The New Year is almost here, which means it’s time to roll out the annual lists of resolutions and trends. Our biggest prediction for 2016 is about creating and maintaining an exceptional customer experience. While your social media plan may be impressive, if your conversion rate is not as high as you would like, then it’s time to take a serious look at how customers are interacting with your brand, product or service.
We’ll get to that shortly, but let’s first talk about what trends typically emerge from your Google Analytics and social media dashboards. When we sort through year-over-year reports, we get excited to see sales were up for well-executed campaigns. But we often see that, the more things change, the more they stay the same in relation to seasonal sales cycles. Yes, your best marketing strategies actually can improve seasonal sales.
However, in spite of the deepest discounts or award-winning creative, B2B buyers and B2C consumers are also influenced by the economy, oil prices and even lousy customer service at retail stores and call centers. As a marketing manager, these variables are out of your control, but they often conspire to sabotage your best efforts.
That’s why it’s absolutely critical in 2016 that you do all you can to own customer service on the digital side. At the moment, “predictive personalization” is one of the best ways to ensure that customers have a high-quality online shopping experience that inspires them to continue coming back to your shopping cart.
Predictive Personalization for Customer Service
If you are already doing predictive personalization, great. You’re an early adopter who’s probably increasing market share. Way to go, trendsetter! If not, it’s seriously time to develop a strategy. Here is a list of other great sources on this topic here and here.
Many of us have been doing this without really knowing it. For example, we have a client who had a successful Black Friday sale in 2014 after we sent an e-blast with a 25% discount. In 2015, we offered the same discount because we predicted customers would respond positively.
In fact, it was another great sales event, but it was even better because we did a few things differently as part of a greater personalization strategy. We started by drilling down into our distribution list to segment customers based on geography and product preference and how we first engaged them. By segmenting those lists and personalizing the messages, we saw an increase in sales over the previous year. Yes, predictive personalization is as simple as that, but it gets more complicated and, thus, more rewarding.
We also began offering free shipping with orders of three or more products, plus a free product following orders of 12 or more. By building in these incentives, we are able to predict when consumers will be making additional purchases to reach their incentives. We also know when they will need to restock their supplies, so it further enables us to send personalized messages with discounts and reminders to reorder. This strategic focus on predictive personalization has enabled the client to bypass many of the seasonal sales trends. In effect, we have owned the customer service and sales funnel throughout the year. But this increase in digital sales also resulted in a slower website and more interactions with frustrated consumers. We developed a multi-part solution by dedicating a team to respond via phone and email to assist with orders until we could upgrade the client to a dedicated server to handle the increased web traffic. As a result, our online sales are on track to exceed retail sales for 2016.
In 2016, as part of our overall marketing plans for various clients, we have carved out a section for predictive personalization with contingency plans for similar growing pains. This will include strategies across digital marketing – social media, PPC, retargeting, email campaigns – where we articulate how we will accomplish these goals. It also includes plans for incorporating customer service to ensure we are communicating with customers, and a commitment to everyone on the team to better understand how we measure analytics for traditional and seasonal efforts in comparison to our predictive campaign results.
Other 2016 Trends in Ephermal Marketing
If content is king, then context is queen and the messages must be married to lower the rate of churn that way we can form meaningful and personal connections with customers instead of the current engineered contact model.
2016 will also provide businesses the opportunity to take advantage of ephemeral marketing and connect organically with their audience by utilizing platforms that connect with customers at the same time, like Snapchat, Periscope and Vine. Ephemeral Marketing is all about communicating short messages. The ‘less is more’ attitude works for both consumers and businesses because people take less time to engage with product and services compared to previous generational behavior.
What will the demand be for 2016?
With increased connectivity and rapid customer response, business will demand better metrics in the New Year. Instead of likes, followers and hearts, active engagement via shares and comments will be critical measures of success. Engagement is also vital to successful personalization and quality customer service. Businesses will move away from total views to share rate and session duration.
How will you provide an exceptional customer experience?
Your product or service must not only provide a solution to a problem, but be paired with a high level of customer engagement that is invaluable to the customer. This experience should not begin at the point of purchase. Today the customer needs to be wooed much like a date and should continue to be courted throughout (Hint: chocolates never hurt in the relationship) to ensure a high level of customer loyalty.
Rebecca Asher is the Communications Manager for esd & associates.