Consumers are contrary creatures: they want to be understood and valued as unique individuals, and yet are passionate about preserving their privacy, according to Anthony Wilkey, strategic client director for Emailvision, who here examines how customer centricity walks that fine line and keeps customers close to the brand.
As consumers, our data can be shared, manipulated and used many times outside of our control - which makes us wary about sharing it in the first place. Contact us too often, without our consent or get our personal details wrong and we will think about taking our business elsewhere.
The start of any good customer relationship requires listening, appreciating and acting on the preferences and interests with those we do business; as digital becomes more intertwined with our daily lives, the same rules apply.
Online marketing channels can be intimate and the results are immediate. Customers can be easily engaged, yet there are damaging consequences if brands fail to acknowledge the individuals to whom they are talking to. It is dangerously easy to introduce and perpetuate errors, such as the misspelling of names or to overdo the number of times a customer is contacted.
Earlier this year, a survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of Emailvision revealed just how quickly a brand can breed resentment amongst its target audience - with top turn-offs including being bombarded with too many emails (75% of respondents), receiving unsolicited emails (71%) or spelling names incorrectly (50%). The long term impact of such poorly executed marketing campaigns is that many customers - 40% of respondents - refuse to share any of their personal details with a brand.
It doesn't have to be like this. Digital marketing has the ability to generate and capture vast volumes of data that can be analysed to create detailed profiles of customers. This analysis helps brands to better understand who their customers are, recognising their personal preferences and habits. These actionable insights can be used to create targeted, relevant and meaningful communications that will foster stronger sales, relationships and brand loyalty.
So how can marketers better use and target such information to run effective personalised digital marketing campaigns? The following techniques are essential:
- Focus on quality not quantity
For many marketers the volume, variety and velocity of information that is generated daily by consumer interaction with a brand can appear overwhelming. However, the quality of data generated is more important than the quantity.
Marketers need to know what information they have access to so that they can think strategically about what types of data to collect, to help inform their campaign strategies. For example, interactions on social media networks or on websites can reveal a great deal about a consumer's preferences. A lack of interaction on these sites can equally reveal as much as an intense amount of activity and further insight into online habits.
- Keep the customer at the heart of it all
The term "always addressable customer" is often used to describe those that access the Internet from multiple physical locations, multiple times per day. As customers rely more on technology and interact with brands throughout the day on a number of devices, marketers need to tailor their digital marketing strategy accordingly.
The ability to create a single, holistic understanding of each and every customer should not be overlooked - particularly when we consider how connected and intertwined customer activities are to businesses and people alike. Customers should be kept at the heart of marketing strategies and multichannel campaign development. It is important that every customer is treated as an individual - ruin this and risk high levels of resentment.
- Engaging relevantly with audiences
It is essential for a brand to be able to react relevantly with its audience. For example, in order to address the increasingly prevalent issue of cart abandonment, a company could send out a follow-up email reminding visitors of their basket contents and encouraging them to complete the purchase, which could also include cross-sell and up-sell recommendations for related purchases: "people who purchased this also bought", "recommended for you" and "get the look".
Such content engages customers and helps to guide them toward new opportunities. As you create personalised experiences, make sure to not make assumptions about the customer that will reduce the number of options and recommendations available to them. Enable them to define their preferences so that they can receive valuable recommendations that further develop your relationship online and in-store.
- Getting tactical
Last but not least, it is essential to set objectives for every campaign and ensure the right technology is in place to support and measure performance.
If the goal of a campaign is to encourage repeat purchases, do take into account a visitor's preferences and how often they re-purchase items. If it is to encourage cross-sells, do provide intelligent recommendations around the "people who bought X also bought Y". If it is to encourage immediate or impulse purchases it is important to ensure recommendations have low delivery costs; and if it is to move last-season or sale stock, retailers are best off making use of what is known in the trade as "worst-seller algorithms".
There is no doubt that technology has transformed the relationship between brands and consumers. Digital marketing has immense potential for building relationships, but has significant consequences when not executed properly. The days of poorly executed online marketing campaigns should be in the past. By keeping the customer at the heart of every online marketing strategy, consumers will feel like individuals, which will lead to a long lasting customer relationship.