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Email Marketing

5 insights into email marketing from 2020

By Michael Trapani, Senior Director of Product Marketing, Acoustic

Benchmarking an unexpected year, like 2020, can be a significant challenge. With so many factors affecting your company’s performance, how do you go about it? Comparing your performance in 2020 to 2019 (or any other year) will hardly account for the outsized influence a global pandemic had on your business, and the market as a whole.

Our newly released email marketing benchmark report, though, showcases the influence that the pandemic has had on email marketing based on data from thousands of marketing teams.

This benchmark is an indicator for your performance through an unprecedented year and a source of insight into consumers’ responses to the pandemic, current events, and how email marketing prevailed. These metrics uncover five primary insights:

  1. Pandemic lockdowns drove a huge increase in email engagement by consumers.
  2. It wasn’t just the pandemic — other global events impacted performance of email engagement.
  3. Email has further established itself as consumers’ preferred channel of engagement.
  4. COVID-19 messaging grew tiring and drove unsubscribes.
  5. Key industries were affected in different ways as a result of the pandemic and current events.

Let’s take a closer look.

  1. Pandemic Lockdowns Caused a Spike in Engagement

In March and April of 2020, the world entered the first wave of pandemic lockdowns and most of the in-person economy paused. However, while in-person shopping came to a halt, digital soared, leading to a surge in engagement with email marketing. Email marketing open rates increased 31% from January 2020 to April 2020.

While consumers sat at home, they opened more brand emails. Constantly online, the spring of 2020 was the perfect environment for email engagement. With higher open rates, click rates rose too: from January to April 2020, click rates increased 28.6%.  

2. Email Open Rates Coincided with Current Events

The pandemic wasn’t the only event that impacted email marketing performance. Natural disasters coincided with increased email engagement in the energy and environment industry. Unfortunately, the second half of 2020 saw a historic number of hurricanes, wildfires, and droughts. The industry was a clear outlier in the second half of the year, with multiple months exceeding a 40% open rate as a result — well above other industries measured.

The political arena of 2020 also had an impact on email marketing performance. Government-related emails saw a large uptick in November, coinciding with the U.S. presidential election. Open rates continued its upward trajectory for the industry through December, too, after the election was called.

3. In the “New Normal,” Email is Preferred

Email has always been a popular channel, but in the “new normal,” consumers are favoring this channel more than prior to the pandemic. Across the board, open rates increased since the pandemic’s start. While engagement peaked while we were in lockdown in the spring of 2020, engagement rates, overall, increased during the “new normal.”

In fact, every region measured had a higher click-to-open rate in the second half of the year. Europe saw the highest click-to-open rate in H2 of 2020, with an average of 14.8%.

Globally, consumers are more likely to engage with emails. This signifies a growing affinity for email communications as well as brands getting better at targeting the right consumers with each email.

4. COVID-Messaging Grew Tiresome Quickly, Driving Unsubscribes

While engagement was up, so was the unsubscribe rate. Other than India and Asia Pacific, every region had a higher unsubscribe rate in the second half of the year compared to the first. Overall, unsubscribe rates were 34.4% higher by year’s end, globally.

This could be a result of the COVID-19 messaging sent en masse to “unclean” lists. It was common practice for CEOs and brands to send pandemic-related updates to their entire list about the state of their business, like processes installed that kept employees and customers safe. This likely alerted many customers that brands they no longer shop with nor have affinity toward had their contact information, prompting them to unsubscribe.

5. Industry Highs and Lows Throughout 2020

Not all industries were equally prepared for the rapid digital transformation that took place: some industries thrived in a lockdown environment while others suffered. Unsurprisingly, hospitals and healthcare enjoyed high engagement throughout the entirety of H2, ranging between about 30 to 35% open rates. Because consumers were anxious for COVID-19 updates, they were more likely to interact with related content.

Two industries hit especially hard by the pandemic were travel and retail. Travel, for the most part, came to a halt for much of the year and the pandemic’s impact on the retail industry has been well-documented as dozens of retail hallmarks went out of business. This performance is reflected in their email marketing, as well. Travel and retail were two industries with consistently low open rates and low CTORs compared to other industries, rarely eclipsing 15% for open rates and hovering around 10% for CTOR.  

