Making moments matter: What is a people-based marketing strategy?

27th May 2016

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) recently reported UK in-store sales figures for March fell 0.7% year-on-year (the biggest drop since last August). At the same time, it was noted that online sales rose by 1.5% on the year.

But the disparity between the two data points shouldn’t be taken at face value. Instead, we need to look at the story behind these sales figures. Does the fall of in-store sales and rise of online shopping mean that people are deserting stores en masse and heading to an online retail wonderland? If only things were that black and white for brands.

In reality, consumers use a variety of devices and channels on their path to purchase. Some venture to the high street to test their product inklings before researching different prices and packages online from the comfort of a tablet at home. Others prefer to browse different options from their smartphones as they travel into town and make their final purchase decision on the high street. While online sales are clearly growing, the BRC’s figures for February 2016 put ecommerce sales at just over 20% of total retail, demonstrating that the majority of purchases still happen offline, and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.

Since both on- and offline channels continue to carry significant value for brands, the best way to ensure success in this multichannel era is by connecting with customers in the right place, at the right time, and with the right message – creating a true omnichannel strategy that replicates across all channels the 1:1 customer experience that is provided in store.

Of course the challenge for brands is making this vision a reality. But, in an increasingly competitive landscape where it is easier than ever to lose a potential customer with a misdirected or untimely ad, marketers must explore new strategies to meet rising consumer expectations.

The people-based approach

In order to forge more emotional and timely connections with customers, brands need to engage with customers at the key everyday moments when they’re using their devices to get what they need, whether that’s making a purchase, booking a restaurant reservation, or checking movie times. For example, a customer might receive an email from a brand on her tablet highlighting a new product while travelling to work. She may then be reminded of the brand by a well-placed ad on a publisher’s site while at her desk, clicking through to the company’s website for more information, before finally deciding to complete the purchase in-store during her lunch break. While every touchpoint on this journey won’t be credited with the sale, each precise, timely, and relevant interaction influenced the final purchase decision.

The ever-increasing importance of reaching customers in the moment is turning brands towards people-based marketing. This strategic marketing discipline leverages authenticated, first-party data about customers to serve them targeted communications on an individual level, rather than targeting a cookie or device ID. With a people-based approach, brands can target consumers across all sorts of addressable media – from TV to social platforms to display and geo-location – with greater precision than ever before.

So instead of a film company marketing its new action films based on a pool of action film fans, marketers can leverage a people-based approach to only target people based on searches of their favourite action stars set to feature in each film, the preferred time and location they choose to stream their films, and beyond. This approach is proven: almost two-thirds of advertisers report higher click-through rates with people-based ads, demonstrating the great impact of precise and real-time interactions.

Here are two ways to achieve greater marketing outcomes through a people-based approach.

Using smart data

There has never been more data available to marketers. While this offers significant opportunities to paint a more in-depth picture of the customer, marketers must also make sure they’re leveraging the smartest data possible. People-based marketing is powered by the freshest and most accurate data that a brand can use: its own first-party data. First-party data is in many ways the most valuable because of its power to deepen customer understanding and engagement. It is the key for deriving immediate, unique and granular customer insights – authentic insights that advertisers will never glean from assumptive third-party “lookalike” data.

One significant impact of leveraging first-party data is the ability to reduce wasted ad spend. Media wastage has long been a concern for marketers, amplified by the rise of technology and the difficulties of reaching customers on the right device and in a timely manner. According to Marketo, nearly 80% of consumers worldwide say they will only engage with a brand’s marketing offers if those promotions are based on how they have interacted with the brand previously. People-based advertising uses the wealth of information marketers already have about their existing customers to target only the people they want to reach with the right message – cutting out the waste that comes with targeting broad segments of third-party data.

Understanding intent

Just as it is important for brands to target the right person with the right message, it’s also important not to target the wrong person at the wrong time. Telling a customer about an offer on her favourite product ten minutes after she’s purchased it is going to be an annoyance. Similarly, informing her of the offer ten minutes before she buys it, but via email when she typically interacts on a mobile app, is an equally wasteful use of ad expenditure.

By harnessing intent signals – a clear sign that there is an interest in a product or service – marketers can act quickly with a targeted response. It’s critical to be able to recognise these signals across all channels, from desktop to mobile to physical stores. For example, a customer might browse a retail website on their desktop and add things to his cart, then re-visit their basket via the app while close to one of the retailer’s physical stores. Unlocking this data enables brands to trigger location-based targeting, which could encourage the customer into the store with the incentive of a small discount. Again, this interaction could be the difference between winning or losing incremental share of wallet from that customer.

With the precise targeting of people-based marketing, brands can make the most of critical moments along the customer journey as they happen, resulting in increased conversion rates, boosted customer happiness and loyalty, and a much more efficient and cost-effective marketing strategy.

Replies (4)

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By EJohn Morris
27th May 2016 11:09

great insights, nice to read. What does it take to grab attention at the right time? with so many channels and so many people its about where am I and what do I want.
thanks for publishing

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Replying to EJohn Morris:
By NeilJoyce
03rd Jun 2016 12:10

Glad you enjoyed the article! Completely agree that grabbing attention in the right place at the right time can be really challenging for marketers. The reason it's so hard is because most legacy marketing technology uses browser-based cookies, so marketers can't recognise customers across devices, or batch processes, so they can't access the freshest customer information. However, new people-based solutions are available that help marketers continuously recognise customers across devices and channels to power data-driven engagements that are as relevant and timely as possible.

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By Henry Dean
27th May 2016 11:35

Neil - how does this differ from personalisation?

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Replying to Henry Dean:
By NeilJoyce
03rd Jun 2016 12:10

Great question! People-based marketing requires continuous customer recognition for 1:1 marketing at scale, in real time, across all channels where customers engage with a brand. Reaching customers with a relevant message based on their interests and behaviour also requires high-quality first-party data. People-based marketing leverages personalised content, but beyond that, it is about getting the right message to the right person at the right time. So, it enables brands to reach known customers with personalised messages across all devices and channels -- from mobile to TV to social -- with greater precision.

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