It's one of the most difficult things for a brand to achieve in a world where consumers are in control of how they access media and have countless choices and options at their fingertips. Consumers can compare products, services and prices with a click and have seemingly infinite ways to connect and consume. The digital economy has long been focused on ROI and counting conversions, rather than building relationships. But you can engage the consumer and build loyalty—all along the path to purchase. In fact, think of it instead as the path to brand loyalty.
A brand has to be a good conversational partner, listening to and not just talking at people. But you can’t shout the same generic message to everyone and hit repeat. Target the message and then listen to what your customer says so you can refine and adjust your message for the next time you talk to that customer.
To build loyalty, marketers need to allow consumers to interact with their brands in a way that is personal and convenient for them individually. Any advertising that is not relevant to the consumer can negatively impact a brand, especially if that person already has a relationship with the brand.
A key barrier to building and maintaining customer loyalty is underutilizing the data you do have to inform decisions about how to interact with consumers in their specific journeys. For example, brands can engage future consumers with aspirational content or recent purchasers with how-to tips. It's about using data to make the conversation relevant and personalized.
When starting any media initiative, you should not just plan media but always add in a layer of analysis: How can we use our data to better understand our customers? How can we find more groups like them? How should what we know about them change the message? If you are not tapping into that type of data now, you are losing opportunities to build relationships with customers.
It’s all too easy to get caught up in counting conversions rather than focusing on loyalty. But smart marketers know they need to build loyalty to drive revenue, looking beyond the bottom line to gain intelligence with every consumer click and to better meet each consumer’s specific needs. The key takeaway here? Consumer + brand = a mutually beneficial relationship.
The amount of choice available to consumers has increased dramatically—and there are lots of voices surrounding buyers on the path to purchase, whether that’s on social media or through online reviews and ratings. That’s made the loyalty piece difficult.SAM HUSTON, CHIEF STRATEGY OFFICER, iPROSPECT
While the consumer path to purchase we are about to explore is the most linear, we want to make it clear that the usual path is actually nonlinear and disjointed. Our goal is to help you learn the best ways to build loyalty and strong relationships at all stages so you’re prepared for anything.
In the digital age we walk a fine line between being able to form a strong bond with the customer and completely alienating him.KIM SIVILLO, SVP, MANAGING DIRECTOR, EAST, iPROSPECT
In the digital era, where consumers are in control, building awareness goes beyond brand recognition. To start building loyalty, it’s also about understanding the need of each individual and answering that need with relevant content.
Hilton Worldwide wanted to reach people stuck in the airport because of flight cancellations—after all, who needs a hotel room more than that group of people? With two critical pieces of data—knowing these people were in the airport and when the airport had a lot of flight cancellations—Hilton Worldwide could be proactive and instantly increase its search ad buy in those markets, says Dustin Bomar, VP, digital acquisition and brand marketing, Hilton Worldwide. “We want to be there when they are ready for us.”
Hilton Worldwide began targeting people with information specific to them when they needed it. Stranded travelers who searched for “Philadelphia airport hotels,” for instance, were served an ad for the nearby Hilton Worldwide hotel.
Hilton Worldwide has experienced substantial revenue growth directly attributable to the campaign—but also improved relationships and brand perception with new and existing customers.
Remember, any positive engagement with your brand is just as valuable as an actual purchase. Whether it’s a visit to your website, a click on a search ad or a share on social media, each engagement is another step toward building a long-term customer relationship. According to eMarketer, 70% of people expect a personalized experience.
Brands need to think about how to customize the message for each channel and each touch point in the customer’s journey. For instance, a second-screen ad might be complementary to the original TV ad rather than just the same exact ad.JEREMY HULL, VP-PRODUCTS AND SERVICES, SOLUTIONS, iPROSPECT
To attract customers, it’s not about yelling the loudest, but about having the most meaningful conversations. This means changing your measurements to metrics that favor quality engagements rather than nonqualified broadcast impressions, or quantity. After all, success based on random impressions doesn’t tell us much in the loyalty game.
Customize the brand message for each channel and touch point. Take the audience you are targeting and overlay its individual circumstances to provide hugely important context.
