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May

2

2017

These 7 Brands Take Personalized Marketing to a New Level

Published by in category Daily, Personalization | Comments are closed

When I sit down to write an article, I have a pretty standard routine. I outline the story in our Content Optimization System (COS), copy and paste it into a Google doc, find a good photo to accompany it, do research, write, proofread, and carry it back over to our COS. It’s a weird series of steps that doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, but it does for me. They’re my very own personal blogging habits.

Those habits aren’t just limited to my writing process. I have morning, evening, and weekend routines, as if my entire life has become a series of established patterns. Knowing what those habits are, I learned during step four of the above, is a veritable goldmine for marketers.

I figured that out from a 2012 New York Times article called, “How Companies Learn Your Secrets.” Penned by Charles Duhigg, it was written largely as a follow-up to what became a public incident: An angry father marched into a Minnesota Target store, demanded to know why his teenage daughter received coupons for baby products, only to later find out that she was, in fact, pregnant. The retailer, it turned out, was able to predict her pregnancy and subsequently personalize the promotions she received, thanks in large part to a ton of (completely legal) data collection and analysis. New Call-to-action

Creepy — or great marketing?

The article details exactly what that information and accompanying process look like, and why psychology makes it easier for marketers to customize the messages they send us. But how does that work, and how have other brands put it into practice? We’ve dug a little deeper, and shared what we found below.

7 Personalized Marketing Examples

1) Target

The Example

To continue the above tale, we thought it might be helpful to share more information on how, exactly, the retailer pulled off the aforementioned personal prediction. As Duhigg explains in his article — which goes into much greater detail than I will here — every Target customer is assigned a Guest ID number after the very first interaction with the brand. That ID is used to store the customer’s demographic information, ranging from ethnicity to job history, and to track buying behavior. And by doing the latter, specifically with those who had baby registries with the store, Target’s marketing analysts were able to form a “pregnancy prediction” score, which allowed them to determine which purchasing patterns indicated a customer was in the early expectant stages.

It was a game changer. “Once consumers’ shopping habits are ingrained,” Duhigg writes, “it’s incredibly difficult to change them.” That is, until, a major life event takes place, like finding out that a baby is one the way. That’s when routines are forced to change. Suddenly, there’s a deadline, and people start to buy products that they never previously considered, like “cocoa-butter lotion” and “a purse large enough to double as a diaper bag,” the article says. Those are the behaviors that trigger Target’s pregnancy prediction score, prompting the customer to receive special deals on baby-related items.

The Takeaway

While this level of personalized marketing is admittedly fascinating, it could backfire. Duhigg summarized it well in his article:

Using data to predict a woman’s pregnancy, Target realized … could be a public-relations disaster. So the question became: how could they get their advertisements into expectant mothers’ hands without making it appear they were spying on them? How do you take advantage of someone’s habits without letting them know you’re studying their lives?”

That’s not to say that marketers should completely do away with personalization, as it’s effective when done correctly — personalized emails, for example, have a 6.2% higher open rate than those that aren’t. But in an era with growing concern over privacy and security, tread lightly. Let your customers know that you understand them, without being intrusive. Curious to learn how to do that with your HubSpot Marketing and Sales software? Read more about how personalization tokens work here.

2) Vidyard

The Example

Last week, my colleague, HubSpot Academy Sales Professor Kyle Jepsen, forwarded me an email with the comment, “Taking personalization to a whole new level.” The video below followed:

Source: Vidyard

He wasn’t kidding. This particular brand could have just superimposed each recipient’s name onto the whiteboard in this video and kept the same script for each one. But it didn’t stop there — Cole, the gentleman speaking in the video, not only addressed Kyle by his first name, but also referred to his specific colleagues and the conversations he had with them.

The Takeaway

Considering that the average online reader loses interest after about 15 seconds, personalizing your mixed media content is an interesting and often effective approach. “I mean, clearly he made the video just for me,” Jepson said. “It’s an interesting case study.”

And while this sort of personalization is memorable, it’s also extremely time-consuming. So if you set out to create it, be absolutely sure you’re targeting the right people. There’s nothing worse than taking the time to produce something highly customized, only to find out you’ve sent it to someone who doesn’t have the decision-making power you need.

3) Coca Cola

Personalized Coke Bottle.pngSource: ShareaCoke.com

The Example

Back in 2011, Coca Cola launched its famous “Share a Coke” campaign in Australia, bringing it to the U.S. in 2014. It was an effort to reach millennials, in which each bottle contained one of the most popular first names assigned to that generation. Eventually, bottles contained semi-personal labels beyond first names, like “better half.” Today, according to Ad Age, over 800 first names are used.

According to that same source, Coke will soon be adding surnames to bottles, like Garcia and Thompson. “Last names give us an opportunity to invite more people into the campaign,” Evan Holod, Coca-Cola’s brand director told Ad Age. “It’s just a great way to up the reach.”

In addition to that effort, according CNBC, Coca-Cola Great Britain will soon be including the names of famous vacation destinations on bottles, like Hawaii and Miami. The goal of that initiative is “to remind people of the refreshment and great taste that only an ice-cold Coke can bring on a hot summer day,” read the official statement. Plus, those bottles will come with the chance to win a trip to those locales.

The Takeaway

Putting first names on Coke bottles was a successful move. In the U.S., it resulted in increased sales volume for the first time in roughly four years. Plus, it provides a cheap thrill — I know that I internally squeal with excitement when I actually find a bottle that says “Amanda.”

The last name move, however, could be a bit different. While there is the option to customize your own bottle labels at ShareaCoke.com — which allows you to write whatever you want, like a customized event hashtag or something like “congratulations” — it could be deemed as exclusionary to those with unique or hyphenated last names. For example, while my feelings aren’t hurt knowing that I won’t find a bottle labeled with “Zantal-Wiener,” I’m not about to pay $5 for a customized one, either. So when you set out to personalize a product, make sure it’s appropriately customized to reach the right segment of your audience, but isn’t restrictive, either.

4) Amazon

The Example

Amazon’s personalization efforts aren’t exactly new. Since at least 2013, its product curation and recommendation algorithm has made for headlines and case studies. And yet, every time I visit my Amazon homepage, I can’t help but scroll down and get a kick out of its recommendations for me. Have a look:

Amazon-3.png

Those who know me are aware of my borderline obsession with hip hop, which is also the motivation for a lot of my online shopping behavior. Clearly, Amazon has taken notice. And as I continued scrolling down, the fitting personalization went on. There was a header reading “For a night in” with recommendations on what to stream on Amazon Prime — an activity that comprised the majority of my weekend. Its recommendations for dog and kitchen products were on point, as well. After all, those are the categories where I make the most purchases.

It’s not just me. When I asked my colleagues what their Amazon homepages looked like, they were equally pleased. Sophia Bernazzani, a fellow Marketing Blog staff writer (and self-proclaimed “cat mother of three”), had a plethora of personalized cat food recommendations, while Managing Editor Emma Brudner’s suggested Prime streaming titles came with the header, “Bingeable TV.”

