From fiction to reality: real-time, cross-channel customer experience marketing

7 minute read

Team BlueVenn

Every marketer wants to be doing real-time, cross-channel personalized marketing, but achieving this goal has traditionally been difficult with marketing automation platforms. Now it’s finally possible!

A common question asked by marketers looking to reach their customers is, “How can I create a personalized, cross-channel experience for my customers that reaches them at the right time, with the right message, in the right place?” This has traditionally been a difficult task, and marketers face a number of challenges trying to provide this experience – but now there are opportunities to make it happen.

When marketers reflect on their own personal buying experiences, it’s clear how fragmented the process can be. Modern buyers jump in and out of the brand journey on multiple channels, use multiple devices depending on where they are and what they are trying to do, and generally speaking the path they take to purchase is far from a straight line.

Customers may interact with a brand for weeks before ultimately making a large purchase, carefully researching and making sure they understand the product, reading reviews and so on. But even for smaller purchases, most people very rarely buy after only one interaction, and when they do they typically already have a relationship with the brand.

The reality is that this is a typical buying experience. Today’s customer journey spans a collection of PCs, smartphones, tablets, apps and email accounts. According the Gartner’s “What marketers need to know about managing identity”, research by the Pew Research Center has found that 90% of U.S. households contain a median of 5 connected devices, while a 2018 Adobe survey found customers spend 7.8 hours a day using them. Tellingly, a further study by Cision Research found 77% of customers used their smartphones to conduct product research whilst shopping in a brick and mortar store.

Regardless of what the end product is to the customer, whether that be a physical product for retailers, content for in media professionals, or perhaps a mix of both, customers will interact with a brand in a number of different ways before they ultimately make a purchase. As a result, marketers need to build connected, consistent experiences in all of these different channels that are relevant to the customer, regardless of the path they take to get there.

Building this experience, though, doesn’t come without its challenges. Remember, the path to purchase is very rarely linear and ultimately it isn’t the marketer, but the customer, that controls this journey. They decide where to interact with a brand, the device, the channel, the timing, and they expect a personalized experience once they are there.

For marketers, of course the goal is to provide them with that personalized experience, but in order to provide that experience markers need a reliable flow of data and need to understand what information the customer has already conveyed through their previous interactions.

For instance, in the case of an online women’s clothing retailer, the customer may have previously browsed size 8 skirts and shown a preference for black clothing. In that case, showing them size 8 black skirts in the “Products you might like” section of the web page could clinch a quick sale. Or, if a call center doesn’t have an up-to-date view of customer transactions to refer to, they might miss opportunities for upselling and cross-selling, or may frustrate the customer by asking questions they have already answered online or in-store and trying to sell them products they have already bought.

However, in most organizations this data is siloed by channel, with entirely separate teams running the strategy for each channel, so there isn’t a centralized point of management. A CDP can help to solve these challenges by ingesting both online and offline customer data, then cleansing, deduplicating and unifying it into a Single Customer View that can then be accessed by all other marketing channels, platforms and BI tools, so there’s no need to replace the existing marketing technology stack. Simple API connectors also mean processes aren’t slowed by needless customizations and SDKs.

Gartner calls this the “Smart Hub – Dumb Spokes” approach. The marketing hub becomes an intelligent center, capable of ingesting the data from multiple platforms, and then triggering every marketing channel so that campaign audiences, personalization fields and customer segments are powered from the clean, trustworthy Single Customer View. Not being responsible for manually controlling the flow of data allows the marketer to focus on insights and decisions, which allows them to achieve the best possible level of personalization and engagement in campaigns.

Having all the resulting behaviors, clicks, responses and transactions recorded in one place makes it easier to spot patterns, detect pain points, create segments and gain real-time insights into how to continuously optimize customer journeys and channel effectiveness. This allows marketers to leverage the data to create personalized, multi-channel experiences for customers, and continuously improve these using what is learned through testing to identify and tackle points of friction or come up with incentives and calls to action to rapidly get customers to the pages most likely to secure a conversion.

Travel sites are a classic example of real-time engagement and social reinforcement. If a known customer is browsing flights to Boston, MA and usually books a connecting flight to Bangor, ME, a CDP could help to identify that customer and pull them quickly through the booking process by displaying the best available deals for those two flights, a counter of the number of people looking at those flights, the number of seats left, and the time remaining to book before the reservation is lost.

Upselling in this case might involve trying to give that person a reason to break up their journey with a stop-over in Boston by displaying amazing hotel and car deals or ads for shows and events they might find exciting. On the other hand, if the customer reaches the transaction page with the same flights three times, but always leaves the journey at this point, a ‘Quick Buy’ button or a little added incentive, such as a discount code or an offer to get free drinks on the plane, or a side bar of positive customer reviews for that flight or real-time weather conditions at the destination, might tempt them over the finish line.

One of BlueVenn’s travel clients receives a regular feed of search data from their website that is linked to existing contact records, which are then flagged as searching for certain terms or visiting certain sites that imply they are prime candidates for holiday ad targeting. Those customers are then removed from regular business mail outs, and instead retargeted based on their search history (that is, shown ads or sent mail outs for the precise sort of holiday they have already been looking at). Meanwhile, where an interesting search history can’t be linked to a known customer, the information will appear as a row of data that is not linked to anything, but is instead stored to be used in the event of the person identifying as a customer at a later date.

So, with many different industries it is now possible to reach the right customer, at the right time, with the right message – but in order to do that, a business must ensure that the flow of data coming in about that customer is as accurate, detailed and reliable as possible and spans all platforms they may interact with the company across. Better data means better campaigns, and the best campaigns make that store of data even better in their turn.

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