In a company, the term “culture” is often defined by qualities such as an organization’s business values, overarching mission statement, operational style, working languages, technology and operating systems, personality traits and in-office habits. Basically I tend to think of a company’s culture as the delicate balance among those inexplicable qualities that make your employees do the things they do. It’s those traits that cannot always be written down on paper that often make employees and their company culture stand out amidst a crowd of “so-so” performers. And it’s often what keeps customers happy and coming back year and after.
Take, for example, a global footwear brand. This brand’s primary foothold may have been from brick-and-mortar stores around the U.S. But as consumers quickly ditch in-store shopping in favor of the speed, ease of use, convenience and massive array of product options made possible by online and mobile devices, a brand’s digital marketing culture matters, a lot. It can make all the difference in customer engagement and loyalty on one level. But most important, it can also very drastically impact actual sales figures and revenue across multiple channels. So let’s look at some of the prevailing digital “values” that could either help or hurt a brand’s bottom line.
The “other” dominates our attention. We spend our marketing dollars and resources in search of ways to “one-up” our competitors.
We see this a lot among brands. The marketplace is highly competitive these days. Consumer budgets are drastically lower, since the 2008 financial collapse. Attention spans and free time are often very limited. Consumers, in turn, demand much more from their experiences with brands, regardless of where these experiences occur and what devices they are using.
Because of these challenges, we often see brands looking to digital marketing to move the engagement and revenue needles in the right direction. But then they get stuck because their digital focus becomes all about showmanship and facing off in a tit-for-tat competition with others in their same space. What good will that approach do? Not much. It will only make your customers feel more frustrated, less appreciated and more unlikely to interact with your brand. If you can’t make every single interaction and experience customers have with your brand a positive, engaging and intuitive one—whether it’s in-store, online, mobile, social or email—you should expect to say goodbye to them relatively quickly.
We can no longer envision “big ideas” and creative marketing without the support of big data.
There once was a time when the “creative” process of branding and marketing was left solely to agencies and their teams of art directors, creative designers, copywriters and everyone else who spent a good portion of their days drawing and sketching out brand concepts and stories. On the other side of the proverbial “brand” table sat the numbers and analytics “geeks,” as they were often called. These teams would crunch numbers, run hundreds of equations, and compile long and arduous Excel® sheets.
Well, that divisive line between creative and data is no longer existent. To be a brand that’s challenging the status quo, inspiring consumers to smile, laugh, cry and even debate what’s acceptable, as well as getting consumers to spend more time and more money with them, we have to use data to support those “big ideas.”
No two consumers will ever want an identical experience, so we continually test and learn.
A recent poll by Korn/Ferry among senior executives indicates that 53 percent of them believe their companies should allocate budget to explore new marketing channels through a “test-and-learn” approach, in order to remain competitive; but half of the respondents feel that their marketing departments do not receive enough budget to do so.
Can chief marketing officers transform the way they market by simply employing a test-and-learn philosophy? Well, yes and no. Let me explain. If a brand is simply going to try a bunch of random “tactics” without any real reason or purpose behind them, there won’t be much value in it. Just look at how many brands these days are jumping headfirst into the responsive-design game. They’re doing it because they are being told by either the C-level executive team or the board of directors that mobile is where they need to be. So they go after a quick fix and rush into responsive design without any real thought, strategy or testing behind it. That’s a big mistake.
On the other hand, the real value of a test-and-learn digital culture lies in being patient, spending the time to analyze all of the data available (CRM, online, mobile and social), and identify what’s working and what’s falling through the cracks. That allows you to formulate a very calculated and strategic hypothesis and then test against that, until you can create an experience—be it online or mobile or social—that’s as relevant, seamless, easy to use and engaging as possible.
As mobile devices continue their gains in popularity and usage worldwide, more consumers are interacting with brands at various stages of the buying life cycle—from browsing, researching and comparing products to reading reviews, sharing their experiences and making actual purchases. The digital affinity of consumers, who once were bound by a very tactile customer experience of seeing and touching products in-store, has put a lot of pressure on CMOs to become the boss of their online customer experience.
While being a CMO connotes leadership and authority, it doesn’t inherently mean brands need to be forceful or intimidating in how they speak with their online customers. What does work is a smarter and more nuanced approach to listening to their customers’ explicit actions and using those actions to become more relevant to each individual customer. Brands that get this approach see it pay off with greater respect, trust, loyalty and, of course, revenue.
