This time a year ago, Response introduced the first of a four-part feature outlining the consumer journey. The series, which was complemented by panel discussions at Response Expo in April 2017, dissected each of the marketing phases with advice from top decision makers running some of the most successful brands and performance marketing campaigns.
The series started with awareness and engagement, moved into payment processing and fulfillment, and finished with post-purchase engagement and brand advocacy.
Charting the consumer journey is often unpredictable, and performance marketers have to plan for unexpected interactions, interruptions, and outside influences every step of the way. It requires the creative foresight to connect with consumers in unique and memorable ways while simultaneously digging into data analytics with the best of business intelligence.
Attribution is often one of the biggest challenges. Where did the sale come from? What influenced the purchase? Where should the team double down on its investment?
According to a recent report from eMarketer, “A dearth of knowledge is making it difficult for marketers to execute attribution strategies.” It cites a survey from AdRoll, in association with Econsultancy, where more than a third (35 percent) of marketers worldwide say defining the online customer journey is the greatest barrier to using attribution more effectively — up from the 27 percent who said so last year.
“Consumers are not making tracking their online journey an easy task,” the report continues, “given the rising number of potential touchpoints available to them in an increasingly digital world, along with the complexity of following them as they move between online and offline channels.”
Whether scaling a new business or introducing products to an already successful brand lineup, connecting sales to specific marketing efforts was complicated enough before social and digital media. Today, it’s far more complex, but the same technology is also making it possible to track the granular data of consumer interactions while also offering big picture trends and predictions.
As this next new year begins, it’s time to look back at the lessons and successes of 2017 while planning for what will certainly be another year full of opportunities and unpredictable challenges.
Content Remains King
The central theme to the consumer journey series — as well as many of Response’s cover stories featured throughout the past year — is that every great marketing campaign is built around consumer experience and exceptional customer service. This was and continues to be the guiding principle for Keira Krausz, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Nutrisystem, the 2016 DRMA Marketer of the Year.
Last year, she explained their four pillars of engagement: social media, the NuMi and South Beach Diet apps, content marketing through blogs and newsletters, and one-on-one counseling. These channels have continued to grow the community and enhance the Nutrisystem brand.
“This year our most significant growth came from our apps (NuMi and the South Beach Diet app) and our content sites (The Leaf for Nutrisystem and The Palm for South Beach Diet),” says Krausz. “NuMi users grew by more than 40 percent and sessions are up even more. The Leaf’s users are about 1.5 times higher, and sessions have increased even more dramatically, a testament to the quality of the content. Growing engagement is central to achieving our mission of helping people lose weight and get healthy. We are always trying to understand what support and content our customers want and adjusting accordingly. It’s definitely a labor of love.”
During the past 12 months, the social and content marketing strategy has evolved in three ways.
“We’ve integrated content planning, creation, and distribution,” says Krausz. “We’ve moved to having one consistent voice for each brand, unified content creation, and a plan to leverage the content we create fully. What has not changed is that we still are analytic in our approach: we measure what drives the most engagement, and what falls flat, and adjust accordingly. We have increased the resources that monitor social interaction. We’ve documented our approaches and trained the larger team. Our passionate and driven Social Care team developed and rolled out a Social Care Playbook across the company. Social, marketing, and counseling have benefited from this playbook.”
Human interaction and interpretation is key, ensuring that customers receive prompt and personalized attention according to their specific needs. However, technology also plays a pivotal role in this effort. As the consumer journey is full of impromptu conversations, interruptions, and engagements at all phases of the lifecycle, analytics programs can identify trends.
“First of all, we see all of these interactions as terrific opportunities,” says Krausz, “to listen, understand, and help. There might be several best ways, but the way we’re doing it is to use technology — Sprinklr, in our case — to listen across the social channels, plus people on the team who interpret and give us guidance. We have regular reports and conversations on how people are responding to our ads, posts, and other activities.”
So, where are the biggest opportunities to connect and reconnect with customers heading into 2018?
“We still believe that our four pillars are the right ones,” says Krausz. “We’re expanding our presence on Facebook and other social channels, we’ve revamped and improved our apps for 2018, and expect just as much growth across our content channels. And our highly trained counseling team is ready to help people reach their weight loss goals the healthy way.”
IRL Experience Marketing
During last year’s catch-up with Peter Tardif, Vistaprint’s director of North American channels and markets, the company had just wrapped up a 25-week tour in an RV, visiting 22 cities in 18 states to meet with small business owners and better understand how Vistaprint could support them. The e-commerce company, which uses DRTV as a driving force to stream new customers into its virtual front door, has also invested heavily in bringing its marketing efforts offline and into real life.
