Marketing Inflection Points

Have you ever heard of the term or concept of marketing inflection points? Probably not, since I just coined it.

By definition, an inflection point​ is a turning point after which a dramatic change, with either positive or negative results, is expected to result.

When used in the context of marketing, I see an inflection point as being a turning point that a brand controls, but a consumer experiences (e.g., online or offline with the brand, product or service), after which a dramatic change, with either positive or negative results, is expected to result. Here’s an example.

About a week, ago, I bought some shirts for a holiday gift from Ann Taylor’s online store, and the purchase was made using the promotion that was being offered at the time. This online experience with the brand could be viewed as a marketing inflection point, because the turning point, which the brand controlled and I experienced (i.e., the online shopping experience in and of itself) could have resulted in one of two ways, positively or negatively. In this instance, it was a positive result, because the product was in stock, the price was right and the shopping cart and checkout worked fine.

Given the time of year, online promotions are constantly changing. So, a few days after I placed my order, I revisited Ann Taylor’s website to see if any deeper discounts were being offered and, sure enough, they were. Now, the items that I purchased were being discounted by 40%, a sizable savings. To see if I could benefit from the additional savings and get a price adjustment, I called the company’s customer service number and explained the situation to a customer service representative. In not so many words, the service representative said the company does not do price adjustments and, if I wanted, I could return the items already purchased and then re-purchase them given the current 40% discount (marketing inflection point). Wow, that’s convenient. This kind of policy makes shopping at this time of year so easy, doesn’t it? Not pleased with the service representative’s response, I asked to speak with a supervisor. No sooner did I ask the supervisor the same question did I get the exact same response (marketing inflection point). Disappointed that the company was not willing to do anything, I hung up.

After giving the situation some thought, I decided to send an email to the company’s CEO, Kay Krill, to see if the company really wanted to keep me as a satisfied customer. A couple of days went by and I heard nothing back from Ms. Krill (marketing inflection point), so I resent the email to her, as well as to the Director of Marketing, Quynh Dang. Well, I guess that did the trick, because within a day, I received a phone call from a woman in a customer service group (marketing inflection point), and in her voice message she said that the company was in receipt of my email and that, for this one time, they will honor my request for a price adjustment. Victory!

The purpose of the example above is not to show how I went about getting a price adjustment, but rather, how Ann Taylor could have better managed the various marketing inflection points that a consumer may experience.

From the very start, the customer service representative could have been empowered to say, “We don’t regularly offer price adjustments, but I see you are a new customer and we want you to have an exceptional shopping experience, so we’ll make an exception and honor your request for an adjustment.” Wow! How positive would that have been? Instead of the marketing inflection point heading in a negative direction, it ends up going in a very positive one. The same could be said for the next inflection point, when I spoke with the customer service supervisor. See where all of this is headed? When I sent the email to the company’s CEO she could have personally responded, but she did not, so there went that possibility of a positive inflection point. It’s only after, or so it seems, the Director of Marketing got involved did the company make certain that a positive inflection point or outcome was to be had.

While I appreciate the company wanting to honor my request, it should not have had to happen this way. Marketing inflection points happen often and in a variety of ways, and what’s most important for a brand and/or marketer to consider is that the negative results need to be minimized while the positive results are maximized and/or optimized. If a company or marketer is able to do this consistently then both the customer and the company will win.

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