So to help CMOs master their online customer experience, I have outlined five surefire rules they should follow to get customers to respect, trust and spend more dollars more often with them across multiple channels.
Rule #1: Don’t shout and bulldoze your customers into clicking and buying.
In the traditional model of sales, salespeople often acted and operated under the premise that being louder, pushier and more forceful was the way to win over, or bulldoze, consumers to get them to say “yes.” There was a notion that salespeople could wear down consumers into succumbing to their will and, as a result, get them to make a purchase.
While that approach may have resulted in a one-time sell, we would all agree that it isn’t the most effective way to generate repeat, long-term loyalty and purchases from customers. Today’s customers have almost limitless choices and options at their disposal. If they can’t find a product in-store, they can easily and quickly type, click, tap and purchase away on a number of competing online sites. If they’re strapped for time, they don’t have to wait (for hours) to get in front of their desktop/laptop computer at home. Instead, they can browse, compare and shop from thousands of product options on a brand’s mobile-optimized site directly from their iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, Apple iPad or Google Nexus tablet.
Even more than convenience, consumers aren’t as easily swayed by hyperbole, outlandish claims or dubious offers. Brute force and fear are no longer profitable strategies. It’s the brands that are authentic, humble and real that get consumers to keep their eyes (and hands) on their online and mobile sites longer and ultimately clicking through multiple areas of the site to the checkout or to request a quote.
Perhaps more important, it is almost impossible to guess at what ideas and appeals will resonate most with your buyers and entice them to buy. Lower costs? Free shipping? Sustainable materials? Thirty-day guarantees? Bigger images? Different CTA? Guess if you want. But the only way to truly know for sure what attracts your customers is to test and learn what they really want. More important, it is to use the big data from your tests to tailor what you’re saying, doing and offering across all devices. The most successful online marketers aren’t browbeating; they’re influencing by showing value. They are experimenting and exploring all the time.
Rule #2: Listen to your customers and make their lives simpler and more productive.
The reality is that customers will be more accepting and responsive to messages and offers that have real value. If there is no perceived value, they’ll click away without batting an eye. At the end of the day, consumers want the same thing from the online customer experience as they do from the products they’re buying. Simply put, it needs to solve a problem. If your customer experience isn’t solving a problem for your customers, you’ve got a big problem on your hands, and all the fancy design work you can imagine (and spend money on) won’t make any difference.
The key to rule #2 is not to guess at what problem drove the customers to your site. Instead, it is to serve up only what your customers truly want based on what you know about them as well as what they have previously asked or searched for. Recommend products that make sense for them, not for you as a brand. By listening to your customers’ needs and digital footprints, you can tell a lot about them and what types of messaging and offers are likely to resonate with them and make them more willing to spend money repeatedly across all devices with your brand.
Rule #3: Be in more than one place at a time.
Consumers don’t just look for and buy products in one place. They’re using multiple devices simultaneously throughout their day and juggling dozens of activities at once. In this “Age of the Customer,” the adage of “I can’t be in two places at one time” no longer rings true. For brands that want to get customers to experience and interact with them and their products/services consistently and repeatedly, it’s important to be in more than one place at a time and deliver a consistently great experience in all of these channels.
Rule #4: Never pistol-whip new visitors.
For your website’s home page, the easy way out is to display three, four or even five offers, rotating in sequence. On the surface, it makes sense: The more “stuff” you show, the better your chances are of finding something that a given customer may like. Better yet, it also satisfies all those internal groups that are clamoring for exposure on the website.
However, this approach is problematic because the data shows that few visitors (other than your internal teams) ever get to the end of your rotating banners on your home page. This is because there is an average of a 50 percent drop-off after each banner. Experience also shows consumers do not have the time or the patience to wait for the right offer to appear. It’s much more effective to test home page offers (to quiet those internal groups) and use that data to personalize the offer based on who is visiting your website.
Rule #5: Cement boots do not create loyalty.
In all cases, you will make more money across multiple channels from customers who return again and again. The long-term revenue opportunity lies in building trust and loyalty with visitors who keep coming back and recommend your site to their network of friends and family.
What is the best way to get customers to sign up for newsletters or emails? What should you say in your follow-up communication to customers? Should you offer exclusive products or discounts? How should you greet repeat visitors and what should you offer them? Have you tested and experimented with this content? These are all great questions brands should be asking themselves when optimizing their online presence.
