When it comes to spending green, nothing is black and white. Recent Gallup research finds that some 70 percent of a purchasing decision is based on emotions. Finding true empathy for a customer’s journey, then, is crucial to success for businesses. Companies that learn how to tap into emotions effectively can expect 85 percent better sales growth and at least 25 percent higher gross margins than their competition, according to Gallup’s analytics.
So how does a company achieve this?
Most consumers are aware that their online shopping behavior is being carefully tracked. They generally know that the ad they see on their favorite website, for a product resembling something alarmingly similar to the one they just searched for on Google, isn’t there by coincidence. Modern consumers know their data is valuable, and for the most part, they don’t mind too much when that data is used to show them products they need in return.
What most consumers (and perhaps some marketers) don’t know is that there’s a term for this content that changes on the basis of a customer’s demographics, buying history, location, and other parameters. It’s called dynamic content—sometimes referred to as smart or adaptive content.
Dynamic content optimization, or DCO, is essentially the process of delivering the right message at the right time in order to maximize the likelihood of a consumer purchase. It’s a process that’s powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, but its success depends as much on humans as it does on algorithms.
The voice in the machine
Machines are increasingly adept at delivering personalized marketing messages, but a human still writes the base content variables (for now, at least). Creating compelling content still requires the same skills that copywriters have been using for decades, but with the advent of DCO, copywriters and their creative cronies can sell even more effectively.
A skilled creative team and their media counterparts can now test a variety of messages in the marketplace on a deeper level of variance and make optimizations in real time. Of course, even with the help of a seemingly endless flow of customer data, not every message will be effective.
So what do the most successful content pieces have in common? What makes a particular marketing message the right one? Usually, it’s empathy.
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If all the copy variables are pushing a product or brand point of view without taking into account what’s happening in the mind of the customer, those content optimization efforts are lost. For teams that want to maximize the power of DCO and separate their content from all the noise, here are a few ways to get more empathetic:
1. Use real customer insights
Empathy starts with customer insight. Data has been transformative in the way it has allowed advertisers to segment and differentiate between audiences, but it doesn’t actually allow us to know our customers. It can’t and shouldn’t replace the work of getting to know customers’ needs and challenges through old-fashioned conversation. Often, you can learn more from talking to Uber drivers than you can from reading a creative brief.
B2B companies should be especially wary of an overreliance on data. When trying to create a thriving, mutually beneficial partnerships, it’s essential to gather qualitative feedback through conversation and to show potential customers you value their opinions and ideas.
2. Think about how you say it
Copywriters must remember that the effectiveness of their message depends just as much on tone as it does on words. Modern consumers expect a compelling, personalized experience whenever and wherever they engage with your brand.
DCO gives copywriters the opportunity to find the best way to say what they need to say. For instance, the team could test a soft, nurturing tone against a more direct action-oriented tone to see which performs best. Just make sure to test distinct ad elements—messaging and imagery that speaks to different audiences, for instance—in order to arrive at worthwhile metrics.
3. Focus on the small stuff
Most agency creative teams enjoy coming up with new concepts and ad ideas for the brands they’re working with; they can’t help it. But to really benefit from DCO, avoid swapping out entire ads just because you came up with a new idea you want to see in market.
Instead, work on creating variable copy modules—a matrix of headlines and subheads that work well with one another that you can easily swap in and out of an execution. This can be a headache (it’s like copy Sudoku!), but it ensures the most useful testing results over time.
4. Don’t waste opportunities
Whatever you do, don’t sit back and let an entire campaign run without attempting to optimize. A quick glance at your initial reporting will likely reveal opportunities for improvement.
As a copywriter, I’m excited about the possibilities of a medium that allows me to home in on exactly the right message for my customers in real time. But technology alone can’t deliver the outcomes that brands demand. Creativity—and perhaps above all, empathy—will separate effective content from forgotten content, even when it’s dynamic.
Tristan Fitzgerald heads up creative for RAPP Well in the U.S. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.