“Amazon,” Brudner remarked, “You know me so well.”

The Takeaway

Here’s a personalization example where we don’t have a ton of complaints. As Brudner said, Amazon seems to know us pretty well, though I do question why, as per the image above, its algorithm thought I might like to buy a pair of leg warmers.

The nice thing about personalization of this nature, when it’s executed correctly, is that it often can lead to unplanned purchasing decisions. For example, the purpose of my most recent visit to Amazon was to check out its personalization features for this article. But then, I discovered that Rapper’s Delight: The Hip Hop Cookbook was in my recommended books. Did I buy something I don’t need? Sure. But I also was left delighted by the fact that it was brought to my attention with very little effort.

If you’re in the business of personalizing curated items or recommendations for your customers, remember: The best part about it, for the user, is the resulting discovery of new things that we like — whether it’s a book, a tool, or an article.

5) Spotify

The Example

In 2015, Adam Pasick penned a story for Quartz explaining the “magic” behind Spotify’s “Discover Weekly”: A curated playlist of tracks that it thinks a given user will like. It’s carried out, like many other personalization and recommendation platforms, largely with the help of an algorithm that determines a user’s “taste profile,” based on listening behavior and the most popular playlists among the entire Spotify audience. The technology behind it is from Echo Nest, a “music intelligence company” that was acquired, according to Pasick, by Spotify in 2014. Here’s a great diagram from the article that visually represents the process:

flowchart-v2.pngSource: Quartz

As much as I use Spotify — which is close to daily — I’ve never actually bothered listening to my Discover Weekly playlist. So after a colleague brought it to my attention, I decided to take it for a spin.

Spotify Discover Weekly.png

The results were hit-or-miss. There were a few new songs that I was thrilled to discover and plan to listen to again. But for the most part, my experience was similar to Pasick’s, who described many of the songs on his personalized playlist as “meh.”

But those behind Discover Weekly acknowledge that personalization isn’t a perfect science. They also have suggestions for how to make it better, like adding the Discover Weekly songs you like to your library, or skipping the ones you don’t — “If users fast-forward within the first 30 seconds of a song,” Spotify Product Director Matthew Ogle and Engineering Manager Edward Newett told Pasick, “the Discover Weekly algorithm interprets that as a ‘thumbs-down’ for that particular song and artist.”

The Takeaway

Most personalization initiatives aren’t going to be perfect. Even with a great algorithm, they are, at best, very educated guesses as to what’s going to be applicable to your customers. For that reason, it might be best to take a conservative approach to your recommendations, especially in the earliest stages of any personalization efforts you make.

This is an area where small-batch testing can be helpful. When you want to try out a personalization project or algorithm, identify your most active users, and invite them to pilot out the technology. Listen carefully to their feedback — good and bad — and see what you can do to make it better.

6) Iberia Airlines

The Example

During the 2016 holiday season, Iberia Airlines customers received emails posing the question: If you could visit any vacation destination, what would it be, and who would you go with? To answer, customers were redirected to a microsite where they would fill in responses, as well as the email address of the person they wanted to travel with. Not long after that, the friend would receive an email with a holiday greeting about the dream vacation — only, in order to view the card, that person had to click a link to view it in his or her browser.

It was that last step, Skift writer Brian Sumers explained, where “Iberia … put its advertising budget to work, using cookies [with the user’s permission] so the traveler’s friend would see banners across the web, suggesting the perfect Christmas gift.” That gift, of course, was the dream vacation. Let’s say, for example, I sent one of these cards to a friend. She might subsequently see several ads while browsing that said things like, “It’s never too late to fulfill Amanda’s dream. Do it with a trip to Mykonos.”

The Takeaway

The idea is certainly a cute one — and around here, we’re suckers for a good holiday marketing campaign. But one of the most important items to highlight here is Iberia’s use of cookies, and the fact that the brand wasn’t sneaky about it. As per the video above, a clear request was made to the user to allow cookies, and that’s essential. Even the best customized marketing becomes less personal, and definitely less desirable if it’s carried out without the user’s agreement.

7) Twiddy

Twiddy

The Example

Having enough data is essential for marketing personalization — but knowing what to look at and how to use it is just as important. That’s what made a tremendous difference for Twiddy, a vacation rental company based in the Outer Banks.

“Unless we had a good way of looking at the data,” Marketing Director Ross Twiddy told Inc., “how could we make good decisions?”

One of the major pieces of information that Twiddy began to more closely examine was how rental volume and demand shifted from week-to-week. Noticing those trends allowed the company to start making “pricing recommendations” to homeowners, according to Inc., “on the basis of market conditions, seasonal trends, and the size and location of a home.” The week after Independence Day was one that stood out to the team in particular, in that rentals showed a precipitous drop during that period.

Because Twiddy observed that trend (among others), it allowed the owners of its managed properties to start experimenting with pricing for that particular week as early as January. Not only did it benefit the customer — setting more realistic prices for lower-demand periods actually increased the bookings made for them — but it was just one way that Twiddy was delighting its customers with helpful, actionable information. It paid off, too. Since the brand began to use this data to help homeowners with decisions like pricing, its portfolio increased over 10%.

The Takeaway

There’s a famous saying that goes, “Help me help you.” Data, in general, can be a tremendous asset to brands. And it doesn’t have to be about your customers’ behavior — it can be about the habits of their customers, like the vacationers that rented from Twiddy’s homeowner clients.

As long as it’s something that can be shared ethically — like objective buying or seasonal trends — share the data and insights with your customers that’s going to help make them more successful. That’s the type of thing that makes a brand remarkable, and can help benefit your business, too.

Get Personal

One of the fundamental purposes of any personalization effort is to let your customers know that you’re paying attention to them. But striking a balance between, “We think you might find this helpful” and “we’re watching you” isn’t a simple process, so be sure to do some careful research, planning, and testing before you jump into any large-scale customization initiatives.

Remember that while you might be a marketer, you’re also a consumer. When it comes to experiments like these, put yourself into the shoes of the customer and ask, “Is this delightful? Or is it just creepy?” If it leans toward the latter, find out what’s giving it that vibe, and try something different.

What are some of your favorite personalized marketing examples? Let us know in the comments.

This post was originally published in December 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Sep

5

2016

7 Types of Push Notifications Users Actually Enjoy

Mobile Push Notifications

If recent marketing news has made one thing clear, it’s this: Mobile is non-negotiable.

A growing number of us are using mobile as our primary device for accessing the internet — over a quarter of us interact with our smartphones more than any other object, or human being, for that matter. And content, in kind, has to fit that format, whether we’re consuming it or discovering it for the first time.

Brands are starting to respond to that. Just last week, for instance, Google announced that non-mobile friendly pages will be ranking even lower next year.

Apps will be especially impacted most by this increasingly widespread mobile use. The push notifications we receive on our devices will play a vital role in the information we come across, and if we choose to consume it. Want more data on existing and emerging marketing trends? Pre-register for the  2016 State of Inbound report here.

