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How To Retain Customers Using Real-Time Adaptive Marketing

Imagine for a moment what it would be like if your favorite brand (e.g. a clothing company, a local restaurant, an e-commerce store) started treating you like royalty:

  • they remember your name, your preferences, and
  • send you personalized offers and recommendations based on your previous purchases, visits to their store/site, surveys and feedback

Too good to be true? Not anymore, thanks to real-time adaptive marketing technology that brings a whole new level of personalization to the game of business.

The Roots Of Personalization through Adaptive Marketing

Personalization is not new, it’s been used by local shops, restaurants, tailors and barbers for decades. In the old days, business owners knew each and every one of their customers personally. This degree of intimacy allowed businesses to understand the real needs and wants of their customers and provide deeper levels of attention and, as a result, retain those customers for life.

It’s through this type of commitment to their customers that local restaurants, tailors and even bookstores would always have stock of their customers’ favorite merchandise and keep them coming back again and again.

Mass-consumption, however, turned customers into anonymous Excel figures and the old-school customer care was gone. What seemed like the lost art of salesmanship is now making its way back into the digital market under a different hat: personalization.

Imagine your favorite e-commerce store displaying a popup message the next time you land on their site:

  • “Hey, welcome back! You were looking at these sneakers last night. Why not buy them right now?”
  • Hey Jeff, your X-Men t-shirt is still waiting for you in the shopping cart! Complete the order today and get a 20% off.”
  • “Hey Lynda! Your gym membership will expire in 5 days. Check-in on Foursquare and get 20% off next month’s bill.”

Or, what about letting your favorite restaurant know you’ll be arriving in 30 minutes and by the time you get there the head waiter has already prepared a nice table for you? All of this being done using a simple app that syncs your intention to buy a service with the in-house logistics.

Wouldn’t it be great if brands started implementing this level or customization in their communications and bring the targeting to this amount of granulation? Wouldn’t you be impressed by such a service? Of course you would!

And the future is here. In the SF movie “Minority Report” there’s a scene where Tom Cruise walks into a shopping center and immediately after his retina scan, the billboards start to talk directly to him: “Hey, John Anderton! You could sure use a Guinness right about now.”

Anticipating customer intent and interacting with customers with super targeted ads has already been implemented by giants like Amazon who believes they can anticipate what you’re going to purchase and will ship items to a regional distribution center before you even placed the order.

Personalization… Today

Here is a typical example of personalized user experience: you browse through the newest items added on your favorite home décor e-store and suddenly the store displays a personalized message for you saying “Welcome back! Buy this lamp in the next 10 minutes and you get 10% off.” The coupon code would fit perfectly into the context and has great chances of conversion.

How would you feel? I know I know I’d be excited that my favorite store acknowledged my presence on their site and enticed me to buy using some sort of urgency trigger. That would be a really intense shopping experience.

Another example is Flipboard, an app that allows people to customize the way they discover and consume content. Amazon displays “similar” products to people, based on their purchase or browsing history and even on the items listed in their “Wishlist”.

The beauty of personalization is that it gives people the chance to create their own experiences and choose the type and format of the content they want to consume. No more cookie-cutter template emails and ad copy. Just imagine what personalization could do for your own business, knowing that every piece of content fits perfectly on your prospect, just like a custom-tailored suit can.

Interconnectedness In The Digital World

Today, 80% of internet users own a smartphone, which means they are almost always connected and are interacting with their favorite brands via multiple channels. These users have become no only tech savvy, but they also demand more attention, they expect to be acknowledged and treated well.

Why? Because they know they have options and that your competition is eagerly waiting to get their money. These always-connected users are even willing to share a lot of information if that’s what it takes to receive personalized offers and services.

An Infosys study of 5,000 consumers worldwide (including 1,000 in the UK) revealed that 78% of British respondents would buy from brands that made them more targeted, relevant offers.

This is where adaptive marketing and personalization help you align your marketing with real-time events (e.g. #CecilTheLion). Adopting real-time marketing techniques can help you take the pulse of what’s going on in the world and leverage big social movements by putting your own spin on the situation.

