Direct marketing is at a turning point, as customers are slow to respond to broadly targeted efforts but quick to reply to unique, direct and genuine interaction. Now that customers have access to brands through multiple channels, the expectation for personalised relationships with brands is higher than ever before. In order to meet the demands of the multi-channel, always-on customer, brands need to engage in a way that better suits their customers’ needs and, in turn, their own.
The ease of access to customer data allows brands to approach consumers in a more subtle, individualised manner, creating a more direct relationship between the consumer and the brand and bringing direct marketing closer to the true definition of the phrase. Direct marketing’s new form makes it more challenging than ever to master, but substantially more rewarding when done properly and the key to success lies largely in leveraging big data.
But just because customers demand more direct and relevant interactions and marketers have the data to enable them, doesn’t mean brands are up to the task.
Recent research shows that only 7% of marketing departments are taking control of big data. Only companies able to use data to turn insight into immediate action will gain a distinct competitive advantage, particularly given the small percent currently able to do so. To realise the opportunities in the new DM era, brands should let these five data-driven processes lead their customer communications strategies:
Understand the customer as an individual – their preferences, event triggers and lifecycle with the brand
Connect with the customer via multiple touchpoints – knowing how customers use those channels and which they prefer is key
Micro-segment customer data – enormous amounts of customer data enable refined segmentation based on customer behaviours, allowing brands to ensure the message is relevant to each individual
Plan automated, integrated, multi-stage, cross-channel initiatives that are informed by the above and are reactive to response rates – marketing ‘push’ becomes ‘engaging in conversation’
Monitor and measure – using control groups can determine the most effective campaigns, allowing companies to measure response rates and success and continually improve on how customer data is being used.
Direct marketing’s shift is just beginning. With the rapid pace of technology, there is no doubt that marketing will continue to become increasingly real-time and personalised. Big data is central to approaching this new form of marketing successfully. Brands that embrace this and that are able to pull actionable insight from big data to better understand their customers will come out on top.
Kieran Kilmartin is vice-president of international marketing for Pitney Bowes