At this point marketers are trying to be hyper-aware of what the consumer is doing—such as search—based on current behavior. Expand the two-way conversation and allow your potential customer to let you know what he wants.
Keep your message on target and specific. If the consumer has expressed interest in running shoes, don’t target generic athletic apparel messages at him. To accomplish this, you need to have all your data plugged into all your channels.
It sounds counterintuitive, but use remarketing lists to selectively avoid sending general messages to your most valuable customers.
The secret to a two-way conversation? Treat customers the way you’d treat your friends. “It’s so important to treat the customer’s data the way you would treat a neighborhood secret: Use it thoughtfully and be mindful,” says Kim Sivillo, SVP, managing director, East, of iProspect.
Be sure to make it easy for customers to unsubscribe from your email list. Pay attention to signals telling you that you are overcommunicating or undercommunicating.
It’s difficult to do effectively; you will have a subset of customers who expect to hear from you every day. But there will also be a subset of people who are annoyed at the first email you send them. That’s why you need to look at the data and take a one-to-one communication approach.
These three principles, the result of proprietary research of mass affluent and upper-class consumers ages 21 to 74, are based on one key finding: Consumers want to shop on their own terms, and they all use digital connectivity to find information, enhance convenience and gain choice. For marketers wanting to build loyalty, this means really listening to what customers want, where and when they want it.
76%RESEARCH PRODUCTS ONLINE BEFORE BUYING
36%COMPARE PRICES OR LOOK UP INFO WHILE IN A STORE USING THEIR PHONES
93%LOOK UP INFORMATION ON PRODUCTS AND SERVICES ONLINE AT LEAST MONTHLY
Our consumer has finally reached the purchase stage of his journey. While this may look like a success, it’s actually the next potential stumbling block for marketers if they aren’t paying attention and listening to their customers. What brands do now is especially critical to establishing long-term loyalty.
To start, make sure you are constantly reviewing the customer’s ability to interact with your brand as seamlessly as possible while reducing friction in the path to purchase. This may be most important in the actual purchase process. Let the customer buy in the way he prefers—online, in-app, via phone or in person—with equal ease.
If you offer customers the opportunity to purchase through an app, make sure the process is just as simple and straightforward for a first-time user as it is for a frequent purchaser. And once the purchase is complete, immediately help the customer feel great about that purchase.
In the age of online reviews and social media, the fear of making the wrong choice is higher than ever. Tactics such as paid social media posts, promoted reviews and follow-up emails can bolster a customer’s confidence that he bought the right thing or spent his money wisely—and also start him on the path to his next purchase.
For consumers, the fear of making a wrong choice is higher than ever. Even if you love a product and buy it, you’ll go online and see that someone else picked on it. Even though that didn’t happen to you—even though it had nothing to do with you—as a buyer it can make you feel that you made the wrong choice.SAM HUSTON, CHIEF STRATEGY OFFICER, iPROSPECT
Many marketers are losing out on the opportunity to use their data in a way that can build brand and corporate loyalty. Too often a company with multiple brands keeps the data for each brand separate—treating the brands almost as distinct companies, which leads to missed opportunities.
For example, the company's Brand A customer is older or more affluent and can afford a higher price, while the Brand B customer is younger and on a budget. But often there is surprising overlap in the customer lists.
The marketer could be missing out on the chance to develop a relationship with the Brand B customer, who may eventually “graduate” to the premium brand. Or worse, Brand A and Brand B could both be sending messages to that same customer, treating her like two different people.
Intel chips are found inside many high-tech consumer products, from personal computers to wearable technology. But consumers don’t directly buy the Intel brand—they buy Apple, or Microsoft, or Dell, with “Intel inside,” as the company’s brand messaging says. “It’s a unique challenge for us,” says Corey Carrillo, senior global SEM and performance media manager for Intel Corp. “We don’t own the relationship with the consumer. And that means sometimes we don’t own the data, either.”
To build awareness and purchase preference, Intel is working to make sure its quality-inside message is in front of key consumers while they’re shopping for information about technology products. For instance, when Intel’s advertising featuring “The Big Bang Theory” star Jim Parsons runs on TV, Intel syncs that advertising with refreshed digital messaging that picks up within 10 minutes online.
