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Embracing the Modern Shopper’s Journey

A few years ago, retail businesses were concerned with “showrooming” during the holiday season – the idea that shoppers would go into brick-and-mortar stores, look around, try items on, and then return home and make their final purchases online after comparing prices. While that still happens, 2014 numbers have shown that “webrooming” is not only on the rise, but leads to bigger overall purchases.

Webrooming is the reverse of showrooming – when shoppers conduct their information-gathering prior to going to a store. Consumers compare prices online, finalize their lists, and then head to stores in order to make final purchases.

Recent survey results from The Harris Poll indicate that roughly half of Americans have showroomed, while roughly seven in ten Americans saying they’ve webroomed. Not only that, but showroomers spent an average of $156.40 (a steady decline from 2013 and 2012 numbers – $174 and $211.80 respectively), while webroomers clock in with receipts averaging $200.70 for in-store purchases after researching online. To put it plainly: shoppers who engage online spend more in stores.

The upside for retailers is the ability to embrace the research phase by utilizing integrated outreach and personalized communications. Preference management – the active collection, maintenance and distribution of unique consumer characteristics, such as product interest, communication channel preference and frequency of communication – can pre-empt shopping decisions and help customers in the midst of their holiday hustle and bustle.

When you can synthesize data provided by customers themselves, you already have a leg up on their potential shopping list. Product interest and communication channel preference are vital in heading consumers off at the pass and handing them an effective, personalized tool.

Unprepared brands may be wringing their hands over webrooming, but companies that have already adapted to modern shoppers’ habits by utilizing preference management techniques are clearly experiencing growing returns. How’s your 2014 shaping up and how will 2015 surpass it?

About the Author: 
Rob Tate is the Director of Enterprise Sales at PossibleNOW.

The Hidden Value of Between-Sale Conversations

As marketers, we’re often focused on the all-important “ask.” We talk about click-throughs, conversions and messaging designed to lead prospects to a decision. And it makes sense – for many of us, that’s how we’re judged and compensated. But new data confirms the growing power of branded interactions before or between the sale.

A recent poll from SAP found that buying decisions are greatly affected by customized interaction with a brand and that tailored subjects and methods of communications lead to invested customers. More than half of those surveyed (54 percent) would like — or may like — an offer of help before they have to ask for it. Nearly one-third of respondents (30 percent) cited “shared values” as a reason they are loyal to a brand.

These statistics point to the larger trend of affinity-building communications and the realization that long-term loyalty is a gradual process. So how do we track shared values? How many times should we help or share expertise before a prospect makes a purchase? It all depends.

We talk a lot in this space about sharing ownership of the conversation with prospects and customers. We would be remiss if we didn’t also emphasize the element of patience in that equation. Respecting a prospect’s wishes on the timing and content of your marketing messages also implies a similar respect for their journey to purchase, however long it may take.

And as marketers, patience can be in short supply. Armed with the best tools, virtually unlimited communications channels and looming deadlines, we want instant results. Yet without patience, we neglect the pre-sale and between sale interactions that are proving so valuable to building loyalty.

Eric Tejeda is the Director of Product Marketing for PossibleNOW and CompliancePoint. Eric supports the organization’s growth objectives by productizing and launching innovative new products and services that fill critical needs in the marketplace. 

With 25 years of experience, Eric firmly believes that permission-based marketing and preference management is a mega trend and the path to success for marketers today. 

Follow me on Twitter: @EricTejeda | Connect on LinkedIn: Eric Tejeda

3 Questions You Need To Ask Now For 2015 Success

Right now is the time to re-evaluate your marketing in terms of the new expectations your customers have developed in the past 6 months. What new insights are they providing regarding what they want—or do not want—from your customer experience, communications and company interactions? Here are 3 key questions to ask right now. The answers will ensure that you take the smart actions for success in 2015.

1. Are You Ignoring Key Customer Segments? 
You could be missing out on new business because of perceived brand positioning. Take stock at year-end to audit your overall brand message and determine whether it is moving you toward your full potential--or limiting your growth.

Case in point: Buffalo Wings & Rings, a chain of 55-plus sports restaurants in the U.S. and abroad, has spent the past couple of years refining its image and brand appeal to women and families in order to reach a larger universe of customers.