Getting Back to Basics with Email

While 2020 saw unexpected global changes, the “new normal” demonstrates that email marketing is a reliable tool with staying power. Comparing your performance from before and after the pandemic can signify how your brand is performing in the “new normal” as well as how you stack up in your market. Overall, global open rates increased in the latter half of the year by 6.5%. If you trend under the industry average, you can implement strategies to improve your email engagement, such as more advanced targeting to understand what content your audiences interact with more.

Despite many new marketing technologies and opportunities seeming to emerge daily, email is still growing. Make sure your email marketing strategies can keep pace. 

If you’d like to review the results of the full Acoustic report, download it here.

Three Psychological Pitfalls Marketers Should Avoid In 2021

By Norman Guadagno, CMO, Acoustic

A year in quarantine has changed consumer psychology and the rules of engagement for marketers. From dealing with isolation to significant economic uncertainty,  it is no surprise that depression has doubled for UK adults throughout the last twelve months. 

As the UK lockdown starts to ease, people are grappling with the conflicting emotions of desiring connection with each other on the one hand, yet remaining wary of too much close contact, too soon. 

For marketers, this means both adapting their 2021 plans to today’s “new normal,” contactless world, while ensuring that empathy and connection remain at the core of every communication. To accomplish this, we must all avoid the following pitfalls. 

Don’t mistake empathy for disingenuity 

We’ve all heard the same phrases a dizzying number of times by now: “These are unprecedented times,” “Stay at home, save lives,” and “We hope you’re doing well in these trying times.” For many brands, these empathetic phrases served as a pseudo-obligatory acknowledgement of current events before diving into sales-driven messaging. But for consumers, these messages quickly became white noise, a reason to ignore the communication altogether.

Data from Acoustic’s analysis of email marketing from January to May 2020 reinforces this. While open rates in the UK and Ireland increased by 19% in March versus January as consumers scoured for information on how to safely buy essential supplies and support their favourite businesses, click-through rates and click-to-open rates, on the other hand, remained relatively flat. This signals that emails with “An important message from our CEO” piqued curiosity but did not incite action or engagement. 

For marketers, the takeaway is clear: Show, don’t tell. Find creative ways to make it clear you genuinely care about your customers, without falling back on the same tired phrases. As marketers, we should emulate rigour. Our messaging should be clear, transparent, and to-the-point. The rest is just white noise. 

Stay connected with your audience 

Regardless of whether you’re a B2B or B2C brand, it’s important to remember marketing should not be a one-way street. The best marketers foster community and connection, which are vitally important in today’s context. For many consumers who are working from home, the marketing communications they receive may be some of the only forms of communication they have with the outside world in a given day, besides work and the news of the day. This gives marketers a golden opportunity to search for ways to spark conversations with and amongst their target audiences. 

After all, the pandemic has all but eliminated the small talk and water-cooler conversations that play a key role in keeping us happy and productive at work. In today’s stay-at-home world, many of us have replaced these innocuous conversations with scrolling through social media or “forced fun” like workplace happy hours on Zoom. We have less opportunity to opt-in to small talk, but brands can change that. Marketers should embrace new ways they can foster conversation and community through social media, message boards, or other means to create a sense of normality for their consumers. 

Don’t get too close 

It’s one thing to leverage consumer sentiment and personal data to make your communication more personal and relevant. It’s another thing altogether to get too granular that you prompt concern about misuse of that data and abuse an individual’s sense of trust. 

It’s a bit like dating in today’s online world, where finding out about someone is seemingly so easy. It’s almost second nature to Google your date or look them up on Facebook or Instagram to find out more about them beforehand. But would you ask them about their holiday to Croatia the year before last that you found out about? Of course not. At least, I hope not….

Marketers face a similar conundrum. We may have psychographic data about our consumers, but should we use it? And if so, how? Marketers should devise new approaches that allow consumers to be more involved in granting permission to use their data on their terms. Allowing them to actively curate information about their likes and dislikes, in exchange for a better value proposition — a better brand experience — a “give to get.” In this scenario, an informed consumer is acknowledging that a brand may want to learn more about them — and then taking things a step further by cultivating information about themselves that is relevant for brand marketers to know. In the coming months, marketers should think about how to tailor this approach to psychographic profiling to keep their communications empathetic and connected to a consumer’s personal identity. 

