Ten years ago, brands gained the opportunity to get much closer to their customers, thanks to smartphone and tablet applications. Now there are more than five million apps in the Google Play and Apple App stores, and these mobile-led experiences are spreading to our homes with smart speakers, our mobile wallets with loyalty cards, concert tickets and boarding passes, as well as our messaging apps with chatbots and websites with notifications and live chat.
While all these forms of interactions are fantastic and new, it can be daunting for marketers to understand the value they can gain from them. Smart marketers are not reacting to new technology and platforms, they’re recognising and responding to fundamental changes in consumer behaviour.
Studies show the average consumer is exposed to up to 10,000 brand messages a day. And as marketers are presented with more and more channels to reach their customers, that number is growing rapidly.
Consumers more than ever are shunning advertising and broad, untargeted promotions, in favour of digital channels offering effortless and self-directed interactions.
Already, more than 70% of customer journeys are multi-channel and multi-device. And this complexity will grow. By 2020, mobile interactions will outnumber interactions from all other channels by 10 to one. In fact, according to a recent survey, marketing executives’ number one challenge today is understanding these behaviours and reaching people at the right moment, especially as consumers switch between screens up to 21 times an hour.
The best brands work to meet customers wherever they are and recognise their customers’ interests. ASOS provide recommendations based on shoppers’ behaviours or previous purchases, and Spotify sends customised song suggestions. These are just a couple of examples of brands getting customer experiences right.
Here are four strategies you can use to invite customers to interact with your brand in the moments that matter to them:
Be Helpful, Handy and Human
Marketers need to be looking for digital utilities that add value to their customers’ lives, save them time and provide richer experiences. For example, apps can send an alert about a flight delay or instantly enable people to stop a fraudulent credit card charge. Enhancing the customer experience can help brands to ensure their apps are essential to users. Collectively, this requires re-thinking marketing as real-time customer service.
In order for consumers to give up space on their phones, they need a good reason. Consider Walmart, which grew its app audience from four million to 14 million after introducing Savings Catcher to streamline its lowest price guarantees. After a string of innovations including in-store mode and Walmart Pay, which is projected to surpass Apple Pay’s adoption by the end of 2018, the retailer counted 27 million app users as of June 2016. Walmart has also found app users were making twice as many trips to the store and spending 40% more than those without its app.
Make it Easy and Valuable
There’s no more immediate way to inform someone of what’s happening in the world than sending a message directly to their device lockscreen. Interactive notifications take it one step further. Quick taps to interactive buttons within notifications, allow marketers to get immediate feedback on what their users want more or less of, and how they can best interact with them in key moments and over time. It puts power back into the consumer’s hands – so for example, when they receive a notification about “40% off shoes and bags”, they can tap ‘View Now’ or ‘Remind Me Later’.
In the travel sector, this style of engagement is incredibly useful. For example, check-in messages from airlines are more effective when customers have the option to be reminded later. Hotels can also send a receipt image with a thumbs-up and thumbs-down emoji buttons so that their guests can rate their stay. Automation rules can then ask satisfied guests to share their experience with friends, while unsatisfied customers are instead directed to an in-app survey to share feedback.
Marketers can also add images, videos and animated GIFs. Analysis of rich notifications shows a 56% higher direct open rate on average than notifications without an image. Missguided uses this messaging format on a regular basis, whether to promote a new line or alert shoppers of a discount code. It reinstates the brand’s ‘cool and hip’ personality and shows they know their target audience and what will capture their attention.
Make it More About Them Than You
The rich data and response options these interactive messages provide enable brands to become more relevant to customers over time. Marketers can now instantly message all customers when they are using the brand’s app. These in-app messages can be triggered by multiple in-the-moment customer behaviours, whether that’s sending them a welcome message as soon as they enter the app, or recognising that they’re about to purchase a product and offering them a discount if they download a mobile wallet loyalty pass.
In-app automation can also be applied to collect app ratings and reviews, which offer important validation to consumers, and can help product teams gain feedback and identify areas for improvement. Certain beauty brands have almost gamified the process internally to minimise repetitive app rating prompts. Using a point-based system users are scored based on their actions. For instance, if they purchase a product, they receive five points. Once they reach a certain level they are prompted to rate the app, but if they decline, the user’s points are reset to -20 and they have to perform even more actions to re-trigger the ask.
Lose the channel mindset
Once you have decided how to target your audience the next hurdle is knowing what channels they want to be contacted on. A bank could send their customer a SMS alerting them to the fact they haven’t used their credit card this month and they can “Earn 0.5% cashback on all purchases above £1”. A few minutes later the user receives the same message in their email inbox, then a few moments after that a push notification about the same thing. By that point, the customer could become incredibly annoyed.
This scenario of blasting customers with messages on all channels is all too common, and really only advisable for super-critical, time-sensitive communications. Now predictive machine learning can help marketers deliver messages at the precise moment each individual is most likely to engage, while additional data and preference-based orchestration rules help ensure those messages are received on consumers preferred channels. This enhanced way to communicate with customers improves the experience while promoting loyalty, which ultimately leads to greater ROI for the brand.
Nigel Arthur, MD, EMEA & APAC at Urban Airship
Image Credit: Chinnapong / Shutterstock