Trends come and go. Some are followed slavishly while others are deservedly ignored. However, keeping an astute and wary eye on what’s in, what’s out, what’s a waste of time – and particularly on what your competitors are doing, is important. But what remains certain, is change. And change is emerging more through technology than fashion. What might be popular now is perhaps less ‘trendy’ and rather the forerunner of the future.
Customer Journey Mapping: Every customer has a history of purchases. Today, every move is data-captured, filed, coded, analysed, and set into a giant bank of algorithms. What any person has liked, clicked, inquired about and ultimately purchased, is recorded. This is the ‘map’ of the customer’s mind and experience. It is invaluable for all kinds of marketing, but particularly digital marketing. It highlights the most relevant communications and experiences at different touch-points in the customer’s purchasing journey. Its value lies in the insight it provides marketers on how customers think and how they prefer to receive information. Marketers are then able to improve the effectiveness of their digital marketing strategy by engaging the customer more fully and enhancing the experience of a brand.
Lifecycle Marketing: By following the digitalised ‘map’ of a customer’s history, marketers are given a view of an individual’s lifestyle – what they wear, what they like, what they aspire to. It’s easier to persuade within the context of the customer’s life experiences, and to gage how they may interact with any particular brand. Changes in interests are noted and moves to other brands captured, enabling marketers to choose a range of applicable marketing channels while using persuasive techniques such as personalised messaging. The map and the lifestyle give marketers incomparable windows into who to target with what and when.
Personalisation: So now you have a history of your customers’ thoughts and how their lives are influenced by needs, desires and dreams – you are in a very good position to devise communication that will connect with them on an individualised and personal level. In this way you can increase the relevance of your communications to your customer – and their response. You are able to make a more empathic connection, using the data that describes your customer’s likes and interests. This type of one on one engagement works to enhance your customer’s experience of your brand without giving the impression that you are just trying to make a sale.
Contextual Marketing: Once you have all the above ammunition, you can drill down into this information with almost hair-splitting precision. Driven by the insights afforded by big data, including market and customer analysis, you land up with predictive analytics – which simply means you are able to understand the context in which consumers seek to engage with your brand. Once you know their mind, and can get ahead with regard to their intent, you can drive the conversation. You will engage with them within the context of their experience, their feelings and the decisions they are most likely make. You’ll be in the same place, on the same page, and speaking the same language. No greater place for successful communication. For marketers, contextual marketing is not a trend, it’s the future.
Social Purpose: Something that is more than a trend is the changing world. The Internet has opened up communication across the globe and people are more aware of issues and causes, and the precious cargo of the planet. No matter how close you get to your customer, it’s vital that you uphold a set of values as important to you as sales. As many as 80% of consumers would prefer to make a purchase from a company that has a proven social responsibility programme. This should be seen as more than just leverage but an authentic core throughout the company’s operations. Purpose-driven marketing is a way to create engaging conversations with customers – but their preference is socially responsible entities that produce results.
What’s in, what’s out
Content Marketing: Still trending simply because it remains the key format to reaching your customer. It’s your most strategic resource in gaining, captivating and sustaining attention. Using all the techniques as mentioned, marketers are now able to devise even more useful customer-centric communication using different media and developing specialised content for different audiences. Content marketing remains the most effective way to establish a conversation and build relationships. The rules also remain the same: generate high-quality, relevant content and optimise your site to enable customers to participate in the content you are sharing. Their feedback gives you even more leverage in your ‘social listening’ skills to bring ever more effective strategies to your engagement.
Video: The predictions of around 18 months ago that video would reign supreme, have not really come to pass. It is still a popular medium and has to be included in channel options, but all other avenues remain relevant and powerful. YouTube still remains king in this arena, but videos still need to carry a strong element of entertainment – which is expensive. Video also requires time to watch – and consumers are busy. Shorter, direct, and less fussy is cheaper and quicker and allows more options for response.
Augmented Reality (AR): This means that real world experiences can be augmented by computer-generated embellishments that use sound, video, graphics, etc. It does not blur reality so much as make things more delineated and attention-grabbing, and perhaps more informative by enhancing what we see, feel, hear and smell. AR is close to the real world and brings the potential of your interaction with it a little closer. This technique may become useful to marketers as sensors, placed throughout a customer’s search experience, continue to monitor what people might want to see and feel more richly. It has the possibility of taking content marketing to a new level.
Social Media: Engagement with customers through social media still remains prime, although there are ground shifts that need to be noted. Instagram is growing in popularity while Twitter is taking a nosedive. Linkedin has upped its game while Facebook has reached, for the moment, a comfortable platform. All streams are viable and useful depending on how you want to use them, but if you are using your customer mapping resources intelligently, you will know what to choose and when.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
So you have already mapped your customer to deliver an individualised experience. Your communication has been primed, timed and aligned to meet every expectation and inclination. And AI has helped you reach this exciting moment. But now the engagement must be truly facilitated. Enter the Chatbot. Chatbots are taking over the human touch in what is hopefully the most humanlike way, bringing about thousands of conversations that are designed to connect, engage, problem-solve and promote company brands. Chatbots are a smart, cost-effective way of integrating various tools and services to personalise service with precision, efficiency and results – tracking information and collating data as they go along.
Information with regard to website visits, browsing patterns, search history and content preferences create customer profiles, and from these marketers can customise their messages. But more than that, AI will allow behavioural marketing data to build segments, start and stop campaigns across various channels, and customise content to target specific personalities. AI will be in full communication with thousands of customers on a personalised basis that will ultimately allow marketers to engage more effectively. To be fair, with the expansion of channel selection, it becomes difficult to manage one to one communications on all these options at the same time. Chatbots will be designed to improve the customer’s experience and build a positive interaction with the brand.
AMcomms: Ahead of the curve
We believe that picking up quickly on new initiatives is a sensible approach. However, trends can become boring – and that’s the last thing we want. Being an ‘also ran’ is not on our agenda. Trendsetting is rather our game – and every so often we leverage ideas off trends that create new perspective and give us fresh impetus. Ideas that put us – if not ahead – then in a place a little more quirky and interesting. We can buck a trend. Yes, we can. We can take it, shake it, and make it our own, which is far more ingenious and useful. And very personal.
Please visit us at: www.thecandocompany.co.za