Ultimately, marketing and dating can be surprisingly similar. Marketers always want to keep consumers engaged and keep them coming back for more, which requires a delicate balance of reaching out to the target audience without overreaching. As marketers plan upcoming campaigns, we must avoid the artificial genuineness, one-way communication, and overt psychographic profiling that can be so off-putting to consumers. If not, those consumers just might say, “This date is over,” stand up, and leave. 

Norman Guadagno is CMO at Acoustic, an open, independent marketing cloud.

Synergy between CTV and digital devices drives ad effectiveness, according to VDX.tv study

By VDX.tv

Your smartphone is a computer. And your TV, too. Nowadays consumers expect that their computers work together and provide a seamless experience, with cohesive and consistent messaging across screens. Marketers need to understand this synergy across screens and start to embrace the opportunity it provides.   

Streaming is an ideal way for advertisers to begin a lasting brand relationship. The big screen offers an immersive experience that helps create brand awareness and association. On the web, consumers lean forward. They’re curious, open-minded, and motivated. Streaming ads prompt inspiration, but they need to be followed by interactive, browser-based ads that facilitate exploration. 

VDX.tv’s research, “The Bigger Picture: Why Effective Video Advertising Requires a Synergy Across CTV, Desktop & Mobile Devices”, found that consumers are 2.5 times more likely to remember a brand advertised on the big screen than any other medium. The research also found that following a CTV impression with a desktop ad caused brand opinion to jump by a third, on average. For carefully considered purchases such as travel, auto, and even mattresses, purchase intent can more than double when CTV impressions are followed by interactive web impressions. A majority of respondents in the study rated these holistic, cross-screen campaigns as being more relevant, informative, and engaging than single-channel efforts.

Overall, the research noted that on average, the addition of CTV to desktop and mobile drove a 149.6% lift in brand awareness versus desktop and mobile alone. Likewise adding CTV to desktop and mobile resulted in a 36.9% lift in brand opinion and a 24.8% lift in purchase intent. 

Altogether, we call this the “Halo Effect”. 

A brand halo is earned by a marketing strategy that includes every screen in the house. A halo forms when computers are used to their full potential and in synchronicity with each other. Having your campaign meet each moment in a consumer journey means planning for consistent, responsive messaging across experiences that are adapted for each screen.

Where is your halo? Closer than you think.

You can download the study here.

The evolution of data reporting

By Graham Spicer (pictured), Sales Director, UK & EMEA, of SplashBI

Organisations are drowning in data. The sheer volume of data about employees, customers, suppliers, products, and results has never been so extensive and yet so crucially important. Without a thorough understanding of what data business’ collect, analyse and interpret – there could be a missed golden opportunity if a data reporting platform isn’t included in the mix.

To comprehend this, Graham Spicer, Sales Director, UK & EMEAof SplashBI explores the powers of visual reporting and how organisations can uncover data-driven insights through the evolution of data reporting via a number of different means.

Why is reporting necessary?

Without a doubt, reports are the backbone of any organisation and an integral part of business strategy. A successful data reporting platform allows you to look for opportunities and trends – a true survival kit especially in the aftermath of Covid-19. 

The aim of a business report is to provide a detailed and critical analysis of how the business is tracking in all areas of the organisation – from HR to sales, or to operational departments. Over time, reports have been progressively recognised as an important tool to guide decision-making and data-driven results for senior managers and leadership departments. Using a myriad of ad-hoc reporting and self-service reporting helps businesses to measure performance over set durations of time to analyse what worked well and what could be improved upon. 

Previously, copious amounts of paper with tables and charts used to symbolise traditional data reporting methods. With automation and visual representation of data at our fingertips and the chance to add filters and time frames, the world of reporting has been revolutionised. With the power of technology to help collate, compile and analyse data of all shapes and sizes, strategic business decisions can now be made by senior decision-makers straightway – removing the month end headache. 

The power of reporting

In recent years, the world of Business Intelligence (BI) has been turned upside down. Data became big(ger), meaning that organisations need to incorporate the advances of technology with established IT infrastructures so that they can transition to adopt cloud-based computing. This has resulted in spreadsheets taking a backseat to actionable data visualisations and interactive dashboards. Self-service reporting such as people analytics grabbed the reins and opened the opportunities for a selection of data reporting suites available to remove mundane work. Suddenly, advanced analytics wasn’t just for the analysts.

