Sleigh this Holiday Season by Emotionally Connecting with your Customer

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Technology is advancing rapidly, helping marketers better understand who their customers are and what they want. There seems to be an endless array of tools and data sources (CDPs, DMPs, CRMs, etc.) to tell us exactly how to engage and convert shoppers while they’re online watching videos, reading the news, connecting with friends on social and getting an early jump on holiday shopping.

However, online is not necessarily the best or only way to engage people when they’re in a buying state of mind. With holiday retail sales expected to reach $720 billion this year, it’s vital that marketers maneuver themselves to be the signal – and not the noise – of digital ads. Although digital advertising is improving daily, offering new formats and better targeting tools, consumers are still facing digital fatigue. Even with beautiful new canvases and less intrusive native formats, they’re just getting tired of online advertising to the point where its effectiveness is becoming compromised. With over 20% of the US population using ad blockers, marketers may have to start thinking a little bit more about analog if they really want to motivate shoppers to buy.

In fact, with all this data and tech available, we may be losing site of the fact that our customers are actual humans, and they need to feel valued, heard and respected. Neuromarketing and its ability to scientifically measure effective responses to ads, is on the rise. So is the desire by brands to make emotional connections with their customers. Building these emotional bonds transcends digital: sometimes people need something tangible, something they can experience in the real world. If surprising and delighting customers really is the goal, we can’t limit our marketing to mobile and digital – although we will still need to find ways to measure the effectiveness of everything we do.

Only a few decades ago, marketing was an art. Marketers focused on design and messaging to elicit the kind of emotional response that would motivate purchase decisions. We’d buy media on TV, OOH and in print to display our beautiful, persuasive campaigns. But then the pendulum began to swing heavily towards science, and we started focusing almost exclusively on the data, relying on numbers, trends and algorithms to tell us who was ready to buy, and where, when and how. Budgets shifted to digital to make sure marketing was accountable. Art was secondary: whatever drove results was what the brand went with. Thankfully, we’ve now shifted back to the center again. The art matters once more, but we haven’t lost sight of the significance of the data. It delivers the signals that tell us when a customer is in market, and it gives the artists the information they need to deliver their most persuasive work.

But again, that work can’t be limited to digital channels. To make customers feel valued and special, we need to reach them in the offline world as well. Innovative marketers are leveraging digital data to engage shoppers offline with new or refreshed experiences that make all the difference. And it’s the combination of content and context that really drives results. Customer data will generally tell you what your customers have bought, how they shop, how often, etc. – but it can’t tell you why they’re shopping. That information goes beyond the basics, and it’s a level of data in which most marketers are not yet investing– but they should be. The “why” is truly the key to creating tailored offers that really speak to your customers’ needs.

Shoppers want more than online coupons that appear in the edges of the pages they’re browsing. Ads that feature items you know they’ll like can go a long way – and they’ll go even further if you know whether the customer is shopping for themselves or someone on their list. Mail them something they can touch and hold – a personalized offer for the “gift giver” on a heavyweight, crisp postcard, or a curated catalog of special gifts just for them. These items will show customers they matter and have an impact.

These tactics, based on a customer-first strategy that is rooted in data, will move the needle this holiday season and beyond. After all, your customer is the center of your universe. It’s incumbent upon you to learn everything you can about them, so you can deliver the most relevant and enticing offers possible. You can’t surprise and delight a customer you don’t even know.

Nonetheless, it takes a lot more than data and digital advertising to show customers their value to your business. Absolutely use the data, and continue reinforcing your messages in digital. Keep in mind, however, that customers live in the real world, and your marketing should too.

Tom Barbaro
Tom Barbaro is VP Sales, East at PebblePost, overseeing revenue growth and leading enterprise and mid-market sales development. Tom brings 15 years of success in performance-based marketing from cutting-edge digital startups. Prior to PebblePost, Tom served as Criteo’s VP of East Coast Sales. He helped build the now publicly traded Criteo into the global leader in retargeting with a value of more than $4 billion. His team at Criteo forged relationships with the largest advertisers in the world within the retail, travel, and classified verticals.

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