As part of that effort, the brand embarked on a total redesign of its locations. Specific changes included soundproofing the restaurant area to reduce noise from the bar, where sports events are broadcast; adding cushions to seats and benches for more comfort; and relocating games for children away from the front door and the bar area.

In addition, Buffalo Wings revamped it Web site to give customers the ability to interact, get information, and become part of a community. "We wanted to create a new experience for the sports and wings category... Your brand is created by customers and how they use you," said Buffalo Wings chief executive Nader Masadeh. Added Diane Matheson, director of marketing, "[We] wanted to refine the brand and strengthen the concept with a distinct point of view." Results: This year sales have grown 12.5 percent to $72 million. Next year, the company plans to add up to eight new stores in the U.S. and 10 overseas.

2. Are You Communicating Effectively?
Different types of customers have different preferences for communication. Just because you have a communication method available does not mean it’s the best option for your core customers. So pause now to challenge your assumptions regarding content, clarity of communications, sales channels, and preferred customer media. This will provide insights regarding key improvements for 2015.

Also, consider: Per Voice of Customer research conducted by our firm for client MassMutual, the majority of customers indicated that they want proactive and customized communications that are personalized by their needs and life stage.

Case in point: Multibillion-dollar telecom service provider CenturyLink needed to understand why its call centers were receiving such a high call volume. It discovered that its own processes required customers to call multiple times to establish or modify service. To solve this pain point, CenturyLink revamped its processes. It also developed a new system, called Digital Dialogue, to integrate more than 35 disparate systems from multiple communication channels, and transformed the CenturyLink Web site into a seamless self-service experience.

“We’re trying to give customers better information. ... If we can give customers information before they have to ask for it, they feel that we’re having intelligent dialogue with them, and that we’re on top of things,” noted Lindsey Pardun, IT principal architect at CenturyLink. “And if we do need to talk to them, we can have a much more efficient conversation.”

Results: In the first two months after the launch of Digital Dialogue, 187,000 calls were automatically routed to the right agents.  

3. Do You Have An Effective Retention Strategy?
A recent Retention Science study noted that only 23% of marketers track the rate at which customers churn, less than 40% track customer lifetime value, and, not surprisingly, 70% believe their retention marketing efforts are average, poor, or need improvement. In dollars and cents, an Adobe study found that online retailers would double their revenues if they retained 10% of their existing customers. Instead, 80% of marketers were using their digital marketing budgets to acquire new shoppers.

Case in pointGroupon realized that its initial business model of daily deals and a bombardment of email with heavy discounts did not turn out to be a sound strategy. To better retain customers and give them a reason to come back, the company had to rethink its relationship with both its business partners and end-user consumers.

Groupon is now focusing on its online marketplace, reducing reliance on email, and improving relevance. It encourages subscribers to search for deals and explore its marketplace (a pull strategy) instead of relying on email (push strategy).

The company is also creating a tablet-based operating system for merchants called Gnome, which empowers it to improve customer retention by better managing transactions, keeping track of customers to launch specific marketing campaigns, and simplifying the whole process of redemptions.

While the company is not out of the woods yet, its efforts are paying off. Groupon saw 23% revenue growth to $751.6 million in Q2 2014, with a 29% rise in global gross billings. The total active customer count rose by 25% year-on-year during the quarter, with North American customer count rising by 18%. The North American transactions percentage resulting from search was 24% in the third quarter, compared to 9% in the same quarter last year.

TakeawaysThe needs and expectations of your customers are changing with astonishing velocity. Now is the time to:

  • Investigate where your missing opportunities are hiding, and develop new strategies and methods of presenting your company to new customers. 
  • Understand whether your communication avenues are effective and make necessary changes to embrace customer needs and resolve pain points.
  • Strengthen your customer-acquisition plan. Don't rely solely on recruiting new business.
Use these final few weeks of the year to reflect on how much you don't know about customers’ evolving needs and what you must change to maintain relevance and competitive differentiation. Use multiple methods to learn from the voice of your customer and then act on those insights. The wisdom of the customer is unfailingly correct.

About the Author:
Ernan Roman Direct Marketing's Customer Experience strategies achieve consistent double-digit increases in response and revenue for their clients, which include IBM, MassMutual, QVC, Microsoft, and Symantec Corp.