Understanding complex data analysis has now become a breeze with the introduction of self-service reporting platforms. Advances in technology alleviate the stress and labour hours of gathering, sorting, and using data to make informed business data-driven decisions. Using self-service reporting or even ad-hoc reporting has highlighted the positive impact of putting data back in the hands of individual teams, departments and management. Straightaway, this switch allows individuals to spend time exploring the meaning of the data – rather than inputting data which could lead to the possibilities of errors. In return, the rise of self-service reporting has also brought more attention to the growing necessity for modern businesses to adopt a data-driven culture. This means that decisions are made on facts and observations – and not haste or gut.

The future is bright 

As businesses ride the wave of the effects last year, senior leaderships have quickly understood the importance of viewing data in real-time. Quickly and efficiently, senior leadership teams need data that can be understood and actioned. Viewing data in a visual format across a number of dashboards helps businesses to reach targets and goals – rather than having to unpick the data at hand in spreadsheet form.

Previously, reporting requirements started off as a tool for pinpointing patterns in business’ data, but as time has progressed, requirements and urgency have grown exponentially. As time moves on, this has evolved into a robust, streamlined solution, bringing data reporting platforms alive in real-time. As technology is constantly evolving, the process of implementing any self-service reporting has become much less of a daunting task. Employees want to be able to spend time storytelling the high (and lows) of the data in front of them to senior management – rather than tracing through report after report. 

Having the implementation and adoption time almost cut in half allows employees to be more effective in the role. Now, month-end reporting is such a breeze!

Understanding D2C: What’s fuelling the move?

By Elliott Jacobs, EMEA Commerce Consulting Director at LiveArea

The direct-to-consumer (D2C) market has skyrocketed, experiencing double-digit growth to the point where it is projected to grow 19.2% this year. While D2C will have been on brands’ radars for some time, the majority have lacked the systems and processes needed to support such a move. The closure of physical retail, however, has proved a catalyst for many to make the move as they aim to reinvent themselves for the new landscape.

While the April 12th roadmap puts a return to the high street back on the horizon, we’re unlikely to ever return to pre-pandemic footfall. Together, shrinking margins, the emergence of digital disruptors and the unstoppable rise of eCommerce mean D2C is no longer a nice-to-have for many brands, but a means of competitive differentiation in the age of at-home retail.

Changing behaviours under Covid

When we think of ‘D2C,’ it’s usually the likes of Dollar Shave Club, Brewdog and Bloom & Wild that come to mind, and two key similarities run through them all. Firstly, they tend to be niche and offer a fine-tuned proposition concentrating on one category – think subscription razors, craft beers or letterbox flowers. Secondly, they are obsessively focussed on digital, whether it’s through social media engagement and user-generated content or innovative eCommerce experiences, these brands lead the way in data-driven business decisions.

The most agile, efficient and resilient businesses over the past year have been the ones which place digital commerce, data and analytics at the heart of their operations. Businesses can no longer rely solely on bricks-and-mortar, with many household stalwarts reliant on physical real estate having shut their doors for good. Spurred on by lockdown restrictions and panic-buying, many consumers are now sold on the convenience of buying directly from brands – a trend which is unlikely to change even with the reopening of physical stores. 

These behavioural changes have sprung larger brands into action, who are now launching their own D2C operations to improve profitability and take over the relationship with customers. Here, Nike has reaped the rewards of an earlier decisionto pull back from Amazon and use its website and shopping apps to build close connections with customers no longer shopping in-store. Elsewhere, PepsiCo and Heinz launched D2C offerings catering to common lockdown purchases to address supermarket shortages as a result of the panic-buying seen in the early days of the pandemic.

Acting on data intelligence 

The reason behind many of these brands adopting D2C lies in the data. Typically, CPG brands reliant on supermarkets, marketplaces and retailers to sell their products are at the mercy of these partners in feeding back the data. Retailers who take a D2C approach, however, own the entire customer journey and are well-placed to develop a 360 understanding of their customers.

The wealth of data available is substantial, providing brands with valuable insights and one singular source of truth which cannot be underestimated. Brands can then go on to optimise products, processes and communications and increase relevance to consumers in a way that isn’t possible when selling via third parties. Not only this, but control of the data also facilitates new ways of exploiting it – whether it’s running more targeted marketing campaigns or identifying shifting consumer behaviour patterns. The lesson here is that data is the future, and retailers will want to own as much of it as they can.

