Author: Douglas Eldridge

Field & Content Marketing Manager

Why Marketing Needs to Drive the Entire Omnichannel Customer Experience

Why Marketing Needs to Drive the Entire Omnichannel Customer Experience

Marketing’s goal used to be pretty straightforward: build a pipeline of qualified leads to hand over to the sales team. The model changed a little bit depending on the audience and the vertical, but essentially marketing material and actions, from awareness level to consideration, were used to build a pipeline.

While lead generation is still very much part of marketing, the goals for the marketing department have evolved significantly. The audience is everywhere and needs to be addressed personally. Every touchpoint — whether a Tweet or a call to a call center — has to be treated as one cohesive customer experience. As a result, marketing has to evolve beyond lead generation and become a champion of a complex customer experience.

Marketers Keep the Big Picture in Mind

The CMO of a company in the auto sector recently took the lead in redefining the entire buying process that will likely lead to a sea change within the industry. He saw what customers complain about and put up with because there’s really only one way to buy a car, and decided to do something about it. Someone asked him why should marketing take the lead on this? He said marketing has a more holistic view of the entire process and that if anything is going to happen it has to start with them.

As trite as it sounds, it is, in fact, the “age of the customer.” Technology has empowered not just customers, but all consumers to be in control of the sales and retention process. If they’re not happy, they likely have a plethora of other places they can take their business to. Even if you have iron-clad contracts in place, or technical complexities that make switching solutions impractical, or your company is part of an oligopoly, you still have to worry about bad reviews keeping future prospects from using you.

In other words, no company is immune from the wrath of a bad customer experience, no matter where the consumer is along their journey. And marketers are in a prime position to turn those bad experiences around.

Make Contact Centers an Extension of the Marketing Department

Every product and every service will have their occasional flaws. When people call your company to rectify their situation or voice their complaints, there is no better way to connect with these people than a friendly voice and a win-win resolution. It sounds so obvious, yet businesses are losing an estimated $62 billion per year due to bad customer service.

By considering the contact center as another branch of marketing and giving contact center team members direction as if they were part of the marketing department, the training and oversight will pay off with both a better customer experience and a cohesive message. Better engaged, more experienced and properly trained staff solving customer problems with the right data and tools will result in more positive and consistent customer experiences.

An oft-cited barrier to better customer experience are informational silos. Including the contact center in your marketing strategy will dismantle one of the most frustrating silos a company has. From a customer point of view this silo makes no sense at all, since an interaction with a human should allow for the most personal experience due to the wealth of data they’ve shared with marketing over the lifetime of the relationship.

Remember the Differences Between Touchpoints and Channels

Although my argument is that marketing should oversee the customer experience, it’s important to remember a customer touchpoint is not a marketing channel (e.g., a call to a contact center agent is a personal touchpoint). The marketing experience at a touchpoint has to be personal, while the marketing experience via a channel has to eventually lead to a personal experience, but is rarely personal from the get-go. For example, the first time someone interacts with your website your site is a channel. As your site collects data on the user it becomes more and more of a touchpoint and less of a channel.

The intricacies of marketing at a touchpoint baffles many marketers. This is where the difference between “creepy” personalization and the subtle approach comes in. This is also why it’s imperative that anyone personally interacting with someone has the tools to make it a positive experience. That positive experience will translate to a longer relationship than any upsell pitch will do, unless that pitch is cohesive to the particular customer’s experience.

I can’t tell you how many times a particular satellite radio has tried to pitch me a new radio for my car (which clearly has one) as I’m calling to pay the bill.

The New Age of Marketing

Marketing has evolved, and it requires taking a new look at what marketing is and where it sits in the broader customer experience. You may need to change some reporting structures and technological infrastructure to allow employees to understand the customer before a conversation begins. By addressing these points you’ll be laying the foundation for a seamless customer experience that will separate your company from most.

The pipeline is still a vital part of any marketing strategy. It’s something that sales and marketing should collaborate on to ensure the right leads are being followed up with the right materials. But marketing’s job can’t end there anymore. Now there is another department that marketing needs to guide — customer service. Just as we’ve opened the door between sales and marketing, the same should be done with the contact center, to ensure your existing customers continue to be marketed to and are treated as they deserve.

