As 2016 draws to a close, marketers find themselves in a very exciting place. Technology has enabled us to combine the old with the new, and the data-driven approach that’s emerged as a result has drastically increased the effectiveness of direct marketing. However, due to the speed at which technology moves, you can be sure that marketing will continue to evolve in the years to come. Here are five predictions for data-driven direct marketing we see for 2017.
Cross-Device Marketing Is Marketing
From phones to tablets to separate computers for home and work use, tracking individual customers across devices is a serious challenge for companies worldwide. The vast majority of consumers seek out information and make purchases across a variety of devices. Tracking individual consumers from device to device is a must for data-driven direct marketing to reach its potential. But 2017 will move marketers beyond talking about “cross-device” marketing because it’ll just be marketing. Marketing, in general, is shifting the conversation away from channels and devices to talking about the consumer. In other words, you’re marketing to a person and not to a device. This doesn’t mean that the issue of cross-device tracking is going anywhere, though. The Direct Marketing Association states that two out of every five transactions — 40 percent — involve multiple devices. This is a number that’s likely to increase in the future.
The ability to effectively track how, when, and where a consumer engages with your company is one of the biggest challenges faced by most companies today. But it’s an area that’s ripe with opportunity.
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More Businesses Will Seek to Identify Previously Unidentified Website Browsers
Taking note of intent-based behaviors is a step in the right direction, but there’s an additional part of the puzzle that will become absolutely essential in the future. That piece is the ability to identify previously unidentified browsers on your site.
While it’s great to be able to see browsers engaging with your website, it doesn’t help your bottom line if you can’t identify these people and guide them on their customer journey, of course doing so in a privacy compliant way. Identifying website browsing behavior with an individual consumer also enables you to further track your audience, which gives you a better handle on how people interact with your brand and what constitutes intent.
The best thing about identifying these previously unidentified browsers is that you can reach them in a variety of ways. You can utilize high-response tactics like personalized direct mail postcards for retargeting rather than digital display. This is a crucial part of the future of marketing, and it’s one that can help you separate your business from the competition in a big way.
Marketers Will Leverage Customer Journey Mapping
For a long time, the customer journey was taken for granted by businesses who were primarily concerned with simply making sales. Today, companies realize that the buyer’s journey is a delicate process that cannot be ignored. Because of the many touchpoints where a consumer can interact with a business, there is more emphasis on the customer journey than ever before.
There’s a fairly obvious reason why the buyer’s journey is so important. With technology comes options, and if you’re not able to wow the customer every step of the way, that customer will find a business that’s willing to go the extra mile. That’s why it’s so crucial to not only understand the typical path to purchase but to make each interaction along that journey special. These small touches add to the customer experience, which is a major driver of repeat business and customer referrals.
2017 and beyond will place an even greater focus on the customer journey, and with good reason. CMO.com states that companies that place an internal emphasis on the buyer’s journey receive a return on their marketing investment that’s more than 50 percent greater than those that ignore the path to purchase. What’s more, the number of companies that possess the ability to map the customer journey is expected to triple over the next two years. In other words, there’s no time like the present to invest in the technology and processes necessary to not only map the customer journey but to make it the best it can be.
Consumers Will Expect Hyper-Individualization
Today’s customers appreciate personalized marketing messages that say the right things without being too invasive. But personalized won’t be enough going into 2017. Consumers will expect individualized marketing and touchpoints from every company, every time. Consumers are willing to give you their data in exchange for more valuable customer interactions, but in order to provide valuable, individualized marketing, marketers must collect consumer data — a bit of a causality dilemma. The collection of consumer data and individualization cannot exist separately, and this requires a new “data contract” between individuals and businesses. As a marketer, you are required to provide value in each and every marketing message.
In fact, the tide is already turning towards hyper-individualization. According to Adobe, the number of companies that offer automated personalized content from their websites has risen from 24 percent in 2015 to 46 percent in 2016, an increase of 22 percentage points. The Internet has always made it easier for people to connect with each other, and now businesses are beginning to use the Web to reach consumers in personalized and unique ways.
Hyper-individualization isn’t just about customized greetings and references to past purchase behavior. This approach to individualized marketing also incorporates the mediums through which people like to receive their messages. Nearly half of all Millennials check their email before they even get out of bed in the morning, but sending individualize email marketing is only a small part of creating an individualized experience. You must know if this consumer also engages with your brand on social media and on which social platform; if they visit your store regularly to browse or if they stop in only when they need to make a specific purchase; if they prefer to shop online while on their lunch break or after they’ve put the kids to bed. Individualization comes from knowing not only how you customer is interacting with your organization but why they are engaging with you in the manner that they do.
Consumer Intent Will Reshape Marketing
Everyone knows data is an essential part of marketing. In the future, data will continue to remain a vital part of every marketing campaign. But to get the most out of your data in the future, a big-picture approach will be necessary.
Intent marketing moves beyond simply using data to identify marketing segments. Instead of just taking note of patterns within your data sets, intent marketing allows you to pick up on activities that are directly indicative of a future purchase. Understanding the difference between intent-based activity and regular browsing is what will help you to market most effectively to your prospective customers, bridging the gap between information gathering and purchase.
The signs of intent are unique to each industry and company, and they can vary wildly from business to business. Plus, consumer intent means more than their intent to purchase. It also encompasses the I-want-to-know micro-moments. It’s in your best interest to identify these signs and to put systems in place to provide personalized attention to people who demonstrate their intentions at every stage of their journey.
2017 Will Be the Year of the Consumer
The past few years have seen a tremendous amount of progress in the way data has influenced marketing. The marriage of marketing and data will prove even more fruitful in the years to come. The use of intent marketing, direct marketing and data-driven marketing will help businesses make the customer experience even better than before, encouraging customers along the buyer’s journey and offering individualized communications and recommendations along the way.