Now that Q1 2012 is just about behind us, I’d like to review where I see marketers evolving their direct digital marketing strategies during the remainder of this year to make the most of the opportunities that are opening up.
The Customer As Royalty
Step aside, Kate: The customer is the new royalty, at least as far as marketers should be concerned. A cataclysmic shift is taking place, one that puts the customer (not the brand) at the core of the messaging and strategic approach. This moves the idea of “How do we reach the customer?” to “How do we serve ― and honor ― the customer?” From our lowly station as mere marketers, we must ask: How do we best serve our queen? How do we best anticipate her every desire before she asks? How do we become both steady companion and an essential part of her court?
Even Forrester Research recognizes this transition from channels toward a customer-focused approach. “Marketers who don’t adapt to customer needs will perish,” stated The New Messaging Mandate from Forrester Research, January 2012. “The balance of power has tilted in favor of your customers, who are increasingly empowered in today’s digital environment. Only marketers who are customer-obsessed and adapt to consumers’ changing behaviors will succeed.”
Here are some ideas for pleasing “her royal customer-ness”…
Serve her with mobile: Another January 2012 report from Forrester Research called Trends 2012: US Retail eBusiness, suggests that retailers should make better use of mobile to drive stronger service in-store, offering more elaborate programs such as m-Commerce, real-time couponing and store maps. Honor the wishes of customer royalty by offering context-based conveniences, serving her within your castle walls via mobile device.
Serve her with dazzling displays: A strong tablet strategy certainly can help you gain favor with Queen Customer. Crossing the gap between smartphones and desktop computers, these portable go-to devices release new possibilities to offer entertaining and unique experiences to the delight of those you wish to serve, while reinforcing the value of and devotion to your brand. For those still lagging behind when it comes to mobile web experiences, it’s time to catch up.
Watch your language: Treating customers as royalty, one must take a true interest in saying what is most appropriate at the right time. First you have to understand their needs at the moment. This requires data stored within a strong, unified platform ― one that gathers customer behaviors and preferences automatically across direct digital channels, then makes that data available to inform relevant, individualized messaging to Queen Customer at the right moment.
Break down internal fiefdoms: Individual messaging channels are but a blur to today’s royal customers. They want what they want when they want it, period, regardless of the screen they use. The fact that you’re internally set up around channel-specific silos and separate systems needs to change. The seamless unification of channels is essential for customer-focused messaging.
Customer As Marketer
Trends surrounding consumers don’t end with treating them like royalty. Actually, consumers are already taking over as the marketers for your brand. Marketers must continue to release control of brand messaging to the consumer. Buy all the media exposure you like ― your expensive ad campaign may not do nearly as well when compared to a few heartfelt reviews or personal posts made by “influencers.” Identify the influencers and educate them. Give them the “first look” at your new release or product. Let them lead the conversation. Embrace the trend by giving them the opportunity to become more involved with your brand. Have some fun with it. As they engage others within their expanding digital circle of influence, be prepared to have a strong system in place to support and respond to what’s being said online. This opportunity opens huge possibilities when handled well, but you need to release your team so they’re able to respond quickly.
With one-seventh of the planet connected via Facebook by later this year, it’s safe to say that no other social platform comes close to the level of penetration and devotion of followers. The time has come for marketers to make use of the details to which consumers are willing to allow access on Facebook (with permission, of course) to inform highly relevant messaging across other direct digital channels. Our recently announced relationship with Gigya reflects this trend: Through the partnership, marketers can seamlessly fuse the wealth of permission-based social identity information (such as Facebook “Likes,” check-ins and interests) with existing customer data and cross-channel activity (such as purchase history, clicks and search activity) within a single platform, opening the ability to drive actionable analytics and stronger cross-channel execution based on more relevant information. For example, marketers can now tailor email marketing campaigns based on users’ locations, interests and on-site activities, such as sharing and commenting. However, these capabilities only exist when consumers have opted-in to share their information with the respective brands by authenticating via Gigya’s Social Login.
Data Drives Engagement
Data is at the core of trends that span digital touch points. I’m not talking about old-school lists and fixed segments. To enable real-time relevant messaging that serves the customer in the perceived blur of channels, data about each individual must be stored within individual profiles. You’re no longer sending campaigns to your lists ― you’re sending them to people. Everyone has a history. Everyone has specific preferences.
Now it’s time to consolidate consumer information into a unified messaging framework to drive stronger customer engagement― to seamlessly message across one or several campaign touch points for increased conversion, better overall strategy and stronger results.
Marketers continually must improve what they send and what they spend. Advanced analytics will shift from “handy” to “essential.” Earlier I mentioned the need for marketers to both understand and anticipate the needs of the customer. To do that consistently ― to deliver custom-tailored messaging and provide powerful brand experiences ― you’re going to need three things: a great database, strong business analytics and meaningful reporting features. Marketers will need to seek partners to help them take a deep dive into the data to uncover new ways to boost campaign results. This includes pinpointing the best time to send an email after a site visit, the right sequence of display advertising or simply pulling together all your data from across channels into a more manageable performance dashboard. This means having the right tools (and the right team) in place for a higher level of agility based on the numbers, so you can identify and respond quickly to the trends and shifts in the marketplace.