Thursday, 1 April 2010

Tim Norman on ‘What the customer wants’

Good article on 'ReputationOnline' by Tim Norman, sales director of Northern Europe at SDL Web Content Management Solutions, on how bands are embracing social networking to engage with their customers:

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"Online customer engagement has become one of the hottest topics of the last 12 months for marketing departments of all businesses, while social media and web 2.0 tools have been heralded as the gateway for attracting and retaining customers.  These multiple channels of customer engagement are seen as the holy grail of successful business.

Yet online marketing strategies and techniques still seem to be falling short of consumer expectations.

Unquestionably, the economy has prompted consumers to shop online to find the best deals and save money.  What is refreshing, however, is how much more sophisticated they are with their online usage – they understand the benefits of having their behaviour tracked and profiled and welcome customer loyalty schemes that reward their personal shopping habits with discounts individually tailored.  Consumers no longer see personalisation as a threat to their personal privacy, but as a way of deriving convenience and saving time, as well as money.

Marketers are finding that while there are decreasing budgets and conservatism when it comes to spend, customer expectations and demands certainly have gone in the opposition direction – more is wanted…more personalisation, more relevancy and more profiling.
Businesses have been keen to adopt social media and Web 2.0 tools to drive traffic and engage with customers.  Social media engagement with consumers isn’t as easy as signing up to these sites and then simply gaining an increase in customers.  Strategies need to be thought out and planned as much as any other marketing strategy.

Many brands now actively use social networking sites to enter into a dialogue with consumers. Oftentimes, customer service support is also offered through these sites too.  Marketers have faced a challenge getting the interaction balance right, and the industry is still going through a big learning curve where this is concerned.

Consumers have also shown that they are keen for websites to be personalised to their needs and interests; wanting relevant content and offers to be emailed to them, and displayed in real-time as they browse websites.  A recent survey of 1000 UK consumers by SDL Web Content Management Solutions found that 66% expected to view content specific to their browsing habits when visiting websites. Furthermore, 74% of respondents valued loyalty schemes and discounts based on their online shopping habits, over any other features.

With the focus turning to personalised content and relevancy, marketers need to keep in mind five steps to ensure that content remains personal: know your audience; profile your visitors; target your content; close the loop; make sure there is a checklist for implementation.

As the economic situation improves, we will see an increase in spend available for new technology, particularly as those companies who did not invest or update technologies in the past year or so will need to catch up with online users and their expectations.  Although budgets may have remained frozen last year, customer expectation didn’t."

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