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Customer Journeys: Are You Leading or Following?

As summer rolls around, it's prime time for seasonal promotions at retailers. Come Memorial Day you won't be able to escape the ads for patio furniture, pool toys, grills and getaways. Like any mass grab for seasonal consumer attention, attracting potential shoppers quickly becomes an exercise in oversimplification.

One of today's typical technological innovations—automated targeting—seems like an ideal solution for retailers on a budget who are hoping to find the magic bullet with an engaged audience. It's summer vacation for everyone, right?

They're not wrong: Targeted, programmed ads are a smart way to drill down to a demographic. There's a caveat though – while gathering actionable demographic data, the targeting is often focused on past behaviors. Was the suburban mom recently shopping for swimsuits or life jackets? You may think you've found a customer, yet it's hard to know from a programming point of view whether she's already purchased the family's new swimwear or a set of arm floaties for the kids. You're already behind.



And now there's no way for her to correct that conversation either. Consider that if you already had that information, you could suggest towels or swim cover-ups, kid-friendly SPF or sun-protecting summer hats. Automated hypertargeting might be a foot in the door, but it's not a conversation. Customers are moving targets, and a marketing plan should take into account the scope of the customer journey – beyond the single slice of life that earned them a targeted ad.



While a targeted ad may remind a customer of an item they were looking for previously, it can't engage them beyond a visual blip. With preference management – the active collection, maintenance and distribution of unique consumer characteristics, such as product interest, communication channel preference and frequency of communication – you're able to get a full view of your customer. By using their self-provided information to engage your customers, you create an environment where they're apt to turn to you in the beginning of their customer journeys, open to guidance. It's harder to get behind when you're already a part of the trip.



About the Author: 
Eric V. Holtzclaw is  Chief Strategist  of PossibleNOW. He's a researcher, writer, serial entrepreneur and challenger-of-conventional wisdom. His book with Wiley Publishing on consumer behavior - Laddering: Unlocking the Potential of Consumer Behavior - hit bookstores last summer. Eric helps strategically guide companies with the implementation of enterprise-wide preference management solutions.



Follow me on Twitter: @eholtzclaw | Connect on LinkedIn: Eric Holtzclaw

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