A Business Technology Place

The empowered marketer – yesterday, today, and tomorrow

Technology and the Internet are changing the way consumers and marketers interact with each other. This is the second of a two part post about how consumers and marketers provide and consume information leading to purchases. The first post focused on the empowered consumer. In this post I’ll discuss the empowered marketer and how marketers can use technology that is readily available to better target and reach consumers. I close with some thoughts about how marketers will reach consumers in the future.

In the past, marketers followed the classic steps of segmentation, targeting, and positioning to create and distribute content to an audience. The output was an ad, promotion, informational piece, etc. that was fanned out to audiences as a ‘push’.  I use the word ‘push’ because the marketer picked their medium and broadcast the message to anyone who used that medium. The message itself was a one- size-fits-all for that particular customer segment.

Today, the marketer uses tools to take a more sophisticated look at customer data when deciding on their message. This allows marketers to create more refined target segments and more sophisticated positioning techniques. Here are some examples:

  • Access to customer past purchases and profile information. This in itself isn’t new. But today’s marketer is able to see a consolidated view of this data regardless of the channel that the consumer used in the past.  The advantage of this is that it gives the marketer a more complete customer profile and the ability to complete an enterprise wide customer segmentation strategy.
  • Access to customer and prospect preferences through analysis of onsite behavior. Customer preferences are not limited to what the customer has purchased in the past. Within the Internet channel, marketers can now track browsing patterns independent of purchases. These preferences can be used to tailor the web browsing experience for both customers and prospects.  Notice how top retailers like Amazon use sections like “more items to consider” and “customers who viewed this also viewed”.  The items in these areas are based on the behaviors and browsing patterns previously exhibited by the consumer.
  • Access to analytics modeling that predicts future behaviors.  This sounds a little like the last point about predicting customer preferences. The difference is that this type of data modeling will look at customer purchases to predict something a customer might do in the future. Here’s a simple example from the banking industry. If a customer does not have any transactions in their checking account in the last four months then this could be an indicator they may close all of their accounts and move them to another institution in the future.  Other examples might predict if a customer is likely to accept an offer for opening a home equity line of credit based on the other accounts open and usage patterns.
  • Access to customer reviews. While consumers use customer reviews to help make purchasing decisions, marketers can also use customer reviews to improve and refine their product or service. It’s like an instant survey where the marketer gets feedback to help them with future messages.

    With all of this information, today’s marketer should be developing one-to-one marketing messages. These are messages that are customized for the particular customer on their web site.  Marketers can send messages that talk to a customer for who they are and what they like.

    What does your personal messaging say?

    What does your personal messaging say?

    What does the future hold? I have a few ideas of where we are headed:

    1. Web sites will follow the example of search engines and use the current location of a visitor to determine what content to show. In addition to using the zip code of the customer profile, Internet marketers will also begin to use the IP address of the visitor to determine their location and the resulting content. One example of how this could be powerful is to tie the recommendation and ad content into the weather forecast for the coming days in that area.
    2. Marketers will be developing and expanding messages and content made to fit within mobile devices.
    3. As consumers move towards voice operated search and navigation, marketers will respond with content and messaging to display in that environment.
    4. Marketers will base content and messaging based on choices the consumer did not make in the past. So instead of focusing on the positive decisions made, marketers will infer consumer preferences on those things they previously offered that the consumer did not choose.

    The empowered consumer yesterday, today, and tomorrow

    Technology and the Internet are changing the communication and protocol for interactions between consumers and marketers. This is the first of a two part post about how consumers and marketers provide and consume information leading to purchases. It focuses on the empowered consumer and how consumers can use technology that is readily available to make informed decisions. I close with some thoughts about how consumers will make decisions in the future.

    Consumers have the world in their hands

    Consumers have the world in their hands

    Today’s consumer is more empowered because they have the ability to choose and obtain information in more abundance and at quicker speeds. Gone are the days where marketers reached most consumers solely via print distribution (newspaper, magazine ads) or television ads. More importantly, the one-size-fits all marketing techniques of the past are being replaced. Consumers have the ability in many cases to choose the type of messages they see and when they see them.

    Here are some examples of how the consumer has become more empowered:

    • Access to information on demand – With the availability of information on the Internet and the accessibility to the Internet, consumers can find information about products and services when and where they want.
    • Access to information from other consumers – The Internet makes the power of referral and consumer experience readily available to prospective customers of a product or service. Consumers can read reviews from other consumers that have previously used a product or service to decide if they want to make a purchase.
    • Access to information from competitors – Whether a consumer is price shopping, comparing service of retailers, or looking at locations of stores, they have the ability to see information about multiple competitors quickly. Brand and store loyalty are still based off relationship and experiences. But consumers have the ability to find another provider quickly if they choose to do so.
    • Ability to select how they view marketing messages.
      • Pop-up Blockers – Browsers today offer the ability to suppress pop-up advertisements on web sites.
      • Digital Video Recorders – TiVo and like services allow consumers to quickly skip and fast forward through advertisements.
      • Satellite Radio – For advertisement free-music, consumers can pay for a subscription based service.
      • Twitter messages – Marketers use Twitter to broadcast information about their products, services, industry, etc. But consumers choose if they read those messages. Whether by keyword search or through following an account, the consumer chooses what they read.
      • Blog posts – Again, consumers choose if they read the information posted in a blog.

    What are some of the key points of this trend? Consumers have the ability to be more message selective and decision savvy because they are more informed and equipped with access to better information. Marketers must focus on good content because consumers have the ability to selectively choose if they see the message. Consumers are looking for personalized messages that speak to them.

    What is in the future of consumer Internet use? I see us trending towards a couple of things that aim to make interactions faster for the consumer:

    1. Consumers will have a single interface to order from multiple stores. This will happen as marketers and retailers continue to conform to standards for message delivery. Consumers will use a single interface that prompts them for what they are looking to buy and then based on their preferences will place an order for them with a retailer that provides the product. For example, I might provide information that I want to purchase a baseball bat, with a brand name of Louisville Slugger, at a certain length and barrel size. This interface will then find the retailer matching this and maybe some other preferences and place the order in a single click. This sounds somewhat like a browser. However, within a browser, each retailer creates their own web site. I’m talking about a universal application that retailers interface with and that is widely adopted by consumers.
    2. With the continued spread and advancement of mobile devices, consumers will move towards an interface that relies more on voice and less on typing. Great advancements have already been made on many mobile devices that have full keyboards. But to make interactions faster, the consumer needs more voice command ability with natural language capabilities