Many of us are already receiving information that way. In 2015, the average opt-in rate for push notifications was 49.8%. But those messages have to be optimized — otherwise, brands risk being ignored or forgotten.

Why is that, exactly, and how can it be avoided? Read on to discover the types of push notifications your users actually want to receive — and how each one will benefit both of you.

7 Types of Push Notifications Your Users Actually Want

1) The ones that are encouraging — not shaming.

Once upon a time, I had an activity-tracking bracelet. It was connected by Bluetooth to my phone, where I could use an app to log workouts and meals.

One day, when I hadn’t worked out for a while as a result of having the flu, I received a push notification from the app.

“You haven’t been your active self lately,” it said. “Log a workout now.”

I can’t be the only one who would feel a little bit judged by a message like that, even if it was automated. I mean, was this app serious? I had the flu! No wonder health and fitness app have the lowest opt-in rate for push notifications — they shame their users.

That doesn’t have to be the case — nor is it, for every health and fitness app out there. There are some, like 12 Minute Athlete, that let users schedule their own workout reminders. (And if you’re sick, you don’t have to schedule any.) Then, when it does come time for your workout, you get a notification that encourages you, instead of making you feel guilty.

12 Minute Athlete

Source: 12 Minute Athlete

Most health and fitness apps are traditionally created with a somewhat shared goal: To help their users get better at doing something. And one of the most ineffective ways of doing that? Feeling bad about not doing it. In fact, research has shown that it’s self-compassion and forgiveness that make us correct negative behaviors — not guilt.

Consider giving your users the option of taking a break. That can be applied to a variety of app categories: Health and fitness, dating, or online shopping. Let them determine how long they want that hiatus to be — and feel free you set your own parameters for how long that can actually go on. Then, send a push notification to ask them if they’re ready to come back. That will remind them to launch the app, keeping them engaged after they’ve stepped away.

2) The ones that make life a little easier.

I’m one of those people who has to put everything in my calendar. But the one thing I never seem to remember scheduling is an online check-in for my flights.

That’s why I absolutely love it when airline apps remind me to check in 24 hours in advance — and maybe that’s one reason why travel and transportation apps have the highest push notification opt-in rate.

Many airlines notify passengers to check in via email, but let’s face it — with text messages outweighing email as the preferred method of communication by 23%, chances are that we’re looking at these quick notifications more than we’re checking our email.

JetBlue is one airline that does this particularly well. Like clockwork, I always receive a friendly little note on my screen — “Hey there. It’s time to check in for your flight” — exactly 24 hours before I’m scheduled to take off. It’s one less thing that I have to remember to do and, therefore, these particular notifications are adding value for me.

Ask yourself that question before you write copy for a push notification: How can we frame this in a way that creates value for the user? You’ll be glad you did — users who opt-in to push messages average three times more app launches than those who opt out.

3) The ones that know where its users are — in a non-creepy way.

When Localytics asked mobile users which type of push notifications they preferred the most, 34% responded with “a special offer based on my location” — the third most popular kind.

And why not? If you’re already out, you might as well treat yourself with that special discount, right?

Take this notification from Neoshop. It’s personalized on two levels — it includes the user’s first name, and it lets him know that there’s a shop location nearby where he can use some of the credits he’s accumulated.

Mobile-Marketing-Personalized-Push-Notifications.png

Source: Business 2 Community

Knowing where your users are and responding in kind accomplishes two things: First, it lets them know that you’re paying attention. You’re not watching them in a Big-Brother-ish way — you’re looking out for them, and for opportunities around them.

Second, offering them something special based on that information can make your brand relatable — like a friend texting to say, “I’m in your neighborhood. Wanna get coffee?”

That’s another way to add value for your user. Instead of asking them to go out of their way to engage with you, you’re creating an opportunity when it’s convenient to them. That makes it easy for someone to find a reason to launch your app — and to remember that they have unused rewards.

4) The ones that get people excited about something.

There are also occasions when you might not be where you want to be — like a warm beach in the middle of winter, for example. And, there are times when a push notification can help you get there — like with a cheap airfare alert.

Kayak, a travel search site, allows its users to set their own notification criteria — based on destination, date, or popular places to travel — and receive an alert when the price for any of those trips drops below a point of their choosing.

Kayak

Source: Arkenea

There are few things that thrill me more than a good deal on airfare. And when it’s Kayak who lets me know about that deal, I associate that brand with my excitement.

And that makes sense — “a special offer based on my preferences” was the #1 preferred type of push notification in 2015. The reward is twofold: Not only are your users receiving information that’s perceived as a great deal, but it’s the result of something they were able to dictate. There’s a return on their investment in your app — and they got to call the shots on what that return would look like.

There are several verticals that could stand to benefit from this strategy. It’s the positive association I mentioned before that really stands out — just as it is with location-based alerts, these notifications send the message that your brand is looking out for its users. It’s as if the app is saying, “I know you mentioned that you were looking for one of these, so I picked it up for you.”

It’s thoughtful, right? And since 52% of us prefer gifts that are truly considerate in that way, it seems fitting that we would respond well to brands that behave accordingly.

So think about what’s really going to excite your users. Let your audience determine what they deem rewarding by letting them customize preferences. When you plan your push notifications, having that information will help craft the message that your app is going out of its way to benefit its users.  

5) The ones that alert people to what matters to them.

It might seem like we’re a bit overwhelmed with bad news these days — so much, in fact, that WNYC put together a Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook. As much as we like to stay informed, we also like the opportunity to tune some things out.

But what about the rest of what’s happening in the world — the stuff that we want to stay in the loop for? At risk of sounding cliché: There’s an app for that.

The Oregon Public Broadcasting app set a great example for how push notifications can be used for this kind of content distribution and promotion. “We’re not singularly a breaking news app,” said OPB’s Marketing Director, Paul Loofburrow, “but if there’s a public service announcement, we want to share that.”

Instead, the app uses push notifications to alert listeners to live broadcasts, encouraging them to tune in. And it works — after sending these alerts, OPB saw a 483% increase in users listening to a specific radio broadcast.

OPB Broadcast Notification

Source: Urban Airship

Medium, an online publishing platform, uses push notifications in a similar way. Users can receive an instant alert when someone they follow publishes a new post — and can decide if they want to Medium to select the top five posts of this kind, instead of receiving a notification every time something new is published. And if they want, users can also opt to receive notifications for stories that Medium recommends, based on their reading history. 

 Medium Push Notification

Breaking News is another app that has quite a few content customization features. It lets users decide what they want brought to their attention, and when they want to hear about it. There’s an option to disable notifications for “major stories,” as well as a way to set “quiet time,” when no news alerts will be sent.

Breaking News Notification Settings

Source: Breaking News

But here’s where the real value comes in — the features that allow users to pick the topics they want to know about.

Breaking News Topics

Source: Breaking News

That level of personalization is a tremendous asset to your audience. In fact, users are three times more likely to respond to a notification that directly affects them, as opposed to an alert that might have been sent to everybody.

