Ask any marketer how they plan to accomplish their goal of improving customer retention and loyalty and almost without exception they will say, “Better personalization and automation.” That’s code for “We’re not treating our customers like we know them.”
In today’s world where personal curation of products is so high—Design your own tennis shoes! Watch anything, anytime, anywhere! Get vitamins personalized to your gene profile!—expectations of brands to seamlessly communicate with customers is at an all-time high. Missteps can be costly. Just search #[YourBrandName]Fail for a quick sampler.
So how do you systematically get better at personalization and automation? Where do you start to ensure the basic building blocks are in place in order to get to what feels like a personally curated experience across channels?
It starts with responding to behaviors. Behaviors that as a brand you either want to accelerate or, in some cases, want to mitigate. Digital marketing is flooded with these indicators and timely responses to them can have a great impact on the customer experience and ultimately the success of your program.
Imagine the experience of these two customers:
Customer #1 is a multiple-time purchaser on the way to becoming a high-value customer. They open and click on most of the emails you send them, has downloaded your mobile app, and has signed up for push and SMS messages.
Customer #2 has never purchased. They haven’t opened or clicked on an email in six months and while they’ve signed up to receive SMS messages, they haven’t clicked on any of them within the past month.
Sending the same generic content to each of these customers is risky for different reasons. For Customer #1, you risk driving them away, given how much information you know about them but aren’t using to customize their experience. And for Customer #2, you risk that they will remain disengaged, because if they’ve not responded to the generic approach for the last six months…why would that change?
When customers are behaving uniquely, they should be treated uniquely.
To speak more directly to your individual customers, the key is listening and then responding. To power your personalization and automation efforts, ask yourself: What types of signals are customers sending me that I can action on?
Here are some common actions that can trigger a response from you:
Abandonment actions. Whether it’s the abandonment of a shopping cart, website browsing, or an app interaction, timely reminders to encourage the completion of an action will likely be some of the most effective messages you send. Love your re-targeting program for these events and it will love you back.
Cross-channel engagement rates. If a customer tends to respond in one channel but not another, look at favoring their preference. For instance, perhaps Customer #2 above shouldn’t be sent email at all, but rather only SMS messages because they respond more often to those messages.
Cross-channel engagement patterns. When are customers engaging with you across each of your channels? For example, using functionality like send time optimization uses historical data that can help optimize when messages are sent that more align with your customers’ shopping schedules rather than your marketing production schedule.
Content engagement. Your email and mobile content should be tagged to allow you to profile preferences on what each subscriber has clicked on, and therefore interested in. Re-target them with similar or complementary content to spur additional engagement.
Silence. That’s right, no signal is a signal. Inaction, disengagement, and disinterest are behaviors that we want to mitigate. Stop treating that segment the same as your engaged audience and shake things up. For instance, consider pausing messaging for a month, only sending them messaging during key selling seasons, or stop sending them promotional messages and instead send them a win-back campaign that may include a rich incentive.
Keep in mind that setting up messaging to respond to behaviors is just the start. Automated campaigns should be regularly A/B tested and optimized over time. Optimization should focus on content, number of messages, timing, and frequency. There’s no shortage of things to test, but testing insights are like compound interest: The earlier you start, the greater the payoff is long term.
Responding to customer interactions is a great way to start treating your customers like you know them. Even if some of these tactics are live in your customer experience now, think about adding more and optimizing those in market already.
Read Part 2 of this series to see How "Creating a Single Brand Experience Can Grow Relationships."
Clint Kaiser is the Head of the Analytic & Strategic Services team at Oracle Digital Experience Agency. His background in the email marketing space includes 20 years of experience with ESPs and digital agencies. His analytical approach to driving change in digital marketing is reflected in his quantitative approach to improving clients' business outcomes.