The switch won’t happen overnight 

A D2C sales channel should factor in every stage of the customer journey and there are myriad factors to take into account. For a start, they should consider the most effective means of competing with marketplaces, retailers and other brands for web traffic, whether it’s through social, search or PPC. From there, engaging content, immersive experiences and a seamless user experience will help brands build genuine connections with consumers and retain their custom.

Beyond this, a well-oiled D2C operation requires significant upfront investments in real estate, technology and staff. For example, any business aiming to achieve scalable online sales needs a platform that provides all the modern tooling needed to run an online business. It’s through these tools that brands gain the information required to treat customers as individuals. From a fulfilment perspective, D2C brands are in the business of sending regular packages to consumers rather than shipping bulk containers, meaning considerable changes to operating models will be necessary.

PepsiCo, Heinz and Nike have all proven the value of D2C in times of hardship. If other brands are to embark on similarly successful projects, they will need to ensure data, technology and processes can integrate and inform one-another across the entire customer journey. Those which do it right will set themselves up with a new source of income on top of the traditional wholesale channels when they return. But a cookie-cutter approach is no longer enough, and CPG brands considering the leap will have to decide whether such a commitment is right for them.

Listen to your customers: five marketing lessons 2020 has taught us

By Stefan Britton, CRO, Datasine

2020 has been a challenging year for all businesses and has certainly kept marketers on their toes. We saw massive societal change due to the Covid-19 pandemic but also with events like the Black Lives Matter movement which have had a significant impact on the mood of the nation. Brands have had to quickly pivot their approach to respond appropriately. 

So, what has this year taught us? How can marketers prepare themselves for what is looking likely to be an uncertain start to the year ahead?

  1. Brands must be on good behaviour 

In 2020, we saw many brands realise the hard way that their behaviours are just as important as their marketing campaigns, and we’re increasingly seeing consumers shun brands that don’t behave. We saw Wetherspoons meet a barrage of criticism when it withheld payments to 43,000 staff until it received the Government’s furlough payment. As a result of this backlash, the pub chain soon reversed this decision and promptly paid its staff. Fashion brand, Boohoo, was also called out when questions were raised about poor working practices in their supply chain. These claims came at a cost to its reputation, and damaged relations with other retailers who sell the brand. 

Businesses are clearly being held accountable for their actions by consumers – perhaps now more so than ever before – and it’s important to be mindful that it’s not just their online behaviours that are being judged. Social media has given audiences a very loud voice and long memories and good marketing can’t outrun bad behaviour.

2. A move to mobile  

New habits were formed during lockdown as online shopping became more of a ‘lifeline’ than lifestyle choice. Online sales are expected to account for 27.5% of total retail sales this year, and no doubt the impact of lockdown on the high street will continue to be felt far into the future.

The conversion rates from desktop devices are typically twice as high as they are from mobile devices, however this year, there’s been a significant shift to mobile online shopping (mcommerce) with more people being at home and using their mobile phones to shop. 

Brands need to look at the mobile experience they offer their customers because consumers expect a common experience, no matter how they engage with a retailer. Help customers engage in whichever way they want to.

3. Intelligent analysis of data

Research we undertook in 2020 showed that only 46% of marketers are using their data effectively to inform their future campaigns, yet 100% acknowledge that harnessing customer data more effectively could boost the success of these campaigns. 

Effective use of data enables marketers to move from insights to action and make quick decisions on the journey they want to take their subscribers on. Alongside this, marketers need to have a better understanding of exactly who their customers are – that’s a piece of data in itself. We frequently see big brands with multiple CRM systems and multiple points of entry for data collection, and no single view of their customers. 

Data can tell us a lot about our customers. Digging into this data more deeply will enable marketers to understand why, how, and when people make the decisions they do.

4. Tell us what you want

report from EY shows that the Covid-19 crisis has boosted technology engagement for 21% of households but less than half (44%) now feel in control of their personal online data. Consumers’ growing scepticism about use of their personal data is making access to crucial customer insights increasingly difficult. To provide customers with the personalised experience they have come to expect, many marketers are now looking for ways to engage with them more directly. 