Depending on what sort of information is shared by your app, a best practice could be to let users pick and choose what they want to know about. And, instead of only giving them the chance to turn off notifications completely, let them choose a time of day when they don’t want to be disturbed.

6) The ones that help people pick up where they left off.

You’ve walked into a room with an intention. But then, something distracts you. The phone rings, someone’s shouting your name for your attention, and by the time that distraction has passed, you’ve forgotten why you walked into that room in the first place.

That scenario often plays out when we’re using apps. Let’s say I’m using a grocery delivery app to place an order, when someone sends me a text message. If leave the app to respond, I’m probably going to forget what I was doing before that message came in, and neglect to finish my order. That’s no surprise, since studies now reveal that we have a shorter attention span than most goldfish — largely due to smartphone use.

But Instacart is one app that helps me remember to finish a task. If I abandon my shopping cart without checking out, for example, it sends me this friendly reminder:

Instacart Reminder

How convenient! Not only do I now remember that I need to order my groceries, but I don’t have to wait that long for them to be delivered, either.

This example goes back to the idea of making life easier for your users. But in this case, instead of being reminded of a specific, salient event — like a trip or flight somewhere — the app is helping me stay on top of my day-to-day tasks and responsibilities.

When you design your push notifications, keep two things in mind:

  1. How busy are your users?
  2. Is this alert going to help them, or just distract and disrupt them?

Answering those questions will help you prioritize the alerts you want to send to your users, and limit the amount of overload they perceive from your app.

7) The ones that keep people posted.

Perhaps you’ve heard about the “hangry” phenomenon — an adjective that Dictionary.com defines as “irritable as a result of feeling hungry.”

When you combine the cultural pervasiveness of hangriness with the fact that more and more of us are ordering meals online (by 2020, it’s predicted that mobile ordering will be a $38 billion industry), the outcome is as follows: We really, really want to know when our food will arrive.

That’s why it’s smart for what Business Insider calls “aggregators” — platforms like GrubHub and Eat24 that allow users to order online from dozens of different outlets — to incorporate a live delivery update feature, to let us know when our food is on its way.

GrubHub Delivery Confirmation

Source: Localytics

GrubHub Delivery Status

Source: AllThingsD

It’s important to note that we’re becoming a species of instant gratification — 43% of us think it’s unacceptable to take more than 10 minutes to respond to a text message, for example. And whether we like that direction or not, it’s important for businesses to adapt, especially in the mobile sector.

If your app requires your users to wait for something, ask yourself:

  1. Am I making my users wait longer than they want or should have to?
  2. Am I keeping my users posted about what they’re waiting for?
  3. Am I updating my users to the point that I’m becoming disruptive?
  4. Do my users have a way to reach me if they need more information after I update them?

Those last two points stress the importance of striking the right balance with push notifications. Share just enough information so that your users aren’t left completely in the dark while they’re waiting. And if they need more details, make sure there’s an easy way for them to get in touch with you.

Ready to start notifying?

There are a few tools out there that can help you create and implement push notifications. A few of our favorites:

  • Roost: Roost provides a number of solutions for both desktop and mobile apps. Its biggest selling point is likely the ease of implementation, which largely consists of cutting and pasting a line of JavaScript into your code.
  • Amazon Web Services: Among Amazon’s many developer tools is its SNS Mobile Push Notifications feature. Like other platforms of its kind, this feature allows notifications to be sent individually (to one person at a time), or to multiple users at once.
  • OneSignal: OneSignal is a notification service that’s used by several apps that need to provide real-time updates to their users — think Uber (“where’s my ride?”). It also allows A/B testing, so that marketers can send two different messages to samples of user groups and see which one performs better.

When it comes to creating push notifications, there’s an unspoken golden rule: Alert others as you would like to be alerted.

These notifications are absolutely crucial to your mobile marketing strategy — users that enable them are 171% more engaged with the app than those who don’t. But choose them wisely.

When in doubt, we find it’s helpful to use a checklist. So make sure your push notifications meet these basic criteria:

  • They aren’t redundant or disruptive to your users.
  • They keep your users informed of the things they want to know.
  • They’re thoughtful — they keep an eye out and make life a little more convenient for users, without seeming overbearing or clingy.
  • They encourage users — and don’t shame them.

How do you use push notifications? Share it with us in the comments.

State of Inbound 2016

Jun

30

2016

How Real Brands Are Retaining Customers: 8 Strategies From Starbucks, Amazon & More

customer_retention_.jpg

What’s better than acquiring a new customer?

If your first thought was “retaining a current customer” then your strategic thinking is in the right place. While there’s a certain allure that comes with capturing new customers, keeping customers coming back will continually result in a greater ROI.

How do you create a customer retention strategy that keeps your current customers engaged?

Below, I’ve detailed eight retention strategies that the biggest brands are currently using to inspire loyalty. From leveraging convenience to prioritizing personalization, these are elements any marketer and business owner can take and test today.

8 Examples of Customer Retention Strategies in Action

1) TOMS: Begin with a mission.

Sometimes a brand inspires loyalty not through tactics and systems, but through what they stand for.

If you’ve ever watched Simon Sinek’s TED talk “Start with Why,” you probably already know a thing or two about the importance of having a mission, or “reason why.”

TOMS has built their entire business model around making the world a better place. As Fast Company contributor Jessica Weiss put it:

TOMS669 has integrated old-fashioned, for-profit entrepreneurship with new-wave, bleeding-heart philanthropy.”

The way they do this is in their “One for One” policy. For every pair of shoes that are purchased, they give a pair to people in need, thus far donating over 60 million pairs of new shoes.

customer-retention-toms.jpg

As consumers, we’re focused on the altruistic and environmental effects that our buying habits have beyond consumption. Doing good is becoming more and more important to us.

This doesn’t mean you should build your marketing around an altruistic message just to do it. The lesson is in finding something that people care about and positioning your brand around it.

2) Starbucks: Empower customers with convenience.

The coffee goliath has always been innovative with their marketing, especially in the customer acquisition department.

In the early days, Starbucks founders Zev Siegl, Jerry Baldwin, and Gordon Bowker focused on the sounds and the smells inside their shops in order to provide a delightful customer experience.

But to grow, they had to get innovative. One of their most innovative customer retention moves is their Mobile Order & Pay feature within their app. Thanks to the new feature, customers can order their coffee before they even arrive at the shop.

customer-retention-starbucks.jpg

Image Credit: AskMen

What’d their customers think about the addition? In short: They loved it.

669″Just this morning I parked at my kid’s school, placed my order in the parking lot, took him inside, then walked over to the Starbucks and picked up my drink. Mobile Order & Pay can cut 10 minutes out of my morning routine. I told my boss that it’s the reason I’m actually on time for work now,” explained busy mom Danielle Lesikar.

The simplest takeaway here is this: make your products and services as accessible as possible. Identify the desires and behaviors of your customers and create tools and systems that empower them. Whether that be an app or other traditional methods, it’s up to you.

3) Tesco: Add a personal touch.

This supermarket giant has a strong presence in the UK, with over 2,000 stores nationwide.

