The Future of MarTech: Predictions for the Months Ahead

As the ever-changing world of marketing technology continues to shift and change, we pulled together some martech trend predictions that we have seen drive the way and will continue to take flight throughout the remainder of 2020. With recent events in…

As the ever-changing world of marketing technology continues to shift and change, we pulled together some martech trend predictions that we have seen drive the way and will continue to take flight throughout the remainder of 2020. With recent events in the world, the time to align and comply with customers’ needs is more prominent than ever.

Why Non-Retailers Must Consider Advertising Through Amazon

Advertisers often talk about Amazon as a product-focused platform. That’s not surprising, given that Amazon’s greatest claim-to-fame, Prime shipping, is only relevant for physical goods. However, Amazon does offer a robust set of advertising opportunit…

Advertisers often talk about Amazon as a product-focused platform. That’s not surprising, given that Amazon’s greatest claim-to-fame, Prime shipping, is only relevant for physical goods. However, Amazon does offer a robust set of advertising opportunities for brands in financial services, travel, and other verticals that don’t include the physical exchange of products.

It’s critical that non-retail brands consider advertising through Amazon for two key reasons. The first is Amazon’s reach. Amazon has over 125 million Prime users, and interacts with customers on multiple platforms, including Amazon.com, Prime Video, Kindle, and more. The second reason is audience data. Amazon knows more about its customers than any other platform, and advertisers can use that rich data to reach the right people with their advertising.

From traditional display programs to more creative experiences, nearly every brand can find an opportunity that will fit within their performance goals and budgets.

Amazon’s in-home advertising solutions are more traditional opportunities for non-product centric verticals. Through the DSP, advertisers can run display ads that appear on Amazon’s owned sites and apps, like IMBD, as well as placements across other sites across the web. Inventory on Amazon’s owned sites is exclusive to Amazon, making it a valuable addition to existing DSP programs for incremental reach. OTT, or connected TV, is a part of the DSP that reaches viewers while they’re watching content on IMDB TV or apps via Fire TV. Amazon OTT presents a much larger opportunity than many brands realize – in fact, it just surpassed Roku with its number of Video Service Users in the US at 96.5 million.

While these programs are different in format, a key attribute they share is targetability. Amazon knows a lot about its customers, which creates many targeting options for advertisers on these two platforms. In-market audiences allow brands to reach people currently in-market for a good related to their service. Lifestyle targeting helps brands talk to customers whose interests, demonstrated via their Amazon behavior, align with their offerings.

Beyond Amazon’s own audiences, advertisers can load CRM data directly into the DSP, allowing brands to engage with known individuals as they browse Amazon.com and Amazon’s owned sites. Advertisers can create custom audiences to engage with different groups of people in different ways. For example, brands can target only new customers by setting up a campaign that excludes their “existing customer” audience. To expand their reach, advertisers can use Amazon’s audience overlap report to find audiences with attributes or behaviors similar to the audiences they have set up. This pool of Amazon users is likely to be relevant to that brand since they share attributes with current customers.

While less addressable, Amazon’s OOH programs offer unique, creative ways for advertisers to engage with consumers. The first opportunity, which is a natural extension of Amazon’s Prime subscription program, entails “owning the porch”, where brands can buy on-box advertising and Prime Now/fresh bags and inserts. This creative serves almost as a mini-billboard, reaching the person receiving the package along with any close neighbors. With an estimated 5 billion Amazon packages delivered per year in the U.S., there’s a lot of opportunity to capture eyeballs through this format.

Thinking more outside the box (pun intended), Amazon also sells advertising on its Lockers. Customers use Amazon Lockers in over 900 cities and towns across the US to pick up packages in a variety of locations, including campuses, office buildings, grocery stores, and more. Advertisers can pay for a ‘skin’ that essentially covers the locker unit.

While there aren’t many targeting options available for these out-of-home options, advertisers still get wide reach and meet customers in a way that’s not offered by other digitally-focused display platforms.

