By Paige O’Neill, Chief Marketing Officer, SDL
As consumers’ lives become increasingly digitally-focused, marketers are scrambling to figure out the best way to foster meaningful customer relationships. Connecting with the millennial generation in particular is now critical for brands because of the significant buying power this demographic holds. Millennials are the customer of today and of the future. Brands need to adjust marketing strategies to their preferences and behaviors, which are significantly different from other demographics – these customers touch their smartphones 46 times per day and many touch two different devices daily. Today, consumers’ primary engagement with brands is via these digital devices; expecting brands to be as connected as they are.
The millennial generation in particular orchestrates its own shopping experience via digital channels, social media and mobile communications. With the amount of data brands are collecting from consumers across these various touchpoints, marketers are pressed more than ever to leverage that data and consistently deliver meaningful, relevant experiences. Consumers today don’t just expect brands to deliver experiences that are tailored to their current context; they demand it. At a time when consumers use multiple devices throughout their customer journeys, brands are challenged to understand each customer’s current needs specifically in context in order to keep up, provide relevant and personalized experiences, and anticipate the customer’s next steps. The path to purchase no longer looks the same for every customer, and it requires a very unique level of engagement.
Today’s younger generations have fully embraced brands on social media. They use social networks to find content rather than relying on traditional methods such as email and search engines. They have customized the way they find news, making conventional marketing funnels irrelevant. The challenge for marketers is to break through with relevant, valuable, non-promotional interactions. Marketing success today depends on customers seeing, engaging with – and sharing – your brand’s content within their social networks. In order to deliver content your customers will feel compelled to share in this manner, it must be personalized to them.
Marketers also need to earn the trust of their customers and must prioritize building customer experiences that are mutually rewarding. To consistently deliver this, brands must understand not only what the shopper is looking for, but also what they may have purchased yesterday or last week, which is more difficult with shoppers using multiple devices.
Fostering customer relationships is always a challenge. Consumers are blasted with marketing messages and they tend to tune them out — email blasts and generic content are ignored. Social intelligence allows brands to listen in, predict buying behaviors and engage with the customer in a two-way dialogue. Growing a customer relationship is not always about getting the sale – a relationship and personalized brand experience is what generates loyalty in the long run.
To get on this path, marketers need to determine a strategy for collecting and using customer data. Brands should always ask customers to opt-in and respect preferences for frequency in order to build and maintain trust. Customer data is a key source of intelligence – when done right, targeted marketing messages add value for customers. Done wrong, these messages can appear intrusive or offensive. It’s important to use customer data deliberately to deliver consistent, considerate and relevant messages. Once that credibility is created, customers will start to become brand advocates.
When it comes to using data, measurement and reporting are critical. Marketing campaigns must be agile enough to reinforce what’s working — and immediately revise what isn’t. Don’t wait for an end-of-the-month report on your efforts. Review data on how customers are responding to campaigns in near real time and adapt. An agile approach will help messages stand out and remain applicable at every touch point.
Mutually-rewarding customer relationships will vastly outperform campaigns: brands should start to focus more on how they can use data to create a personalized customer experience. Successful marketers will leverage information about customers to better connect with them and participate in the natural buying cycles of their customers.
About the Author: As Chief Marketing Officer of SDL, Paige brings almost 20 years of experience in senior marketing roles. She uniquely combines product marketing expertise with an extensive background in communications and PR and a passion for developing thought leadership programs that build strong awareness and differentiate companies from the competition. Prior to SDL, Paige served for over three years as Vice President of Marketing for integrated marketing leader Aprimo. Her thought leadership, messaging, demand generation and communications programs contributed to rapid growth and a successful acquisition by Teradata. Paige also served as the CMO for two early-stage startups, Aravo Solutions and GreenRoad Technologies, as well as for PHH Arval, where her efforts contributed to an acquisition attempt by GE. Prior to PHH, Paige spent a decade at Oracle Corporation leading a variety of marketing initiatives.