For huge brands like these, coming across as authentic and human can be a challenge. Online grocery shopping and self-service scanners are convenient, but people still like dealing with other people.

Customer service is still necessary, and the folks at Tesco have chosen to use Twitter as a way of executing this with a human touch. They show they care by adding personality to their interactions with customers. Check out this recent interaction:

customer-retention-tesco.jpg

To get started with an approach like this, identify your audience personas and communicate with them on their preferred channels. It doesn’t matter if it’s email or Snapchat, as long as it’s where their attention is.

From here you should encourage your customers to speak directly with you through that channel. Make it part of your messaging and remind them during and after the buying experience.

And always add personality to every message. Nobody likes a robot, so make sure whatever you’re communicating sounds like it’s coming from a human.

4) R&G Technologies: Speak to your customers.

We’ve taken a look at several B2C examples, but what about the B2B world? R&G Technologies is an Australian IT support firm that has developed strong, long-term relationships with their clients.

They solidify these relationships with rapid response times and strict SLAs. They get back to their clients quickly, and their employees have been bought in on this by tying these KPIs to how much they earn.

However, the biggest lesson is in their customer satisfaction surveys. They give their clients an opportunity to express what they’re doing right and, more importantly, what they’re getting wrong. This allows them to identify unhappy customers before they churn.

RG_Technologies.jpg

Image Credit: Client Heartbeat

R&G focuses heavily on asking the right questions in order to gain insights they can execute on. They use this information to make better business decisions and retain customers.

Most importantly, these discussions identify the challenges of R&G’s audience. This can help inform both your overall marketing as well as your retention strategy. Don’t underestimate the power of one-to-one conversations with your clients (especially if you’re running a digital business).

5) MeUndies: Use gamification and referral programs.

Touted as the most comfortable pair of underwear in the world, MeUndies drives great retention through two elements. The first, which we’ve already covered, is in their “reason why.”

The folks at MeUndies were tired of the struggle that comes with finding a great, comfortable pair of underwear. To back this up, they’ve fostered a strong culture and are very transparent with the process. They have an entire page dedicated to their factory (it’s beautiful by the way).

Although this makes for great retention, our focus is on their clever referral program. Customers are encouraged from the moment they purchase to refer a friend, and the rewards are worth it: For every friend you refer you get $20 and they get 20% off their first purchase.

MeUndies_Promotional_Offer.png

There’s a gamification element that shows how far through the buying experience your friend is, too, including a “nudge” button. If a friend adds a product to the cart but hasn’t completed checkout, you can use this to send an email reminder about it. In other words, MeUndies has found a way to use their current customers to reduce cart abandonement, while providing social proof in the process.

When done well, referral systems can be really effective for retention. The key is to focus on strong incentives and gamification to get people invested. Most importantly, don’t forget to empower and encourage your customers to become advocates for your brand in the process.

6) Apple: Create a divide between you and your competitors.

Want your customers to see you as the obvious choice over your competitors? Make note of Apple’s strategy, demonstrated by their 669“Mac vs. PC” ad campaign.

The campaign starred John Hodgman as the inept PC and Justin Long as the cool, collected Mac. The two would quip humorously over what made the Mac a better choice than a PC in a really entertaining manner.

The “Mac vs. PC” campaign was a very tongue-in-cheek — and it generated a lot of dispute. Not only that, but it divided the market and set Apple apart from their competitors by identifying the kind of consumers who should buy Apple products.

Sticking true to who you are as a brand shows integrity and makes it easier to attract customers that just might become your strongest brand advocates.

Can you find a cause to fight for (or against)? If your brand is more friendly than this, you can still put some fire behind your story and create a rally affect. Don’t be afraid to be a little bold in your marketing to get the best results from this approach.

7) Amazon Prime: Use subscriptions to bolster the experience.

It’s unusual for a commodity-based organization to implement a subscription service into their business model.

Which is exactly what Amazon created in the form of Prime. The subscription was originally created to bring customers faster delivery. It generated a lot of controversy, but quickly became popular with regular shoppers on the platform.

customer-retention-amazon.jpg

Since its launch they’ve added other benefits, such as access to Amazon’s Instant Video platform. It’s a move that seems costly, but is actually a strategic play. It’s estimated that Amazon loses $1-2 billion in revenue every year, however that’s easily made up for by the increase in purchases.

How can you use subscriptions to achieve growth goals and increase customer retention?

You don’t need to charge a fee for your subscription model in order to gain customer loyalty. Providing benefits in the form of exclusive content and events is another way to leverage this approach without spending a ton.

If you’re going to take a page directly from Amazon’s playbook, then make sure you’re offering something people want. This goes back to customer development and understanding your audience’s desires and challenges.

8) Coca-Cola: Use experiences to elicit positive feelings.

Experiential marketing has long been used as a way for brands to create positive sentiments with their customers.

Coca-Cola had a 70-day campaign around the 2012 Olympics, and part of this was their “Coca-Cola Beat Generator” app. This experience brought together music, sports and the Coca-Cola brand.

customer-retention-coca-cola.jpg

Image Credit: Figment Productions

They showcased it during their roadshow around the Olympics, using samples and sounds from the games themselves. Users could then take the MP3 recording with them and share it via social media. The results? 16,500 visits to the web version and 1.78 million Facebook impressions.

Even though Coca-Cola produces beverages, they figured out a way to tap into the positive hype around an event by providing delightful customer experiences that reached beyond point of sale.

Look for ways to create positive feelings in the form of new experiences outside of your main products, services, and value propositions.

Which of these customer retention strategies could you implement? Are there other examples we’ve missed? Share with us in the comments.

how to use customer loyalty programs

Jun

30

2016

How Real Brands Are Retaining Customers: 8 Strategies From Starbucks, Amazon & More

customer_retention_.jpg

What’s better than acquiring a new customer?

If your first thought was “retaining a current customer” then your strategic thinking is in the right place. While there’s a certain allure that comes with capturing new customers, keeping customers coming back will continually result in a greater ROI.

How do you create a customer retention strategy that keeps your current customers engaged?

Below, I’ve detailed eight retention strategies that the biggest brands are currently using to inspire loyalty. From leveraging convenience to prioritizing personalization, these are elements any marketer and business owner can take and test today.

8 Examples of Customer Retention Strategies in Action

1) TOMS: Begin with a mission.

Sometimes a brand inspires loyalty not through tactics and systems, but through what they stand for.

If you’ve ever watched Simon Sinek’s TED talk “Start with Why,” you probably already know a thing or two about the importance of having a mission, or “reason why.”

TOMS has built their entire business model around making the world a better place. As Fast Company contributor Jessica Weiss put it:

TOMS669 has integrated old-fashioned, for-profit entrepreneurship with new-wave, bleeding-heart philanthropy.”

The way they do this is in their “One for One” policy. For every pair of shoes that are purchased, they give a pair to people in need, thus far donating over 60 million pairs of new shoes.

customer-retention-toms.jpg

As consumers, we’re focused on the altruistic and environmental effects that our buying habits have beyond consumption. Doing good is becoming more and more important to us.