If you’re not currently using any of Amazon’s display offerings, the in-home advertising opportunities are the best place to start for a more trackable, targetable display program. Between OTT and the DSP you can reach a really large audience of people and you’ll be better able to tailor campaigns based on performance. If brand awareness and new customer acquisition are key business goals and you’ve seen stagnation or declines through traditional display media, testing a Locker or on-box opportunity might make sense. Just remember that measuring the success of out-of-home campaigns is tricky, so you’ll need to approach them with a mindset akin to managing a traditional TV, radio, or newspaper buy.

Empathy in marketing is more crucial than ever. Here’s how to do it.

Brands that understand customers have a higher rate of converting and keeping them. Insight about consumer behaviors and intentions means you can get really good at delivering the relevant experiences they demand. Using Neuroanalytics™ to gain detailed…

Brands that understand customers have a higher rate of converting and keeping them. Insight about consumer behaviors and intentions means you can get really good at delivering the relevant experiences they demand. Using Neuroanalytics™ to gain detailed understanding and lead with empathy has never been more critical to business continuity.

Neuroanalytics™ is a data-driven solution to understanding audience emotions with the ability to tie those emotions to identifiable individuals. Utilizing techniques in Means-End Theory, you can tap into your customers' subconscious motivations qualitatively and then validate those connections with larger data sample sets. Through our patented process we’ve been able to find the correlations between functional and emotional benefits. This allows you to understand how different groups of customers make decisions, identify what matters to them, and create the most effective and relevant experiences across every facet of your marketing.

A combination of cognitive psychology and advanced analytics, Neuroanalytics discovers the deep-seated motivations that subconsciously drive purchase decisions, then quantifies them for statistical significance within audience segmentation.

So, if you could tap into your customers’ psyche, how would it change your strategy?

How emotional data completes an identity graph

The starting point might be more grassroots than you think. Start by talking with your customers. Traditional demographics such as age, address, and workplace are helpful, but there is a deeper level to truly know what customers care about. By learning things like their family values, career aspirations, and internally driven interests, you can take your relationship with customers from interactions to conversations.

Empathetic experiences

Best practices in behavioral journey analytics stitch together event stream data to help us understand the most common consumer paths as they interact with our brand. However, what we often find missing is the deeper dive to understand why customers are taking those paths in the first place. What questions are customers trying to answer and what problems are they seeking to solve? Taking a step back to talk with customers can help add clarity to the data we are analyzing. You may find the majority of customers hitting the home page and immediately dropping off, possibly because the next best action is unclear, the positioning doesn’t resonate, or they accidently landed on the wrong page from poor SEO. We could guess why these issues occur, but a simple jump start from asking provides direct and actionable insights as we empathize with our customers. The next step in the evolution process moves from one-to-one physical conversations to consumer-informed digital conversations.

Let’s look at another practical example:

Suppose I work for a shoe brand and I’m talking to a recent buyer of my new running shoe. By eliciting information initially through questions such as, “What led you to buy this pair of shoes over a competitor shoes?” Answers could vary from telling you about the support aspect of the shoes, stylistic characteristics, etc. From there we now have a basis to understand the emotional connection customers have to those core attributes.

Conclusion

It’s one thing to know customers’ buying habits based on their history with your company, but it’s another to talk with them and truly learn the ‘why” behind the purchase and what fuels their thinking and spending behaviors. Ads built on motivations have shown up to 80 percent improvement over controls. Neuroanalytics can help you make a significant impact, improve performance, and provide you with an innovative edge over competitors.

Learn more about Merkle’s proprietary Neuroanalytics™ solutions here.

Creating the Right Experience: Supporting Customers During COVID-19

With the spread of COVID-19, experience and sharing-economy-based businesses are taking a hit. With consumers being forced to avoid public spaces and travel, they are wary of shared resources that might carry dangerous germs. In only a week, the US pop…

With the spread of COVID-19, experience and sharing-economy-based businesses are taking a hit. With consumers being forced to avoid public spaces and travel, they are wary of shared resources that might carry dangerous germs. In only a week, the US population decreased its spending with ride-sharing apps like Lyft and Uber by 21 percent. Early in this pandemic, people were opting to avoid restaurant dining, causing a 42 percent drop in revenue. Today, most restaurants have closed their dining rooms and changed their business model to carry-out or delivery only – or worse, shuttered their doors altogether.

