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Business success is all about being aware of where the customer is on their journey

Once consumers feel connected, brands can selectively ask for more information and gradually build trust.

Office block in Belgravia, London, UK. Image by Tim Sandle
Office block in Belgravia, London, UK. Image by Tim Sandle

According to Wayne Coburn, Director of Product at Iterable, the future for brands and marketers will be turbulent as more and more consumer privacy laws take effect.

READ MORE: Third party data is dying, businesses need new strategies

In response, brands need to better learn how to leverage existing customer data to cultivate personalized and meaningful experiences, especially in a future business world void of third-party sources.

Coburn begins by looking at data, as he explains to Digital Journal: “I have two daughters. They’re awesome and adorable. Which is why I do not want them packaged up and sold as audiences on the open market. We don’t deserve to be bought and sold and targeted because we play Wordle every morning. As a grown adult, I know the New York Times has to monetize somehow. But they best not do it at my family’s expense. Sound like a familiar narrative? How about another one.”

Switching scope, Coburn laments: “CIA. MI6. Mossad. What do all these organizations have in common? Spying. But I expect these groups to be listening-in and surveilling. But I don’t expect companies to be doing the same. Brands and businesses that engage in surveillance marketing – the act of following consumers around the web and on social media platforms to send them creepily relevant advertising – need to stop. Unless they have a search warrant protecting or are protection our national security, I’d rather retail brands not spy on me and my family.”

Coburn  moves on to explain how he (and many consumers) feels about data sharing: “You know who I will share my data with? My wife. My family. My friends.  I like them. I trust them. By knowing more about me, these people make my life easier. My wife knows my shoe size, my style, and my food allergies, so when she’s at Costco, she can fill the cart with my favorite meals, a new pair of boots, and whatever swanky new Kirkland Signature items are available in a size large. I benefit from this exchange.”

This leads Coburn to conclude: “Which is precisely the point. I’m not intrinsically against the act of sharing my data with anyone – even brands. Especially if my quality of life is improved along the way.”

So, what should businesses do?

According to Coburn: “This is where personalization comes into play. Seventy-one percent of consumers (like myself) expect companies to deliver personalized interactions. And seventy-six percent get frustrated when this doesn’t happen. Personalized messaging and marketing makes consumers feel known, understood, and valued. When I receive the right message, at the right time, on the right channel, I’ll not only be more inclined to act on said message, but I’m confident that the brand is approaching me with intentionality.”

This leads to Coburn’s assertion: “Which is precisely the point. I do not refuse to share data with brands. Consumers do not mind sharing data with brands they trust, but they need an excuse to. And personalization is the excuse brands (and consumers) are looking for.”

Back to the Data

Businesses seeking to go down this new path need to plan properly, says Coburn. He recommends: “There are certain elements that brands need to identify before diving head-first into personalized marketing efforts. Good relationships require attentive listening and establishing trust. To do that with consumers, marketers need to ensure they are collecting the right data, using that data to send helpful, not creepy messages, and sending those messages when and where the customer prefers.”

This means: “It’s critical for brands to be able to capture detailed information—the right information—about customers in order to fuel their personalization efforts. Through zero- and first-party data collection, marketers can get information about the customer either from the customer themselves or pulled from the customer’s direct online experiences.”

As to how this is manifest into business strategy, Coburn states: “Armed with the customers’ individual information and preferences (think: location, age, clothing size, etc.), the next step is segmenting customers into groups. This segmentation may seem like the antithesis of personalization, but because the grouping is based on specific data points collected from each customer, there is still that ever-present level of customization. Plus, you can segment your audience down to each individual customer.”

Coburn’s main recommendation is: “Now that you have data, it’s time to send them a marketing message. But how can you be the most impactful? Focus on creating experiences that make people feel connected to that purpose.”

However, a degree of sophistication is required: “The right message goes beyond putting your customers’ names in the copy! It’s about being aware of where the customer is on their journey and weaving them into a story built just for them.”

The Right Data Pays Dividends

The next weave in the process, says Coburn, is selecting when to act: “Once consumers feel connected, brands can selectively ask for more information and gradually build trust. With trust will come that treasure trove of zero and first-party data that power personalization and, ultimately, drive revenue. Remember that toothpaste I mentioned? What if me buying toothpaste meant the brand pledged to plant trees? It’s simple, easy, and resonates with me, and I would be willing to give Proctor & Gamble some of my data so I can track my progress.”

There is also the issue of undertaking these tactics on a bigger plane. Here Coburn  observes: “Personalization at scale is not easy, and a 360 view of a customer is useless if you cannot connect it to your messaging. Brands need marketing platforms built from the ground up to use all of their data fully. They need platforms that will allow them to experiment to see what is working and what isn’t. They need platforms that use AI to augment the marketer and enable marketing teams to test, optimize, and personalize at scale to drive engagement, loyalty, and ever-increasing customer lifetime value.”

Coburn’s final recommendation is: “Or marketers can focus on grabbing consumers by the ankles and shaking them until all the change falls from their pockets. But if you do that, your consumers are guaranteed to go elsewhere.”

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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