There’s a reason why Amazon garners such incredible repeat business. The online giant understands which groups of consumers they are actively selling their products to and integrates those consumers’ digital history, preferences, behaviors and actions into their customer experience across all devices. If brands want to learn anything from Amazon, it should be that engagement across multiple channels is less about muscle and more about smarter marketing.
No matter where you look, brands are all trying to crack the code of having a two-way conversation with their customers wherever they are – be it in-store, online, on a smartphone, on a tablet or on social media. It’s a constant struggle for brands to make themselves be seen and heard above all the noise that’s out there, especially when their “prime” consumers have minimal attention spans and are far less forgiving of faulty, uninspired experiences with brands.
However, brand loyalty online can be much more fleeting than it is offline. Stop and think about some of the online brands that have your devoted loyalty (no matter what sins they may occasionally commit). What Google, Amazon and Facebook all have in common is that they’ve built their entire customer experience across all devices and all channels around customers’ trust and respect. For many of us (myself included), it would take a lot to sway my trust, respect and loyalty away from these three online giants.
When brands commit customer experience sins such as excessively slow page loads, page flickers, and irrelevant messages and offers, the cost can be more than just how consumers feel about and speak of your brand. It can actually decrease their likeliness to click through a brand’s website or mobile site, and lead to a willingness to go to a competitor’s site. That is what we saw in the “Mobilizing the Retail Shopping Experience” research study. One of the most important findings of the study revealed that 39 percent of consumers would leave and visit a competitor’s mobile site if their customer experience expectations were not met. Meanwhile, another 23 percent would return less often if the mobile experience were deemed poor. If that’s just the scenario on mobile retail sites, just think about all of the e-commerce sites and brands that rely on the Internet to drive traffic, click throughs, newsletter sign-ups and purchases. Here are three secrets to help brands have a two-way conversation with their customers online.
Don’t treat every customer the same.
Smart marketers realize that painting their entire web and mobile audience with the same brush is no longer a valid strategy. With so much data available about a visitor’s digital behavior and preferences, it’s unfortunate that there are still brands out there with one-size-fits-all customer experiences. Say a visitor is sitting in front of their laptop on a Sunday night and while searching Google for Prada heels, this visitor is served up an ad with multiple fashion sites with a variety of shoe options that will make this visitor swoon. When this same visitor returns to one of the fashion sites, wouldn’t it be more effective to personalize and differentiate the messages and offers she sees? That’s the power of personalization: It not only gets a first-time visitor to click on a home page and navigate through product pages to the final “buy now” purchase moment, but it also gets returning visitors to come back repeatedly for multiple purchases.
Show and tell customers why you’re better and right for them.
While consumers may have been to your site before, they are not experts in every single product that your brand makes and what differentiates those products/prices from competitors. How is it that Amazon can offer millions of products, yet it makes customers feel like it knows the certain products that they may want either by showing products to others like myself who have already purchased, or similar products typically sold alongside the items I just added to my shopping cart? It’s all about being smart and attentive to the customers’ needs and preferences.
Stop talking and listen to your customers.
In this “Age of the Digital Customer,” everything consumers like and don’t like is being tracked socially on places such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. But for brands, the real opportunity lies in the data obtained from consumer interactions on these social media sites. By incorporating Facebook data into the entire digital experience, brands can develop richer, more relevant customer profiles and, in turn, be more personal and targeted in the messaging and offers shown to these consumers. That means the experience becomes more than just a social experience. It becomes authentic, meaningful and sustainable.
As more and more marketers are discovering, it’s impossible to think about any digital or e-commerce strategy without acknowledging the critical importance of the overall Hispanic population on today’s electronic marketplace. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 17 percent of the U.S. population identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino, comprising more than 53.4 million, or nearly one in six Americans. What’s more, the Hispanic sector is the fastest-growing ethnic segment in the U.S., accounting for more than half the growth in U.S. population between 2000 and 2010, rising from 35.3 million in 2000 to 50.5 million in 2010. By some estimates, Hispanics will outnumber all other cultural groups in the U.S. by 2050. In fact, there are more Hispanics in the U.S. than in any other country in the world, save for Mexico.
Just as brick-and-mortar retailers have recognized the growing purchasing power, shopping preferences and influence of this vigorous and fast-growing demographic, online marketers too are beginning to see the value of personalizing and customizing every customer experience to better serve their individual needs. So then I ask myself a simple but very important question: Are CMOS acting like mobile and social “agents” for Hispanic shoppers and giving them exactly what they want (i.e., online content, messaging, images, offers) in the right way on the right channels at the right times and places? It comes down to a CMO’s willingness and ability to listen to and observe what customers are doing online, what types of sites they are visiting, what types of keywords they are searching for online, their purchasing behaviors and the like. The failure to listen can have the most negative consequences on brand engagement, loyalty and most important, online and mobile sales.
