Marketers are on a constant mission to create utopian, near-perfect experiences for customers. Now that emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are thrown into the marketing mix, it’s important to challenge traditional ways of engaging consumers. It has been well established that the customer of the digital age wants the best message at the perfect time, through the ideal channel, but how can marketers make this ‘the new normal’?
According to Forrester Research, B2B buyers use online resources and content to research and learn independently, a shift that presents an opportunity: more online research translates to more digital breadcrumbs that leave a data trail of search terms, content consumption patterns and other interest signals. Other studies have shown that 78% of customers start the buying process with a web search, while 50% of consumers turn to social media to see what others have reviewed, before even thinking of clicking that buy button. The wealth of data that is produced as a result can be put to better use with predictive intelligence.
Traditionally, buyers and customers have been forced through a few pre-defined paths created by marketers. While these paths added a level of personalisation to the experience, the method has fallen short for customers, as they no longer want to be stereotyped. Similar in how we’ve seen the evolution of mapping technology like Waze and Google Maps, “pre-defined directions” like Mapquest have given way to more fluid recommendation paths that take into account individual user behaviours and outside factors in real-time. As such, there is a need for marketers to apply this thinking to customer experiences to deliver more precise and personalised engagement paths for brands and their buyers.
Every customer is unique, as is their path to purchase, and in today’s connected world it is more important than ever that brands adapt to how their customers want to be engaged. Marketers at mid-sized organisations might think that this is unattainable, but companies of all sizes should be able to take advantage of the power of predictive intelligence to accomplish this. As Waze and Google Maps illustrate, there is scope for applying machine learning into customer’s lives online and improve the experience for them in the long term.
Customer journeys of the future are adaptive - it’s about using the buyer’s own behaviours to intelligently guide the engagement strategy. The result for companies will be happier customers who feel as if the brand has connected with them in meaningful and relevant ways, which will ultimately translate into better business outcomes like higher win rates and customer lifetime value. Time for marketers to step up and take note.
By Michelle Huff, chief marketing officer at Act-On
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