product is customer experience

Forget the 4P's of marketing - meet the 4E's

Extraordinary times call for adaptive retailing solutions. CHRIS PETERSEN reveals the new paradigm for selling in the omnichannel age – and how you can maximise your results by shifting to a different service framework.

There has been much discussion about the changing face of retail. Omnichannel has become the new normal. It is no longer a question of online versus bricks-and-mortar stores; today, consumers can shop anytime and everywhere, and no longer need to separate physical retail from digital.

Shopping has become a seamless experience of which time, location and method are no longer barriers. In this new era of retail, traditional marketing is dead.

Retailing has transformed from a product/ place business to a people-based business where today’s customers are focused on the shopping experience.

The traditional 4P’s of marketing – product, price, promotion and place – are dead. Successful retailers are now differentiating through the 4E’s – experience, everywhere, exchange and evangelism.

So, what’s changed?

Dawn of new era

In the age before online shopping, retail was about location: customers had to visit stores in order to purchase. Retailers could differentiate by carrying a different selection of products, and pricing and promotion were instrumental in attracting customers and driving store traffic.

Today, it would be considered almost impossible for an individual retailer to differentiate successfully on product or price alone.

"What is emerging is a very clear picture that retailers must do far more than sell items at a price. Retail success requires transformation to a truly customer-centric, experiential business"

The real reason the 4P’s are dead, however, is changes in consumer behaviour and expectation. Today’s omnichannel consumers shop anytime and everywhere. They expect unlimited product selection and the ability to price-compare, all from the convenience of their smartphones.

This isn’t the first time the industry has suggested replacing the 4P’s. In 1990, advertising academic Bob Lauterborn suggested 4C’s, which he identified as: consumer wants and needs, cost to satisfy, convenience to buy and communication.

While these 4C’s do shift the focus from product to customer, they don’t adequately capture the expectations of today’s omnichannel consumers.

Shoppers are now voting with their wallets for retailers that fulfil their own 4C’s:

  • Connections – Consumers expect to connect with brands at any time, especially on their smartphones.
  • Choice – Today’s consumers are not limited by what they can find in a store or even the goods they find in their own country.
  • Convenience – Consumers are increasingly looking for the convenience of how they purchase and also how they choose to receive their goods, such as via overnight delivery, nominated-day delivery or click- and-collect.
  • Conversation – Consumers are more likely to begin their buying journeys on social media where they seek conversations about products and, most importantly, recommendations.

What’s wrong with these 4C’s? Nothing; however, they are primarily focused on consumer expectations and do not adequately address what retailers must do to pro-actively change their strategies.

Evolving to the 4E’S

Despite unprecedented store closures, the retail apocalypse isn’t here yet. What we are witnessing is traditional retailers struggling to transform in an age of disruption.

Marketing expert Pamela Danziger says a pivotal issue for retailers today is that they may not be selling what customers want.

While business owners cling to the 4P’s because they can control them, Danziger says retailers must align with today’s experience- driven customers by focusing on the 4E’s:

  • Experience – The sum of the customer’s experience is the new ‘product’.
  • Exchange – The customer doesn’t just want a catalogue of products at a price; they want an exchange of ideas, information and value, beyond price.
  • Evangelism – Promotion is not enough and customers are tired of being bombarded with deals. Evangelism means engagement that is personalised on the customer’s terms, lifestyle and values.
  • Everyplace – Stores have been replaced by ‘everywhere’ and communication must now be everywhere as well.

Some marketers have argued for even more E’s: emotions, execution and engagement.

What is emerging is a very clear picture that retailers must do far more than sell items at a price. Retail success requires transformation to a truly customer-centric, experiential business.

The very best retailers have transformed from selling products using the 4P’s to engaging customers via the 4E’s, and they’ve done so in ways that build lasting relationships that create lifetime value.

Chris Petersen

Contributor • Integrated Marketing Solutions (IMS)

Chris Petersen is founder and CEO of retail consultancy Integrated Marketing Solutions (IMS). Learn more:

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