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February 5, 2018

The Top 3 Data Trends for 2018

Lagging behind in data will hurt your marketing strategy, so make sure you’re always one step ahead with these three trends for 2018.

Maud Rodamar

Last year marketers continued evolving their data strategies, so we can only expect 2018 to bring bigger and better things. It’s the year of personalization: tailoring experiences for each customer and really getting to know them in a way that’s not inaccurate…or creepy. Lagging behind in data will hurt your marketing strategy, so make sure you’re always one step ahead with these three trends for 2018. Check them out below and see how they can help you achieve your marketing goals.

Omnichannel Personalization

A seamless omnichannel experience is the new standard. Consumers demand more than ever in regards to product and experience, and simple segmentation and multi-channel marketing isn’t meeting those expectations any longer.

Let’s first talk about what a multi-channel experience is and why it isn’t cutting it. Most companies today partake in a multi-channel personalization approach: they have a website, app, Twitter, Facebook, blog, LinkedIn, etc. Each channel is used to engage and communicate with the consumer, but in most cases there is a lack of fluidity between the channels and experiences. Right now 55% of companies have no cross-channel strategy in place, treating each channel independently and each consumer as part of a mass market.

Picture this: you are a 32-year-old woman who mostly shops for work clothes. You open up an email from one of your favorite stores, but when you read the message, what you see is their current sale for boys’ shoes. So, you immediately go on to the next message in your inbox. You’ve made purchases from this store before, so you’d think they would send you only messages about what you care about: women’s clothing.

Now picture this: You are still a 32-year-old woman who shops for mostly work clothes. You open up an email from one of your favorite stores, and the message shows a sale for women’s blouses. With the weather getting warmer, that’s exactly what you were in the market for, so you click the email to go to the site, and end up purchasing three blouses for work.

That’s omnichannel personalization – not treating you as part of a mass market but as an individual, unique customer.

With true personalization, the customer is put at the core of the marketing process and the company actually cares what the customer wants to see (and not just what information it wants to publicize). One study revealed that businesses that adopt omnichannel strategies achieve 91% greater year-over-year customer retention rates compared to business that don’t. Each interaction between the consumer and the business creates more data on that individual, allowing them to build out in-depth profiles and continuously personalize marketing efforts.

Once you realize the importance of having an omnichannel experience, how can you create that for your own consumers? Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and create the experience that they would want.

And to really know your customer better, you need better data on them. Not just generic third-party data, but quality data that is unique for each consumer and able to help you tailor your messaging to individual interests and preferences. The hard part is how to get that sort of data from your audience. How can you find out their interests, motivations, and preferences without asking them?

Well that’s just it, you should be asking them! When you give consumers the chance to tell you what they want, they will answer. That’s declared data. By actually having a conversation with the consumer and finding out that information first hand, tailoring the consumer experience becomes a lot easier, more accurate, and will bring substantial results.

Using Data to be Helpful

Today’s consumers are more curious than ever, more demanding than ever, and more impatient than ever. Living in a day and age ruled by immediate gratification, “I want it and I want it now,” has become a common expectation among consumers. Often, marketers feel like they have to know what the consumer wants before they even know what they want. What marketers are missing is the power they have to help the consumer throughout their buying journey.  

How can you be truly helpful? By using data.

Most marketers use third-party data, which gives you scale but limits you to vague assumptions based on online behavior. One recent study even found that a major third-party data vendor had 84% of users identified as both male and female. Every company wants to know their customers as much as possible, but they over-rely on data that can be outdated and inaccurate. This is why many consumers often complain about the randomness of ads they see.

In 2017, consumers were searching “ideas” and “lists” more than ever before and looking for more guidance from brands during their purchasing process. Today’s consumer may be more demanding once they realize what they want to buy, but they are also a lot more open to suggestions beforehand. They want to be helped by brands.

Another study showed that about one in three travelers are interested in using digital assistants to research or book travel, which just goes to show that consumers don’t want to make blind purchases and do want to be assisted. In order for a brand to actually be helpful in their customers’ purchasing processes, they need unique information on each individual consumer. They need to know their interests and preferences, what they want to buy, and when they want to buy it, which is hard to do without reading their minds or asking them firsthand.

Consumers are more willing than you’d realize to share information about themselves if it means a more personalized experience down the line. A recent study showed that 57% of U.S. travelers feel that brands should tailor their information based on personal preferences or past behavior.

So, how do you provide such a personalized customer experience? Talk to your customers! The current standard is making assumptions using third-party data because companies haven’t asked the consumer directly. No one wants to be planning a trip and get emails about family cruises when you’re 25 and single.

If companies started a conversation with their audience, they would be able to know their customers much better and in turn be able to help them a lot more. Think about a clothing store being able to know that a consumer has an upcoming wedding or a love of striped patterns, and they know this because that consumer told them. That company would be able to tailor their messaging across all channels to that consumer based on that information, and be able to help that consumer out a whole lot more with finding what they need or want.

Interest-Based Remarketing

What if you could know what your customers cared about, what they wanted to buy, and when they wanted to buy it…and market to them at the exact right time? Right now using third-party data alone still steers companies in the wrong direction about their customers. (To learn more about why third-party data is often wrong and how to move in the right direction, you can check out this blog post).

A modern day online shopping experience looks like this: you’re shopping for a gift for your 7 year old nephew, which leads you to research lots of toys and action figures. And whether you purchase the toy or not, you are immediately served ads for children’s toys because based on your history, companies think you are a 7 year old boy. This is often referred to as ad stalking and (unsurprisingly) consumers hate it. It’s definitely bizarre to see an ad for something you purchased 5 minutes ago, and not helpful to the consumer.

Currently, companies are constantly making assumptions about consumers based on their click trail and online behavior, which are actually wrong the majority of the time. That study about how 84% of users were identified as both male and female comes back into play and just goes to show how easy it is to get remarketing wrong. A consumer is advertised to based on incorrect categorizations, which is why you’re getting ads for something you bought for your nephew a month ago. Consumers are getting fed up, brands are wasting money, and the use of ad blockers has skyrocketed.

But how can you market to your audience without ‘stalking’ them? Try starting a conversation instead. If the consumer tells you details like occasions that they’re shopping for or when they plan to buy, you can use that information to tailor their shopping experience. This way you are guiding them and giving them ideas for what they could be purchasing rather than showing them what they already bought and won’t be buying again.

The more data you gather, the more in-depth profiles you can build around each individual, and the more accurate remarketing you can do for each. At the end of the day, you can’t deliver a compelling experience if you don’t have a holistic view of your relationship with your customer. One study shows that 89% of successful businesses actually acknowledge that it is critical to their growth that they anticipate customer needs and provide assistive experiences along the customer journey. This includes accurate and helpful remarketing campaigns that can shape the consumers purchasing process.

So the question comes again, how can you do this? You guessed it: with data given to you directly by your consumers. By having those conversations with your audience and gathering quality, unique data on each consumer, you can create personalized remarketing plans for every individual that increase click and conversion rates as well as revenue. The Boston Globe saw a 221% increase in conversion rate when they used unique declared data to create custom audiences and remarket to their leads and lookalike audiences.

Looking Ahead

Something to really start integrating into your business is quality unique data that you gather by building a direct relationship with the consumer. It’s time that the people who supply your company with business and revenue are being treated like individuals and not a homogenous mass market. It’s clear how interconnected these trends are and smart companies will take steps towards all three in this coming year. Take the intermediary out of your relationship with your consumer and your business and get to know your consumer on your own and you’ll drive powerful results. So, how are you thinking about your data this year?

Maud Rodamar

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