It is a busy time of the year for me. Wait, let me rephrase that. It's a busy year!

Not only do all friends and family appear to have their birthdays within a three month window - January to March; they all seem to be 'special' occasions, 30ths and 60ths. Throw in the fact that every man and his dog seem to be getting married or having babies and I am left feeling a little daunted on the gift front.
Aside from the money side of things, i.e. needing a Saturday job to fund this heightened benevolence, I am flustered by the sheer selection of products on the market.

Prerequisites for pain-free shopping

Ease, speed, value for money...

Some might argue that there is little to complain about these days. You can buy online, filter by product, review, colour and compare by price. There is home delivery, express delivery, 'Click and Collect'. You can even pay at the click of a mouse if you have used a site before.

Why the stress then?

For many people, the challenging part is actually selecting the product. In my case, finding a suitable, original gift that is both relevant and unique. It sounds lazy, but many of us do not want to spend hours of our time sifting through the world wide web for inspiration or looking for that product they saw two weeks ago but cannot remember where.

To fit in with our busy lives, retailers need to 'know' what we need. It is no longer enough for them to make assumptions. And that's my point. Knowing only that I am female and between the ages of... well, let's just say under 30, means nothing. 

Dad's fleece

More and more brands are personalising their content and recommendations successfully, but not everyone is getting it right. My father got a fleece for Christmas - a great ‘dad gift’. However, since I bought it, I have been seeing retargeting ads for the dreadful things all over the web. I had no idea fleeces came in so many variations.

Ironically, the email marketing I received from the same brand did recognise that I was a woman, but the style of products I received promotions for, did not match my demographic.

Another time, I received a 'We miss you' email from my favourite shoe shop. Weird. I open their emails every day and had only bought a pair of shoes in-store last week, but as I did not purchase them online, the transaction was not recognised. When guesswork goes wrong, as it has here, it can actually put customers off returning to a brand. So what's the solution?

Cross channel analytics with automated reporting and segmentation

A robust data insights tool will bring behavioural information held on customers together, from all channels.
Basic profile information is important, but it is just a piece of the puzzle; brands that are unable to join up the dots will be sending mixed messages to their consumers for ever more.

In order to avoid incidents like 'Dad's Fleece', marketers need to look at the bigger picture. For consistent messaging, a customer's profile information should be combined with purchase history; in-store and online, web browser behaviour, email campaign behaviour, social media behaviour, SEO/PPC entries, telesales contact, the list goes on...

The right tool should be able to generate reports that are easy to analyse and results that can quickly be organised into relevant segments.

Once marketers gain a more holistic view of their customers, they will be able target their client base more accurately. Building strong relationships is key. Clients who feel truly valued will develop a strong affinity towards a brand, this loyalty will increase engagement and companies will reap the rewards in revenue.

Contextualisation

It is also important to note that we are living in a real-time world, this means ensuring that communication going out is as true to the present moment as possible. Marketers should ensure that campaigns are delivered in a timely manner.

Contextualisation is key. Serving content depending on factors including location, weather, customer age and gender, favourite brands and products, web browsing history, past buying behaviour and abandoned carts etc will give any company a competitive edge. For instance, scheduling an email campaign to display content specific to when a consumer opens it, rather than on when it was sent.

Serving customers real-time content will not only highlight to them that a brand has its finger on the pulse, it will make a consumer feel like you truly know what they need. No more 'We miss you' blunders, or worse, promoting an item that is no longer in stock or on sale.

In my mind, there is no doubt that personalisation, when implemented correctly, can help customers to navigate around a noisy world in a speedy, accommodating and cost-effective way. In fact, in no time at all, I expect my favourite brands to be anticipating what I need for before I even know myself!

SmartFocus is an innovator in messaging and communications, enabling the world's largest brands to understand and connect more closely with today's connected consumers. Through The Message Cloud solution, SmartFocus genuinely listens to and learns from customers using patented algorithms and unique location-based marketing tools. Using The Message Cloud, SmartFocus customers have the rich data, intelligence and the tools for contextually unique engagements, through any digital channel. 

by Rebecca Rees, Email Marketing Expert at SmartFocus


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