It’s ok to talk to customers and canvas their opinion about how they want you to sell to them. If your customers know that you want to learn more about how to keep them happy, chances are they will respond. Ask them questions and opinions on the marketing activities you have planned. For example, ask them about how receptive they would be to discounts on certain products, or if they feel you need to make improvements to a current product set. 

Once you’ve embarked on this journey to get to know your customers better, keep this dialogue open and try to speak to them as often as you can. For example, you might decide to change brand identity – ask customers what they think and involve them in the decision-making process.

5. A place to listen, not just shout

Facebook is evolving as a platform, and the introduction of the Business Suite and improvements to brand safety options are just some of the enhancements we’ve seen. Next year, I expect to see more brands using the platform to create communities rather than just using it to promote products. Facebook, is no longer just a place to advertise and shout about how great you are, it’s become a platform for listening and learning more about customers.

Marketing professionals need to brace themselves for another bumpy ride in 2021, and as the only constant currently is change. If 2020 year taught us anything, it’s that it is more important than ever before to listen to our customers. 

Top trends to watch out for as marketing investment makes a comeback

By Saranya Babu, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Wrike  

There is no doubt that last year had its challenges. With the economy at rock bottom and the majority of businesses facing severe financial hardship, marketing departments across the world felt the pinch. Industry-wide cut-backs resulted in a dramatic decrease in spending throughout the year, accumulating in the fourth quarter with 24% of marketers recording a further decline in budgets as a result of the pandemic.  

However, with new vaccinations bringing the hope of recovery – both in terms of the country’s health and economy – the marketing industry is preparing to bounce back. After spending 2020 in crisis mode, many are ready to boost their investments. Earlier this month, the CMO Council found that 65% of marketers plan to increase their marketing spend in 2021.  

The challenge for marketers moving forward will be knowing where to spend that money. Despite future prospects looking bright, the road to recovery is likely to be a long one. There is no guarantee of success, and marketing teams must ensure that the tactics and strategies they choose to deploy deliver the ROI (return on investment) they need.   

Yet, with so many trends and the naturally fast-paced nature of the marketing landscape, it can be difficult to know what to focus on. Although the future is impossible to predict, there are three areas that marketers should take note of this year:  

1) The face of content marketing will change  

Content marketing has long been considered one of the most effective ways to increase audience engagement and develop a brand presence. However, in recent years, we’ve seen a noticeable shift away from its traditional written format.   

Although blogs and whitepapers will remain an important tool for brands wanting to communicate to their customers, the majority of today’s consumers are really after something a little more digestible. This is where video content, in particular, is set to play an important role. In fact, The Content Marketing Institute recently discovered that 71% of B2B marketers and 66% of B2C marketers already use this format to connect to their audiences. Whether in the form of short tutorials or live webinars, we can expect to see even more video content moving forward.  

If this video content is to be a success, we need to apply the usual principles when it comes to personalisation and the consumer journey. Today’s consumers expect more targeted and relevant marketing than ever before, with 66% admitting that encountering non-personalised content would stop them from making a purchase. Therefore, the most successful material will target customers directly and offer true value, without trying to explicitly sell them anything.  

2) Search intent will matter most when it comes to SEO  

We all know that SEO is one of the most important ways a brand can drive traffic to its website. The higher a page ranks on a search engine, the more likely users will click on it and begin that initial interaction.   

In the past, some have relied on keyword stuffing and other dicey strategies to boost their ranking. However, Google has worked hard to improve its algorithm over the years. So much so that it can now determine the search intent behind a specific search query. Whether a user is looking for information about the weather or searching for a product to buy, Google will rank its results based on what it thinks the user wants to see.   

This, in turn, makes it really important for marketers to focus on the end user and their search intent. Regardless of what marketing collateral is being produced – whether written or video – teams need to ensure that it is relevant to the user’s search query. That might mean making sure your landing page is informational as opposed to transactional, with links to separate sales pages for those looking to buy.  

3) Virtual events will become the norm  

When the pandemic hit, in the interest of keeping people safe and limiting the spread of the virus, industry events and tradeshows across the world were put on hold. For many, the solution was to go virtual. Surprisingly, this monumental change has brought about some positive results.   

