Green marketing to drive more campaigns online
Compared to the world of direct mail, the internet is likely to be home to increasing amounts of carefully targeted and environmentally-friendly marketing campaigns, according to Guy Westlake of brand marketing firm Vignette.
In an age of heightened environmental awareness, the expectation for businesses to be more eco-friendly has never been greater, even though many are using (and wasting) a significant amount of paper on poorly targeted direct mail initiatives. In fact, direct marketing material in the US is estimated to account for some 550,000 tonnes of household waste (according to DEFRA).
At least 97% wastage For most direct marketing campaigns a 1% - 3% response rate is considered an acceptable result, which means that at least 97% of each paper-based mailing (not to mention the costs and environmental impact of distribution) is wasted. The problem is clearly one of accurate targeting but, even if targeting improves dramatically, there will always be a significant level of waste.
So, argues Westlake, the time may have come for socially responsible companies to consider transferring current direct mailing investments into the online channel to run campaigns with less environmental impact, better consumer targeting, and potentially a greater return on investment (ROI).
Greater investment in online marketing, combined with the latest targeting technologies (such as recommender systems), can certainly help marketers to target consumers with more personalised, relevant, timely, and effective marketing messages.
Web 2.0's green impact The latest generation of web technologies, often called 'Web 2.0', may still be ill-defined, but the term fundamentally refers to the delivery of a personalised and interactive experience for users. By adopting Web 2.0 technologies (such as social networking) and making use of user generated content (UGC), marketers can more quickly and easily analyse and automate the marketing of products and services online.
For example, a community of members on a specific web site - and their implied interest in a specific topic or content - can usually lead the marketer directly to search terms, key words, and targeting data that will help them recommend the most relevant offers and content to those users. Moreover, when a user has already experienced a timely and relevant offer from the marketer, they are more likely to be receptive to offers of similar products and services in targeted cross-sell and up-sell campaigns.
Consumer engagement These marketing techniques are well illustrated in the retail, telecommunications and media sectors where there is currently a lot of growth in social networking applications (including rating, content tagging, and review posting). This kind of consumer-to-consumer content is being used on public-facing web sites to help engage the user community with the company.
This approach is likely to grow in popularity among other vertical markets, as well. For example, other industries are already expected to follow the recent lead set by the US Financial Services Authority (FSA) with its principle of "treating customers fairly". The use of recommender technologies can help marketers achieve this goal by building up intelligence and customer insights from web site users' search and site navigation behaviour. Recommendations can then be drawn from insights based on consumers' own needs and preferences rather than from product- or service-based data from the company's own database.
Word of mouth (WOM) continues to be a popular and successful method of selling and marketing, and recommendations technologies are now bringing the technique into the online world. And when customers are provided with products and services that perform as promised, they are more likely to continue to engage with the same company in the future.
New technologies But there are new developments and technologies just around the corner. Today's more advanced recommendation technologies go several steps further and take into account the consumer's personality and behaviours at each moment, providing marketers with opportunities to deliver even more targeted and personalised content based on contextual data.
And, as mobile phone-based broadband internet services begin to grow more rapidly, there will be a corresponding increase in consumers who want to access relevant content through the mobile channel, regardless of which mobile device they use. The ability of marketers to deliver meaningful, relevant, time, and well-targeted messages to these users will be of critical importance in the future.
To conclude, building brand loyalty through the delivery of relevant and personalised content is undoubtedly the 'Holy Grail' for marketers, and online tools are now emerging to help them achieve exactly that - and that means happier consumers, less paper wastage, lower distribution costs, higher response rates, and a better return on marketing investment.