There’s something inherently sentimental about the new year. As the clock strikes twelve on New Year’s Eve, we gift ourselves a blank slate with a side of newfound optimism, and naturally we like to make predictions about what the future has in store.
Much of these visionary predictions relate to things that are already happening in the here and now. With 2017 now in full swing, here’s a quick look at five trends I noticed from last year that will likely gain momentum as the year rolls on.
The value of customer insights
Your customer should always be at the center of every business decision you make. We’ve seen that customer-centric companies can be 60 percent more profitable than companies that put the customer on the backburner.
Customers are the heart and soul of your business; without them, you don’t have a business; therefore,it only makes sense that business decisions need to revolve around the wants, needs, and expectations of the people who do business with you.
Using data intelligently will make it a lot easier to influence internal teams to support marketing efforts or other business initiatives, and by creating that bullet-proof correlation, you’ll have a better shot at success because you’ll be able to rely on real data to prove your strategy is working.
Long live data science
Marketing is a mix of art and science blended with some creative risk-taking. In recent years, we’ve seen marketing shift towards the science end of the spectrum, thanks in part to all the data available to us.
This has led to the rise of data scientists: people who not only make sense of the data in front of them, but also use those insights to make marketing teams smarter and more effective.
So, knowing that the fire hose of data isn’t slowing down anytime soon, if you don’t have a data scientist on your marketing team, it’s about time you did.
Being agile is table stakes
There was once a time when you could plan for a full year and, more or less, stick to it. Given the rise of data-driven insights and pretty much real-time everything, planning a year out can feel like a fruitless effort. Having a general roadmap is a good thing, otherwise we risk short-term thinking or executing on tactics that fall short of our marketing goals, but we need to be aware that deviations from that plan are bound to happen – and that’s ok.
We must be quick, nimble, and always ready to pivot at the drop of a hat, and while this may seem exhausting just thinking about it, it’s the reality of the always-on marketing world we live in. Campaigns today can be created in hours, if not minutes.
The way we plan, operate, and execute needs to be just as nimble and a lot less complicated. The good news: this flood of actionable data we now have access to makes it a lot quicker and easier to adjust our marketing tactics in real-time.
The pros and cons of bots
Bots are everywhere. Just recently I discussed the need to find a balance between technological automation and the human touch in response to the rise of bots.
We’ve come a long way in building smart technologies that alleviate the pressures put on customer service teams. However, technology lacks empathy and the ability to understand nuance.
Bots are ideal for information-gathering and other simple tasks, but we need to perfect this use case first before deploying bots across the entire array of customer service queries. So, while there’s tremendous value in using technology to augment and improve the customer experience, we still need to monitor it closely, otherwise, all the hype will eventually amount to nothing more than a fad.
Extreme expectations and social commerce
I talked a lot about extreme customer expectations, and funnily enough, what was once thought of as ‘extreme’a couple of years ago, is now proving to be common consumer behavior. Many people will search two to three sites before making a purchase. They want to see product information, online reviews (preferably from people they trust within their own social networks), images that link directly to shopping carts, and more.
In fact, in the U.S., over 70 percent of adults have said they won’t make a big purchase if the accompanying online reviews aren’t positive and 68 percent said they are influenced most by family and friends (vs. online advertising). As marketers, we need to take this insight to heart.
The buying experience must be fully integrated between your website, social channels, and other media related to the products and services you offer and the shopping should never be more than a click away.
We need to ‘beef up’ our social commerce efforts to make it easier for consumers to find the information they need so they can make an informed purchase decision, fast. This is what consumers expect, and what brands need to deliver accordingly in 2017.
This article originally appeared in Customer Experience Magazine.
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Many marketers are obsessed with this younger generation, aged 18-35. They watch their every move on social, hoping to find what truly makes them tick – and, more importantly, what triggers them into making purchase decisions.
Marketers know this is not an easy task. Digital natives are a finicky bunch. They demand instant-gratification-like service and attention from brands at every twist and turn. Growing up in an era when practically every transaction is now automated by digital media in some way has taught the younger generation to be impatient consumers. And, for better or worse, this trend will only continue to grow as this generation of consumers matures.
So marketers need to get ahead of the curve before they are thrown another generational curve ball. Here are a few tips to help win over the much coveted digital consumer.
Be everywhere (or, be everywhere that matters)
This generation bounce from computers to mobile devices to connected TVs to wearables (and more) multiple times along their path to purchase. Single channel marketing strategies can’t break through all this noise.
