The Future of Customer Engagement

Technology is changing the face of Marketing. In a complex, competitive and fragmented market, building long term loyalty is becoming more and more difficult for brands. At the heart of great customer engagement is a new Marketing mix of data, creativity, and technology. Technology is driving changes in consumer behavior and in order to adapt and thrive, marketers need access to the right data in order to know and understand their audience as individuals and to drive their creative decisions.

The Future of Customer Engagement

The Impact of Technology on Consumers

Technology is driving a lot of consumer change: financially-pressured consumers are always on the hunt for more affordable products; a shift from product to service has reinvented the end-to-end consumer experience and is putting consumers in control; changes in mobility means that consumers don’t commute or travel in the same ways as they have done previously; while data and Artificial Intelligence are coming together to create deeper consumer personalization.

It’s no surprise, then, that customer loyalty is still very hard to win and research shows that, if anything, people are feeling less loyal year-on-year. In the main, this is due to price considerations and highly competitive landscapes across everything from fashion, retail and travel to entertainment and food and drink.

New technologies are posing problems for marketers too. According to research published by the DMA Customer Engagement Committee, marketers still feel a measure of anxiety about how to invest in new applications and optimize their use, especially when it’s clear that people would rather chat to a human (44%) and even more (74%) would rather complain to a person too. However, Chatbots, Smart Home, Augmented and Virtual Reality and Gamification are all technologies that consumers are receptive to, so it’s clear that marketers need to invest – they are just not sure how.

When choosing which technologies to implement, marketers need to define a number of factors at the outset:

  • What they are trying to accomplish
  • The right data to inform how it is deployed
  • And how customers will use it – and what they will get out of it – whether that is offers, a fun activity or another perk.

What is clear, though, is that consumers will continue to engage with brands in many different ways. And at the heart of making customer engagement succeed is data: the more a marketeer knows about an individual, the better their Marketing will be.

Make Data Central to Everything

Brands collect a lot of data, but they may not always take the time to understand what that data is telling them. Indeed, one-third of marketers in another survey suggested customer engagement was “too complicated” to be successful.

As the saying goes, knowledge is power, and this is never truer than when targeting for maximum engagement. In order to know and understand their audience as individuals, marketers need the right data. They also need to take the time to evaluate the data they have collected and place it in a dominant position to influence key decisions and ultimately, the bottom line. Generally, that data will exist inside a business, between the data a brand holds on existing customers and that of past behavior and outcomes.

But data gathering shouldn’t stop here. The relevant external data can also help create a different view of a consumer, such as what they do outside the business: online, in social media and beyond.

Knowing the audience better, such as what they like, when they like to be communicated to, which channels they prefer, and what offers will appeal, enables better creative decisions. This dramatically improves the chances of a marketing message hitting home.

Data Drives Creativity

Even the best creative ideas will fail if they are not correctly tailored to their audience. Ultimately, the better a brand knows its audience, the better it can understand what they like, how and when they like to be communicated with, and which channels they prefer. Using the insights that data can provide will help to better define creative Marketing messages, communication types, and offers.

A great example of data, technology, and creativity in action is Nike’s campaign for its Epic React sneakers. Nike integrated print, AR and online to create a campaign that used an AR-powered poster to promote the sneakers. The printed poster was mailed to anyone who had made a purchase through their online store: customers stepped onto the shoe outlines on the poster, and using a dedicated microsite on their phone, pointed the camera at their feet. The shoes are superimposed onto their feet, showing them how they will look when worn.

This is a great example of how AR can be integrated with a multi-channel Marketing campaign, allowing consumers to better explore products in their surroundings when shopping online – but of course, ultimately, it relies on the data about the consumer to ensure they are being targeted in the right way:

  • The data driving the campaign confirms that the individual has purchased, that they are engaged with the brand, what they purchased (e.g. footwear) and the channel (online). The data informs the target audience for the campaign, as well as providing address details
  • The creative elements of the campaign are driven by what Nike knows about the audience (e.g. purchase history, preferences, social media data). Direct mail is a channel that requires creativity, originality, and personalization – as well as an accurate address
  • Combining new technology (AR) with direct mail and online/mobile interaction via an app is a fantastic example of data-driven Integrated Marketing.

An example closer to home is that of food delivery app JustEat’s recent appointment of programmatic direct mail company Paperplanes. Paperplanes combines the latest Digital Marketing technology with print, enabling UK brands to deliver programmatic direct mail for the first time. The proposed agile and reactive intelligent direct mail strategy will be reliant on data and technology – we look forward to seeing if it delivers creatively too.

Technology is a powerful tool in influencing and changing consumer behavior. There is so much more to come as we assess the impact of technology in the future. Marketers will need to understand how consumers respond and engage as Marketing Technology becomes more sophisticated and what layers of intelligence must be captured in order to understand what customers really want.

As new technologies emerge, brands can’t afford to sit on the sidelines. The companies that use the data they have to make informed decisions and combine creativity, personalization and the right choice of technology platform will be in the best position to win. The future of customer engagement puts the consumer at the heart of everything they do with a balance of data, technology, and creativity.

Read more: In-App Versus Open Web: Adopting Strategies for Optimal Customer Engagement