Co-Piloting the Customer Journey: Smarter Automation Drives More Impactful Marketing

By Brendan O'Kane

When an individual interacts with a brand, he begins driving his own “customer journey.” And just as on a car trip, there may be an additional traveler on that journey – playing one of two roles.  The Passenger rides shotgun, supporting the driver when needed and the Co-Pilot navigates the journey, guiding the driver’s decision-making

The role of the passenger-seat traveler depends on intent: Is it about going along for the ride (and influencing the driver at key moments)? Or is it about directing the driver through the route to the destination?

Marketers must consider their role – and their intent – the same way when it comes to using technology to “drive” customer behavior.

Automation’s Email-Driven Past…

For years, marketing automation tools have helped brands become influential “passengers” by using well-timed, targeted email campaigns to foster conversions or shorten the buying process. But email is far from the only channel customers interact with.

Meeting your users where they live, on their preferred engagement channel – be it SMS, in-app messaging, interstitials, email, or otherwise – is vital to influencing their behavior and driving revenue results. With research showing consumers increasingly take a “multi-device path” to purchase, marketers must upgrade to an omnichannel-optimized tool set in order to help guide the customer journey:

More than 60% of online adults in the U.S. use at least 2 devices every day. Nearly a fourth use 3

More than 40% of online adults sometimes start an activity on one device and finish on another

1 in 3 omni-channel shoppers does research on mobile before buying on desktop or offline (with the figure jumping to 1 in 2 among shoppers ages 18-34).

 …Meets an Intelligent, Mobile-Optimized Future

In addition, measuring marketing performance based email-only analytics – such as open rates and click-thrus – fails to provide marketers with the ability to directly attribute results to individual activity. With a stronger mobile focus, marketers can optimize their messaging strategies to drive direct revenue results.

Ultimately, it’s about doing more than going along for the ride; it’s about engaging – and navigating – them throughout the entirety of the buying process. With an omnichannel tool set powered by OtherLevels, marketers can more effectively drive customers down the path to purchase. To learn more, contact us now.

Filed Under: Tags: , , , With: digital marketing, Engagement, Marketing Techniques, Mobile Marketing, Personalization

The Biggest Issue in Email Marketing: A/B Testing is Never Effective Enough

By Brendan O'Kane

Communication concept: Hand pressing a letter icon on a world map interface

Imagine you’re shopping for shoes at a department store when a voice over the loudspeaker announces a promotion: Today only, you hear, all dress shirts are twenty percent off. Focused on finding new footwear, you ignore the offer – shirts aren’t on your shopping list.

Now, imagine you’d heard a different announcement: Pay twenty percent less on dress shirts, but only if you act now!

While there’s a chance you’d find the reworded offer more compelling, it’s unlikely the second message would impact your behavior differently than the first. You’re disinterested in dress shirts; the offer – however worded – likely won’t change that.

Marketers tend to believe otherwise when email is involved. Marketing automation may be more sophisticated than (most) in-store AV systems, but it’s fundamentally quite similar to a loudspeaker announcement: A retailer communicates a blanket offer to its existing customer base with a predetermined message. Just like email marketers, in-store retailers test their messaging to determine what wording and tone are most effective in driving conversions.

In the world of email marketing, that’s known as A/B testing.

A/B testing can help ensure that only impactful messaging is deployed to customers, but it often becomes a continuous cycle of measuring, tweaking, and resending messages (which, as we’ve discussed previously, absorbs many hours of time). A/B testing also ignores a major truism of marketing: Your audience is not a homogenous group.

A/B testing also provides marketers with valuable data and information on the consumers their messages connect with, but delivers no intel on the others. For any cycle of marketing efforts to be truly effective, it must cultivate as much data as possible – on disengaged users as much as engaged ones. Marketers can’t fundamentally change customers’ shopping goals, but smarter automation can help brands better engage their users as individuals and cultivate more useful data.

Ultimately, effective automation is as much about listening to your consumers (and understanding their objectives) as it is about getting them to engage with your offers. Taking A/B testing further requires better leveraging data to make your offers (for shoes, shirts, or otherwise) too hard for individual customers to ignore.

Filed Under: Tags: , With: A/B Testing, Email, Engagement, Marketing Techniques

How to Close the ‘Personalization Gap’ Between Brands and Consumers

By Brendan O'Kane

Personalization, individualization, customer profiling… the marketing industry’s current buzzwords all speak to the same concern: Consumers increasingly expect offers and promotions to be targeted directly to their unique preferences, interests, and buying behaviors.