In recent research conducted by Merkle, 54% of consumers indicated that they used the internet more frequently since this health pandemic began. As many of us have experienced, brands are utilizing their email lists and social media platforms to establish their stance on this virus. With the hope that the condition of the world will soon return to normal, experience-centered businesses are seeking to preserve customer loyalty. However, that requires a delicate balance of strengthening the customer experience without exploiting the ever-changing and sensitive state of this global pandemic. It is imperative, now more than ever, to differentiate from competitors and stand out from all the noise.

Now is the time to refine customer experience (CX) strategies and bring online experiences to life. 

Time to Truly Focus on Customers’ Needs

Naturally, the first step is sending out communications. Thirty percent of people feel that if a company offered some type of special solution or extra service because of COVID-19, they could see themselves supporting the brand once things settle down. One company that succeeded with this first step was Noodles & Co. Early on, the fast-casual eatery reassured its patrons by ensuring that franchises would beef up their hygiene standards and provide hourly employees with two weeks of sick leave so that they would not feel pressured to work when they are feeling ill. This allowed customers to feel comfortable coming into the restaurant during the early stages of the virus’s spread.

Although it is essential to offer support during this crisis, that alone will not elicit long-term loyalty. People need more than reassurances and are looking for companies to go beyond standardized emails informing them of business continuity plans and service without interruption. They need companies to meet them on their terms and to offer honest, personalized help for their specific needs. 

Thirty-one percent of people in our study cited that the cancellation of services/events had the greatest impact on them, with letters from CEOs (12%) and actions taken to support employees (10%) coming in second and third place. This suggests that consumers want to know how these changes are affecting them personally. Companies should take extra effort to humanize their brands and their messaging. After all, people are looking for empathetic brands that can help them navigate this crisis and offer transparency. 

The Importance of Responsive Marketing

More than ever, responsive marketing and personalization should be key priorities in your communications strategy. Pointing customers to digital resources and easy-to-understand instruction on how to use these resources is valuable for those who are less familiar. Highlighting the availability of essential items, or offering special discounts targeted to people undergoing hardship are good strategies. Openly communicating delivery timeframes and changes is critical in a time when people are dependent on delivery services. 

When you’re thinking about relevancy and personalization, you also have to consider the timeliness of your messages. In our study, responders rated message timeliness 3.2 out of 5 suggesting there is room for improvement here as well. Given the fast-changing nature of COVID-19, people are tracking real-time news updates all day long. Companies should be prepared to send timely responses that align with real-time updates, all while ensuring messaging is responsive to customers’ needs. 

Tone-deaf Messaging

One experience-based company had a particularly poor response to this crisis. Although the company has since adjusted its messaging, initial emails continued to feature discounts to customers for “a night out”. At the time the emails were sent, many people were already in quarantine and some were already becoming frustrated with peers forgoing the CDC’s recommendations. The emails could have been misconstrued as the company promoting the narrative that ”going out is okay” or, at the very least, that the company was tone deaf to the current climate.  

Instead, the experience-based company could have taken the opportunity to feature experiences that can be participated in online or indoors, highlighting ways to support local businesses, or discounts on food delivery services, gift cards, and games for the family. While 45% of our survey respondents said that special solutions did not change their behavior, 54% said special solutions could influence future support for the business, or that they have already shared the info with family and/or friends. Offering special solutions like these alternatives can be beneficial to both the business and the customer now and in the long-term. 

Unsupported Customers

A large, well known hospitality service provider is another brand that has not immersed itself in the customer mindset. As airlines continue to cancel flights and countries implement necessary travel bans, this hospitality service provider is surely taking a hit. Although this company acknowledged the current health crisis in its initial communications, the follow up communications told travelers not to contact them unless their trip was confirmed within a specific time period. Instead of helping customers feel supported, this hospitality service provider limited its interactions with customers.  Rather than asking customers to avoid contacting customer service centers, this hospitality service provider could have sent communications that established expectations on travel delays and offered resources, or online guides, to help customers feel empowered to seek support independently. This, in turn, could have also simultaneously eased the load on customer service employees. 

