Stop digital marketing from becoming SPAM

Technology sometimes creates problems and the irony is that we take refuge again in technology to solve these problems. Today it is widely understood that we live in a truly digital world. Data is easy to store, information is at our fingertips and the devices that we use to access this data are also so portable and used so often that they have almost become an extension to our body.

One of the big advantages of digitisation is that technology makes it possible, in some cases literally, to be able to track the digital footprint of our customers and it doesn't stop there. The digital footprint, which includes all things social, provides a huge repository of information which can reveal a lot about an individual and their buying preferences. As a result, the promise of understanding customers’ behaviour is now possible by mining the digital trail left behind by that customer.

With this understanding, the same digital media also serves as the marketing touch-points for the customers. Whether this is through e-commerce sites, frequently used apps, or anything else that is accessed through mobile devices, this kind of marketing at a very granular level is all about personalisation. I recently read a statistic from analyst firm Gartner, which revealed that by 2016, 89 per cent of marketers expect to compete primarily on the basis of the customer experience their brand, product and service delivers to the consumer. I was not surprised by this statistic; if organisations use consumer data in a smart way, they can ensure that the information they share is always relevant to the recipient. As a result, this builds a relationship with the customers based on trust, loyalty and above all offering products that they know the customer will like.

On the other hand, if personalisation is executed poorly then it can have the opposite effect. This is where the problem starts.

If we step back for a moment and look at the evolution of media and how marketing has adapted to it, we can see that the average attention span has decreased at least 1000 times over the last couple of decades. Newspapers were something we spent hours reading, just like a good book, and we paid less attention to TV. However, because it had both audio and visual capabilities, TV was able to deliver much more information in a shorter amount of time, and has therefore risen to become a more influential form of media. Now we are in the digital age, our span of attention is significantly less than it was just a few years ago, maybe even reduced to a couple of nanoseconds at best.

We have been talking about achieving personalisation to such an extent that as marketers we should know what our customers want and at what point in time, but there is still some way to go before we reach this level of understanding. If we use big data processing, analytics and other technologies, we will see that it is very difficult to deliver a communication, the lifespan of which is just a couple of nanoseconds, and still expect it to catch somebody's attention in a way that encourages the individual to buy.

However, the crux of the situation is that the most important aspect of this conversion journey, the ‘personalised hook’ or ‘attention grabber’, all too often gets ignored by the marketing folks. Today the focus is too heavily skewed towards the technology- the focus is all about churning out enormous amounts of data, gaining as much insight as possible about the customer, and utilising as much of their digital real estate to send messages, serve ads and discounts. If this carries on, we are in danger of losing the personal touch.

Unfortunately because we are now so focused on technology, bots and algorithms are coming up with the perfect personalised solution, resulting in customers being inundated with offers that are completely irrelevant. This more often than not can leave consumers irritated and in some cases disenchanted with the brand. Rather than this method resulting in positive conversions, customers are voicing privacy invasion with this bombardment of irrelevant digital marketing.

As marketers we have to take a step back and try to solve this problem in a more personal way. Consumers can differentiate between what is generated by a bot versus what really has a real personal touch to it. So thinking about this, the five following tips help:

  • Personalisation requires a human touch for analysis and intelligent thought and technology is no substitute. For example, you need someone to monitor, analyse and manually remove users from the database if they are not responding well to marketing attempts.
  • Concentrate on analysing recent purchases made by a customer rather than examining data that could be well out of date.
  • Look at how often a customer purchases a certain type of product. For example, do they regularly buy aftershave but once bought perfume? This could have been a present and it is unlikely that the customer will want to hear about offers on other products that they don’t plan to buy all the time.
  • Analyse what can be done to help customers in their day to day life. Services, like Google Now, that know where a customer is, what they are doing and what device they are using are slowly proving invaluable for early adopters.
  • Ask for feedback. Whether a customer rates a product or hates it, listen to them. The last thing a customer wants is to have to deal with is constant reminders of a product they really disliked and this may even encourage public criticism.

Don’t get me wrong, technology and analytics are vitally important, but when we talk about personalisation let's make sure we include a more personal approach, otherwise all we are left with is SPAM.

Isaac George, Senior Vice President & UK Regional Head, Happiest Minds

Image source: Shutterstock/Bloomua