Over the last decade, the consumer shopping experience has changed significantly. The traditional purchase funnel was once a linear progression, predictable and controlled. It started with awareness and consideration (through ads, mailers, and catalogs) that led to taking action via limited options (visit a store, sales rep, call a 1-800 number). Customers were then retained via service and rewards programs.
The advent of digital media has helped to create a non-linear and multichannel marketplace fueled by community. Social media, mobile, online search, email and digital broadcast has led to many additional challenges, as well as opportunities.
The retailers who best understand and embrace this paradigm shift will be the ultimate winners. Fragmentation requires a refined communication strategy. By leveraging digital marketing and communication strategies to match consumer behavior, retailers can expect more customers, stronger sales and increased client loyalty. Here are four ways to take advantage of these additional consumer touch points in order to increase branding and direct response metrics:
1. Embrace Service as the New Selling: Today’s customers can be finicky and less brand loyal. They have multiple forums in which to complain, and they expect retailers to respond to them via their method of choice. Businesses need to actively listen outside their customer contact centers. By embracing social media as an avenue to engage their customers, business can —
- salvage dissatisfied customers with proactive and timely customer service outreach
- galvanize loyal customers with praise and rewards
- win new customers with the earned media exposure through additional social sharing and views
2. Personalize and Reward the Customer: Sending an evergreen message to your customers when you have a wealth of data on them just isn’t smart. Segmenting your database into specific audience groups allows you to provide more targeted messaging and offers. Personalize as much as possible, and look to reward the customer for their loyalty to ensure repeat business and a greater lifetime value. Knowing the customer means more than just knowing their name. Learn their purchase patterns, behaviors and preferences to understand how best to interact with them.
3. Build Engaged Brand Communities: By building niche communities of highly engaged customers, retailers can learn how best to improve their marketing based on customer feedback. Social listening can provide valuable insight into what customers want, need and desire. Leveraging digital medias to interact with these communities is relatively simple and very powerful. Niche Facebook communities, forums, and email all present ways to increase communication.
4. Leverage Cross-Channel: Because customers are interacting with your brand across multiple media and touch points, it is important to present a consistent and integrated strategy for maximum impact. For example, let’s say you were looking to drive your customer database for future marketing and communication efforts. Rather than simply asking for an email address at the point-of-sale, why not run an integrated campaign across social media, mobile and email? If connecting via a mobile device, tailor the message accordingly, "Text us your email address and we’ll send you a special offer to..." This same promotion could be presented on your Facebook business Timeline for customers who "like" you. A more holistic approach of unified customer communication, customized to each touch point, will drive stronger performance.
The new digital world is evolving at a very fast clip. Those retailers who adapt their marketing and communication strategies with their consumers are the ones who will maintain the strongest customer loyalty and grow sales and market share. Embrace the change; your customers certainly are.