“In continuing our support of small business and the impact they make on their communities, we partnered again with Good Morning America to celebrate small business week,” says Tardif. “We toured the country with them and delivered $10,000 each to five deserving small business owners to help them make an even bigger impact. Jess is one of those business owners who truly inspires us. Her business, Headbands of Hope, donates headbands to children who have undergone chemotherapy.”
He says that across the organization everyone knows how important it is to get to know small business owners and to engage them in the process of developing ideas and launching new products.
“We launched a program called ‘In Their Shoes,’ where groups of employees pick a local small business to partner with,” says Tardif. “It has been a great source of inspiration, but we also get to help business owners with obstacles getting in the way of their success. We’ll be looking for more and more opportunities to engage and learn from our customers so we can truly be the Vistaprint they need from us — so stay tuned.”
Building brand awareness and increasing customer engagement through social media remains key for the digital brand, too.
“We’re exploring real-time storytelling through new platforms, such as Facebook Live and Instagram Stories, and have had great success with it so far,” says Tardif. “It is an authentic way to interact with customers and provide real-time marketing advice, answering any questions they have in a new way. We’ve also used these platforms for a bit of a behind-the-scenes look at some of our activities, like our new store in Toronto, creating our commercials, interactions with customers, and other events.”
Working with influencers is another way Vistaprint makes digital media more personalized, and the company collaborates with subject matter experts who provide small business owners with insights into specific areas of running a business.
“We know that small business owners like to learn from other small business owners,” says Tardif, “so we know this is a way to get them the type of content they need to succeed.”
With audience engagement and customer satisfaction at the top of their priorities, sometimes initiatives are measured in customer and brand metrics rather than revenue.
“One of our biggest initiatives this year was the launch of our first-ever brick-and-mortar location,” says Tardif. “The Vistaprint Studio was born out of customer demand for more personal, face-to-face interactions with Vistaprint staff and products. We listened, and created a store to meet their needs: an engaging, personalized in-store experience to complement the convenience and value of our online experience. The way we’ll measure success is through customer satisfaction and understanding if we truly created the best offline experience for our customers.”
As performance marketers continue to connect with their customers in unique and meaningful ways — both online and offline — digital technology is offering a major assist across the board.
“In 2018, we want to test connecting with more customers one-to-one or in small groups in a scalable way, like AI, Facebook Groups, and Facebook Messenger, and diving deeper into work with even more influencers and subject matter experts,” says Tardif.
According to a Business Insider report, large and small businesses alike will continue to invest on chatbot developments to help cut costs and improve customer experience.
“Twenty-four hour service and reduced costs for companies are only a portion of how beneficial chatbots can be for any industry,” the report says. “Companies can increase customer satisfaction with the elimination of repetitive and time-consuming tasks for more face-to-face service, and users can save hundreds of dollars because they won’t need to book appointments. Chatbots have proven to improve human interactions and are able to connect with hundreds of humans at any moment, which only helps them develop a better sense of how to fulfill the emotional needs of customers.”
Automated interactions and customized recommendations can be especially effective in the checkout process, too.
“We recently launched a new way for customers to get personalized product recommendations with a just a few clicks of their mouses,” says Tardif. “Brandshop allows small business owners to upload a logo and instantly see it on a variety of products. Then they can just add them to their shopping cart. It’s a good opportunity for customers to discover new products and ways to market themselves that they might not have thought of otherwise.”
The checkout and post-purchase experiences are just as ripe with opportunities to engage customers, build trust, and keep them coming back for more. Michael Weinstein, chief marketing officer at Allstar Products Group, the consumer products company behind many top DRTV brands, including Snuggie, Topsy Turvy, Magic Mesh, and the Simply Fit Board, has added more strategic touchpoints throughout its fulfillment phase to ensure a positive customer experience.
“Now, more than ever, the customer has a voice that resonates throughout our organization,” says Weinstein. “We believe the touchpoints that we have put in place enable us to hear that voice more clearly and allow us to improve multiple processes, from the overall consumer experience — including from what the customer wants to how they want to pay — all the way back to the manufacturing of an item.”
Some of these new touchpoints include the automated collection and analysis of online customer reviews and focus groups that concentrate on the product and shopping experience.
“We use a system designed to recognize keywords and phrases,” Weinstein explains. “We then use that information to adjust everything from our website and phone scripts to our product development, instruction manuals, and more.”
With the many advantages of cross-platform marketing, from the data it provides to the personalization it helps infuse, there are plenty of challenges, too. Attribution is at the top of the list. In next month’s issue, Response will look at the latest advances in measuring multiple mediums and understanding cause and effect of DR on digital channels and retail — and vice versa.