 

This article has been published on CMSWire.com 

 

5 Considerations in the Consumer Buying Journey

5 Considerations in the Consumer Buying Journey

As a business, rather than concern yourself with how to sell, why not put yourself in consumer’s shoes and explore the reasons why you buy. So, in this article, I’d like us to take a new approach and look at things from the consumer’s point of view.

The thing about fashion is that it’s more often a luxury rather than a necessity. For example, you “need a shirt”, but you “don’t need a designer shirt”, and the same can be said for any article of clothing or accessories. But this isn’t to deny the existence of brand conscious people or those who think having a branded item is a need. The significance of this distinction is when someone is buying something they want, not need, they have more flexibility to make decisions.

So, what’s going through their minds as they head down their path to fashion? While this article isn’t about the psychology behind what makes people desire expensive things, and certainly all fashion is not overtly expensive, a good place to start is asking yourself why you do. Envision your own buyer’s journey and consider that many people think similarly to you. Let’s take a look at five important things to keep in mind about the buyer’s journey:

1. The Customer Journey Is No Longer Linear

Marketers used to have a linear mindset. It was marketing’s job to map out the path a consumer would take and to control the narrative. Today, it’s still marketing’s job to control the narrative, but mapping a consumer’s path is simply no longer possible. Consumers are now just too savvy and have too many options to even consider going down a brand’s narrow path to content.

So, in today’s climate, your goal is to put the right product in front of the right person, rather than every product in front of everyone. A person’s journey to buy a shirt, for example, does not begin with a pair of pants. It begins with a search on an e-commerce site or possibly on Google for a shirt. The journey has taken place in their head before they fired up their laptop.

Getting people to your product pages is your number one priority today. Consumers don’t care about you, they care about the product you’re selling. With loyalty at an all-time low, it’s obvious that a strategy that requires a linear journey will no longer work. Marketing needs to realize that the content that needs to be front and center is the product content itself.

That being said, customer acquisition costs roughly five times what retention costs. So, after the first transaction, it’s important that you have a tactical marketing strategy that includes special offers and continual awareness, on top of, delivering a quality product the first time around.

2. Fashion First

The good news for the fashion industry is that when people begin their online journey it’s likely to be for something in the fashion category. According to a McKinsey study, approximately 30% of new online shoppers start with apparel and footwear. Add to that the fast fashion market that sees online shopping as not different from a trip to the mall. It could be argued that e-commerce and fast fashion work together to make each other trendy. Just look at the people on their MacBooks at a coffee shop. Do you think they’re not making a fashion statement?

It’s also worth noting that 85% of product searches begin either on Amazon or Google. Therefore, search, both organic and paid, is a vital investment to make to ensure that consumers are able to find you. Once found, you can start offering personalized experiences. With a staggering 43% of purchases being influenced by personalized recommendations or promotions and 75% of consumers preferring to be marketed to with personal messaging, it’s essential that you have a plan once they do land on one of your product pages.

3. People Want What They Pay For

Oddly enough, when someone buys something online, they’d like the actual product to resemble the product depicted online. If they don’t get that, they’d feel a bit cheated. One reason that stores with a strong physical presence do well with online sales is that it’s easy to return items bought online. The difficulty of returning items is likely the last major barrier to people shopping online, but once that conundrum is solved the fear of a bad purchase will no longer be a hindrance. The cost of returns is also a huge issue. Online purchases are returned at a rate of 15 to 40 percent, which is roughly $400 billion worth of inventory.

While it’s a hassle to return items bought online, a substantial amount of it is still being returned. Certainly, there is a combination of factors when it comes to returning wardrobe pieces, such as the challenge of finding the right size without first trying it on and the shirt that doesn’t quite match the pants that has been envisioned. That being said, while there is no way to eliminate returns, accurate product descriptions and realistic portrayals would surely go a long way in reducing the number of returns, therefore saving you and your customer the headache of the return procedure and upping your chances of retaining your customer.

4. Easily Influenced

Consumers might have the upper-hand during the buying process, but that doesn’t mean that they want to go it alone! Instead of hearing directly from you, though, they want to buy proven items. Influencers in some form are part of the customer journey 84% of the time.