Marketers understand that it’s their responsibility to meet consumers’ expectations. And the majority believe they already are: According to a recent study by Forrester, 66%t of marketers rate their personalization efforts as “very good” or “excellent.”

The Great Disconnect

Many consumers, however, don’t feel the same way. 44% told Forrester they receive “too many” offers and promotions. Even worse, 40% said that most promotions “don’t deliver anything of interest.” What’s driving the disconnect?

In part, the “personalization gap” involves a chicken-and-egg issue: 45% of marketers told Forrester when it came to their current personalized marketing strategy, their top concern was that “consumers delete most email offers and promotions without reading them.” With so many marketers believing their personalization tactics are “very good” or “excellent,” that claim of concern is akin to placing the blame on customers’ shoulders: We’re doing a great job giving customers what they want.. Our customers are just ignoring it.

What that thinking reveals is that marketersare failing to meet their customers where they live.

Across the board, consumers engage with targeted offers from their favorite brands when those offers are delivered on their preferred mediums. If marketers are so worried customers are deleting their emails, maybe they shouldn’t send emails. Instead, shouldn’t they try to  reach 100% of their base by deciding, in real time, which channel the individual recipient is most likely to engage with – be it email, SMS, browser pop-up, or otherwise – instead of making that decision for them?

It’s Not You, It’s Me

The “if only they stopped ignoring us” thought process also ignores a more central tenet of marketing (and of business at large): The customer is always right. If 40% of consumers say most promotions “don’t deliver anything of interest,” they’re right – and it’s up to marketers to revisit their messaging strategies and optimize them more effectively.

Personalization can be a huge boon to marketing performance, but if executed poorly – and without a mind for the effectiveness of the channel – its value is nil. Acquiring data to improve personalization is also a cyclical process: the more consumers engage, the more intelligence you can cultivate and the more customized offers you can send.

If your customers are ignoring your offers, it’s because they’re not personalized properly – and it’s time to take action. A better automation solution can help bridge the divide between your offers and what your customers want – and make the marketing sector’s favorite buzzwords work more strongly in your favor.

Filed Under: Tags: , , , With: digital marketing, Engagement, Marketing Techniques, Mobile Marketing, Otherlevels, Personalization, Retail

3 Smart Mobile Marketing Trends to Watch

By Brendan O'Kane

2015 marked the first year that mobile traffic exceeded desktop internet use (at least in the U.S.), and 2016 is poised for even greater smartphone and tablet engagement among consumers.

Given larger technology trends and developments, consumers’ growing use of mobile devices is not all that surprising, but it is game-changing – especially when it comes to motivating consumers to action.

Take advertising, for example. As the global media environment shifted from its print origins to its online present, the industry became entrenched in the idea that they were trading print dollars for digital dimes and, ultimately, mobile pennies. Yet that’s no longer the case: As digital advertising observers noted earlier this year, Facebook’s shift from primarily-desktop to primarily-mobile has led to higher engagement and average revenue per user – meaning that in 2016, mobile users are far more valuable to advertisers than “pennies” are.

As stakeholders in the advertising and marketing sectors reorient their strategies to the new mobile-first reality, it’s crucial for them to keep an eye on the most impactful trends in the mobile space… or else they risk dropping their dollars (and dimes) on the wrong efforts. We see the following three mobile developments driving strong consumer activity in the months to come.

Video Goes Vertical

For as long as there’s been video, it’s been as horizontal as the landscape-oriented screens it’s been played on. But once again, mobile is changing the norms of media – this time by shifting its direction.

Many took umbrage when Snapchat, upon expanding its advertising arm in 2015, asked brands to film their ads vertically. But the results speak for themselves: Snapchat has said its users have a 9 times higher engagement rate with vertical rather than horizontal video. Other apps that have embraced vertical video and images include Periscope, Meerkat, and Instagram (which abandoned its square-media-only approach last year to better accommodate larger, vertically-oriented device screens).

The rise of vertical media is partly a concession to mobile device users; it represents brands and tech innovators accepting and adapting to their users’ preferences, rather than trying change them. That’s a wise marketing choice that consumer-facing companies should embrace in other areas, as well.

Smarter Automation Surges

One of those “other areas,” in fact, is digital messaging – an area of marketing where many companies are set in their ways. When it comes to email marketing and other automation-driven communication efforts, many businesses lean on their existing technologies and repeat the same efforts over and over again without ever earning meaningful results.