How To Create Your Omni-Channel Infrastructure

Consumers are coming back and forth among multiple devices, from smartphones to desktops and from laptops to tablets to TVs. They can interact with a business in a physical store, on a website or mobile app, through a catalog, or through social media.

Here are the 3 core steps to create an omni-channel user experience:

1) Have a seamless and consistent messaging across your print, digital, social and mobile marketing channels.

A print ad might supply a QR code to drive viewers to your website or Facebook page. Or, an e-commerce retailer should strive to preserve items in a cart across devices – if you add an item to your mobile shopping cart, it should still be in your shopping cart when you log in on your desktop computer.

A great example of a brand that has created an effective, seamless physical and digital user experience is Victoria’s Secret. Victoria’s Secret Angel Card program allows members to share & earn points by shopping in-store and online. Cardholders receive personalized e-mails with special offers and promotions, free gifts and birthday presents and access to exclusive shopping events. Members also receive extra rewards for syncing their social profiles and sharing the company’s news, effectively unifying omni-channel experiences.

2) Understand your audience’s path to engagement or purchase.

The ability to track your customers as they flow and make purchases through all the channels and capture all this data from online and offline sources allows you to find various touch points (physical store, desktop site, email list, social media, TV, mobile site, mobile app, catalog, customer service representative, etc.) on your customers’ journey. Tying multiple channels together helps you to understand which data points are most useful to you and segment your audience / budget accordingly.

Today’s marketing automation systems all have omni-channel marketing automation. Platforms like HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot, Act-on, or Silverpop help you manage your data, automate your marketing strategy and keep track of your data across multiple channels.

3) Capture attention once you’ve reached your audience.

That’s where relevance comes into play. Create customized content to intensify the power of your messaging on every channel. For example, you can send recommendations for complimentary products (a shirt to a pair of jeans).

Adding social features like sharing, ratings and reviews, and comments to your website allows customers to easily interact with your brand and seamlessly share their actions and opinions with their peers. Generating an actively engaged user community and nurturing user-generated content boosts SEO and increases referral traffic, time spent on site, and, ultimately, lifetime customer value.

Here is how Macy’s uses the omni-channel marketing system.

Shifting From Acquisition To Engagement

Check out this innovative ad campaign from a Swiss advertising agency. This is a really cool example of what’s possible with the new adaptive marketing techniques. The ad promotes a remote ski resort in the Alps and it was displayed in live video format in Zürich’s main railway station.

This way, urban commuters could connect in real time with the person making the invitation and receive a free train ticket (printed on the spot) if they decided to hop on the train that would leave in 15 minutes. Great urgency factor! The man from the ad even agrees to talk to people’s bosses to get them a free day to go on the trip.

The Swiss ad is just a glimpse of what marketing of the future looks like, in both creative angle and technology. This will definitely stir some waves among creatives and make ads more fun, spontaneous and minimize friction.

The key benefit of real-time marketing is that brands can use content marketing to create stories and experiences around products or services – pretty much like what museum have always been doing. Create installations where each piece of art would take the viewer to the next one and guiding them on a path of discovery.

This approach to marketing will mark the shift from the information age to the conceptual, experience age, where ads will become integrated experiences that build upon previous user interactions with the brand and get them involved into meaningful conversations and transactions.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, personalization comes with huge benefits for both customers and brands. This is the beginning of more targeted ad campaigns, improved customer service, more sales and higher rates of retention.

Customers are already starting to look for the royal treatment and are very diligent with their money. The better you can acknowledge your customers, show them appreciation, nurturing and letting them know that their voice is important to you, the easier it will be to stand apart from your competition.

Brands that will build omnichannel experiences for their users and optimize customer interactions across all devices will rise to the top. Adapting to change is the key factor for staying in business and this time change means creating unique customer experiences and personalized journeys throughout the entire sales funnel.

What are your thoughts on the future of real-time adaptive marketing? How do you see your business adopting it? What kind of content works best for moving your customers down the sales funnel?

We’d love to hear from you and see how you’re adapting to real-time personalization to enhance your customers’ experiences.

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