October 18, 2021

Why it’s time for marketers to realign with their customers

The global pandemic has changed the way that people interact with brands and digital transformation and customer-centricity have come back to the fore.

The following article explains why it’s time for marketers to realign with their customers and is an excerpt from our downloadable whitepaper, ‘How the pandemic has forced us to reimagine marketing.’ 

Customer-centricity is a competitive advantage.

We now crave the flexibility to shop when and where we want and 70 per cent of Australians say that they would like retailers to remain online, even as they reopen stores.

Customers want to be able to interact with brands from their living rooms and are craving meaningful interactions. With that said, marketers are recognising that digital maturity is no longer a nice to have or an outlying concept. It’s a huge opportunity for enhancing performance, as it drives improved customer experiences, cost savings, and revenue increases.

In their 2020 Digital Marketing Maturity Growth Report, Datisan identified marketing technology and data activation as two key growth pillars for digital maturity and customer-centricity. The report highlighted that personalised customer messaging is only achievable if brands can link online and offline customer data while aligning culture, people, structure, and goals across the organisation.

However, the report also found that for the third year in a row, Australian businesses are still emerging in their digital maturity. They are using some owned data in automated media buying, tapping into enterprise analytics tools, and using single-channel optimisation only, with limited integration with CRMs and offline data sources. With much room to grow, brands that mature quickly to keep up with customer expectations can achieve a huge competitive advantage. 

Datisan’s CEO and Co-Founder, Chris Rozic believe that “2020 showed everyone just how important it is to have confidence in your data and analytics.  It demonstrated the consequences of not investing in business-critical foundations that drive your business reporting and customer activations. The ability to combine advertising and analytics means that brands can personalise more marketing messaging for customers, allowing for better customer experiences.

Datisan’s Head of Commercial, Mike Cornwell, agrees that the increasing breadth and volume of data points available to advertisers (particularly retailers) provides the opportunity to develop customer understanding and build more distinct and unique target audiences. 

“There is also an increasing focus on building more complete customer journeys (linking online and offline) to provide a clearer view of attribution, return on advertising spend, and campaign performance. An example of this is to have a single view of a customer who may have started their action online but have completed offline, say in a store or at a showroom. Using data points, it can be possible to understand the full customer journey and learn more about the marketing touchpoints along the way that were valuable to the end result. Without utilising a cloud-based warehouse or similar, the data between the offline and online may never have been joined.”

Seeing things from another point of view.

Customer-centricity isn’t just about better technology. Marketers are also fostering empathy within their own teams so that it extends outwards to their customers. Verizon Media’s director of brand innovation and marketing A/NZ, Anny Havercroft is a big believer in empathy as a superpower. “There aren’t many moments in history where humanity is facing the same dilemma simultaneously, yet our personal situations are all so different. My team comes from diverse backgrounds and major learning from COVID-19 was navigating and recalibrating expectations of each other when we started remote working.”

The typical working day in the office has been redefined and empathising with people’s various home circumstances has been necessary to build strong and productive team relationships. It is also a skill that enhances the way we connect to our customers.

As privacy requirements increase, marketers will have to find new ways to capture customer data and think much harder about the experience or proposition they will offer in that value exchange. Every interaction will count and audience insights need to be leveraged in more creative ways. 

To date, empathy has been an underutilised differentiator, but by understanding the areas of friction in the customer journey and customer motivations, marketers can drastically improve the customer experience. In the 2021 Adobe Digital Trends Report, Adobe vice-president of marketing APAC, Duncan Egan highlights that “in many ways, the pandemic proved the customer experience proposition. Companies that were already exploring and investing in new tools and processes for optimising customer experience prior to the pandemic were in a more advantageous position than those that hadn’t. They were able to adapt more quickly to remote work and digital service delivery and rapidly innovate to redesign the customer journey.”

This has also been a focus for Adam Loakim, the Managing Director APAC at Emarsys. “We’ve held true to core company values – including “We Always Innovate” – more authentically post-pandemic than before it. Our global marketing team has long embraced a flexible work policy, but we now have more people working remotely than in our worldwide offices, and productivity has become better as a result. As long as work gets completed and clients are happy, it doesn’t matter when or where our teams get their work done. Our clients have also benefitted: 60 brands piloting new features have saved 443 hours of work since February 2020. Although paradoxical, it’s not surprising at all that forward-looking brands are increasing time-to-value, decreasing customer acquisition costs, and continuing to drive revenue with minimal disruption.”

MiQ’s own marketing strategy became much more customer-centric and targeted throughout the pandemic. According to Madison Wappett, “At the beginning, like many organisations, we saw webinar activations and virtual events as a viable way forward. Webinars seemed to be an easy pivot from planned in-person events, as material remained relatively unchanged. 

Fast forward to 2021, and we observed that webinar fatigue had set in. Clients and advertisers were no longer attending webinars at the same rate, neither were they as engaged. The industry was saturated with them.

At MiQ we identified the opportunity to tailor our marketing strategy and be more targeted to the individual – to bring back an element of human touch, or at least the sentiment of it. Cities and states entering lockdown with little to no notice meant our strategy had to be agile. This forced us to adapt our marketing strategy from virtual events to something a bit different – high-quality merchandise. Our merchandise had to not only be relevant to the MiQ brand, but useable in the current climate of limited social gatherings, and negative sentiment around an expanding home office set-up and its impact on mental health. Meaning, we didn’t want to go down the route of creating home office clutter (i.e. reusable coffee cups or water bottles) – instead, we found a way to align to the positive sentiment of the outdoors, while respecting ever-changing restrictions and social distancing. This culminated in a promotional merchandise activation in the form of ‘self-care packages, becoming our largest ever activation of its kind for the Australian market.

This pandemic has provided momentum for us to diversify our marketing strategy, to be more targeted to the individual, at scale, to achieve cut-through, while respecting a difficult and everchanging situation with newfound agility.”

Privacy is a new avenue for building trust.

For a long time, marketers have used data to personalise their messaging. Now, we’re being forced to come to terms with the fact that there is a groundswell of voices who don’t want businesses to capitalise on their data. And those voices are not a minority. Just look at opt-in rates after the Facebook iOS14.5 update alone. Opt-in numbers were just four per cent in the US and 12 per cent of iOS14.5 users globally in the first two weeks from the rollout. Those figures now sit at 10 and 17 per cent.

Marketers have to think about how their targeting and attribution practices might affect their customers. A flurry of solutions that balance targeting and privacy will emerge, and marketers who put themselves in their customer’s shoes when assessing the solutions will make more balanced and progressive choices.

We have a small window of opportunity to learn how to balance privacy with accurate attribution and targeting. The customer journey will get a bit more blurry when Apple and Google’s new privacy updates roll out and marketers are learning as much as they can about their customers and gathering the available data now while updating their privacy practices.

When the behavioural information that marketers have been spoilt with begins to become scarce, empathetic brands who have done their customer research will pull away from the pack.

Want to learn more? Hear from more industry experts and download the full whitepaper, ‘How the pandemic has forced us to reimagine marketing’ through the link here.

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