How marketers can use modern tech to overcome a Digital Divide with their customers

Marketers need a better understanding of the evolving customer journey, says Anthony Botibol, Senior Director of Marketing at Upland Software

Over the last twelve months, the number of channels used by consumers to interact with brands has increased tenfold, particularly when it comes to digital channels. Consumers now have a plethora of channels available to them, from email, web browser, mobile app, and social, to offline channels including in-store and direct mail, and use these to browse and purchase their desired product/service. However, our research shows that the increase in customer touchpoints, the resulting dramatic change in consumer behaviour, and fragmented digital footprints, have resulted in an uphill struggle for marketers as they try to get a true understanding of who their customers are and where to interact with them.

The discord between consumers and marketers has left businesses struggling to adapt to the changes in consumer behaviours and thus, many have resorted to simply doing more of the same, rather than shifting their marketing strategies to deliver the experiences their consumers want to see. I’ve personally seen many brands resort to just sending more emails, with little or no intelligent segmentation and messages/offers that bear no relevance to me. Consumers nowadays expect a consistent, personalized, omnichannel customer experience when engaging with brands, leaving marketers in an unenviable position as failure to deliver also signifies missing out on sales.

The good news for marketers is that there is a key to success, and it’s the insights in their data. Unifying, analysing, and acting upon customer data is the only way to predict, and overcome, the obstacles they are currently facing, and thus to deliver the experiences that their customers not only want but expect.

The increasingly complex customer journeys

There’s no denying that Covid-19 had a profound impact on customer behaviours and accelerated the shift towards online browsing/shopping. Despite the slow easing of restrictions, and the return to in-store shopping, UK consumers continue to undertake more fluid customer journeys than ever before.

Our recent research shows that UK consumers are now using more than 20 online and offline channels to interact with brands. The channel depends on what they are purchasing, with in-store/in-branch proving a popular channel for items such as clothing, homeware, and exercise equipment, whereas for holiday or leisure services, the majority of consumers (54%) would prefer to shop via laptop/desktop web browser.

However, it’s not just the laptop/desktop web browser UK marketers need to be paying close attention to when it comes to online channels. Our research shows that mobile experiences are becoming increasingly important, as 40% of UK shoppers agree that they’ve increased the amount they browse/shop on their mobile phones over the last twelve months. Furthermore, 34% of consumers said that a better user experience on a mobile app would encourage them to use it over a web browser, further highlighting the need for mobile experiences to be a focus for UK brands.

Marketers are struggling to paint an accurate picture of their customers

The rise in the hybrid consumer, shoppers who use a combination of online and offline channels, poses significant challenges for marketers as they attempt to unify customer data from both offline and online sources, and ultimately use this to deliver seamless customer journeys.

Of the 250 UK marketers surveyed, 76% agreed that their team has all customer data, interactions and transactions integrated into a single data source, i.e., a Single Customer View (SCV). In fact, only 6% disagreed. However, it seems as though there is a clear disconnect, as when asked whether they agree that it was a challenge to unify consumer data to an individual customer when so many have multiple digital identities, 83% either somewhat or strongly agreed, with just 3% disagreeing.

If marketers truly have a Single Customer View, then unifying consumer data from multiple touchpoints shouldn’t be a problem. Furthermore, nearly two-thirds of marketers believe their team lacks the skills or knowledge to effectively analyse and segment customer data. This confirms that marketers are unable to track their customers’ journeys as effectively as they think.

Consumers want to be targeted, but marketers aren’t listening

Customers are now demanding personalised experiences in every channel so it’s crucial that marketers demonstrate that they understand the consumer, and what resonates with them. In fact, our research shows that 42% of UK consumers said it was important that they feel a brand is creating a personalised shopping experience for them. However, only 12% of shoppers agreed that the brands they interact with provide a similar shopping experience, across all channels, all the time.

Furthermore, a third of consumers said that the lack of a personalised experience would stop them from buying a product or service online (32% in store). This increases to 50% for products not tailored to the consumer’s needs, demonstrating that targeted, personalised communications are an area marketers cannot afford to be complacent in, as doing so could mean losing customers.

It’s not just the contents of the communications that marketers need to be mindful of. The frequency of these communications is also a factor that many consumers find frustrating, with 39% of UK consumers saying they find regular contact from brands (more than once a day) very frustrating. The good news is the research shows that just under half of marketers do collect information regarding how frequently their customers want to be contacted, however, the bad news is that a massive 43% of UK marketers collect this data but don’t act upon it. This wasted data is common in a lot of businesses where marketers cannot easily access or act upon their data, and likely to anger customers in the long term, and increase churn.

Overcoming these challenges with data unification

Understanding how and where consumers are shopping, and acting upon these insights, is the only way to overcome the challenges marketers are currently facing. It’s clear that customers want personalised experiences, and to deliver these, superior quality data and an effective omnichannel marketing strategy are key.

Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) unify all your online and offline customer data to create a trustworthy Single Customer View, eliminating the challenge experienced by marketers as they try to bring together multiple pieces of the puzzle. The SCV can then be used to create strong segments for targeted, omnichannel campaigns.

Another crucial element to success is listening and acting upon customer data, as our research clearly shows that factors such as frequency of communications, the channels used, and the experience received all have a significant impact on a consumer’s feelings towards a brand. To achieve this, Voice of the Customer (VoC) solutions are crucial as they will enable marketers to make transformational decisions and improve how they interact with their customers, in turn, eliminating the disconnect between them and their buyers. A CDP can transform the VoC data and make it actionable across all marketing channels, enabling marketers to reach and interact with their customers more effectively, and most importantly, set themselves up for long-term success.

Featured image: solarseven / Shutterstock.com

Anthony Botibol

Anthony is Senior Director of Marketing at Upland BlueVenn, and is an advisory board member of the Customer Data Platform Institute, feature writer for MarTech publishers and the global head of marketing at BlueVenn. He equips marketing leaders at big brands with the knowledge, tactics and tools to simplify their lives, remove data bottlenecks and eradicate skills gaps between data access, insights and the delivery of high-scale, personalized marketing. Anthony has been with BlueVenn, which was recently acquired by Upland Software, for over seven years. Before this he was the marketing and CRM manager at HBXL Ltd.

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