Companies have found themselves saving money and time. Meanwhile, the pool of potential invitees and attendees has exploded, as people from across the world can instantly join without even having to think about travelling. This virtual landscape also enables marketers to collect valuable feedback and measure results in order to inform future events. Speakers can insert real-time polls or surveys into their presentations and it becomes much easier to gather certain data – such as number and location of attendees – when everyone logs on online.   

Even when things do return to normal and physical events are able to go ahead, the likelihood is that this virtual trend will continue in some format. In fact, 80% of people predict that in-person and virtual events will co-exist moving forward. Therefore, marketers need to prepare themselves for a hybrid future.  

Making the right choices  

The role of the marketing team has never been more important. In today’s climate, implementing the most effective marketing tactics and strategies could be the difference between an entire business surviving or collapsing.  With this year promising an increase in budgets, marketers need to ensure that they are making the right choices and setting themselves up for future success.   

Regardless of what trend the team decides to focus on, the key will be to think carefully and monitor efforts in order to understand what works best for the wider business and its key audiences. It is only then that marketers will be ready for whatever comes next.   

Listen to your customers: Five marketing lessons 2020 has taught us

2020 has been a challenging year for all businesses and has certainly kept marketers on their toes. We saw massive societal change due to the Covid-19 pandemic but also with events like the Black Lives Matter movement which have had a significant impact on the mood of the nation. Brands have had to quickly pivot their approach to respond appropriately. 

So, what has this year taught us? How can marketers prepare themselves for what is looking likely to be an uncertain start to the year ahead? Stefan Britton, CRO, Datasine considers the lessons marketers have learnt from 2020 about customer engagement….

  1. Brands must be on good behaviour 

In 2020, we saw many brands realise the hard way that their behaviours are just as important as their marketing campaigns, and we’re increasingly seeing consumers shun brands that don’t behave. We saw Wetherspoons meet a barrage of criticism when it withheld payments to 43,000 staff until it received the Government’s furlough payment. As a result of this backlash, the pub chain soon reversed this decision and promptly paid its staff. Fashion brand, Boohoo, was also called out when questions were raised about poor working practices in their supply chain. These claims came at a cost to its reputation, and damaged relations with other retailers who sell the brand. 

Businesses are clearly being held accountable for their actions by consumers – perhaps now more so than ever before – and it’s important to be mindful that it’s not just their online behaviours that are being judged. Social media has given audiences a very loud voice and long memories and good marketing can’t outrun bad behaviour.

2. A move to mobile  

New habits were formed during lockdown as online shopping became more of a ‘lifeline’ than lifestyle choice. Online sales are expected to account for 27.5% of total retail sales this year, and no doubt the impact of lockdown on the high street will continue to be felt far into the future.

The conversion rates from desktop devices are typically twice as high as they are from mobile devices, however this year, there’s been a significant shift to mobile online shopping (mcommerce) with more people being at home and using their mobile phones to shop. 

Brands need to look at the mobile experience they offer their customers because consumers expect a common experience, no matter how they engage with a retailer. Help customers engage in whichever way they want to.

3. Intelligent analysis of data

Research we undertook in 2020 showed that only 46% of marketers are using their data effectively to inform their future campaigns, yet 100% acknowledge that harnessing customer data more effectively could boost the success of these campaigns. 

Effective use of data enables marketers to move from insights to action and make quick decisions on the journey they want to take their subscribers on. Alongside this, marketers need to have a better understanding of exactly who their customers are – that’s a piece of data in itself. We frequently see big brands with multiple CRM systems and multiple points of entry for data collection, and no single view of their customers. 

Data can tell us a lot about our customers. Digging into this data more deeply will enable marketers to understand why, how, and when people make the decisions they do.

4. Tell us what you want

report from EY shows that the Covid-19 crisis has boosted technology engagement for 21% of households but less than half (44%) now feel in control of their personal online data. Consumers’ growing scepticism about use of their personal data is making access to crucial customer insights increasingly difficult. To provide customers with the personalised experience they have come to expect, many marketers are now looking for ways to engage with them more directly. 

It’s ok to talk to customers and canvas their opinion about how they want you to sell to them. If your customers know that you want to learn more about how to keep them happy, chances are they will respond. Ask them questions and opinions on the marketing activities you have planned. For example, ask them about how receptive they would be to discounts on certain products, or if they feel you need to make improvements to a current product set. 