Think in experiences, not channels.
According to the Terra Third Hispanic Digital Consumer Study by comScore, Hispanics have actually outpaced non-Hispanics in the adoption of smartphones, increasing from 43 percent in 2010 to 57 percent in 2012. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), 46 percent of online Hispanics over the age of 18 regularly shop online, compared to just 43 percent of general market online users.
Even more interesting is that Hispanics tend to use their smartphones to research and make purchases more than non-Hispanic consumers in every category. In fact, Hispanics are highly likely to leverage social, mobile and other online resources in their buying decisions, and in fact, are even bypassing the traditional PC-online route in exchange for the convenience of “always on, always connected” smartphones and tablets. As Walgreens CMO Graham Atkinson stated so profoundly at the Forrester Customer Experience Forum East in New York City last month: “Omni-channel is an experience strategy, not a fulfillment strategy.” To put that in simple terms, customers don’t think in channels; they think about the experience as a whole. Does the mobile site look like a duplicate, yet shrunken, version of a brand’s online site? Do the images and pages on a brand’s mobile site take more than 7 seconds to load? Is the brand’s Checkout button large and easy to find? Does the home page feel cluttered and make it difficult to find and use the search bar? All of these questions need to be asked when a brand is looking to optimize their site to be as informative, relevant and easy to use on mobile devices. If it isn’t, you can bet consumers won’t think twice about visiting a competitor’s site or even clicking away forever from all of your digital channels.
To be sure, Hispanics are not a monolithic and homogenous market. The group actually embraces dozens of different nationalities, cultures and identities, including about three out of every five Hispanics who were actually born in the U.S. As a result, buying habits and patterns may vary significantly depending on their country of origin and local community.
Oddly enough, relatively few mainstream e-commerce marketers make specialized efforts to personalize and tailor their presence across multiple channels to better serve the needs of this hyper-connected and demanding market. Some major sites, such as insurer Progressive, are setting the bar high in terms of creating customer experiences that are authentic, engaging, relevant and useful for mobile buyers.
While your site may be well designed for full-screen viewing on a PC, it may be difficult and impractical to view on a smartphone or tablet. Is the navigation practical? Are the products and options presented meaningfully on a small screen? Should you parse and meter the content differently?
Depending on the nature of your site, it may pay to invest in a so-called “responsive design” that automatically adjusts to the viewing device, allowing for a coherent experience on anything from a 4-inch smartphone to tablet, to PC—or deploy a separate, specially built layout designed strictly for mobile devices.
In addition, it would be smart to thoroughly test and experiment with your mobile presentation to discover possible obstacles, sticking points and other issues that may affect the mobile users’ experience. In the constrained space of a mobile device, you may need different tactics and approaches to ensure a seamless and frictionless experience. What works on the PC may fail on a smartphone.
People don’t engage with brands; they engage with a purpose.
Earlier this year, Gustavo Razzetti, EVP and managing director of Lapiz, the Latino unit of digital agency Leo Burnett, wrote in Clickz: “Social media has become so big that sometimes we forget to approach it as part of the overall marketing strategy. Successful brands have a holistic approach rather than approaching social media as a stand-alone tactic. We know that Latinos show a higher engagement with brand pages versus non-Hispanics. But that doesn’t mean that they will follow any brand. People don’t engage with brands. People engage with a purpose. And the most successful case studies are precisely those that embrace this approach.”
Now consider the fact that the Pew Hispanic Center found that 68 percent of Latino Internet users say they regularly use Facebook, Twitter and other social media, compared to just 58 percent of all U.S. Internet users. Perhaps even more relevant for online marketers is that Hispanics are actually more likely to seek advice and opinion before making a purchase, including both face-to-face and mobile and social channels. This means brands need to take ownership of what social channels they are embracing, how they are communicating and interacting with these tech-savvy consumers, and what purpose they fulfill. Otherwise, counting the millions of likes a brand gets on Facebook is just an empty metric if brands don’t, in one way or another, drive consumers to click more, read more and essentially spend more across multiple channels—be it in-store, online or mobile.
With more advanced personalization and optimization strategies, it’s now possible for brands to modify and customize the customer experience across multiple channels—in terms of messaging, tone and content—based on where the visitor is coming from, be it Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or another referring site. The result can make for a smoother transition between social and commerce, a low-friction journey toward purchase.
