To communicate with consumers effectively marketers require insight into where their customers are now and will be in future. This includes knowing which touchpoints they have with a business online and offline, and which marketing channels they prefer so their needs are met and preferences served.
Understanding this journey and how it is changing enables brands to target people at the most convenient time and in the best location to generate a positive interaction. It is crucial, however, that marketers can measure engagement and satisfaction levels effectively.
When customer engagement falls short
A study by Aimia, which runs the Nectar loyalty scheme, says 69 % of Britons are closing down accounts and subscriptions, and ‘unfriending’ companies because of poorly targeted communications. This includes unfollowing brands on social channels (69 %), blocking numbers (59 %), opting out from the majority of company email communications (58 %) and deleting apps because of too many push notifications (55 %).
Loyalty schemes are having their own difficulties. A study by Capgemini Consulting suggests loyalty programmes are not evolving fast enough to meet the changing customer journey. It questioned 160 global companies in the retail, banking, fmcg, telecom, airline, hotel and consumer electronics sectors, and scanned 40,000 consumer conversations on social media.
According to the research, fewer than one in ten loyalty programmes (9 %) offer point redemption across all channels, yet to be commercially successful, says Capgemini, programmes must engage people across every touchpoint.
Also, just 11 % offered personalised rewards based on a customer’s purchase history or location data and, while 79 % of programmes used the mobile channel, only 24 % allowed redemption through it.
Marketing to the individual gets results
Ultimately brands must be able to respond quickly to each consumer’s individual customer journey.
Heena Patel, senior manager marketing at management consultants Accenture, says brands can move fast if they combine customer information, business rules (such as not marketing products to customers who are in debt), and propensity models to recommend the next best action or product to consumers.
“This can include interactions from multiple touchpoints such as retail, a call centre, digital, email and SMS, as well as information across CRM or billing systems to deliver targeted messages,” she says.
“For a media business this could be insights captured from TV audience viewing habits, or for a telecommunication’s company it could be network information.”
One organisation making quick decisions in a world where customers are ‘always on’ is Transport for London (TfL). Its consumers are literally on a journey with the brand every time they travel.
Marketing director Chris Macleod says the organisation maps each journey end to end with the aim of providing customers with the best and most convenient travel choices.
“We have a public sector remit so we optimise how people can plan their journey using online and offline information and share our data with third party companies that develop apps to help travellers,” says Macleod. “We want to push more helpful information to explain different journey and ticket options.”
TfL is aware that its stations are also an important environment in which to communicate with customers. “People are just passing through so we have to think about dwell times. We sell advertising at our stations, of course, and it is an important point of sale environment where people can pick up information leaflets.”
Interacting with customers at a number of touchpoints
One of the most competitive industries is insurance where companies need to interact with customers at a number of touchpoints; from websites and broker quotations to claims and after-claim customer service.
Direct Line’s marketing director Mark Evans says customer expectations are high so it is important the company can contact people in a personalised way whichever route to purchase they take. This could be via social media or direct mail.
“Delivering on the brand promise is crucial. If it is hard to buy products from your insurer, it does not bode well when you need to make a claim,” says Evans. “Newer channels such as social media must complement traditional methods such as direct mail. In many ways it’s about knowing when to get in the way and when to get out of the way.”
He cites the example of when a customer buys their car insurance using web chat and indicates they are in the process of buying a new home. Direct Line can send them an indicative quote ahead of time through the post.
Clothing brands must keep a close eye on how consumer fashions are changing and how people shop and view products.
Finding new ways to reach customers
London designer JW Anderson streamed his AW16 London Collections Men show on gay social network app Grindr, which was a first for fashion show marketing, and Diesel is now advertising on both Grindr and dating site Tinder.
Director of brand at fashion trend forecasting service WGSN, Lauretta Roberts, says fashion consumer behaviours are quickly shifting to a mobile-first mentality.
“Instagram and Pinterest’s ‘buy now’ facilities are testament to this,” she says. “But in the increasingly fragmented retail market where customers swipe from one app to the next, one of the biggest hurdles is finding new ways to engage potential customers.”
Of course, it is not just fashion brands that need to know where their customers are and when. Every marketer requires this insight if they are to effectively influence behaviour to increase brand awareness and ultimately sales.