Additionally, after the company included France on its list of high-risk countries and allowed customers receive refunds for their travel, the company continued to send emails featuring things to do in Paris. Customers were already concerned about their trips, and communications like this just created unnecessary confusion.

Learning from these companies, brands must be responsible and ensure they do not send out ill-timed automated emails that can cause frustration and upset. Adjusting content and campaigns to meet heightened sensitivities and customer needs is essential. 

Relevancy at its Best

There are many brands who are getting it right, like Dunkin Donuts. Following the CDCs guidance to move to a take-out and drive-thru only model, Dunkin wanted to further incentivize its customers’ continued support and encourage safety for both employees and customers. Dunkin emailed customers with a “We’ve got your back message” explaining the changes related to COVID-19 and provided links to clear instructions and videos on how to complete online orders and use Grubhub delivery. Additionally, Dunkin implemented a “Social Distancing Reward” program to provide 100 extra reward points to customers who used the order ahead feature on their mobile app and followed up with an email campaign a few days later highlighting an activation of $1.25M in emergency funding to help support families impacted by the crisis. Dunkin’s clear communication, tailored incentives for customers in the current climate, and its broader efforts to positively impact the community are great examples of relevant and timely communication.

Another company that has reacted well is the cabin-rental company, Getaway. Getaway started by pitching its cabins as means to get out of the house while maintaining social distancing and giving customers the peace of mind that they could cancel or change the date of their stay with no hassle. The messaging also emphasized that the cleaning standards would be increased, so that guests would not have to fear leftover germs from other visitors. Finally, the communication series wrapped by providing helpful resources on how to maintain semblances of normalcy during a tumultuous period. Overall, Getaway not only situated itself as a good option to disconnect from the terrors of today, but also reaffirmed to its customers that the company cared.

Although there is still uncertainty around the economic impact of this pandemic, brands should use this time to benefit from consumers’ new purchasing habits and online behaviors. The brands that come through for customers now are the brands that will earn long-term loyalty and truly be remembered. Be empathetic, be relevant, and be timely; your customers will appreciate it.

Healthcare Leadership During an Economic Downturn: Actions to Take Now

The COVID-19 challenge is fluid; how long this “new normal” will last is anyone’s guess. What we expect is that all healthcare stakeholders (healthcare providers (HCPs), patients, customers, etc.) to a greater or lesser extent will change behaviors per…

The COVID-19 challenge is fluid; how long this “new normal” will last is anyone’s guess. What we expect is that all healthcare stakeholders (healthcare providers (HCPs), patients, customers, etc.) to a greater or lesser extent will change behaviors permanently, as observed in previous crises. The COVID-19 pandemic will accelerate trends including: remote/telemedicine, improvements in personalization and customization, consent, privacy, alternative channel engagement and communication, and the redefining of many roles and “traditions” in the industry. 

Using Analytics to Fuel Your Recovery Strategy

As we continue to move forward during these uncertain times, we’re presented with an opportunity to look back and discover. This assessment should not be centered around reassessing contingencies or how much money we should have reserved for a global p…

As we continue to move forward during these uncertain times, we’re presented with an opportunity to look back and discover. This assessment should not be centered around reassessing contingencies or how much money we should have reserved for a global pandemic, but instead, we should reflect upon how we ensure we are treating our customers as people and individuals. In this time of reflection, organizations should be reviewing what makes their best customers their “best” customers; the characteristics of those people, the channels with whom they engage, the content they read, the types of promotions and offers in which they engage. Organizations should be focused on how they can continue engaging with their best customers which means shifting focus to data and analytics to lead the way. Companies that are not used to this type of focus will likely see a continued strain once this is over as they deal with hundreds of millions of media dollars flooding the market, as well as, the money invested for the upcoming election. Recovery will be expensive, so making those dollars count will be important.