Never stop testing and learning.
Depending on a brand’s particular offer and target market, including a Spanish-language path for customers, may be worth testing and refining. However, you might discover that a simple language translation of your site may not be optimal; messages and elements that perform well in English may not work as well when simply recast in Spanish. It may indeed call for separate optimization and refinement. Should your buttons, calls to action and checkout processes be tweaked and adjusted for different language or cultural sensibilities? Only real-world testing can provide definitive answers.
I had a chance to sit down with Luke Hohmann, founder of Conteneo, Inc. and creator of Innovation Games® and Knowsy® to discuss how serious games are changing Sales and Marketing teams at major brands. The following is a transcript of our conversation.
PD: Talk a little bit about what is a “serious” game. How does that differ from just a game?
LH: A serious game is a game that we play to solve a business problem as opposed to any other kind of game typically played for entertainment purposes. When I’m playing Scrabble with my wife on a Saturday night, we’re just enjoying the company and the time together, and there’s nothing really serious about it. When I play a serious game, I’m trying to solve some kind of a business problem like managing a complex sale or developing a product-marketing plan.
PD: Why are they becoming so popular? What’s driving the popularity of some of these games?
LH: The reason serious games are becoming so popular is because we’re learning that when people are playing games, their brain is literally in a different state. When you’re playing a game like Angry Birds, tiny amounts of dopamine are released every time you achieve the next level in the game or create a new high score. This dopamine, in turn, makes you happy and motivates you to play more – achieve the next level, reach a new high score.
We’re finding we can take some of those feelings of positivity that occur when people accomplish a goal and put them into a work context. For example, let’s say you need to make choices on where you’re going to invest your marketing dollars across various social media challenges. This is a classic portfolio management question.
Unfortunately, traditional ROI approaches to portfolio management often leaves you feeling beat up and hollow when you’re done, because you’re trying to argue about uncertain futures using only half of your brain.
Our collaborative games-based approach to making these choices leaves you and your entire team feeling energized because in the game you can explore both ROI and non-ROI factors to selecting your social media investments. When you achieve the goal, you’re going to feel great about the result, because along the way the game will induce your brain to release some dopamine while you’re playing.
That’s similar with Knowsy in the sales context. A traditional way that strategic sales managers determine the priorities of a buyer or get a group of stakeholders that influences the buying decision aligned is usually a sequence of painful meetings in which salespeople interrogate their prospects. Knowsy shortens the buyer alignment process by engaging buyers in a meaningful, collaborative and fun activity that results in people feeling good about the alignments that they’ve created and the paths they agreed to take. And yup, the dopamine released during the game, and the behavioral economics theory that underpins the choices in the game, all help your sales team close complex deals faster.
PD: Let’s go into some examples of how sales teams have solved potential business problems.
LH: One of our clients, Serena Software, makes a software application that help large companies manage the flow and upgrade of other software applications on mainframe systems. So if you’re a bank or insurance company and you have an old mainframe system you want to update, Serena makes software that makes the upgrading process easier. Typically, Serena’s sales involve a number of influencers: the CIO, the head of application development, the head of data security, the head of operations, all of whom need to be comfortable that Serena is the right solution to not only meet their corporate IT needs but also their individual departmental priorities. The traditional approach of a salesperson trying to make that sale is like herding cats and chasing after one-on-one meetings. The salesperson spends inordinate amount of time setting up interviews to understand individual stakeholder’s priorities, one at a time. Of course, when the salesperson brings the group together, he must present a slide deck that magically shows how his solution is going to meet everyone’s number-one priority.
But if you look at the discussion in that room that ensues, it is slow and painful, because suddenly the buyers realize that while they might know their own individual priorities, they probably do not know the priorities of their peers. And they think: “We’d better talk about our shared priorities, because if we are going to purchase Serena’s solution, it will affect everyone, but individually and as a team. So we’d better figure out what our priorities are and how we want to go forward.” The most effective salespeople know that they need to skillfully facilitate that meeting so the sales process doesn’t stall or slow down due to lack of internal customers’ alignment.
What Knowsy does is it tackles that situation head on. When you’re in a complex sale, the salesperson calls his prospects and says I want to have this meeting. I want to bring in the key players into the room. And I’m going to lead you through a guided activity that will reveal your priorities and help you reach alignment as a team. When that’s done, if the priorities of the group are such that my solution can be useful, we’ll figure it out and we’ll move forward. If it’s not, we’ll discover this soon enough as a team.. Either way, we all win because the priorities of the individual stakeholders will be revealed, and we’ll be able to see if there’s internal alignment to progress down the buying process.