This doesn’t mean you should build your marketing around an altruistic message just to do it. The lesson is in finding something that people care about and positioning your brand around it.

2) Starbucks: Empower customers with convenience.

The coffee goliath has always been innovative with their marketing, especially in the customer acquisition department.

In the early days, Starbucks founders Zev Siegl, Jerry Baldwin, and Gordon Bowker focused on the sounds and the smells inside their shops in order to provide a delightful customer experience.

But to grow, they had to get innovative. One of their most innovative customer retention moves is their Mobile Order & Pay feature within their app. Thanks to the new feature, customers can order their coffee before they even arrive at the shop.

customer-retention-starbucks.jpg

Image Credit: AskMen

What’d their customers think about the addition? In short: They loved it.

669″Just this morning I parked at my kid’s school, placed my order in the parking lot, took him inside, then walked over to the Starbucks and picked up my drink. Mobile Order & Pay can cut 10 minutes out of my morning routine. I told my boss that it’s the reason I’m actually on time for work now,” explained busy mom Danielle Lesikar.

The simplest takeaway here is this: make your products and services as accessible as possible. Identify the desires and behaviors of your customers and create tools and systems that empower them. Whether that be an app or other traditional methods, it’s up to you.

3) Tesco: Add a personal touch.

This supermarket giant has a strong presence in the UK, with over 2,000 stores nationwide.

For huge brands like these, coming across as authentic and human can be a challenge. Online grocery shopping and self-service scanners are convenient, but people still like dealing with other people.

Customer service is still necessary, and the folks at Tesco have chosen to use Twitter as a way of executing this with a human touch. They show they care by adding personality to their interactions with customers. Check out this recent interaction:

customer-retention-tesco.jpg

To get started with an approach like this, identify your audience personas and communicate with them on their preferred channels. It doesn’t matter if it’s email or Snapchat, as long as it’s where their attention is.

From here you should encourage your customers to speak directly with you through that channel. Make it part of your messaging and remind them during and after the buying experience.

And always add personality to every message. Nobody likes a robot, so make sure whatever you’re communicating sounds like it’s coming from a human.

4) R&G Technologies: Speak to your customers.

We’ve taken a look at several B2C examples, but what about the B2B world? R&G Technologies is an Australian IT support firm that has developed strong, long-term relationships with their clients.

They solidify these relationships with rapid response times and strict SLAs. They get back to their clients quickly, and their employees have been bought in on this by tying these KPIs to how much they earn.

However, the biggest lesson is in their customer satisfaction surveys. They give their clients an opportunity to express what they’re doing right and, more importantly, what they’re getting wrong. This allows them to identify unhappy customers before they churn.

RG_Technologies.jpg

Image Credit: Client Heartbeat

R&G focuses heavily on asking the right questions in order to gain insights they can execute on. They use this information to make better business decisions and retain customers.

Most importantly, these discussions identify the challenges of R&G’s audience. This can help inform both your overall marketing as well as your retention strategy. Don’t underestimate the power of one-to-one conversations with your clients (especially if you’re running a digital business).

5) MeUndies: Use gamification and referral programs.

Touted as the most comfortable pair of underwear in the world, MeUndies drives great retention through two elements. The first, which we’ve already covered, is in their “reason why.”

The folks at MeUndies were tired of the struggle that comes with finding a great, comfortable pair of underwear. To back this up, they’ve fostered a strong culture and are very transparent with the process. They have an entire page dedicated to their factory (it’s beautiful by the way).

Although this makes for great retention, our focus is on their clever referral program. Customers are encouraged from the moment they purchase to refer a friend, and the rewards are worth it: For every friend you refer you get $20 and they get 20% off their first purchase.

MeUndies_Promotional_Offer.png

There’s a gamification element that shows how far through the buying experience your friend is, too, including a “nudge” button. If a friend adds a product to the cart but hasn’t completed checkout, you can use this to send an email reminder about it. In other words, MeUndies has found a way to use their current customers to reduce cart abandonement, while providing social proof in the process.

When done well, referral systems can be really effective for retention. The key is to focus on strong incentives and gamification to get people invested. Most importantly, don’t forget to empower and encourage your customers to become advocates for your brand in the process.

6) Apple: Create a divide between you and your competitors.

Want your customers to see you as the obvious choice over your competitors? Make note of Apple’s strategy, demonstrated by their 669“Mac vs. PC” ad campaign.

The campaign starred John Hodgman as the inept PC and Justin Long as the cool, collected Mac. The two would quip humorously over what made the Mac a better choice than a PC in a really entertaining manner.

The “Mac vs. PC” campaign was a very tongue-in-cheek — and it generated a lot of dispute. Not only that, but it divided the market and set Apple apart from their competitors by identifying the kind of consumers who should buy Apple products.

Sticking true to who you are as a brand shows integrity and makes it easier to attract customers that just might become your strongest brand advocates.

Can you find a cause to fight for (or against)? If your brand is more friendly than this, you can still put some fire behind your story and create a rally affect. Don’t be afraid to be a little bold in your marketing to get the best results from this approach.

7) Amazon Prime: Use subscriptions to bolster the experience.

It’s unusual for a commodity-based organization to implement a subscription service into their business model.

Which is exactly what Amazon created in the form of Prime. The subscription was originally created to bring customers faster delivery. It generated a lot of controversy, but quickly became popular with regular shoppers on the platform.

customer-retention-amazon.jpg

Since its launch they’ve added other benefits, such as access to Amazon’s Instant Video platform. It’s a move that seems costly, but is actually a strategic play. It’s estimated that Amazon loses $1-2 billion in revenue every year, however that’s easily made up for by the increase in purchases.

How can you use subscriptions to achieve growth goals and increase customer retention?

You don’t need to charge a fee for your subscription model in order to gain customer loyalty. Providing benefits in the form of exclusive content and events is another way to leverage this approach without spending a ton.

If you’re going to take a page directly from Amazon’s playbook, then make sure you’re offering something people want. This goes back to customer development and understanding your audience’s desires and challenges.

8) Coca-Cola: Use experiences to elicit positive feelings.

Experiential marketing has long been used as a way for brands to create positive sentiments with their customers.

Coca-Cola had a 70-day campaign around the 2012 Olympics, and part of this was their “Coca-Cola Beat Generator” app. This experience brought together music, sports and the Coca-Cola brand.

customer-retention-coca-cola.jpg

Image Credit: Figment Productions

They showcased it during their roadshow around the Olympics, using samples and sounds from the games themselves. Users could then take the MP3 recording with them and share it via social media. The results? 16,500 visits to the web version and 1.78 million Facebook impressions.

Even though Coca-Cola produces beverages, they figured out a way to tap into the positive hype around an event by providing delightful customer experiences that reached beyond point of sale.

Look for ways to create positive feelings in the form of new experiences outside of your main products, services, and value propositions.

