Sean Brady, President, Americas at Emarsys shares his first guest post with WhichPLM. He discusses how marketing technology can really help retailers deliver targeted messages and reach individuals. Emarsys is a provider of marketing software, enabling true one-to-one interactions between marketers and consumers.
A whopping 96 percent of Americans are now shopping online, spending an average of five hours per week making online purchases. This crowded online retail marketplace means companies must deliver personalized experiences to customers in a way that meets their expectations while also successfully differentiating the brand in a meaningful way. The aim is to make marketing efforts more effective and scalable, resulting in lifelong customers with greater brand loyalty. But how can companies customize all of their communications with consumers when there are so many different platforms involved? It can seem daunting at best, impossible at worst. But there are new intelligent automation technologies that can make all the difference in these efforts. The important thing is that marketers avoid adding more complexities to their tech stack without fully understanding the consequences – or their options.
Here’s how marketing technology can help retailers deliver targeted marketing messages that move the needle.
Driving cross-channel personalization
Consumers will no longer tolerate impersonalized, irrelevant outreach. It often leads to increased distance between them and the brand instead of drawing the two closer together. As companies expand how they communicate with customers, what matters most is a seamless experience across all channels with customers identified as one individual and treated as such throughout all interactions and across all channels for a consistent omnichannel experience. Whether proactively or reactively interacting with consumers via email, social channels, or on the website, everything must be connected and consistent. Furthermore, customers now expect to be able to proactively reach out to brands in the same way they can reach out to anyone else, such as on Twitter or Facebook.
While a lot of companies now understand that untargeted ads or outreach won’t get them very far, there are still a lot of steps to be taken to ensure personalization happens across all channels and is truly based on buyers’ shopping preferences. Simple acknowledgement of a customer’s gender and age range in an email must be replaced by a deeper, more meaningful, cross-channel view of the customer. Retailers such as BrandAlley, for example, understand the true importance of personalized, consistent communications across the entirety of the brand’s marketing channels. BrandAlley sends emails specifically designed for the customer in question, based on previous interactions, purchases and browsing history, and makes sure that customers see the same, tailored goods both on the website and their personal Facebook pages.
Making personalization scalable
A foundational challenge posed by personalization is time. It’s simply not possible to manually personalize each interaction with each customer on each channel. This is especially true in the retail industry where brands have thousands, if not millions, of customers. Human-driven, manual personalization isn’t just time-consuming, it’s impossible to scale.
However, technology, particularly that which includes elements of AI and machine learning absolutely can deliver personalized interactions at scale.
As retailers look to personalize at scale, here are a few important considerations.
- There must be significant amounts of data, as well as the tools and technical capabilities to analyze it. Marketers must have a means to understand what the data is telling them about customers and prospects prior to making creative decisions about content.
- There must be a marketer-friendly way to use the right content at the right time to engage with the customer. But how? Manually ‘dragging and dropping’ different messages to different audiences? Nope. Through a platform that draws from data collected in a centralized database and makes it available for the marketer to deliver engaging, personalized content to the customer across multiple channels. A single platform that empowers the marketer to leverage the right content at the right time via the right channel.
- Enter artificial intelligence. This is where AI is so essential in helping retailers speak to customers in more personalized and meaningful ways. AI can not only identify which messages will be most likely to resonate with each customer, but can also predict how a customer will actually behave in the future; defining which messages will produce the most desired outcomes. Imagine the ability to identify which promotions, offers and product selections will perform best when offered to individual consumers. That’s far too big a job for any marketer to do manually, but it’s exactly how AI can provide real, tangible value.
An example of a retailer that is doing this well is Replacements, Ltd., a company that specializes in china, crystal, silver and collectibles. Gaining access to advanced data segmentation, analytics and multichannel capabilities has improved Replacements’ ability to personalize communications to existing customers. One tactic has been to focus on reaching customers who abandoned a cart or abandoned the website after browsing. Using AI, abandoned cart campaigns increased significantly, achieving a 13.9% conversion rate.
Beware missed opportunities
Ultimately, the opportunity is here for the retail industry to understand, embrace, and utilize the advantages offered by AI-powered marketing. If retailers don’t further prioritize personalization at scale, they’ll fall far behind competitors who approach the same customers with better, more tailored communications about what they’re seeking. Innovative marketing technology capabilities designed to improve personalization, automation, and omnichannel marketing orchestration are crucial for companies that want to thrive. The best retailers won’t let the advantage of today’s digital disruption pass them by.