Brands need to be present in all the right places in order to capture and keep the attention of digital consumers at the very moment they’re ready to purchase. As Google puts it, people today live in micro-moments. Brands now must play a part in those moments to stay relevant.
Just as important as it is for brands to stay top-of-mind by diversifying their channel strategy, they also have to walk the fine line of not going overboard with non-stop promotions. Generation X want companies to engage with them and make them feel like they are a valued part of your brand.
A promotional message holds a lot value when, for example, you reach a shopper in-store with a strong mobile ad, but turning a younger consumer into a brand loyalist requires a lot more than that. They want to mean more to you than just a simple purchase. A lot of brands are vying for their attention.
Those that reach and engage them on a more personal and meaningful level will win the battle for their long-term loyalty.
18-35 year olds will avoid contacting customer service at any cost. They’ve been raised with technology and expect brands to use technology to make it easier for them to find solutions on their own.
Their mindset is this: why waste time on the phone with someone who may or may not be able to help when they can easily find the information they need by themselves? Brands need to take this insight to heart.
If a company’s website, social channels, or mobile app isn’t up to snuff, there’s no better time than now to invest in retooling every digital customer interaction a brand has, with a focus on self-service.
Because Gen X consumers tend to be connected to a device (or two) at all times, it’s pretty safe to say that they’ll be quick to reach out to a brand to praise, complain, ask a question, and everything in between – all the while requiring an almost immediate response when theydo. Digital natives are “real-time consumers.”
Patience is not their greatest virtue. On-demand expectations have become the norm for them. Technology is both their greatest ally and most divisive crutch. The message is clear: be ready and resourced to respond, fast.
Every minute sans response is an opportunity to visit a competitor.
If a brand is host to an online community, this is a great way to crowdsource feedback and suggestions.
Around 42% of 18-35 year olds say they are interested in helping companies develop future products and services. Brands should welcome this, and figure out how to harness the voice of the customer. This is a great way to turn a simple fan into a long-term loyalist.
But an online community is also a space where consumers can talk to each other, answer each other’s questions, and collaborate on content or solutions. In fact, 84% of Gen X say user-generated content has some influence on what they buy.
So while taking the time to ensure the brand is ready to meet the ever-changing wants, needs, and expectations of savvy and sometimes skeptical digital native consumers, brands shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that their peers can oftentimes be their greatest source of influence.
An online community is fertile ground for this kind of valuable engagement.
This article originally appeared in Marketing Tech.
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The holiday season is in full swing. We’ve survived Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but that doesn’t mean floods of consumers are finished shopping for gifts. It’s a sprint to the finish line (aka, New Year’s).
So, how can a retailer make the most of this holiday shopping season? Easy. Social media is your best ally for reaching customers and boosting sales. Not only is it where your customers already spend a good chunk of their day, but it’s really the perfect platform for engaging them with content and promotions that draw added attention to your brand.
It’s also a space where customer service can shine. In fact, in our recently released State of Social Engagement study, we found that the brands that responded to customers quickly and went above and beyond to create more personalized shopping experiences on social media were those best primed to earn customer loyalty year-round. This is even more important during the busy holiday shopping season as frenzied consumers are hurriedly working through their “naughty and nice” lists and can really use a helping hand to make that experience as pleasant and stress-free as possible.
Now you’re probably thinking, “I already have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, and sometimes post pictures on Instagram – isn’t that enough?” Sure, it’s a great start, but just being present only goes so far. Here are three ways you can amp up your social media efforts this holiday season:
1. Don’t Just Post — Engage It’s really easy to forget that social media is a two-way street. Oftentimes we see brands doing a great job of posting content or promotions, but in doing so, they allow social media to be nothing more than a broadcast channel. Taking a one-sided approach really misses a huge opportunity to reach and engage customers at a deeper level. The brands that embrace social media as an end-to-end customer experience platform, however, are those that ultimately win the retail war.
Why? Because it’s a space where shoppers are not only looking for interesting content and enticing deals, but also asking questions and seeking help — with the expectation that brands will respond quickly (because let’s face it, who has time to waste during the holiday shopping season?). I say this all the time, but I can’t underscore enough the importance for retail brands to listen and respond quickly. Shoppers today expect you to be there to hold their hand from start to finish. Social media lets you be wherever shoppers are, so don’t miss that opportunity to be there for your customers when they need you most.
