ginkgo_leaf1Consumers have become less loyal and much more demanding of the businesses they purchase goods or services from. But it’s not just quality and convenience they want; consumers are ever more interested in the experience provided by organisations and the customer service they are receiving.

Information is expected to be readily accessible online and the boom in comparison sites is testament to this shift in consumer mentality that sees sourcing information and deals as an integral part of the buying cycle.  However, as channels multiply and independent information can be accessed from hundreds of user reviews, websites and blogs, marketers are struggling against their shrinking budgets to secure an authoritative presence for their products and services across the media spectrum.

While there is plenty of evidence of consumer responsiveness on each specific channel and that individuals are very active researching, enquiring and purchasing online, the stages of the customer journey are much cloudier. Exactly how a consumer reaches the online shop or decides to make a telephone purchase is yet unexplored territory.

Mapping the itinerary that led the individual customer to making a purchase or filling a basket and then abandoning it can make a world of difference to a business trying to contain marketing costs. As budgets are squeezed it becomes crucial to only invest in what actually makes an impact and not waste budget on ineffective communications.

For example a customer receiving a solus piece of direct mail featuring a personal URL printed on it in the customary form of www.domainname.com/name, might be tempted from the microsite to the main website and finally make a purchase. Someone else on the other hand might click through the targeted selection of items on the personalised website but choose to order them via the telephone.

It is obvious of course that given the current economical climate, endlessly multiplying the channels to the customer in a bid to keep up with the latest developments from social networks to tweets, will hemorrhage resources. Marketers need to focus on understanding how consumers use different channels for different purposes and leverage real customer preferences.

Although UK consumers make a massive use of text messaging evidence tells us that this is not regarded as a welcome promotional medium and commercial communications via SMS are still largely shunned. SMS, in fact, owes most of its unpopularity to the untargeted batch-messages that consumers have been subjected to. By delivering messages right into the handbags and pockets of people, mobile is perceived as very intrusive medium. This is why a high level of personalisation and time-sensitivity become absolutely essential.

The new-breed of channels offer exciting and unprecedented time-sensitivity. Rather than simply processing regular campaigns to customers in a batch fashion, some organizations have started to leveraging their database marketing systems to target offers at customers only when they behave in a particular way.  These ‘event triggers’ – which might include a customer service call, a type of transaction or going through a spending level in a particular period – instruct the system to send a targeted offer to the customer in a reduced time frame ranging from the same week to the same day, depending on time-sensitivity and marketing medium used.

Recent CDMS research set about analysing the different uplift rates of various media against a solus direct mail piece with a postal response mechanism and found that in all cases, the addition of extra response media to the customer journey was felt to produce a significant uplift.

Among the most interesting findings it is worth noting that by adding alternative response channel uplift varies from 12% (SMS) to 21% (Freephone) and personalised URLs (19%) produce a remarkably higher response uplift than non-personalised Websites (14%).

Overall UK marketers are becoming more capable in the way they communicate with customers and prospects, but keeping up with consumers is a difficult task. At a first glance it seems to follow that as consumers are better connected than ever before, the more media an organisation employs, the more response they will get. However simply expanding the channel choice without making any real effort to personalise the campaign and tailor it to customer preference will simply result in a waste of resources and irritated customers.

Written by Richard Higginbotham, Marketing Manager, CDMS
For more information, contact CDMS by visiting www.cdms.co.uk.

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