Which of these customer retention strategies could you implement? Are there other examples we’ve missed? Share with us in the comments.

how to use customer loyalty programs

Jan

15

2016

8 Personalization Tactics That Are Turning Off Your Buyers

ThinkstockPhotos-78807131-627141-edited.jpg

We all get those emails—the flood of “Save now! 50% off!” and “BOGO sale!” If our inbox was a pool, we could swim in the amount of marketing messages we get. But more often than not, most marketing emails end up in the trash. Unless it’s for something we can actually use, or the subject line piques our interest, most marketing emails don’t get through.

After many years of email personalization, there are still ways to perfect your message and delivery to boost your click-through rate. But how personal is too personal?

Online consumers like it when content is tailored to their interests and previous buying habits, but no one wants to feel like they’re being stalked online; too much personalization can actually harm your relationships.

Here are eight personalization tactics that can actually turn off buyers and what you can do to eliminate the creepy factor.

1) Getting too personal

The amount of personalization should be based on the customer relationship. But sometimes things go from customized to flat-out disturbing. Remember the Target personalization debacle? The retail giant tracked its buyers’ pregnancy stages based on purchases and quickly got on the creeper list, leading to a PR nightmare that ultimately hurt the brand.

What you can do: Mix in your personalization with other random offers to make consumers feel less like an animal being tracked by a hunter.

2) Getting personal too soon

Jumping too quickly to personalize based on consumer behavior on your site can come off as overly customized and can prevent buyers from using your brand. So start by sending an email that uses their name (a message that greets me with “Hi There” is guaranteed to make it into the trash), and wait until the next email to include more dynamic tags.

What you can do: Wait until some time has passed and a relationship has been more firmly established to start personalizing around actions they have taken on your website.

3) Personalizing based on low-frequency searches  

This is why gradual personalization pays off. A woman could be looking for or purchasing baby items for a friend or family member who is expecting, rather than for herself. Just because she searches for baby bottles doesn’t mean she needs to receive emails or see targeted ads about baby formula nine months later. If someone searches for an item once or twice, it could be a gift or a topic being researched. If the search term becomes more frequent, however, then it’s time to start suggesting diaper brands and crib styles.

What you can do: Use customer segmentation and be sure your user profiles are accurate.

4) Not incorporating contextual data into your strategy

While content is king, context is queen. Contextual data is the art of making the content relevant to an individual on the right device at the right time. Leverage the information you have about your customer to create a truly engaging, relevant experience.

Content is the offer. Context is when and where it’s being offered. If someone is expecting and buys a bouncer seat, chances are she doesn’t need another one. So emails with the latest bouncer seat deals are irrelevant and will probably irritate her because of the incorrect personalization, ending up in the trash. But after a few months, emails about playmats would be a welcome suggestion as baby is practicing his or her coordination and requires more stimulation (and tummy time).

What you can do: Don’t use personalization just because you have the data—make it personalized with a purpose. Patience is a virtue if you want to keep your customers.

5) Inaccurate location targeting

Location, location, location! Using the customer’s location to provide relevant messaging adds a level of convenience, but can go wrong if it’s not accurate. If someone looks up restaurants while vacationing in Chicago and then goes home to New York, chances are they no longer need offers from the Midwest. In fact, buyers who continue to see ads long after they’ve left the Windy City will likely be irritated and could complain about your brand on social media.

What you can do: Make sure all content is localized to the buyer, whether it’s merchandise that’s available by region, or different messaging to appeal to audiences in various locations.

6) Too much contact

Overdoing it never wins points with anyone. If you send consumers the same email every month and they aren’t responding, chances are you need to back off and give them space. Before you hit that send button, consider whether they have taken any sort of action since you began contacting them. While you want your product to stay top of mind, bombarding them with messages that aren’t relevant to them at the moment can cause them to hit the unsubscribe button and never look back.

What you can do: Track their activity on your site and if they have not purchased anything after 30 days, decrease the number of emails you send them.

7) Using too much data from social media posts

Have you ever checked into a location on social media and then started seeing ads for it? While not surprising that social media outlets would use your posting activities as data to target you for ads, there’s something more sinister about a site targeting you based on where you were. Users may start to wonder what else about their private lives is no longer private, and associate your brand with this practice of over-tracking.

What you can do: Limit the amount of targeting based on user posts. Not every restaurant visited warrants an ad the next time that user is on their social media accounts. A little bit goes a long way.

8) Retargeting that won’t quit

The rule of thumb is to cease retargeting efforts after 30 days if a customer does not convert. Any more than this is irritating to buyers, who will likely become even more turned off and less likely to actually use you if the opportunity arises. Thirty days is a substantial amount of time for them to convert if they indeed want to use your product. If they have not, overloading them with your messaging won’t help. If they have converted, make sure your lists are updated and don’t continue showing them the same messaging they saw before converting.

What you can do: Monitor your lists to determine what actions people are taking in response to your retargeting efforts and make changes to your messaging accordingly (or stop altogether).

Remember, There Are Boundaries

Consumers like personalization and have come to expect it. But there is a fine line between a welcome time-saver and sending chills down a consumer’s spine. Instead of turning off your buyers by making them feel you are tracking their every move, fine-tune your personalization efforts so they are gradual, purposeful and accurate. It just might save you from being the next New York Times expose.

Learn how to make users happy with a personalized experience. Download Personalized Content: Generate More Revenue with a Dynamic Web Experience to learn what users expect to see and what you can provide as a content marketer. 

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Sep

24

2015

8 Personalization Trends That Are Reinventing the Buyer’s Journey

If we think about offline buyer/brand relationships, customer loyalty results (in part) when a brand can form a relationship with the buyer through acts of thoughtful remembrance. For example, knowing their preferences, or making product or service recommendations according to their likes and dislikes.

One of the big challenges businesses face today is creating this same experience for buyers online. In essence, the act of doing so is what we call personalization or personalized marketing. But we’ll get to that …

Each buyer’s journey is unique because buyers are dynamic individuals with their own wants, needs and concerns; their own motivations and goals — the likes of which change constantly. This has given rise to demand generation. Unlike lead generation, which only aims to collect as many leads as possible, demand generation is concerned with creating valuable touchpoints with each buyer throughout their journey, and catering to their wants and needs over time.

Demand generation is about respecting the customer, not rushing them toward a desired action. It treats every interaction with care and consideration to bring value to the buyer’s journey and to help buyers reach their goals.

Consider this: The average consumer goes through at least five touchpoints before converting. That means the buyer’s journey is longer than ever before (especially for B2B). And buyers are entering the sales cycle at a much later stage, already armed with information about a brand and its offering.

In response, brands race to be a part of the buyer’s early education. But this has created another challenge: Consumers are so inundated with content, creating and distributing it is no longer enough to win conversions. It’s become much harder to connect with buyers.

Personalized Marketing to the Rescue

Personalized marketing is an extreme form of target marketing. It aims to reach audiences with the exact solution for which they are searching, and to speak more directly to each individual buyer, creating a one-to-one experience. To address audiences with such accuracy and detail, personalized marketing requires big data about a particular customer or group. This data must then be converted into marketing action. Because there is so much information, converting data to action is exceedingly more complex, requiring different marketing technologies.