PD: Let’s go to marketing team. Can you give us some examples of how either a corporate team or maybe even a product team might use Knowsy?
LH: Even though Knowsy is a tool for salespeople, we’re finding that the people who are bringing our tool into their organizations are, in fact, marketing departments. The marketing team tells us two things. One, they’re never in the room with the salespeople when the salespeople are reviewing prospects’ needs and, therefore, they’re never really sure what messages are resonating, what are the important trends and what are the important priorities. The idea behind Knowsy is that by playing this game in a fun and engaging way, you’re actually feeding a real-time database that the marketing team can use.
On the flipside, the other thing that the marketing departments that we’ve been working with have told us repeatedly is that they have expertise and a point of view about their industry that they want to communicate. Many marketing departments want to establish their employees as thought leaders. So what we do in Knowsy is we take those thought leaders and we put their opinions into the platform about what a prospect might do in a certain situation. Prospects can compare their opinions individually and/or as a team with recognized thought leaders from the company or the industry.
What that does is it lets the marketing department promote thought leadership in the most direct manner possible, which is when the buyers are most interested in hearing the opinion of an expert.
PD: Let’s switch to big brands. Can you give us some examples of how big brands are deploying serious games?
LH: A recent advergame that actually is doing very well is Plantville from Siemens. An advergame is a game that is an advertisement disguised as a game. In this case, Plantville is a thinly-veiled version of Farmville. In Plantville, you’re a facilities manager inside a manufacturing plant, building your plant and operating it using the same kind of principles of building and operating your farm in FarmVille. And by playing this simulation game, you learn about Siemens technologies that solve certain problems in plant management, and you can test your knowledge of how to be a good plant manager.
You might assume that the last thing someone who works in a plant all day would want to do is play a game where they operate and manage a plant – and you’d be wrong. What we’re finding is that some of the most-devoted users of Plantville are in fact plant managers of significant facilities who want to demonstrate through various game mechanics that they are really good at their job. Of course, in the process Siemens is getting tremendous brand goodwill and educating the players on new products and features. For example, a plant manager who has an existing set of equipment might not have an ability to explore the operating characteristics of new equipment. But in Plantville, they can try that new equipment and get a sense of what it would do or not do in a simulated environment. It’s a tremendous value to Siemens’ marketing department, of course, to deploy Plantville as a brand engagement tool that effectively reaches its target audience and communicates the features and benefits of Sieman’s products and services.
The Red Bull Wake Open in Tampa, Florida is the world’s largest Wake Boarding contest and they wanted to do something new and engaging from a guest experience perspective this year. So, after reviewing various mobile technologies they decided to partner Smartsy to incorporate Visual Recognition and User Generate Content into their branding and collateral to help make them more interactive and actionable.
The custom app was easy to use and built around Red Bull’s main priorities for the event: driving guest engagement, generating new content and building athlete awareness. To do this various functionality was incorporated that allowed users to unlock secret content from posters and wake board rider cards (think baseball cards for wake boarders!) that offered insider perspectives on the competing athletes and the event itself.
During the event the fans could also capture their own experiences and see themselves on the Jumbotron, which created a lot of good user generated content and buzz. They were also asked to vote for their favorite rider (electing who would be the official “Fan Favorite”).
In addition to that they could see content from previous Wake Opens, as well as share content over their social networks and follow their favorite riders on FB or Twitter.
Despite inclement weather at the event, held over two days in Tampa on July 5th and 6th, the app ended up with a lot of adoption and users provided very positive responses to the app. While Smartsy can’t disclose specific stats on the results, they can say that they experienced very strong voting numbers, sharing across social networks, content ‘liking’ and user generated content exceeded expectations, and received extremely high numbers of visual recognitions, especially on a per download basis. The feedback from both Red Bull and guests were that they loved the new experience and thought it was a really fun way for Red Bull interact with their fans.
Should every visitor to your website be treated the same? Should each customer see the exact same offers, options, products and pages?
The more forward-thinking online marketers recognize that “personalizing” each customer’s experience on their site can make a dramatic difference in ultimate sales, customer loyalty and long-term profitability of the business.
Fact is, in many markets, customers have actually come to expect individually tailored offers and experiences—based on who they are, what they’ve bought before or even how they have come to the site.