2. Ignite Your Influencers While it’s nice to have a one-on-one conversation with shoppers through social media, there’s a lot of value in bringing your key influencers into the fold. What they bring to your communications is an unparalleled level of authenticity that, in today’s somewhat marketing-skeptical world, goes a long way in building brand loyalty. Use this as a time to co-create with your influencers and leverage all of your social channels to share content about new products, services, holiday promotions, and other brand storytelling that will spark interest and engagement with shoppers. Look at it this way: asking your influencers to be a part of your holiday social strategy is essentially the equivalent of positive word-of-mouth multiplied. Influencers hold a lot of sway with their followers. If they also love your brand and have no problem singing your praises, then hop on that bandwagon — you have nothing to lose.
3. Tap Into Your Community If you have an online community, don’t leave them hanging this holiday season. The people within your community are typically those who already love and support your brand. In other words, they are brand loyalists. But, as loyalists, they expect you to give them a little TLC. Be sure to use your community to take your communications to the next level. Provide a closer look — or even a sneak peek — at new products. Answer questions and address customer service issues as they arise. Create and post shareable content that they can broadcast on their own social channels. And, most importantly, be sure to create an environment that gets your community talking to each other. These are your biggest advocates; let them be a megaphone for your brand.
Long story short, social media can be your biggest ally during the busy holiday shopping season. Be sure to make the most of it because, when you do, you’ll not only boost customer satisfaction, but you’ll also set yourself up to see an uptick in sales. Social media is, in my opinion, today’s best customer engagement platform; not using it to its full potential is no longer an option for retail brands, whether during the holiday season or year-round.
*This article originally appeared in Total Retail.
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At the Lithium Network Conference (LiNC) in June, Nate Elliott , in a breakout session, said something that really struck a nerve within me: “The rise of social has fundamentally changed marketing and advertising as we know it. The problem here is that brands aren’t really sure if their social marketing efforts are effective.”
Let’s quickly take a step back to fully understand what that means. As marketers, we instinctively know that social media must be a part of our daily lives. It’s not an option; it’s table stakes. Brands that succeed in today’s rapidly evolving consumer marketplace are those that harness the power of social media – and do so in real-time.
The only problem is that being on or a part of the social media ecosystem doesn’t actually equate to success for a brand. In fact, just posting a blog, tweeting a tweet, or pinning a pin doesn’t do much in isolation. Sure, doing so gives brands a presence on social media; however, what good comes from all that posting, tweeting, and pinning if marketers don’t truly understand how to extract value from all this effort? And let’s be honest, having a presence on social media takes a lot of time, effort, and resources – so why waste all of that on “post and pray” tactics when there’s data and tools at our fingertips to help us make sense of it all?
The answer is simple: there’s no excuse. We’ve lived, breathed, and ridden the rollercoaster of social media for too long now to not understand how, when, where and why our social marketing efforts are effective (or not).
Social media marketing does not – and absolutely should not – fall short any longer. We must resolve to do better. We must avoid perpetuating the endless cycle of “not really knowing,” now and well into the future. We have to make social media work harder for our brands over the long haul.
How? We have to be more accountable to results and make the following commitments to ourselves:
“I won’t use social for social sake.” Social is a tool for solving business problems.
“I must talk and respond. ” Social is a two-way dialogue.
“I have to be more compelling.” Organic performs better, but is getting harder.
“I will own my customer relationship.” Social deepens the customer relationship, so I won’t outsource this to an agency or a partner.
“I won’t just keep growing the team; I will work smarter.” A bigger team doesn’t mean better results.
I’ll be heading deeper into each of these in the coming weeks, shedding light on what this actually means for brands as well as how embracing them can lead to real business results. I’ll also share some companies that are role models for the right behavior. In the meantime, feel free to learn more about our “manifesto” and, while you’re at it, don’t hesitate to share your own stories of how you have overcome the challenges of social media marketing in the face of ever-changing (and ever-growing) consumer expectations.
Social media marketing can work hard for our brands again. This is our answer for “how.”
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Back to your thoughts Mark. I don't think technology is holding us back. It is organizationally driven. We each are capturing our 'piece of the elephant' but not working collectively on the information we have. Your point about segmentation is how enterprises get to the vertical strategy. It is easier for me to segment targeting the market by Financial Services, rather than we are looking for buyers who are "change agents and socially advanced". New data models could greatly inform these segmentation models and reveal commonalities in our customers that we didn't even know existed. (88% of a company's customers are left handed for example. THAT would be an insight!)
This is a really challenging pursuit. A problem I had with the article is it is such an easy principle and so very difficult to execute against. But I think it starts with the questions, not the answers. That's the skill I am trying to build. What are we trying to solve for? rather than Look at how much we know already! (which may be useless)
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