As a leader in providing Voice of Customer research-based guidance, ERDM has conducted over 10,000 hours of interviews with their clients' customers and prospects, to gain an in-depth understanding of their expectations for high-value relationships.

The results achieved by ERDM's VoC-based strategies earned Ernan Roman induction into the Marketing Hall of Fame.

Visit his blog at:

Personalized Recommendations Can Grow Relationships

Because I travel so often for work, I like to unplug on longer flights and work my way through a good book. Over the years, my wife has recommended many that have become my favorites. She knows the important details: what I find appealing in a characters and settings, that hardback books travel better in my case, how often I’ll likely need a new book. Her choices for me are often exceptional reads because over time she’s learned my personal quirks and interests.

If my wife recommends it, I read it. Simple as that. So how can companies reach that same level of trust with their customers?

Major retailers like Amazon and Netflix have harnessed the awesome power of personalized recommendations to benefit their customers and their bottom lines. New research confirms that more than 30 percent of Amazon’s revenue can be attributed to suggested purchases based on customers’ past purchases and their virtual shopping cart. Meanwhile, 75 percent of Netflix rentals are driven by personalized suggestions calculated by hundreds of sub-genres within the movies viewed by customers.

Granted, not every company’s offerings can be so specifically based on consumers’ profiles and tastes, but research proves what we intuitively know: that we crave intelligent and personalized communications, and that when it works, we only want more.

Back to my wife the bookworm for a moment. The power of her recommendations are compounded by her impeccable sense of timing. She never recommends 25 books all at once. Nor does she leave me in the lurch for six months without a recommendation. By knowing when I need a book and rewarding that need in a timely fashion, her recommendations find their way into my bag over and over again. That, in a nutshell, is how preference management powers customer personalization.

Without the ability to anticipate a consumer’s wants and needs, or the way to best communicate with them, companies lose out on relationship-building efforts that have the potential to garner significant returns down the road. As we move towards an increasingly curated, personalized and recommended society, every company must ask itself – have we earned the right to influence our customer’s decisions?

About the Author: 
Rob Tate is the Director of Enterprise Sales at PossibleNOW.

New Data on Loyalty-Driven Shopping this Holiday Season

Like millions of American consumers, I prepare for the holiday season with two important lists - my wish list and the list of loved ones I plan to shop for. And every year, my wish list gets shorter and my shop list seems to get longer. But for marketers, there is a third list to consider. Where will we go to buy all this stuff?

New data suggests that the all-important third list is pretty well decided by the time holiday shopping season arrives. A whopping 60 percent of American shoppers polled by Colloquy for its Holiday Loyalty Shopper Study plan to save money on holiday gift purchases by using loyalty program rewards they've earned.

In other words, we'll shop where our patronage has already been rewarded with personalization and attention to our privacy concerns. And for any company who has failed to innovate or advance on these essential fronts, the news only gets worse: the biggest growth in loyalty redemption toward gift shopping is among millennials.

According to the survey, the number of 18- to 24-year-olds planning to use points or loyalty rewards on gifts in 2014 will rise by more than 40 percent. And their parents and grandparents aren’t far behind. More than 60 percent of 35- to 44-year-olds plan to cash in rewards points for gifts, a 19 percent rise over 2013 and more than half of consumers 45 years old and older say they'll trade in points to use as gifts in 2014, which represents a 20 percent increase over 2013.

Loyalty programs fueled by preference management - the active collection, maintenance and distribution of unique consumer characteristics, such as product interest, communication channel preference and frequency of communication - will clearly deliver significant returns this holiday season.  

For the companies who continue to struggle on loyalty, the holidays represent an important opportunity to build towards a better 2015. Increased web traffic powered by sales and rebates can boost an opt-in list and significantly expand the prospect and customer pool. Honoring the preferences of those new customers and, over time, delivering a personalized experience will ensure inclusion on that all-important third list next Christmas.

About the Author: 
Robert Galop is the Senior Director of Product Architecture for PossibleNOW.

Lessons Learned from Oracle’s Modern Marketing Mashup

I've often been disappointed by large conferences. Big stages and bright lights are great, but it can be difficult to really connect with a speaker or benefit from an interactive session spurred on by questions from the audience.

