For years, ‘know your customer’ has been an essential element for marketers everywhere. But as new eCommerce and social media channels have emerged, marketers have plowed time and investment into gathering as much consumer data as possible – through web history, third-party cookies, and more. All with the aim of targeting consumers, predicting their needs, and convincing them to become loyal customers, it has served as the basis for understanding target individuals and groups.
But as consumer behavior changes and digital transformation accelerates, this paradigm won’t cut it anymore. To stay competitive, marketers will have to abandon the comfortable world of ‘know your customer’ and embrace a new reality.
Why relying on ‘knowing your customer’ won’t cut it anymore
We’re now omniscreen consumers. Many of us use our laptops, smartphones, tablets, and even wearable tech (like smart watches or VR goggles) interchangeably to access the internet. And on each device, we use multiple browsers and social media platforms.
This makes it hard for brands to track consumers’ digital identity using third-party cookies and unique ‘identifiers for advertisers.’ For example, the average consumer might be served an ad via Instagram on their mobile device, before researching a product on a brand’s website, and finally completing their purchase via a third-party platform (after some robust price comparison).
At the same time, consumers, regulators, and major tech brands alike are becoming much more privacy conscious. For instance, Google recently announced plans to phase out third-party cookies from its browser by the end of 2023. And since April 2021, Apple has started asking iPhone users to choose whether app-makers can track their activity across other apps and websites to collect data for advertising.
It’s time for a new approach
The trajectory toward giving users greater control over their data seems clear. Rather than looking for new (and often more intrusive) methods of tracking consumers online, brands must deploy new techniques to understand and engage customers that don’t rely on collecting personally identifiable information (PII), while improving ROI. Let’s explore some of them.
● Allocating budget away from paid search and towards SEO: After the retirement of third-party cookies, brands will no longer be able to laser-target customers using Google Ads. When it comes to paid advertising, this leaves marketers with two options. The first is to spend more to target consumers more widely, and the second is to simply accept diminished results. But there’s a third way: SEO. Brands should invest in SEO – conducting keyword research and optimizing select pages – to attract organic traffic. Research suggests that this is the best way for brands to get the maximum bang for their buck, with 49% of ecommerce marketers reporting that organic search has the best ROI of any marketing channel.
● Investing in influencer marketing programs: While social media targeting has become less effective due to tightening privacy laws, influencers remain a vital tool for marketers. Brands don’t need to spend a fortune on working with household names. A carefully selected group of micro-influencers whose audience closely aligns with your target market is often just as effective, especially when considering how much influencer marketing has taken over platforms like TikTok and Instagram.
● Exploring real-time analytics: Rather than collecting historical data based on consumers’ PII, brands should look at investing in real-time analytics, which processes and measures data as soon as it becomes available. An example of this is tracking social media sentiment to find out what’s trending among your audience and reacting accordingly.
Using real-time analytics is the best way to respond to rapid changes in consumer behaviors. Unlike historical data, real-time inputs enable brands to take advantage of opportunities before they disappear.
● Changing the game by looking at anonymous consumers, too: Taking real-time analytics a step further, brands can implement tools that analyze anonymous consumers’ micro-behaviors to deploy actions that increase conversions (and no, it doesn’t require prior CRM, historical, or demographic data). In a nutshell, tools, like in-session marketing, use AI to understand which site visitors should be given VIP treatment, which should be left alone, and which need a nudge to complete a transaction. For example, an eCommerce brand might present a select group of consumers with a customized offer, based on their browsing session which promotes their intention to make a purchase.
● Implementing live chat: Being able to quickly address consumers’ pre-purchase queries and post-purchase complaints is crucial. But today’s consumers – particularly millennials and Gen Z – don’t want to spend hours on hold or waiting for an email response. That’s why many brands are implementing live chats to handle customer service inquiries. The most effective use cases seamlessly blend AI-driven chatbots with support from human agents, who can more effectively handle high value queries relating to cancellations or products, for example, while reducing the time to reach a solution. Using real-time AI can also help improve chat spend efficiency by determining whether to engage human agents.
● Kickstarting a rewards program: Research shows that brands have a 60-70% chance of selling to an existing customer, compared to a 5% chance of selling to a new customer. So, it’s clear that investing in winning and retaining customer loyalty makes sense – and investing in building a rewards program is a great way to do this. A survey by careers platform, Zippia revealed that 75% of consumers prefer brands that offer rewards on purchases and 83% of shoppers are more likely to buy again from a company with a loyalty program.
The bottom line? When one door closes, another one opens. Though the era of ‘know your customer’ is coming to an end, new technologies are also enabling marketers to embrace an approach that follows consumers’ in-the-moment micro-behaviors, responding to their intent without seizing their identity.
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