Direct Marketing News (DMNews.com) Feature Story.
Deep consumer insights and personalized messaging and offerings are now essential requirements for marketers. But many companies are just beginning to understand the unprecedented opportunities that deeply connecting with consumers for engaging experiences can bring.
Today, engaging customers through ongoing, personalized, experience-based interactions is the key to developing loyalty and future sales.
Findings from our VoC (Voice of Customer) research indicate important new requirements for customer engagement:
- Customers expect companies to maintain engagement and value throughout their lifecycles, not just during acquisition and renewal.
- Marketers must improve the customer experience across every point of contact with their organization.
- Customer experiences apply to all elements of the media mix and all departments within an organization.
In a powerful customer engagement experience, customers:
- Discover and share information about your company
- Learn about your products
- Receive personalized offers and communications
To make this happen, companies need to:
- Learn the most effective ways to monetize opportunities
- Respond quickly to match inventory to customer demand
- Be nimble enough to rapidly refine offers based on customer insights
- Prep sales and other departments with critical customer information
Making the commitment to a customer experience strategy
According to “The Integrated Customer Experience Report 2013” by eConsultancy, a survey of nearly 900 companies and agencies, data systems and processes are still the primary factors that hold companies back from improving their customer experiences. Additionally, the complexity of customer experience marketing leaves many respondents unsure of where and how to begin. Consider:
- Fifty-eight percent of companies are still only developing strategies in this area, compared to just 20% of companies with well-developed strategies.
- While more than half of the respondents see data (63%) and systems and processes (54%) as critical areas for delivering integrated customer experiences. Most companies have inadequate capabilities in both areas.
- Nine out of 10 companies say improved customer retention/brand loyalty is a benefit of integrated customer experiences, but just more than half of companies surveyed (54%) have the means to measure retention and loyalty to quantify their experience marketing effectiveness.
Experience marketing drives engagement
I recently saw a presentation by Layla Sabourian Tarwé, senior product marketing manager, global marketing, at SAP, whose main focus is to help drive consumer engagement initiatives at SAP. During the presentation she explained how Société de Transport de Montréal (STM) leveraged SAP's Precision Marketing software to develop a new interactive mobile app call Merci.
Layla had these important insights to share about best practices regarding the customer engagement experience: “Marketers need to embrace change and understand the value of connecting with consumers in innovative new ways. The first step in engaging consumers more deeply is being able to generate deep insights about their preferences and preferably, in real time.”
Layla added this key point, “But now with all these new channels, we're at the point where we're actually starting to have too much information. The key is being able to analyze massive amounts of data from multiple sources to create a 360-degree view of each consumer and then act on these insights in real time. As consumers have started to use new channels, their expectations for how marketers should engage with them have increased dramatically.”
In fact, through co-innovation with SAP, Société de Transport de Montréal launched its Merci app to help improve its customer experience. Merci presents customers with exclusive, personalized offers based on their profiles and preferences. The program offers participants instant gratification without having to work or wait to collect points.
“STM wanted to avoid being ‘just another loyalty card that collected points.' It wanted to build an ecosystem of partners and offers that would ‘reward users on the spot' for their continued loyalty,” said Pierre Bourbonniére, STM's head of marketing. “In the backend, STM's ability to segment geo-localized promotions ensures that notifications are a match with the commuters' demographics and personal preferences, information they have volunteered in return for relevant offers. Whether they're waiting at a bus stop, or just enjoying the ride to downtown attractions, these customers access our award-winning mobile app—STM Merci—to to benefit from relevant offers—as well as a reward scheme—that respects their privacy and personal tastes. The program, which connects directly with commuters on the move, has the potential in all verticals, not just transport, to seek new ways to use mobile to reward individual consumers for their loyalty.”
STM encouraged riders to download the app and complete preference information about their interests. Half of the riders chose to complete their profiles.
STM designed the app to adhere to strict Canadian privacy compliance regulations. The back-end of the application splits commuter data into two separate databases, with key personal details "de-identified.”
What marketers can learn from the Merci app
- The app allows STM to create and shape demand in real time and adjust marketing campaigns for partner organizations to maximize their ROI, instead of waiting to analyze their effectiveness.
- The app enables the company to rapidly match supply to a changing market and optimize inventory levels and product assortment based on the latest consumer demand data.
- It allows for the development of new offerings and business models—using consumer insights to refine existing offerings, uncover new consumer needs, and create new monetization opportunities through an incentive to travel more often or switch to an annual subscription.
- Customers are able to receive geo-located offers based on wherever they happen to be.
And customers value this service. The click-through for the Merci app has been four-times greater than industry averages.
Key takeaways for developing your customer engagement experience
- Customer engagement experiences need to be highly personalized. Immersive experiences such as social media need to cultivate a sense of connection.
- Consumers engage through a variety of media, so it's essential to give them the option to experience your brand effortlessly across multiple channels.
- Customers want to receive instant gratification for making transactions, accessing services, and providing feedback any time and on all media of their choice.
- Companies need to unify and integrate different sources of customer data to deliver consistent experiences at every point of contact.
- Marketers should develop a fully rounded view of each customer that includes history, personalization preferences, usage and future intent information, and prediction of lifetime value.