But exactly what should you personalize on the site? Which offers, products or promotions should you present to which customer? And how can you tell what each type of customer will respond to best?
When you know what you want to accomplish, you will be able to identify the right combination of technology, tools and strategy for personalizing each customer’s experience. Here is where to start:
Harness the Power of Big Data, Big Testing
The notion of big data holds great promise for finding ways to personalizing the Web experience for individual customers. The vast amounts of data on customer behavior and history that can be captured via the Web and be invaluable in making decisions about how the website should work, what customers respond to, and understanding the discrete segments in your customer base.
Marketers who can harness the power of big data will be able to make decisions based on evidence, rather than guesswork—giving them a distinct advantage over the competition.
Of course, making sense of huge volumes of data, which may be in different forms and come from different sources, is not so easy. What’s more, it’s also difficult to translate that information into “personalizations” that are meaningful and compelling to your customers.
That is where today’s more advanced tools come in.
The aggregation and use of big data are crucial to segmenting and targeting your individual customers with the appropriate experiences. It requires employing predictive behavioral targeting and optimization techniques to remove the complexity. Your systems need to make real-time digital decisions for the masses—anytime, anywhere.
Love Your Loyalty Programs
For most marketers, loyalty programs provide a wealth of personalized data on your most desirable customers. But once you’ve enrolled customers, what should you do with the data?
This data isn’t just for tracking points and past reservations. It can be used to digitally personalize the experience for each customer in real time. Initiatives like offers, promotions, calls to action, special prices—whether on your website, mobile site or app—can all be preselected or promoted based on each visitor’s unique profile. This tactic ensures visitors see content relevant only to their loyalty level and behavior. A better experience leads to higher loyalty.
With each loyalty program visitor who comes to your website comes their unique “virtual profile” that can—and should—be used to tailor their experience on your site, in real time. Insight on behaviors such as previous products researched, frequency of purchases, the nature of past purchases, and ads or offers they’ve clicked can inform what content and offers you should make available to each individual, and precisely when in the process.
Don’t Upsell or Cross-Sell Too Soon
One mistake marketers often make is automatically tagging on extras, such as upsells, options or accessory products, as their customers enter the booking funnel. The customer who already had a price in mind suddenly sees that number increase just as it’s time to purchase. By forcing these add-ons at the wrong time, you’re more likely to elevate annoyance levels than average sales.
With recommendations, upselling and cross-selling, timing is everything. Don’t be pushy up front; instead, leverage CRM and personalization data to get the right offer in the customer’s face at the right moment.
Ditch the Rules; Get Automated
While rules-based targeting may work, it won’t get you very far when you’re trying to personalize offers for millions of site visitors. It is virtually impossible to manually create rules that can handle the thousands of combinations of behaviors, products and promotions, for every single person.
The next best option (and next big idea) is automated personalization solutions. Advanced predictive models can dynamically serve content and offers based on a user’s current and past online behavior. This way, your visitors will always have the most relevant and appropriate experience on home pages, landing pages, search engine results pages, the booking funnel and every page in between. In the case of repeat visitors to your site, for example, you might retarget them with an offer based on their last purchase, or their last search, all in real time.
Making sure these tools are on hand can ultimately help the business build consumer-centric promotional strategies.
Sync Your Channels
Your customers don’t think in channels; they think in brands. So they expect the same personalized experience they get on your site to be on their smartphones, in their email and even on Facebook. Customer experience is the number one ticket to prolonged brand loyalty and engagement.
How does your brand look across channels? Is it 100 percent consistent, optimized and personalized? If not, you could be missing a golden opportunity to improve hotel, call center, direct mail, social and mobile experiences. No matter where they visit you, your brand experience should be ready. Thanks to automated technologies, you can more accurately predict a customer’s next interest and follow up with optimized, targeted messaging, no matter how, or through which channel, they access your brand.
Combining this data with CRM data in real time to drive sales and customer retention is the future. CRM practices were born and bred in the offline world, but today marrying offline, online and mobile consumer data through new technologies can help you achieve better CRM and multichannel marketing outcomes: more precise targeting, personalization and consumer connections across all media channels, and delivered at the time most appropriate to increasing conversion—a very important factor in online marketing.
Imagine being able to target your consumers across the various phases of purchase with different messages at research, selection, shipping and the like. Not only can you dramatically enhance and personalize their experience with your brand, but increased retention, loyalty and customer lifetime values also result from a truly connected multichannel experience.
