Influencing a consumer’s digital experience is more important and challenging than ever before. The growth of divergent channels such as social, email and mobile has made it difficult for brands to deliver a consistent experience. Managing the steady stream of intelligence on customer behavior is no longer possible via spreadsheet programs and other “static” tools—the consumer buying journey is real-time and happens across many different touchpoints. 33 percent of transactions made by new customers are influenced by more than one touchpoint, and multiple touchpoints influence 48% of repeat customers according to a recent Forrester study.
To gain brand loyalty in the age of highly equipped, informed and fickle consumers, brands must service consumers’ information needs dynamically and with consistency throughout their buying journey. Here are 10 recommendations for how e-tailers can achieve this level of personalization when the buying cycle is influenced by so many factors out of their immediate control.
1. Explore, extract and integrate digital data: With the explosion of media-enabled devices comes the availability of vast new volumes of consumer data—and the opportunity for marketers to derive value from it. This starts with the exploration of data from existing systems including POS, CRM, call and fulfillment centers, ecommerce, social networks, websites, mobile apps and email systems. Once gathered in a single location, this data can be filtered, analyzed and used to drive real-time segmentation, content personalization and messaging automation.
2. Segment more frequently: With consolidated and cleansed data from multiple online and offline sources, marketers are empowered to segment with more frequency, identifying target markets with unprecedented precision. Real-time data feeds streamline the amount of time and resources required to consolidate, extract and analyze the necessary information for segmentation by behavior and other customer actions.
3. Message with precision: Along with segmentation, retail marketers must engage with customers in a relevant manner by demonstrating knowledge of people’s preferences, purchase history, context and buying intentions. Generic batch and blast email campaigns yield little ROI and can potentially damage a brand’s reputation. However, practices such as dynamic content creation and contextually-based promotions offer customers a personalized experience that drives greater engagement and revenue.
4. Optimize customer interactions in every channel: Each interactive channel is designed differently but each must ultimately optimize the end-user’s experience to drive conversion. Understand the rules that govern each channel and how people interact with each medium to create content, design and message delivery strategies accordingly. For example, optimize email deliverability by understanding specific inbox spam filters, IP reputation, how people access their messages (via mobile), etc.
5. Test, test, test: While testing is shown to increase conversion by fourfold, less than one-third of marketers test on a consistent basis. Today, the availability of affordable, highly-functional online services provides marketers with easy access to enable quick A/B testing for example content testing, subject line testing, etc.
6. Create multi-touch point campaign sequences: Do not assume a “single-message-to-transaction” engagement with consumers, particularly with products with longer sales cycles. Understand and leverage how each touchpoint in the equation works together to create the right call to action.
7. Nurture, engage and service consumers in an continuous cycle: Understand the intention of the customer at each stage of engagement through to the transaction and provide the right level of support to facilitate their buying journey. A focus on creating a long-term customer relationship versus a one-time transaction yields a higher customer lifetime value in the long run.
8. Shift focus from acquisition to retention programs: In the US, only one percent of web browsers actually make a purchase, and yet 78% of retail marketing budgets are spent on search and display advertising, which bring this type of “window shopper” to the retailer’s website. Instead, funnel efforts and budget towards more effective programs that achieve revenue goals through nurturing existing leads.
9. Measure against business goals: Avoid dependency on superficial “vanity” metrics such as clickthrough rates and open rates as the true measure of performance. Understand the ultimate goal with each customer and use attribution models to determine impact against business goals such as revenue generation.
10. Be agile: Online consumers conduct product and price comparison at an alarming rate – and they expect to find the best deals quickly and easily online. Ensure the brand is present and can react quickly to competitive offerings and online messages. Attract and retain customers in by employing strategies that adjust to market conditions, such as serving promotions in real-time.
These points can be summed up in three words—speed, precision and relevancy. The agile digital marketer can—and needs—to iterate continuously in order to anticipate and meet the needs of their prospects, while nurturing the demands and experiences of current customers to improve customer relationships and increase overall ROI.
Angie Zener is senior director of product marketing at Lyris.