Marketing via email, text and push notification may be an effective way to grab customers’ attention, but strike the wrong note and brands are at risk of being deleted by consumers who resent the intrusion of irrelevant communications.
Two in five consumers feel “overwhelmed” by the volume of brand communications, according to research from marketing analytics company Aimia.
Nearly half of the 2,000 UK respondents (48%) say they receive too many SMS messages, up from 39% in 2015, while 44% feel brands send too many push notifications, rising from 30% last year. Over half (51%) argue the volume of brand messages in their social media newsfeeds is ‘too much’ and nearly two-thirds (61%) report receiving an excessive amount of marketing emails.
Aside from the sheer volume of communications, consumers have a problem with relevance, with only 17% of respondents describing mobile, email and text marketing as ‘very relevant’.
The feeling of being bombarded by irrelevant communications has created a culture of ‘deletist’ consumers, who are using ad blockers (52%), deleting apps (51%) and blocking numbers (63%) to prevent brands sending messages.
Focus on quality, not volume
The cost efficient nature of email and text is tempting some brands to go for volume over quality, says Jan-Pieter Lips, president of international coalitions at Aimia.
“We are in a transition period where brands are learning a way through. They are moving away from mass marketing but they need to be more personalised. And the more intrusive a channel is, the more brands need to worry about whether the message is relevant or valuable,” he adds.
“It is important to stay top-of-mind, but not bombard customers.”
Michelle Plant, marketing director, Ticketmaster
To strike the right balance ticket sales website Ticketmaster uses engagement metrics to understand how to make communications relevant and targeted to the individual. Subscribers sign up to receive newsletters specific to their interests, as well as ticket alerts and access to pre-sale events.
Email is Ticketmaster’s main communication method, combined with text for customer relations messages and push notifications, which customers can control through the app.
“It is important to stay top-of-mind, but not bombard customers,” explains marketing director Michelle Plant.
“As our product is so varied, we produce a fully integrated, cross-device campaign. So for example, if we want to reach millennials, we will integrate emails with Snapchat, YouTube and Periscope. All our emails are mobile-optimised and we also direct people to our blog for content.”
Direct Marketing Association (DMA) managing director Rachel Aldighieri sees no way back for brands that fail to focus on the customer, and agrees that communications must be relevant and creative to maintain interest.
“Brands have to fully understand the customer, but then the key ingredient is creativity. Some brands have forgotten about the craft. Marketing should entertain, distract and inform, so creativity has a pivotal role.”
As with Ticketmaster, email is the preferred method of communication at discount code website VoucherCodes.co.uk, which pushes out content from 5,000 brands to a database of eight million people.
“We don’t want to invade the customer’s digital space, but we want to send bulletins that are relevant in terms of both content and platform,” explains senior director of marketing Paul Lewis.
“Email has been a great success for us and we use a personalised subject line to show the customer that this communication is credible and relevant. We then adapt the message according to device, as customers interact with mobile, tablet and desktop in different ways.”
VoucherCodes.co.uk is increasingly partnering with brands on push messaging, using geo-location to send out deals that drive footfall in-store.
Email is the best converting channel for luxury flash sale site Secret Escapes, which is conscious of not contacting members at the wrong time so enables users to tailor their emails, controlling the frequency or muting them if they’re not looking for a holiday.
“Email is an extremely personalised platform and varies with seasonality, so in order to strike the right balance you need a lot of data science input,” says head of CRM Ollie Miles, whose team analyse browsing and purchasing behaviour to develop tailored, triggered emails with hand-picked offers.
“[Push messaging] feels like a far more invasive communication, so we tread very lightly by scaling the messaging gradually until we feel response flatten.”
Ollie Miles, head of CRM, Secret Escapes
“We don’t use SMS as it’s not an effective channel for promoting luxury flash sale travel, though we have experimented with push messaging. It feels like a far more invasive communication, so we tread very lightly by scaling the messaging gradually until we feel response flatten.”
The value exchange
In theory, sharing data helps personalise communications, but in practice the trade-off has not always worked in favour of consumers.
Some 47% of respondents in the Aimia survey have shared personal information in order to receive relevant offers, yet only 5% feel this has resulted in better service.
Lips recognises the need for a value exchange between customer and brand. “Customers are happy to give data, but we expect something back, whether that be discounts, loyalty or more relevant content. Ultimately, the brands that don’t change enough will become less relevant themselves.”
According to research by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), marketers are just as reluctant as consumers to share their data with brands, with 68% saying they are wary of giving out personal details as they know how data could be exploited.
The survey of more than 500 marketers and 2,245 consumers found that while the majority (92%) of consumers do not fully understand how their personal data is being used, 67% would share personal information if organisations were more open about how they use it.
Ticketmaster plugs into a plethora of data to get a clear view of its customers, from purchase history to browsing habits. Customers share their preferences when they sign up online and the team use modelling to predict future behaviour in order to target customers in different ways.
“We can see from the historical data, for example, that [customers] are interested in early bird access to festivals, so we talk to them about pre-sale for events. We also send trigger communications and event reminder emails,” says Plant.
“If they sign up for pre-registration, we will try to give them access to events 48 hours in advance. It is extremely important our customers get value and relevant content.”
To combat the desire to delete, brands are pushing for a new level of sophistication.
Plant’s team is exploring predictive, intelligent and targeted messaging, including browser push notifications. It will be exploring messaging channels such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger and integrating these into a software platform to control marketing activity. “GPS and location-based marketing is going to become more important, as is video content. Embedding video into our emails is a big focus for us.”
Miles at Secret Escapes expects more to come from the personalisation of push and email, with a particular interest in rich push messaging as a visual and interactive alternative. He is also excited by innovations like AMP (accelerated mobile project) in helping drive the speed of mobile commerce.
Brands that best utilise mobile will make the biggest difference, Lewis argues. “Brands really need to integrate mobile into their complete marketing mix and nailing the right level of communications in terms of push, app, text and email has to be an absolute focus.”