That's why I was so excited to participate in the Atlanta edition of Oracle's Modern Marketing Mashup series. Sponsored by our local AMA chapter, the event put some smart marketers (and yours truly) on a panel in a relaxed, informal setting. We took questions from about 60 local marketers and together we created a really valuable experience for everyone.

I was joined on stage by Cristian Tarazona, Director of Demand Generation and Marketing Operations at Equifax, and Chris Moody, Director of Corporate Communications for Oracle Marketing Cloud. Toby Bloomberg, Founder and President of Bloomberg Marketing, served as our moderator.

We tackled some big questions. How do you create a personalized experience? How do you deliver results?

Chris and Christian offered valuable insights on big data, smart content and more. I weighed in with a very simple directive: "just ask."

As marketers, it's easy to be overwhelmed by the noise. We have more tools at our disposal than ever before, more research than we know what to do with and more internal stakeholders and dependencies than we ever dreamed of just a few short years ago. In the midst of all that, we can forget the simple truths of relationship-building that create loyalty and deliver a superior customer experience.

It begins with asking a customer or prospect what they want, how they want to learn about it and how often they want to hear from us. And it builds from there. Preference management - the active collection, maintenance and distribution of unique consumer characteristics, such as product interest, communication channel preference and frequency of communication - is the necessary foundation for modern marketing.

I was delighted to be able to share that simple truth in such a great setting. Be on the lookout for a Mashup event in your city - it was time well spent.

Eric Tejeda is the Director of Product Marketing for PossibleNOW and CompliancePoint. Eric supports the organization’s growth objectives by productizing and launching innovative new products and services that fill critical needs in the marketplace. 

With 25 years of experience, Eric firmly believes that permission-based marketing and preference management is a mega trend and the path to success for marketers today. 

Follow me on Twitter: @EricTejeda | Connect on LinkedIn: Eric Tejeda

ICYMI: Preferences, Privacy and Personalization in the News

How QVC's Omnichannel Focus Leads to Better Customer Engagement

Today's omnichannel consumer has reached new peaks - not only are they engaging with brands across various platforms, they're bouncing between platforms simultaneously. To take advantage of this, home shopping network QVC, has launched a new tablet feature that supports their consumers' omnichannel preferences. By looking at the number of ways a consumer engages and tailoring their marketing approach, QVC will be a big winner this holiday season. Click here for full story.

104 Fascinating Social Media Statistics for 2014 (and 2015)

As the year comes to a close, we're all making our best-of and worst-of lists. Looking at marketing surveys and studies from the past year, a few trends stand out as being old standards. What's one of our favorites? Consumers like to have control of the conversation and their purchase cycle. With all the recent reports about preference management, customer engagement, and shopping satisfaction, this should come as no surprise. As marketers, we must respect our consumers and listen to them when they speak up about what they want, how they want it, and when they want it. Click here for more statistics.

Buffalo Wild Wings Finds Unique Path to Customer Engagement

Marketers take meaningful, authentic, and immersive customer experiences very seriously, which is why brands like Buffalo Wild Wings (BWW) are expanding branded services to their customer base. To give their customers another way to engage, BWW recently launched iHeartRadio's first branded radio station, 'B-Dubs Radio Powered by Wings, Beer and Sports.' By catering to their customers and creating another way for them to engage, BWW is cultivating loyal customers. Click here for full story.

Kevin Spacey's Top 3 Tips for Better Storytelling

On the stage at the recent Content Marketing World conference, Kevin Spacey shared with marketers his top 3 tips for storytelling. Focusing on authenticity, engagement, and the purchase funnel, Spacey delighted the crowd with his tips for successful content marketing. He told the group of 2500 marketers that "good content marketing is not a crap shoot - it has always been about the story." Spacey challenged marketers to tell the best stories possible, which in turn will lead to brand loyalty and customer engagement. Click here for full story.

Why Content Marketing Is Killing Impulse Purchases

The Wall Street Journal has recently released data that suggests impulse purchases are becoming a thing of the past. Why? Today's consumers are more empowered than ever to research long before they ever reach the decision to make a purchase. This new buying behavior is a reminder that marketers must create authentic and engaging content that will encourage consumers to want to learn more about their brand and products. Click here for full story.


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