Which brings us to the topic of the day — personalization trends that are reinventing the buyer’s journey. These trends are changing the entire experience for buyers. Coincidentally, they’re also raising a lot of questions, not only about how they impact the shopping experience, but also how they flirt with privacy and security. Let’s dig in!

1) Programmatic Marketing

Paid advertising is the most powerful way to reach customers in today’s noisy, saturated marketplace. The problem is, marketers struggle to convert all the data they’ve collected into an ad that serves the right person at the right time in the right place.

Programmatic marketing is a platform that connects marketers to the world’s media supply, and uses software and technology to automate and optimize the buying and placement of ads in real time. In other words, programmatic marketing takes all the information it can collect about a buyer and converts that information into action — the purchase and display of the right ad at the right time in the right place. Marketers can set specific parameters to guide the process, and integrate CRM data to deliver an even greater level of personalization.

Impact: Being bombarded with irrelevant ads online is extremely irritating for the busy consumer. Using programmatics, buyers are served ads based on their wants, needs, preferences and more. What does this mean for the overall buyer’s journey? It becomes more relevant and, therefore, more valuable at each touchpoint.

2) Retargeting

Retargeting is a type of programmatic marketing that uses cookie-based technology to follow buyers as they move from resource to resource. For example, when a buyer visits your website, a small cookie is placed on their browser. These cookies store data about their visit, like which pages they reviewed and how long they stayed. When they leave to visit another site, the cookie triggers programmatic software, and the consumer is retargeted with an ad relevant to the information with which they interacted on your site.

As you can imagine, this tactic can get creepy … real fast. The key to successful retargeting is to do it respectfully. The only way to achieve respectful retargeting is to know as much about your target individual as possible.

Impact: When done correctly, retargeting takes personalization a step further, serving buyers with ads that not only pertain to their wants and needs, but also their behavior and intent according to the exact stage of the buyer’s journey they’re in. It keeps potential solutions in front of the buyer, acting as helpful reminders while they investigate other options.

3) Proximity Marketing

Proximity marketing involves using smart beacon technology to serve customers on their mobile devices with ads based on where they are geographically. In other words, it’s local advertising at its finest.

Proximity marketing can be executed in several ways: an RFID chip can be placed on a product and when near-field communications (NFC) is enabled on a smartphone, the product chip will communicate directly with nearby devices. Brands can also establish geofencing, which will serve mobile devices with ads when they enter into a specific “zone.” Content also can be pushed through Bluetooth, Wi-Fi connectivity and mobile browsers.

Impact: Proximity marketing lets marketers target buyers based on where they visit offline. This allows for a deeper understanding of the buyer’s wants, needs and patterns of behavior away from the computer. This level of understanding enhances the buyer’s shopping experience by serving them with information about products or services at exactly the moment they need it, or serving them coupons for products or services in their immediate reach.

Fun fact: Fifty-three percent of buyers are willing to share their geo-information to receive relevant ads and 72 percent of buyers will answer a call-to-action if they receive it while in range of the retailer.

4) Consumer-owned Content Marketing

A relatively new approach being discussed today is using consumer-owned content for personalized marketing. In other words, serving a buyer content that includes one of their own Instagram photos, or references a Facebook or Twitter post they made. On one hand, seeing content so distinctive and in-line with the buyer’s personal brand is attention-grabbing. On the other hand, this raises the question, when is personalization too personal?

Impact: The verdict is still out on whether this is an acceptable marketing practice, but what it could mean for the buyer’s journey is an experience that feels familiar and personally branded. Content and ads could be created just for the buyer based on things they said, saw, liked and displayed on their own social channels. Another way of looking at it: The buyer helps create their own advertisements.

5) Personalized Websites

Personalized websites use content optimization systems to deliver dynamic content to visitors. Content is uniquely generated in real time based on specific information about a visitor, such as where their IP address is registered (geographically), whether they’re a first-time visitor, or what their browsing behavior reveals. Marketers build rules to determine what content is served, and when these rules are matched, the visitor receives a unique display, just for them.

Impact: Personalized websites shorten the buyer’s journey by more directly catering to where the buyer is in the sales cycle. It also creates an inimitable experience for the buyer based on specifics about their wants and needs. With tapered messaging, the buyer gains more value from the visit without wasting time.

Fun fact: Calls to action on personalized websites perform 42 percent better than on generic websites.

6) Wearable/Fitness Tracker Data

Not only do wearables tie into proximity marketing by providing location information, but the information derived through wearables helps marketers further flesh out buyer personas with incredibly intimate information, including movement, stress levels, preferred mode of activity, diet, heart rate, age, gender … the list goes on.

Impact: Who doesn’t love an instant coupon (based on proximity) for a product or service within immediate reach? How about automatic rebates, or ads that align with your unique, real-time activities?

What if you purchased a bike from Trek, and after you rode 100 miles on the bike, Trek applied a 15 percent rebate? We’re talking about a level of engagement and intimacy between buyer and brand that’s revolutionary to the marketing game. And at its most basic level, a helpful enhancement to the buyer’s experience. But again, the issue of privacy and information security is a major concern for consumers.

Fun fact: Wearable activity trackers are expected to soar to a $5.8 billion industry by 2019, which means an increasing number of buyers will be reached in this way.

7) Product Recommendation Engines

Amazon, Netflix, Facebook (and its “people you may know” feature) — they all use product recommendation engines to help recommend products (or people) they believe a specific visitor will find useful or interesting. Product recommendation engines work in several ways. Collaborative filtering methods collect and analyze wide sets of information about a prospect’s behaviors, activities or preferences to predict products or services they’ll like. Content-based filtering uses keywords about a prospect’s past purchases to recommend similar products. Hybrid filtering combines both collaborative and content-based methods and (naturally) tends to perform best.

Impact: Product recommendation engines change the buyer’s journey by helping buyers realize products or services they are likely to love, but perhaps didn’t know existed. By showing buyers products they may be interested in, or new products relevant to their preferences, the relationship between customer and brand can be extended beyond a single purchase, and brands can better serve customers as an adviser to new interests.

8) Behavioral Trigger Emails

Behavioral trigger emails involve using specialized software that allows you to build individual profiles for each subscriber. Depending on the actions an individual takes (or doesn’t take) with your business, he or she will be served with a personalized email. The information used to determine these triggers includes: age, location, site visit history, or specific interactions with a product or service.

Fun fact: On average, behavioral trigger emails get a 152 percent greater open rate than traditional emails.

Impact: Whether it’s to confirm that an action registers with a brand, educate or delight, behavioral trigger emails deliver relevant information exactly when the buyer needs it. And because behavioral trigger emails are contextual, they are more valuable to the buyer than a generic email blast.

These personalization trends are helping to shape the future of marketing, but there’s one thing marketers must remember: Nearly all consumers are concerned with how we utilize their data for personalization. What we give buyers in exchange for providing more and more information has to have a significant benefit to the individual who sees it. So rather than giving them what you want them to see, give buyers what they want to see—and you’ll be rewarded for it.

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