If we’ve learned anything from the past year, it’s how to react quickly and stay resilient. But reactivity can only get you so far, especially as short-term adjustments are transforming into long-term trends. So how do you prepare for the future while still grappling with uncertainty? That all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.
For some brands, it may be as simple as leaning into the shift to ecommerce; for others, it may be necessary to overhaul your marketing strategy to keep up with changing data privacy restrictions. To explore where we can go from here, we brought together marketing leaders from Google, Peacock TV, and Outlook Amusements to chart the path forward.
Don’t plan for personalization in a vacuum
As consumer behavior changes, the digital competition continues to increase. You need to figure out how to cut through the noise and get personal with your consumers. That starts with figuring out how to make your best offerings discoverable. But it’s not enough to focus on new customers; you also need to tie these acquisition efforts to retention, which drives long-term, sustainable growth.
Marketers have been working to adapt to these new realities as marketers on the fly, but we need to take a more strategic approach to long-term customer connection. We need to look at the full scope of the customer experience, not just focus on the purchase point, and that requires a significant adjustment to how we think about delivery, targeting, and personalization.
“How do you cut through the noise, get a little bit more personal, and deliver a message that resonates and speaks to the consumer more specifically? It’s about digging into what personalization means when you’re talking about your specific business and then how you get that to be orchestrated across channels. If the user doesn’t see the channel and you need to orchestrate this across channels, you cannot think about it in a vacuum.”
Instead of thinking in terms of marketing tactics, you need to think about how a customer experiences your brand across channels. Instead of “I’m going to send you a personalized email and I’m going to send you personalized display creative,” think about how to make the experience seamless: “I’m going to send you a personalized email that is aware that you’ve seen a personalized display creative before and is going to acknowledge that in a forward-moving story.”
Cross-channel personalization is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to customer connection. Equally important, of course, is the actual experience of purchasing your product or service or how well it works post-purchase. That’s why marketers need to have a seat at the table in decision-making around UX, customer service, and more.
Solve customer problems and support them beyond the purchase point
Remember, a seamless experience isn’t just cross-channel marketing, it’s about moving customers from “marketing” into your product or service and instilling a long-term sense of loyalty and value. Find the balance between what the consumer wants to get out of any given interaction with your brand and what your business needs to get out of it, then make sure to keep the barrier to entry for consumers as low as possible.
“If you’re able to solve customer problems at the right moment, the right time, and you’re always on, you’re going to win. The best brands deliver at the right moment. Some of it is automation. They figured out the backend of how to be there at the right moments and it’s impossible to analyze all this backend of how to be there at the right moments. The rest is strategy and creativity. What is the conversation? Make sure that you’re integrating your brand into your customer’s needs.”
If your brand makes it easy for customers to solve their problems, you’re going to pull ahead of the competition. But if it’s too hard for your customers to actually get to the answers they’re looking for, you’re going to lose, even if you have everything they need.
Remember that listening is key here. Consumers have no appetite for intrusive or interruptive advertising. Figure out how to be there when customers need you by making sure you understand where relevant conversations are happening and make sure you show up to add value (not just sell your product).
Be authentic and take risks if you want your business to win
Speaking of conversations, another changing customer expectation is around values. Consumers expect transparency about what brands stand for on serious issues, and brands that decide to stay on the sidelines risk alienating potential customers. On the other side, brands risk coming across as opportunistic or inauthentic if they don’t put in real work before taking a stand.
“For a long time, brands could just say, “Hey look, we’re apolitical. We’re going to sit this out.” But it’s great that now the consumer is saying “No, we want to know where you stand.” You have to prepare and have these conversations in advance to be in the conversation. And when things move fast, you’ve got to be willing to react quickly and make mistakes.”
But it’s no longer an option to do nothing. But it takes effort. You should get buy-in from leadership before you enter the conversation, and figure out how exactly your business is positioning itself in its marketing vs. what it’s actually doing. What actions is the business taking? How is your brand committing to these values beyond the span of a campaign?
It’s okay to make mistakes, but be transparent about when you make them. Consumers are looking for authenticity, not perfection. It takes guts to be transparent and get real with your customers, but it’s essential if you want to build loyalty and start looking at your customers not as one-time purchasers, but as a true community.