In fashion, people tend to buy what other people make fashionable, but how can they know what’s fashionable? They learn the same way we’ve always have — by looking at what celebrities or influencers are wearing. Remember “The Rachel”, from the TV show “Friends”, haircut in the 1990s? The only difference between Jennifer Aniston on Friends and influencers today is the medium, which is now social media, most notably Instagram. (The stats on Instagram as an influencer channel are pretty amazing and you can check them out here.) Advertising may have moved from the inside of magazines and television commercials to social sites, but that does not mean that it’s not an important part of today’s customer journey.

5. …Yet, Still Price Sensitive

With brands like Zara who are able to get clothes from design to shelves in only two weeks, there’s no doubt that quality takes a bit of a hit in the sake of trendiness. The good news for consumers is that for stores to continually restock their shelves they first have to sell what’s on them. And to ensure that things sell quickly, good deals appear from seemingly everywhere. This new trend called fast fashion has allowed consumers to keep up with the latest fashions and has also spoiled them with low costs.

The apparel industry’s market size is expected to top $1.65 trillion in 2020, up from $1.05 trillion in 2011. Industries don’t grow that fast if they only cater to the high-end consumer. Fast fashion has made it feasible for people to buy outfits for any occasion and in many cases have no plans of wearing it twice. Which means the circle will continue on and on for many consumers on the fashion buyer’s journey.

There’s a lot to consider when you consider the customer’s point of view during their journey. From how it can begin anywhere to the people influencing them to make decisions and, like most industries, budget concerns. While a lot of thought needs to go into your strategy to ensure that you are addressing your prospects along the way, by considering your own motives you already have a good idea on how to address each stage of the process.

How digital transformation affects the fashion industry:

Download our eBook “Digital Transformation in the Fashion Industry”

3 Key Steps to Winning Consumer Trust on the Product Page

3 Key Steps to Winning Consumer Trust on the Product Page

Getting consumers to your product page and getting them to purchase your products are two different things. The average ecommerce conversion rate hovers just below the three percent mark. That’s not quite three people out of every 100 visitors to your product pages are purchasing. So, you can’t afford to turn off any would-be buyers and they would be if your pages aren’t relevant enough.

Relevancy is more than a product match with a consumer. Unless you sell a very niche item, your product would also be available from a number of retailers. Anything from a shirt to a car can be bought across hundreds of sites across the web. One of the key pillars to relevancy on the web is trust, which makes a lot of sense since buying something online is somewhat final. (Even the easiest return policies are somewhat tedious, which is a reason why retailers with a strong brick-and-mortar presence tend to have better online performance.)

How do you convince consumers that you are trustworthy when they land on your product page? Below are three time-tested and proven techniques to make trust the key pillar on your product page.

STEP 1: Product Reviews

It should be no surprise that people trust other consumers more than they trust a brand. One survey states that 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Reviews prominently displayed on your product pages will give people the peace of mind to make purchases.

What about negative reviews, you might ask? Most consumers are smart enough to realize that not every product is a great fit for everyone. Some people are more vocal than others and sometimes they’ll leave unflattering reviews of your products. Read them and take action, but don’t delete them. A bunch of five-star reviews is just as damaging as having no reviews at all. In fact, 82% of consumers seek out negative feedback only, so if they can’t find it there will be an even greater chance of mistrust.

Your product will speak for itself over time if it’s sold enough, but until then, be thankful for reviews left on your site. Think of them as a little bit of free content marketing from the people that matter most, your customers.

STEP 2: Authentic Photography

The first thing that should come to most product marketers is quality photography. But, quality photography and authentic photography are two different things. How many fast food restaurant commercials have you seen with amazing looking food only to be dismayed when you order the same thing at the restaurant? Those commercials don’t exactly exude trust, do they?

What exudes trust are user-generated content (UGC) like Instagram posts. Because consumers crave authentic photos so much, they take photos themselves to share with their peers via the platform. It became a phenomenon, so a social media agency based in New York gathered and analyzed data, and found out that “Instagram-style”photos increase conversion rate by 25% more than professional product shots.

A professional photographer can make anything look great, and they should, but, consumers expect to get the same thing they see online. If they don’t, and instead got a slightly worse variation, then your product pages will have the same amount of trust as a fast food commercial.

STEP 3: Knowing Your Customer

Perhaps the quickest way to earn trust is to know someone and help them solve a problem. While most products can be found across the web, they’re mostly flashed in front of you as if the product itself is enough reason to buy it. Typically, a person is swayed to spend money on something that solves a problem for them.