Or worse, many companies rely on single-channel (i.e., email-only) automation solutions with limited functionality, and invest significant time in manual efforts – A/B testing, segmenting user lists, resending – to drive stronger open rates and engagement… all while failing to consider that their user base may have no interest in engaging via email in the first place.

Smarter automation systems are beginning to change that. OtherLevels’ Intelligent Messaging, for example, can analyze historical user and campaign data to determine, in real time, the best time, day, device, and channel (email, app notification, SMS, or otherwise) for every message, to every customer – enabling marketers to reach 100 per cent of their audience without any manual decision-making.

Buy Buttons Get Pushy

And reaching customers ‘where they live’ – i.e., via their preferred medium or digital channel – is key to driving stronger conversions. When hit with the right message at the right time on the right channel, any consumer is available to buy… most especially the mobile consumer.

But moving mobile users from ‘available to buy’ over to ‘making the purchase’ takes more than just a message. It takes a compelling call to action, and a seamless shopping experience, to push them to convert. Retailers are increasingly adapting to that reality, as well, by incorporating ‘buy buttons’ into their apps and integrating them into their social channels.

By deploying buy buttons, retailers are enabling consumers to make more seamless purchases without ever navigating away from the screens where the items they’re buying are located. Backed by simple payment forms that reduce the purchase process to one or two steps, buy buttons reduce or eliminate the friction of making a mobile purchase.
The more buy buttons are utilised, the more mobile buying activity we’ll see across the e-commerce space – and the more valuable mobile users will become in the year ahead.


Filed Under: Tags: , , , , With: digital marketing, Engagement, Marketing Techniques, Mobile Marketing

Marketing Automation: To Bolster Effectiveness, Go Beyond ‘Segment & Send’

By Brendan O'Kane

Like all business-focused technologies, marketing automation systems are supposed to make people’s jobs easier and their efforts more effective. Unfortunately though – like all business-focused technologies – they can sometimes do the exact opposite.

Email marketing solutions and other communication platforms are a case example. Most sell themselves on the idea that they make it simple for marketers to manage their subscribers (through custom list-organizing features) and to reach them (with “set it and forget it” scheduling tools). They also typically highlight how valuable it is that their reporting and analytics capabilities enable users to track and monitor open rates, as well as other campaign performance metrics.

But here’s the thing: Achieving increased marketing effectiveness through the use of those supposedly high-value tools, features, and capabilities requires a wealth of manual effort and decision-making. In fact, the long-accepted best practices of marketing communications – segmenting users by demographics; A/B testing outcomes; measuring, tweaking, resending – all absorb marketers’ most valuable asset: time.

Which ultimately brings into question the entire value proposition of a marketing automation platform: If even the most basic best practice of “segment and send” requires manual selection, what’s so automated about that? If marketers have to review reports and modify timing to boost open rates and performance, how much easier does a given platform make the marketer’s job?

The issue of effectiveness gets exacerbated even further when you move beyond the exclusive use of email communications to the ‘multichannel challenge.’ Even many comprehensive multichannel marketing systems offer only single-orientation campaign options; that is, they require the marketer to preselect the channel or message type (email, push notification, interstitial, or otherwise) prior to deploying a campaign.

Therein lies another manual decision – one with very weighty consequences regarding the campaign’s potential for effectiveness. No channel is inherently “best” for reaching a broad audience; the best channel is always the one that the recipient of the message is most likely to engage with. Yet short of spending hours of time reviewing reports and analytics across an entire user base, there’s no way for a marketer to deploy a single-orientation campaign and reach every recipient.

To truly bolster campaign effectiveness (without investing hours of manual effort) marketers must utilize a truly automated, data-powered solution. OtherLevels’ Intelligent Messaging system is tackling this challenge, and using big data to maximize campaign effectiveness while reducing  manual effort. It utilizes historical user and campaign data to determine, in real time, the best time, day, device, and channel for every message, to every customer.

In fact, OtherLevels is the only platform that can manage cross-channel campaigns and deliver messages across a wide variety of messaging types – enabling marketers to reach 100% of their audience. That equates to true automation: marketing without the guesswork and limitations of the channel-specific “segment and send” approach.

And thankfully, that can actually make marketers’ jobs easier… and their efforts more effective.

Filed Under: Tags: , , , With: digital marketing, Engagement, Marketing Techniques, Personalization