Once you’ve embarked on this journey to get to know your customers better, keep this dialogue open and try to speak to them as often as you can. For example, you might decide to change brand identity – ask customers what they think and involve them in the decision-making process.

5. A place to listen, not just shout

Facebook is evolving as a platform, and the introduction of the Business Suite and improvements to brand safety options are just some of the enhancements we’ve seen. Next year, I expect to see more brands using the platform to create communities rather than just using it to promote products. Facebook, is no longer just a place to advertise and shout about how great you are, it’s become a platform for listening and learning more about customers.

Marketing professionals need to brace themselves for another bumpy ride in 2021, and as the only constant currently is change. If 2020 year taught us anything, it’s that it is more important than ever before to listen to our customers. 

Tips for successful customer journey mapping

By Leanne Coker, Service Design Lead at dxw 

Approach mapping in the same way you would any other design task – by starting with user needs and testing it.  Recognise that the formats we’re used to as designers (blueprints, journey maps, and the like) are not always familiar to the intended audience and in fact may not align with their mental model.

Make time at the start to think about who the map is really for – is it for the team, internal stakeholders, external stakeholders? It’s probably likely to be a combination. Think about their needs and accommodate them. Create different versions if you need to.

Before you’ve invested too much time in creating a work of art, test your idea with different audience members. It might be a blank or partially complete template but there are still valuable things to learn by showing it to people. Ask if it makes sense to them? Can they work with the format? This will save time reworking things down the line and help make the map more effective.

Don’t feel constrained by templates and prescriptive formats

There are standard map formats and templates, and they are really helpful. They prompt us to think about the right things, save time, and overcome blank sheet paralysis. However, there are some pitfalls to watch out for.

For example, a project brief might ask for a customer journey map or service blueprint because it’s the done thing. But without a clearly understood purpose and audience it might not add value. Other traps to avoid are letting our thinking become constrained by the boxes and lines on a map template or getting bogged down trying to populate all the sections with detail that’s not useful.

We might start with a template but then tweak the structure to fit our particular needs right now. Sometimes we may only be interested in certain rows from that blueprint, or we might want to create a hybrid map that’s a user journey/service map mashup. We might want to create something totally new and that’s okay too. Freestyle mapping can land us at the most elegant and impactful result.

The mapping process is as important as the outcome

Co-creating maps with the team or wider stakeholders can be a great way to gather information and generate a shared understanding. It also supports collaboration and effective decision making. But it’s not always best done in this way and the decision to co-create or not will depend on why you’re producing the map as well as access to information, people, and time.

If you’re creating a map on your own, the process can still be a learning experience. It helps us organise and synthesise our own thoughts. It will generate important questions and discussions. Make sure you don’t lose them. Write them down and follow them up.

Get comfortable with imperfection

A map is only ever going to be a representative model of the world so don’t get hung up on perfection. Our maps are only ever drafts too, as the world and our thinking are constantly evolving. So, when the time comes to share a map we’ve been working on, we can stick a date on it and be happy that this is the best model we have right now.

We shouldn’t feel limited by the fidelity of our maps but instead appreciate the clarity that a simplified view of a complex world can bring.

Describe it properly

It’s essential to properly label the map and provide a description of its purpose and what it’s trying to communicate.  Make clear whether it’s a map of the current or future state and at what stage of the project it was produced. A good map should be based on reliable source information from user research or other documentation – make sure this is referenced too. It’s also good practice to add the names of the creators and make it clear who owns and maintains it.

Be aware of the pros and cons of doing this work remotely

Lots of us are missing sticking post-its on whiteboards and other physical artefacts right now. While virtual whiteboards have been a life-saver for many in 2020, they have pros and cons. These tools can add a layer of complexity and constrain creativity when doing service mapping. For some, working on a small screen can feel claustrophobic and mean that we lose some of the context or zoomed out perspective. Being aware of these limitations when choosing a mapping approach is helpful.

Covering a wall in our own home with post-its might help to overcome some of these challenges. Others won’t be there to see it but we can take a photo or digitise and share afterwards.

Remote service mapping does have its benefits too though. With whole teams and organisations working from home, more people are becoming familiar with online mapping tools and this can create new opportunities for collaborative mapping and visual thinking.