Remember the personalised e-mail from your favourite retailer that you deleted this morning? It said, “Hi (Insert your name here),” and went on to offer nothing specifically tailored to you…
History has got to be repeating itself. Because the kind of latter day junk mail that is clogging our inboxes, used to be the kind that was stuffed into our mailboxes in the heyday of direct marketing. Irrelevant, impersonal and unforgiving – despite retailers having more actionable knowledge about their consumers than ever before.
And while this bombardment continues, a recent study by AIMIA, a data-driven marketing and loyalty management and analytics company, reveals that 69% of consumers are unsubscribing from most marketing communications. That is over two-thirds of most online marketing going down the virtual drain.
As a result of such chronic over-messaging, the study discovers that over half (57%) of consumers are already taking concrete steps to actively avoid companies, including (here are the stats): un-following brands on social channels (69%); closing accounts/subscriptions because they dislike the content (69%); blocking numbers (59%); opting out from the majority of company e-mails (58%); and deleting apps because of push notifications (55%).
Because of these behaviours, we are seeing the rise of a new type of digitally-literate consumer: the deletist consumer – who is characterised by an unforgiving attitude to brands on whom they will pull the plug whenever irrelevant and impersonal marketing messages begin congesting their inboxes.
So what can be done?
I am not a digital strategist (and, judging by the stats, there don’t seem to be too many of them out there, either), so I poked around and surfed enough to reach one of many possible solutions.
Data has become a commodity. To manage consumer loyalty, retailers must go further than their ability to mine or even refine data. They must swiftly begin to unearth patterns, connect latent relationships and unlock insights at the point of navigation or purchase – in a matter of a few, vital seconds. In fact, they must effectively ‘listen’ in real-time to the signals a customer generates, while browsing different channels, so that the opportunity to make a lasting difference in their lives (and the retailer’s bottom line) is not altogether lost.
In other words, when retailers act instantly by contextualising consumer data, they can accurately anticipate their customers’ next purchase – instead of bombarding them with more impersonal emails and invasive ad banners.
It’s easy to collect data; it’s hard to make sense of it. Browsing data on its own is useful, but it is not the right approach to identify consumer intent and convert it into desired action.
Let’s put the above in context. A fictional character called Albert Arkwright was the star of a classic BBC sitcom in the 1970s called Open All Hours. He was a miserly, corner store grocer. Despite his stammer, penny-pinching stinginess, and underhanded tactics, he knew everything about his customers – from their daily habits to their marital problems. And he used this information shamelessly, albeit comically, to his advantage by selling them even more produce.
Retailers today have the tools to collect just as much intimate information about their customers. The trouble is that the information is spread across different channels. It’s stored on the web, the mobile, the contact centres, in-store and on-site; moreover, it comes from different parts of the retailer’s organisation such as sales, marketing, distribution, customer services and billing. Yet, the ability to navigate and make sense of all this important data seems to have slipped backwards over the years.
The reason, on the surface, seems simple: It’s easy to collect data; it’s hard to make sense of it. Browsing data on its own is useful, but it is not the right approach to identify consumer intent and convert it into desired action. The difficult task is bringing together the context – the right kinds of information – about your customer and to be able to use it when it is still relevant. And it is only relevant in the short space of time offered between a couple of clicks of their mouse.
Understanding the context behind a customer’s visit is challenging and made more so because context decays so quickly in the connection economy. Proving that if retailers cannot instantly make use of the data, if they can’t instantly contextualise it, the opportunity will be lost.
Or, as we are learning, deleted.