Remember, personalization isn’t just marketing hype. It’s a complex concept that really can live up to its billing. But first, marketers must identify what personalization really means in their business—and what it means to their objectives, target customers and buying cycles.
When it comes to their websites, mobile sites, apps, social media and CRM platforms, the online industry must realize that only through a customized combination of multivariate testing, optimization and personalization best practices can they truly begin to reach consumers with personalization that is effective and full of impact. There are no easy answers or instant solutions for creating personalization that works. It’s about evolution rather than revolution.
According to Forrester Research, U.S. e-commerce sales are expected to hit $370 billion by 2017 – that’s 10 percent of retail sales. These are some pretty staggering figures that brands and their CMOs cannot afford to ignore. More than anything, it’s a harsh reminder of just how much revenue they stand to lose if they get the online experience wrong.
Consumers today are finicky and want what they want, now. Some place the highest premium on loyalty and trust in a brand or product. Others, bound by the unstable economy, prefer deep discounts and bargains. And then there’s the ever-growing population of consumers who are always connected and always on, thanks to their smartphones and tablets. As different as consumers are, they all want to feel like the brands and products they use are tailored specifically for them. By providing personalized, relevant and unique content in line with consumers’ likes and dislikes, purchase behaviors and demographic profiles, they’ll increase eyeballs to their online or mobile sites, boost traffic and, most important, drive short-term and long-term sales. Here are five reasons why CMOs cannot ignore the power of personalization any longer, or they may soon be shutting their doors.
Make data your best friend.
It’s unfortunate, but a lot of brands these days are still guessing their way through their website design and e-commerce strategy. As smart and creative as most brands think they are, the numbers don’t lie. Data can be one of the most inexpensive and smart listening tools a brand can have in its arsenal. I can’t stress enough the importance of brands analyzing what works and what’s missing the mark with all of their design changes through A/B and multivariate testing. That kind of data is more apt to deliver real insights into who their audience is, what types of content and information they want, and where they are making those purchases. All of those learnings, in turn, can result in increased clicks, higher conversion rates, more revenue and happier customers.
Reach the right audience.
What is the demographic profile of your primary customers? Are a significant portion of your online customers also smartphone and tablet owners? Does product pricing influence the purchase decisions of your customers? The identity of your customers, their demographic profiles, what types of information they value as well as when and where they are making purchases are all insights that can help you reach the right audience at the right time with the right content – whether it’s in the form of emails, product recommendations or social promotions. So doesn’t it make sense to test and optimize your website to reach the right audience at the right time with the right content?
Be relevant, unique and indispensable.
One of the best ways to attract and retain customers is to make your brand and products so relevant, unique and indispensable that they would suffer if they went elsewhere. According to Forrester’s 2012 North American Brand Performance Study, being indispensable commands greater preference, and that means a higher likelihood that customers are going to keep spending their hard-earned dollars with your brand across multiple channels. One way to satisfy consumers’ high standards is to make product recommendations as personal and strategic as possible. Showing the right products in the best way on the right pages can result in higher site traffic, longer engagement times on landing pages and more sales. That’s a win-win for both brands and consumers.
Smartphones and tablets drive e-commerce growth.
If you think investing the time, resources and dollars into testing and optimizing your site for smartphones and tablets isn’t that urgent, think again. According to eMarketer, 15 percent of online retail sales this year will take place via mobile devices, which is up from 11 percent in 2012. Overall, U.S. retail m-commerce sales are predicted to reach nearly $39 billion in 2013, up 56.5 percent from 2012 and almost triple the amount spent in 2011.
But not every smartphone and tablet is the same; each device type, model and platform comes with its own unique set of features and functions. Failing to optimize and personalize your website for the smaller screen could very well mean the difference between being profitable and going bankrupt.
Forge meaningful social relationships.
Social media has forever changed the way we use the Internet and consume information. Once considered to be a new “fad,” social media is now an integral part of consumers’ daily lives. A study by Forrester Research found that 45 percent of people on social networks have interacted with a brand through social media over the previous three months. It’s especially interesting to see that 71 percent of online adults are accessing social networking sites at least monthly.
Despite how popular and “cool” it’s become for brands to have a social presence on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, many have done so without any real strategy or testing behind them. How often do you hear brands bragging about reaching 1 million fans or “likes” on their Facebook page? But these metrics aren’t tied in any way to ROI and sales. Incorporating social data into your overall personalization program can convert those actions into leads and revenue. Isn’t that what really matters to your business?