Finding Ways to Satisfy Needs

Those of you without a content or targeting strategy built around really knowing your customers are going to have all the typical challenges of a generic strategy but will also have to deal with a marketplace that will see changes in user behavior. As a B2B advertiser, are you comfortable sending more and more mail to individuals’ home addresses? This will be a smaller barrier of concern once you are able to identify your customers’ B2B/B2C consumer behavior. Grocery delivery is likely to still play a large role moving forward because of convenience and lingering concerns, so how can this knowledge apply to other sectors and industries?

For those organizations that can fulfill during these times, this behavioral data presents further data points that you can use to refine your customer set; who is still buying online vs. off? How much have their purchases shifted? Are most new visits to the website struggling in a particular area? This can all be used to build a strategy moving forward with the right content and the right targeting, but it all starts with the analytics.  Analytics feeds the refinement of the messaging, feeds the proper prioritization for targeting, and provides the right direction on the investment levels required to make an immediate impact.

Now is the time for organizations to embrace their own data and other data points. Organizations can start by shifting funding to those areas that will aid in fast tracking data points and insights. The goal is to become an organization that leverages data to guide your marketing and creative strategy because that will best equip you to navigate on the other end of these uncertain times.

If you are unsure where to start, here are some initial ideas of actions that can be deployed:

  • Identify the customers who drive 80% of your revenue and place them in an addressable media platform to prioritize targeting them with win-back/promotional messaging
    • To further refine, build out an LTV model to see if that list changes
  • Bring in third-party data to understand consumer and psychographic characteristics that can lead feed into your creative and messaging strategy
  • Mine your web analytics data to understand shifts in online behavior and identify opportunities to refine or optimize your experience
  • Review your SEO page rankings, site speed for critical content/queries and put in place optimizations to increase your page rank  
  • Setup an initial high-level media mix to understand which channels lead to incremental purchases.

It is not too late to start pivoting organizations to be data-driven and analytics-led. By starting to put focus on these examples, organizations can put themselves in position to be successful in not just the short-term recovery phase, but for the long-haul as well. Getting into good practices now will only lead them to be more efficient and effective in the future, as well as, be a set of tools that can help navigate further challenges in the future.

Whether you just need an idea of where to start or want to simply brainstorm around some barriers to complete a project, our team at Merkle is ready to listen and provide support however we can to support organizations through this period.

Loyalty vs. Promotion: What’s the Difference?

At Merkle, our focus is on helping our clients create holistic customer experience strategies that include promotions and loyalty not as an after-thought or a disconnected initiative, but as a fully integrated solution. The customer experience and all …

At Merkle, our focus is on helping our clients create holistic customer experience strategies that include promotions and loyalty not as an after-thought or a disconnected initiative, but as a fully integrated solution. The customer experience and all of the cross-channel experiences that influence it, in totality, is more critical than ever.  

Why? Beyond CMO’s, the C-Suite has become much more engaged in the customer strategy, thinking beyond shareholder pressures and quarterly financial reporting. The C-Suite understands that a sustained competitive advantage is found in long-term customer loyalty, paving the way to outsized growth, profitability, and shareholder returns.  This has given rise to what Harvard Business Review refers to as “The New Loyalty Economy,” where a company is valued, in part, by its ability to engender loyalty with its customers.  

Looking at promotions and insights as part of an integrated approach to customer strategy is critical, but it also important to understand the difference between promotions and loyalty, so we can ensure the right mix for our clients. So, let’s jump in and examine the unique properties and use cases, starting with loyalty.
 

What is Loyalty?

Loyalty is the sum of all experiences that a consumer has with a brand. Beyond the utility that the product or service itself provides, being loyal to a brand represents an emotional connection that is hard to simply manufacture or replace. When we speak to marketers about creating a loyal bond with a consumer or customer, it’s important to understand why the individual engages with the brand in the first place.  How do we meet the individual in a need state, beyond communication and marketing tactics, and add material value to what the individual is trying to achieve? 

