Real-time data has become critical to the task of tailoring engaging and relevant marketing campaigns.
Consider the following email-marketing scenario. After an online customer signs up to a website, the business responds within a couple of minutes with a welcome email and a discount offer on a product. Open rates for the email campaign hit 125 per cent (some customers open the email multiple times). Delay the same welcome email by 48 hours, however, and email open rates plummet to 35 per cent.
“The timing has a massive impact on a campaign,” says Justine Coombe, marketing services manager at IT services firm Contiigo, citing a recent test result.
As businesses try to better understand customer behaviour, the use of digital marketing and real-time data has the potential to dramatically improve long-term outcomes. At the same time, Jeremy Glass, managing director of digital marketing agency Permission, says there is a risk of just “blasting out” emails to potential customers and hoping for the best. The fact that different customers have different needs has strengthened the imperative for email marketing that takes a highly targeted approach. “Relevance is king,” says Glass.
Glass believes “old school” bricks-and-mortar marketing focusing on individual customer care is still applicable in the digital world. “The real-time data that you get in an online environment means you can do all those [service] things as well as, if not better than, someone in a store – but you can do it in a scalable manner.”
Some companies have developed smart digital strategies that rely on engagement with customers. Online book giant Amazon, for example, has generated enormous additional revenue by recommending extra books in the same genre when buyers purchase a title. Online news provider The Huffington Post often communicates with readers via Twitter to gauge their opinion of stories and test alternative headlines for the same story.
Matt Hampshire, CEO at Contiigo, says that while digital marketing creates great opportunities to connect with new and existing customers, it has caused a lot of market clutter and given every company “the opportunity to get in your face”.
To break through, he advises a switch of mindset whereby businesses focus on customer retention rather than merely “hammering people with more ads”. This entails high levels of service, quick responses to online requests and simple gestures, such as a thank you email, that create a rapport with buyers.
Contiigo also suggests tailoring relevant marketing campaigns carefully to limit unsubscribe rates; avoiding turning off new subscribers or customers with over-communication; and being conscious of customers’ true behavioural activities rather than relying solely on data.
“A lot of times we find that people will tell us certain things that they are interested in but whenever we send them communication on that topic, they click on things that we’ve added as extra supportive material,” says Coombe.
At Permission, Glass says an absence of basic business planning, let alone marketing and communications strategy, is hurting the digital marketing results of many businesses.
He suggests the following tactics. First, embrace behavioural merchandising whereby you consider entire audience sets and present hot or trendy products first to improve sales conversion rates. Second, monitor social media closely for an insight into real-time trends that allow you to gain feedback on your brand, and then respond appropriately. Third, drill down into data to see the broad range of products in which a customer is interested. And fourth, identify and target your top customers “so you know who you should be putting most of the effort into in terms of being more relevant”.
Real-time tactics for capturing customers
- If a subscriber or customer signs up to a competition or views content on a social media format such as Facebook, contact them immediately and back it up with a product offer or promotion. This maximises return on investment.
- Monitor customers’ online shopping carts closely and, after a purchase, quickly follow up with suggested accessories to purchase.
- Free shipping is a huge incentive for online shoppers and has a double benefit. It encourages a sale and, if you place a time limit on the shipping offer, it can aid cashflow.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and the interviewees, and not of Australia Post.
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