Engage customers with web marketing

Marketing used to be a lot simpler. In today’s highly connected society, creating and measuring customer engagement online is key.

As business owners and operators deal with shrinking operating budgets, reduced staff numbers and increased competition, it is important to ensure that all of the marketing activities that they do undertake are as effective as possible in engaging with current and potential consumers.

Now is the time for businesses to adopt new concepts to help them participate in conversations with customers that are taking place across the internet and deliver truly relevant messages and offers. Web analytics can guide your customer engagement strategies and help you understand your customers’ interests by motivating them to act with targeted campaigns.

Make your message count
It is becoming increasingly challenging every day to effectively connect with customers. We are bombarded constantly with messages every day via email, billboards, web surfing, radio, television advertising and so much more. Many of these messages are unsolicited and, frankly, irrelevant. The magnitude of this push marketing is becoming more obvious all the time. Recent research shows that the average consumer receives more than 3,000 messages every day. Each message is part of somebody’s marketing program and represents a significant investment. Unfortunately, most will fail to connect in any way.

The problem is not only the sheer quantity but also the quality. People are getting fast on the draw with the delete key. You have to work smarter to make it through their filters.

But you are not alone. According to The Economist Intelligence Unit, the need to engage customers is seen as a critical requirement for survival, in what is now a competitive online marketplace. More than 80 percent of business people surveyed believe their company loses sales each year because of their failure to engage customers.

Engaging through new media
Most organisations are using new media, like video-enriched internet applications, to create engaging experiences. But one of the biggest barriers remains the inability to effectively measure how these isolated interactions impact the overall experience a visitor has online. Almost 50 percent of business people surveyed said that the difficulty of measuring customer engagement is the biggest barrier to achieving greater levels of engagement.

Frankly, marketing used to be a lot simpler. In the good old days you wrote an ad, you got a celebrity to endorse your product and you blasted it to the widest possible audience over one of three TV networks and across radio. Nowadays, people seem to trust each other more than they do a celebrity spokesperson. Consumers are turning to each other for advice, reviews and help making decisions. Now it’s crowds talking to crowds about products and brands. The old model of push marketing is no longer effective in today’s highly connected market place.

Four Ps or four Rs?
The four Ps of push marketing; Product, Price, Place and Promotion, were used to move people through the buying cycle of awareness, interest, desire and action, targeting customers in mass via television, magazines and radio. This was the one-to-many marketing model.

Now that consumers are listening to each other and not us and being bombarded with too many mass messages to make sense of, marketing is transforming from the four Ps of push marketing to the four Rs of consumer-centric marketing; Reveal, Reward, Respect and Retain.

With the four P model, businesses knew which messages they were delivering and they also knew the general size of the audience, but they knew little about who was reading the ads or what specific interests they had. The idea was to deliver the four Ps and hope the audience responded appropriately.

Social networking rules

In the new world of electronic communications, there is no longer a homogenous audience to target. Consumers are connected with each other and getting information through vast social networks. Now the power has shifted to the consumers. Anyone with an internet connection can find anything, compare prices, ask for opinions and much more.  In fact, nearly 80 percent of consumers trust word of mouth more than any other source according to numerous studies recently published by eMarketer.

This is a mixed blessing. Businesses have access to a huge pool of potential customers but they have essentially lost control of their messages. In this new environment, the four Ps are still a key part of the marketing strategy, but pushing the four Ps alone is not effective enough to connect with each consumer. It doesn’t allow the organisation to join into the conversations as many of the consumers are conversing directly with each other.

A new way of working with this audience is needed; one that listens and participates, not dictates. This is where a new language is needed to describe how to effectively participate in this new conversation. Now, businesses need to connect more directly with individuals who in turn are talking with each other and reflecting back to the organisation.

Using the four Rs

This is where the four Rs become important. This new language reflects the way companies need to evolve and act to enter into an ongoing and meaningful relationship with their customers. The key ingredients for this are Reveal, Reward, Respect and Retain.

So what does it mean to reveal? Revealing is about taking the information you already have, that you collect over time, to gain a deeper understanding about your consumers. It is about identifying the people that matter the most to you, learning about their preferences and then finding thousands or hundreds of thousands of people like them.

When you ask customers to give up valuable information about themselves you have to give them something in return. While a generic offer like a free shipping coupon may be a start, it is even more important to listen and react to what your customers are telling you. If they tell you they are allergic to nuts but you keep sending them coupons for almonds, that means they go unrewarded.