How do you know the problem that your customer is trying to solve? That takes persona research and the ability to display variants and suggestions based on who is searching for what. Once you figure out your persona pain points, then you can solve for those and offer your solution on the right touchpoints at the right time. By solving their problem, you’ve gained their trust. Personalization is so effective that according to Accenture, 58% of consumers are more likely to buy from a shop that offers items based on their history.

There are many other ways to prove your trustworthiness, but your product page is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. Most people aren’t concerned with your corporate messaging and the educational sales funnel that might be set up. When they land on a product page you have a small window to prove that you are worthy of them going through the sales process. That’s done with relevancy, authenticity, and with proof from the people that came before.

How Product Information Management could help you.

5 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a PIM

5 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a PIM

The vastness of the martech landscape makes the process of software procurement rather unintuitive. It might be obvious that your company needs to refine its digital strategy, but since all the software vendors you speak with have a logical reason to invest in their product or platform, a sound strategy and direction are needed before you listen to your first pitch. So how do you begin to build your strategy?

The architect of the building you’re sitting in didn’t begin with the top floor and work his or her way down. Buildings begin with infrastructure. Any digital architect will also tell you to begin with infrastructure and work your way up. That being said, even digital infrastructure comes in different flavors depending on your business or industry.

If your business is reliant on catalog production, for example, a DAM might be a good foundational building block. If your business is centered around selling inventory online or even offline, then a PIM is a likely candidate to build upon.

Whichever direction you choose to go, it’s vital that you invest wisely, because starting from scratch is rarely an option, as platforms are time-consuming to research and not inexpensive to implement. By understanding the functionality and limitations of different platforms you can rest easy knowing that you made the correct decision. Below are five reasons why your business needs a PIM. .

1. You’re Still Using a Web Content Management (WCM) Solution to Manage Your Products

This is perhaps the most common reason that businesses end up with a PIM. Running your online shop with an e-commerce platform or WCM before you have a PIM is a little like building your first floor before you dig your basement. Ecommerce can technically be used without a PIM, but it’s very hard to scale upward without the strict taxonomy and structure that a PIM inherently solves for. Because of a PIM’s rule-based classification, matching and linking capabilities, for example, you can ensure high-quality data no matter the volume of data you onboard.

2. You Need a Shorter Time to Market

Having your house in order, so to speak, allows you to go to market quicker with any new products and variations of previous products. About now a light might be going off in your head. The more SKUs you have, the more important it is to have them organized in a way that can quickly be added, maintained, searched and disseminated. Improving time to market speed requires collaboration from at least three entities: manufacturers, distributors and retailers. With a PIM’s integrated workflow management capability, processes are automated and smooth collaboration and orchestration are enabled, effectively eliminating elements that slow down time to market.

3. You Want Your Business to be Data-Driven

With 47% of customers saying they would immediately take their business to a competitor the moment they experience poor customer service and 68% more vowing to never do a repeat business once they’ve switched, no wonder customer expectation delivery is critical to 81% of decision-makers. Hence, the importance of customer insights. But if your product information and digital assets are stored across multiple ecommerce platforms or even local drives, your ability to discern any relevant data from your products is next to impossible. A PIM allows you to have a 360-degree view from where your products are stored, physically, all the way through the sale and shipment of an item. Of course, the all-important sales process, which channel is most successful, who is purchasing your products, and even help to refine your target messaging based on user habits and history, is front and center when it comes to PIM development.

4. You Take Personalization Seriously

A mere online presence isn’t good enough anymore. Now consumers expect a tailored experience no matter where they visit on the Internet. In fact, 74% of online consumers don’t appreciate content that has nothing to do with them. If you can’t place relevant products in front of your target audience then they will simply purchase elsewhere, or not at all, as proper product placement can entice even a passive looker to make an impulsive buying decision. With a PIM’s analytics and digital asset management capability, you can create remarkable content based on personas, campaigns and insights from product information and digital asset association.

5. You Value Happy Customers

It’s common knowledge that it costs much more to attain a customer than to retain a customer. By having control of your SKUs from the warehouse through the buying cycle and to the front door, you can ensure that your customers aren’t getting the wrong size or color and that they’ll be as satisfied with the buying experience as they are with the end product. Why the emphasis on experience? Because more than price and product, customer experience will be the key brand differentiator come 2020.

