Rosie Freshwater, MD of Leapfrogg, helps brands understand online customer experience from a ‘premium’ perspective, where price doesn’t automatically translate to customer loyalty.
Good old fashioned search sits among the ever-growing number of digital marketing methods used by brands to attract and retain customers. But which blend is right? How are consumers now behaving online and what approach should brands take with the latest digital techniques?
Witnessing the humble early days of the commercial internet – Tesco Direct took less than ten orders on launch day in 1997 – it’s astonishing to see how many digital marketing approaches and products are now available. Search, user experience, display, email and content – myriad subcategories have arisen, and within each a vast selection of tactics are enabled by constantly evolving new technologies.
A major reason for this explosion of tactics is the need for retailers to provide an exceptional shopping experience. The ever more demanding modern consumer now expects a seamless journey across all channels both on and offline. Only by providing this can retailers acquire and retain the right customers to increase profit and market share.
Buying habits have changed as a result of the economic downturn. Consumers are putting far greater consideration into their purchases, buying on quality, value and personal brand connection rather than being led by price.
Rapidly changing shopping habits mean retailers need to invest in developing an in-depth understanding of their customers. Insight will enable them to select the right blend of marketing activity for the digital touchpoints and channels shoppers use at each stage of the buying journey.
Over the last few years, many digital marketers have jumped on each new digital trend the moment it’s become popular, thinking progressively but without perhaps understanding whether it’s actually right for their audience. Now there are simply too many touchpoints and tactics to spread a thin marketing budget across. Using insight to put customer happiness at the heart of marketing decisions has become a necessity to maximise return and avoid wasted spend.
So what technologies are available right now to enable digital marketers to understand people better and personalise shopping experiences?
The most important piece of technology a business can invest in will allow it to gather useful insight about their customers. Most will already have good web analytics in place that allows them to see how people are using their site and social media platforms, but this data is only part of the puzzle.
Technology is now widely available to combine multiple sources of customer data in one place to form a single view, past and present, by both behaviour and financial value. The true value of each customer now, potential future value and personalised marketing opportunities will become apparent.
Using data to split customers into groups or segments – by purchase behaviour, location, and value for example – means one group at a time can be prioritised and receive an experience that’s tailored to them.
In addition to the quantitative data collected, there must now be a strong element of qualitative insight. Using online survey technology to question specific customers is a low cost way to create a detailed picture of the types of people they are, the emotional experience they expect from the brands they shop with and how they prefer to shop. This extra layer of insight allows marketers to create the right experience across the channels they use at each stage of their buying journey.
Once a marketing team has a full picture of its customers through robust data collection, it can be confident in its ability to choose an appropriate blend of digital techniques.
Search can be far more focused on attracting the right customers at the right time, and with a better understanding of the types of content individuals prefer, content and messaging can be tailored. User experience is informed by the needs of shoppers as well as the way they use a website, while social media can be refined and focused on those most likely to use social channels to improve engagement.
Furthermore, email campaigns can be segmented and made more relevant, for example by incorporating content related to past buying habits and offers related to potential future purchases. Relevant website content can be shown, while display acquisition campaigns can be targeted at those who match the profile of current customers.
The range of technologies that allow retailers to use insight to enhance marketing and help focus decision making is huge. Each one has a specific purpose and will work for different people. Marketers must make the decision on which ones to use based on what their insight shows is most important.
A word of warning though – if investing in this technology, businesses must make sure they have the resource and skill to analyse and use the insight effectively. A common pitfall is to become swamped in data and become unable to make informed change.
Given today’s customer climate, every business should have a head of insight and data role. Alternatively, marketing teams must find a supplier or partner that can help them understand and improve the data they have.
The customer rules. With the range of tools available there is no excuse for any online business not to have a clear picture of what shoppers want from them.
Old school search is still very important, but it will only remain effective if it is informed by the most appropriate digital marketing tactics and truly personalised to the people that buy from a brand.
By Rosie Freshwater