Highly relevant, targeted offers result in increased trust and respect towards the brand. By increasing the relevancy and timeliness of the interactions with your consumers, the level at which they trust and respect your organisation will also increase. It also means you respect their time, don’t waste it with irrelevant messages.

Customer retention
Retention of customers, especially online, is more than simply sending out e-coupons at certain times of the year. It is about understanding the behaviour and interests of your consumers to create an ongoing dialogue, one that is beneficial to the consumer and on their terms.

How do you get the kind of insight that you need to Reveal, Reward, Respect and Retain your own customers? What are some of the solutions you need to consider to establish this type of relationship with your customers and ultimately measure success in enabling this?

Most web analytics solutions can offer some insight, but it often requires time and resources to piece it all together. You have to sift through online interactions, page views and visits to pull together a complete view. In today’s mature marketplace, this approach is not enough for most organisations.

You need to be able to respond quickly when your customers interact with you and measure engagement on an ongoing basis.

Customers come first
By putting the customer at the centre of your universe, WebTrends gives you the ability to listen, learn and take action on the insights you have so you can understand the people behind your website visits:

  • Listen: You can gain an understanding of how individuals interact with your business over the lifetime of that relationship.
  • Learn: Score the potential value of each visitor based on the actions they take online and integrate that with information from offline data sources.
  • Act: Ongoing marketing communications and online interactions are based on recent activity relevant to the activity.

The result puts the individual at the centre of your marketing to build engagement and drive targeted actions that maximise business results. When you consider the amount of time consumers spend online, this gives you an opportunity to know your audience like never before. There are many traits that you can uncover about the customer based on their online actions, even if they are just browsing, as well as from offline consumer data such as demographics or CRM data.

You can use this information to develop a complete, 360-degree view of your customers.  Activities are combined into an interest profile that builds over time, giving you insight into how the customer speaks, thinks and acts. This interest profile starts building the minute someone comes to your website, regardless of when they identify themselves though registration ID or some other conversion event.

Combining online with offline
You can certainly learn a lot by combining offline information, such as demographic or geographical location, with CRM data such as loyalty programme memberships or purchasing history, with attitudinal data such as surveys. The big opportunity is to bring online behaviour into the picture. This is where consumers are telling you, minute by minute, what they are interested in. Now real drivers of intent such as recency and frequency can be used to drive targeted marketing.

Once these profiles are analysed it is easy to look at visitors with similar interests and create highly targeted segments based on their interest profiles. For example, if you were a motor vehicle company, you could find everyone who is exploring SUVs and everyone who is exploring sedans. You can send the SUV segment an email encouraging them to watch a video about the recent model changes and you can send the sedan shoppers an email about performance and innovation.

But the dialogue doesn’t stop there. When you see the response from a customer, you can build out the profile even more. For example, if you see that a customer clicked on the promotion for a new product safety video and then went online to watch it, this can be added into that customers profile and combined with other elements to reveal a measure of engagement. If a lot of other very valuable customers did the same thing then you now have a very desirable audience with a high degree of interest in your product. You can see how this reveals, micro-targeted, actionable segments and sets the stage for the next interactions.

Now you can be confident to invest $16 in a glossy brochure based on what you revealed, knowing this will go into the hands of people who have clearly indicated they are interested. And this is a timely and a welcome reward for someone that is getting excited about the prospect of owning a new SUV. You can also find their local automotive dealer based on their CRM data and have the dealer contact these customers and ask them to take a test drive of the new SUV on the market, one with the highest safety index. This is a much more respectful way of engaging with a prospective customer based on the interests they have already expressed to you.

A new level of insight
Now imagine that you can set your own scores on what is a valuable interaction and use those scores to assign levels of interest. In the motor vehicle company example, we can look at how measurement of visitor engagement provides a whole new level of insight to influence decisions you make around campaign performance as well as the actions you take to more effectively target your marketing. Although a campaign might not result in immediate conversion or revenue, wouldn’t it be great to get the additional insight to answer these questions: which customers should I continue to invest in and which investments lead to the highest conversion?

WebTrends believes it is this level of insight that provides an absolutely critical competitive advantage in today’s difficult business environment. It allows businesses to move away from straight push marketing to the more subtle, consumer-driven communications. It is the future of consumer understanding and allows you to plug into the rich interactions occurring online every minute.

Utilising the four R’s of web marketing – Reveal, Reward, Respect and Retain will enable you to interact with your online consumers on a deeper level.

-Conrad Bennett is technical services director for Webtrends (www.webtrends.com), the worldwide leader in web analytics.

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