You know your business better than any software vendor ever could. To build your digital presence properly, having an idea of where to begin is the first step to a successful procurement process. Once your foundation is in place, you can scale with the knowledge that the assets that your business needs to succeed are fully functional and carrying out a strategy designed for your business.

What Product Information Management can do for you.

7 Keys to Crafting High-Quality Product Content

7 Keys to Crafting High-Quality Product Content

Content gets the bulk of attention these days when it comes to digital marketing. A quick Google search on content creation will pull up countless articles on blogging best practices, effective strategies, campaign ideas, social media trends, and so on, which can get people to your site.  Driving awareness is one thing, but it’s quite another to convert them into paying customers.

When it comes to product content, accurate, complete, consistent and relevant product information is king.

The following are seven ways to produce product content that will excite, engage and convert your audience:

1) Focus on your target buyer and personalize your offering

The competition to sell inventory across the web is fierce. You might only get one shot at selling your product to the right person. If you’re displaying the wrong product you’re out of luck.  People aren’t going to click into your site to find the right product if the one in front of them has no bearing on themselves. You have only one chance.

As an example, I have spent the last few weeks exploring new SUVs. Car dealerships in general have figured out that I’m looking for a new car, but some have honed in to the type I’m looking for. This ad happened to catch my eye, while I was casually scrolling through…

 

According to the 2018 Trends in Personalization report, 98% of marketers agree that personalization boosts customer relationships, while 87% share that they’re experiencing measurable success.

2) Create a compelling story

Writing product descriptions are no different than any content marketing efforts. They say a photo is worth a thousand words, but when it comes to a product, you might need  a short description (under 160 words) or long description (under 600 words) next to to the photo to bring it it to life. A coat in a product catalog, for example, is just a coat, until you pair it with an interesting backstory…

Why is storytelling important? According to Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman, 95% of purchasing decisions happens in the subconscious. And the best way to reach that part of the human brain is through engaging stories.

3) Use an attention-grabbing headline

As with any piece of content, if people don’t read it it’s a waste of time to write it. The headline should draw your audience in for more.

How to write headlines that people will read? Well, first define which “people”, a.k.a. your target audience. There has to be something in the content for them to continue reading. According to copyblogger, 8 of 10 people will read the headline, but only 2 of 10 will go on to finish the piece. So, for your headline to have the power to grab and hold, it must contain the 4Us: useful, urgent, unique and ultra-specific.

4) Write original copy

Every product is different and when you have an inventory that has hundreds or even thousands of products, writing original copy for each one can be daunting, but it is necessary. Even beyond that, as mentioned in bullet one, writing original product copy for each persona can truly help the content be not only relevant, but persuasive.

 

www.blackdiamondequipment.com

Why is original copy important? Because it builds trust. Writing your own product description shows your belief in your product, respect for your customers and trustworthiness.

5) Product rich imagery

If you’re the type of person who spends time in the mountains and need a utilitarian vehicle, not many words need to be written for someone to click…

How important are images for product experience? 75% of ecommerce shoppers say product images strongly influence their buying decision. With images, consumers are instantly connected to the product, so they have the power to make or break the sale. If that’s the case, ensure that you put up high-quality original images as much as possible. It’s even better if you avoid using stock photography, as it will turn consumers off. You could also provide alternate views/angles and zoom. Finally, shoot a contextual shot. Show people how the product would look like on them or let them experience it with their imagination.

6) Have clear and concise descriptions

Original and descriptive copy doesn’t mean you have to write a novel. In fact, as with most text, less is more. As Dr. Seuss famously quoted “So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.” Or in the case of product content, making a chore of him or her moving on from your product.

Remember that most people today are on the go and using their mobile to read. Not only that, according to a Microsoft study, their attention span has become worse than the proverbial goldfish. From 12 seconds in 2000, it’s down to eight seconds in 2013. Plus, they’re naturally distracted, what with all the choices given them, so it makes so much sense to write a short purposeful copy.

7) Offer additional relevant products

So, you’ve got their attention, so what’s next?  Don’t stop there, show them what else they can’t live without.  You know who they are now, you know what they want, you have the ability to strike while they’re still on your site.

It doesn’t hurt to offer or suggest items that complement or supplement their purchase. In fact, it’s a known sales technique called cross-selling. Another technique you can use is upselling or when you encourage consumers to upgrade to a more valuable purchase.