A loyalty program is a multi-year, long-term strategy to build a sustained relationship with an individual. Taking a long-term approach, beyond the pressures of quarterly earnings and profit commitments, enables a brand to deepen insights on the consumer base.  By understanding purchasing and engagement habits, we can anticipate consumer needs and drive incrementality. The best way to think about loyalty is a friendship where you want to progressively deepen the relationship through a series of well-orchestrated communications and meaningful experiences. A brand needs to build loyalty by demonstrating it cares, its listening, engaging, and rewarding.

A good example of loyalty is our recent work with Samsung on the launch of Samsung Rewards in 2016. We continue to collaborate with the ongoing evolution of the platform, including expansion throughout the Samsung ecosystem and integration with strategic partners (such as the largest wireless service providers), which increases the overall value of the program to consumers. Overseeing promotional extensions for Samsung Pay, Bixby, Samsung Health, Internet, Samsung Kids, and the Galaxy Store is one way we encourage consumers to engage and earn with Samsung. Check out the full case study here.

Samsung b2c

What is the Best Example of How to What’s Not Loyalty?

While there are many things that loyalty does encompass, loyalty does not include normal business operations of CRM-driven discounting, inventory sell-through, or limited time offers to drive more transactions. While these marketing tactics may be important for some brands, this is not loyalty. 

What is a Promotion?

A promotion represents a way of engaging with consumers, at a specific moment in time, for a specific reason, and is often tied to a seasonal sales cycle. More importantly, promotions are the very best way to initiate permission-based marketing with an individual, initially driving identity acquisition.  Promotions are meant to be fun and engaging experiences that deliver spikes of excitement, allowing customers to escape the day-to-day norm by playing a game or having some fun with a brand they enjoy. Some examples of a promotion would be ”chances to win”, scratch off discounts, contests, etc. As an example, our team worked with Anheuser-Busch InBev to create a unique promotional opportunity with wholesalers to gain more shelf space and drive awareness. The result was a turnkey promotions house where account managers and wholesalers could offer consumers a simple text-to-win sweepstakes. Check out the full case study here.

Michelob Ultra

Do Promotion and Loyalty go together?

Yes! Promotions without a way to engage individuals in a sustained relationship, and loyalty programs without fun and exciting reasons to engage, are missed opportunities with consumers. The very best brand marketers have built enduring loyalty with consumers by designing programs that apply to both promotional and loyalty strategy.

Interested in more on Merkle’s Promotion & Loyalty Solutions? Learn more here.

How a Public Health Crisis Impacts Consumer Behavior

In a time where people are either opting to stay indoors or being mandated to stay indoors because of a state decreed, “Stay at Home” order, businesses are trying to navigate an unprecedented shift in customer interactions. Consumers and businesses ali…

In a time where people are either opting to stay indoors or being mandated to stay indoors because of a state decreed, “Stay at Home” order, businesses are trying to navigate an unprecedented shift in customer interactions. Consumers and businesses alike are unsure of the future and where their financial resources lie. As a result, the customer experience looks different than it did even a few weeks ago.

How Retailers Can Leverage Email for Mother’s and Father’s Day to Connect with Consumers in an Uncertain Time

Mother’s and Father’s Day are holidays that can surprisingly get overlooked as a major priority by retailers, when in fact, NRF reports that in 2019, the two holidays were expected to reach $41 billion in total sales. Categories such as cards, electron…

Mother’s and Father’s Day are holidays that can surprisingly get overlooked as a major priority by retailers, when in fact, NRF reports that in 2019, the two holidays were expected to reach $41 billion in total sales. Categories such as cards, electronics, jewelry, and housewares can cash in big time if they message towards the right customers.

How Media Brands Can Fulfill Customer Needs During COVID-19

The news and concerns around Covid-19 have brought forth increased anxiety and uncertainty in many Americans. In times like this, it is inevitable that people will look for distractions and a way to escape the stress caused by the impacts of this publi…

The news and concerns around Covid-19 have brought forth increased anxiety and uncertainty in many Americans. In times like this, it is inevitable that people will look for distractions and a way to escape the stress caused by the impacts of this public health crisis. It is both an opportunity and an obligation for all types of media companies and content creators to be as consumer-centric as possible for both long-term growth and health.