ON THE CMO AGENDA: UNLOCKING THE EXPERIENCE ECONOMY—KEEPING PERSONALISATION AND ENGAGEMENT AT THE FOREFRONT OF THE MARKETING AGENDA
Published on November 12, 2020
For the majority of consumers around the world, the past year has been a time of rapid digitalisation with the COVID-19 pandemic imposing a shift in physical experiences to digital ones. As some economies reopen and others find themselves locking down once more, consumers globally have now been forced to live, work, and shop differently.
With the constraints of our new reality, the digital economy has become more important than ever as the intrinsic backbone for how brands can meaningfully engage with their consumers. In the journey to pivot their interactive efforts to digital and mobile platforms, brands must seize the opportunity to leverage new tools in order to measure and understand consumers' attitudes, needs, priorities, and long-term purchasing behaviour.
At the same time, the pandemic has also heightened conversations surrounding data collection, thrusting the subjects of privacy and data ethics to the forefront of mainstream consciousness. With more people working from home, cyber attacks rose by 330% in recent months, as malicious actors exploited home network vulnerabilities. With greater reason, CMOs have a pivotal role to play in guarding against the misuse of customer data amidst the ongoing healthcare crisis by ensuring that their organisation’s data collection practices are both up-to-date and compliant.
As brands do their best to engage and stay relevant, personalisation will be key to creating much more personal and “human” experiences across moments, channels, and buying stages. At the same time, CMOs will need to toe the line between both personalisation and privacy as consumers seek to regain control of their personal data.
Personalisation in pole position
Even in pre-pandemic times, an over-saturated digital landscape often proved to be a challenge for the most adept of marketers. Think of the oft-cited “goldfish metric”: as of 2018, the average consumer’s attention span now measures at a measly 8 seconds, even less than a goldfish’s 9 seconds. In the age of click, swipe, and tap, perhaps this comes as no surprise but only further points to the value of personalisation as a means of differentiation. In allowing consumers to feel as though their needs are heard, understood, and incorporated as integral parts of their brand experience, brands can better distinguish themselves among their peers while tailoring interactions to each unique person with greater accuracy.
However, getting personalisation right is not without obstacles, especially during a time when brands have to simultaneously navigate moral and ethical considerations. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 65 percent of consumers previously had demands that brands both “acted and communicated differently” during the pandemic and that doing so would impact future brand loyalty. Those that have excelled in the ‘new normal’ were not only able to successfully leverage digital channels to engage their customers, but also humanise their brands in the process, in order to cultivate authentic brand-consumer relationships to foster long-term engagement.
As people’s mindsets and behaviours evolve and adjust to these new circumstances, it’s important for brands to be genuine and thoughtful in their communications. Achieving the right balance between emotional sensitivity and offering relevant, helpful content can be difficult to accomplish, but making the effort to demonstrate support and care for your audience’s new challenges is a good start. In order to do so, the key—above all else—is to listen to your audience. This applies even when the world isn’t going through a global pandemic, but is especially true now. To cut through the noise, brand communications need to be relevant, useful and in context with your customer’s situation and needs—personalised experiences, offers, and services will be key to this.
While the value of personalisation is evident, a Cognifide study revealed that only 14 percent of CX decision-makers are prioritising personalised content in order to deliver on it, against 76 percent who say they are personalising experiences based on customer data. It’s clear that customers want to be treated as individuals—yet, there’s an apparent disconnect between the aspiration and the ability to deliver.
Prioritising privacy and data protection
However, Cognifide also found that over a third of consumers are willing to give more of their personal data to brands if it improves the online experience. While well-intentioned personalisation strategies set out to make consumers feel valued, targeting efforts should be conducted carefully, as 33 percent of the consumers surveyed also indicated that potentially “creepy” targeted ads were among their biggest frustrations. When relevant and contextualised, 42 percent see targeted ads as a valuable use of their personal data and 37 percent say they are more likely to buy a product if they have seen a relevant ad.
Accessing the right data is key to this, as brands that use outdated or irrelevant information to target customers could risk alienating their customers by delivering the wrong message, perhaps even creating a negative customer experience as a result. However, while upholding their efforts to deliver relevant, tailored content for their customers is of utmost importance, another crucial area that CMOs need to better prioritise is privacy and data security.
As one of the world’s most valuable commodities, consumers expect their data to be treated as such. With growing consumer awareness around privacy and data protection rights, getting data security right can not only reduce the likelihood of regulatory fines but also puts privacy at the heart of the company’s value proposition, boosting customer satisfaction. Additionally, with the deadline looming for third-party cookie support to be phased out from Google Chrome, marketers will need to start building up their first-party data collection capabilities and look to new identity management models to prepare for the transition.
While CMO spending has gone down amid the pandemic, brands cannot afford to play a short-sighted game and must look to investing in the right solutions to ensure that their operations are built for future needs. This past week alone, Californians showed an overwhelming amount of support for Prop 24, otherwise known as the California Privacy Rights Act, which significantly expands online privacy protections for citizens. Meanwhile, Australia’s Privacy Act is currently undergoing further review as a result of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) Digital Platforms Inquiry, indicative of broad sweeping changes to existing frameworks now taking place across the globe. Progressive companies would do well to move beyond the legal requirements and invest in data privacy as a matter of customer perception and trust. The brands that succeed in uncertain times are those that recognise the change around them and adjust to it, rather than wait for things to go back to normal.
In the shift from physical to digital, consumers are now less forgiving of poor online experiences than before the pandemic. While it is clear that seamless, tailored customer experiences should be placed at the forefront of the marketing agenda, CMOs will also do well to remember that it’s about striking the right balance. As we venture into a post-pandemic world, the realities are clear: fundamental changes have been observed in consumer behavior and sentiment, and some of them are here to stay.