Intel and iProspect also have worked with HookLogic to buy ad placements against certain products and SKUs on various retailer websites. If a shopper searches for those products, SKUs or keywords at BestBuy.com or Staples.com, for example, he will be served an Intel ad. This auction-based merchandising integrates the search ad directly into the research and buying experience.
But Intel also builds awareness with big tent-pole campaigns splashed across traditional media and digital platforms. Its recent Grammy Awards effort with Lady Gaga allowed the singer to use cutting-edge Intel technology in a tribute to the late David Bowie. The performance was a featured part of CBS’ Grammy telecast, while a long-form commercial and video told the behind-the-scenes story of the technology—and the entire effort was teased and replayed on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, as well as Intel’s own websites.
“We are always pushing ourselves to find a new way to be relevant in the marketplace,” Mr. Carrillo says. “These types of experiences generate excitement and a lot of buzz about Intel.”INTEL: PIONEERING NEW SEARCH TERRITORY
Consider it this way: A purchase means that your “first date” with the customer was a success. Now how do you strengthen that relationship? You can’t talk to her like a stranger anymore.
It’s more important than ever to be a good conversational partner. That means you need to tap into all the data you have about a customer to send relevant, tailored messages, but it also means being thoughtful about how you speak to that customer.
After a customer has searched out your company and purchased a product online, don’t retarget him with an ad for those products—he already bought them! Don’t tell the customer that you’re not even listening after he’s opened his wallet. This sort of issue is the easiest to fix but also the biggest miss, says Jeremy Hull, VP, products and services, solutions, iProspect.
When a customer makes a purchase from your company, you might add her name to your email list. If that customer keeps deleting your emails without opening them, you need to change the conversation. After a few weeks, change the subject line, Mr. Hull says. “Make it read, ‘Should we change how we are emailing you?’ That tells the customer you’ve noticed she hasn’t clicked on any of your communications.”
When a customer downloads your brand app, use that app as another conversational tool. For instance, certain apps make it a point to say “good morning” or “good evening,” depending on when a user signs in—just a small way of showing that the brand is engaged, paying attention to its customer and understanding the context of the conversation.
Brand apps have become one of the most popular and potentially powerful tools to continue engaging with customers—potentially powerful because you have to get your app right to make it really work.
Although everyone likes their frequent-flier points, loyalty in the travel category is not just about rewards programs any more. Hilton Worldwide is evolving its HHonors loyalty program, relaunched in summer 2014, into more of “a club for everyone,” says Dustin Bomar, VP, digital acquisition and brand marketing, Hilton Worldwide.
Travelers can become a member of the HHonors program while booking their first room reservation at a Hilton Worldwide hotel. Being a member, especially a member using the HHonors app, gives customers access to upgrades such as free Wi-Fi as well as the ability to customize their Hilton Worldwide stays. By the end of 2016, a guest using the Hilton Worldwide app will be able to get a digital key downloaded to his smartphone, allowing him to check into his room and skip the front desk entirely.
“What we’ve learned with our app is that it can’t just be something that’s neat to do, that customers will only do once,” Mr. Bomar says. “You have to make sure there is truly a consumer value to the app.”
new HHonors members in 2015
Downloads of the new HHonors app
Building loyalty along the path to purchase and beyond takes time and work. If you’re struggling with the complexity—as most brands are—try to step back and look at the big picture. Says Sam Huston, chief strategy officer for iProspect, “The marketing world is so much more complex today, and the number of touch points greater and greater. It’s not really a linear journey from awareness to consideration to purchase to loyalty—because the channels and touch points are different for every consumer group, and there are differences from person to person.”
To reach the end goal—creating an ongoing, lasting two-way relationship with your customers—make sure you stay focused. Use the available data to help map the customer’s journey because ultimately the journey ends at the same place, even if the touch points are different.
And most importantly, focus on the conversation. As Mr. Huston says, “The most important thing for us to do is to really understand who we are trying to talk to and build that understanding. That’s the path to loyalty.”
At iProspect, we transform our clients’ businesses by connecting brands to their consumers. Leveraging our suite of services, smart technology, extensive global footprint and the industry’s best specialists, we provide best-in-class performance strategies to get you the results your business needs.
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