We have all experienced the e-mail that is purportedly ‘personalised’, where the only hint of personalisation is the use of your first name in the opening line. Does it work?
Data from email providers MailChimp suggest that it doesn’t: the average results for UK SME email marketing campaigns last year found that fewer than a quarter of marketing emails (23%) are opened and of those, only 3% result in a user visiting the brand’s site.
Considering that most brands have a wealth of customer data and invest a lot of time and effort in crafting digital campaigns, it is surprising how many brands are still trying to push a homogenous message to all their consumers.
Consumers are now so overwhelmed by content, being bombarded by brands across social media and directly through their inbox, that it is essential for any communication – in particular digital – to be as relevant to consumers’ passions as possible. One-size-fits-all messaging never really broke through and with the granular world of social media providing such rich data on consumers, this strategy is just lazy.
However, aside from names, email addresses, some basic demographic information and perhaps purchase history, most brands lack a real understanding of who their customers are. Social media offers a solution to this problem and presents an opportunity to enhance digital campaign data, allowing a far greater degree message personalisation.
This does not mean using automated textual analysis to grasp the character of their consumers. Not only does this fail to screen for sarcasm and irony, which is a trait of many online conversations, but it also fails to recognise the basic truth that people on social media consume vastly more than they contribute. A mere 5% of social media users are content generators – it’s the 95% who are just ‘listening’ that we need to be interested in.
Brands that use automated textual analysis to understand their customers are, therefore, only examining a tiny minority of their potential customer base, and are focusing their campaigns only on a small, vocal section of their digital audience.
Instead, brands should focus on studying the interaction between consumers and the accounts they follow. In this day and age, you are what you follow, and analysing these interactions on social media paints a much clearer and detailed picture of who a brand’s consumers actually are. By assessing their social audience, brands can access a much larger sample.
That means brands can target their customers to a much greater degree of accuracy. Think of it like behavioural demographics – if you behave like a teenage boy online, then you are more likely to respond to that type of messaging from a digital marketing perspective, no matter what age you really are.
Take two 25-year-old men for example. Demographic analysis says that they should both receive the same ‘tailored’ message aimed at men between 25 and 35. But a 25-year-old man who lives with his parents has fundamentally different motivations and priorities compared to a 25-year-old man who is married with two children. Brands must ask themselves the question of whether they want to talk to them both as 25-year-old men, or based on their passions and their motivations.
In the same vein, our insight into the fashion industry has revealed complicated behavioural demographics in play. We have distinguished 10 types of female fashion consumer, ranging from the ‘Shopping Realists’, who are keen on discounted clothes and fast fashion, to ‘Cultured Trendsetters’, who follow the latest fashion trends. Each one of these 10 profiles that constitute the fashion consumer base needs to be interacted with differently – and it is that kind of insight that brands must capitalise on if they want to truly connect with their customers.
The most successful digital segment consumers based on their social behaviour – a footprint they leave of a combination of their connections and what they consume. This enables brands to craft highly relevant messaging and personalised product recommendations. It is only by understanding consumers through their own eyes that brands can pull customers in and break through a cluttered and noisy marketing landscape.
Clive Humby was co-founder of Dunnhumby and is now chief data scientist at consumer insight company Starcount