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3rd Row

Why marketers need to think ‘Human to Human’ rather than ‘Brand to Consumer’

2020 & 2021: the years where digital kept us connected – not just internationally, but at regional and even very local levels. For many businesses, digital was the saviour, ensuring business could continue – even grow.

Yet, while it may have initially seemed important for retailers to digitise their brand strategy, ploughing efforts into everything from social media to website tools, so the brand would translate in a completely digital world, the fact is that people have realised more than ever the value of human interaction. How easy has it been, therefore, to remain truly connected to the people your brand speaks to?

A brand is not just what you do through your marketing tactics. It’s a feeling it stirs, an experience it creates, and a story it tells. While there are many amazing things brands can do in the digital world, to be a real success, brands need the human element to sit at the heart of their digital brand strategy, as Neelam Kharay, Chief of Staff – GTM, Acoustic, explores…

The new marketing playbook

It’s safe to say that 2020 was a year like no other, and 2021 certainly has not reverted back to the ‘old normal’. In fact, the age of COVID-19 has upended the marketing playbook, challenging conceived truths and redefining the rules. Whilst digital strategies were accelerated across all industries during the start of the pandemic as a matter of business survival, customer expectations have changed. Forget the slick digital journey and the ability to deliver exactly what a consumer wants, when they want it – that is now a given. Instead, customers expect their relationship to matter to you; and they expect your brand to stand for great values they can resonate with.

While delivering on these experiences requires organisations to place technology and data at the core of their marketing delivery, to sharpen their decision-making and drive greater relevance in their customer interactions to build stronger, more relevant connections, they also require something more. They require the ability to engender trust – and that, in itself demands authenticity, integrity, and humanity.

So how do brands become human?

Building human engagement 

We must remember that our target consumers are not just defined by demographics or psychographics — they’re defined by their intent, and by countless other indiscernible or unquantifiable factors. In essence, our prospective customers — just like us — are more than what meets the eye. Brands must ensure they’re both representative, and fully aware and understanding, of the most important issues and key drivers influencing all consumers’ behaviours.

By building teams that are as diverse as your customers, and by ‘stepping into the shoes’ of your customers as often as possible, brands can help account for their many perspectives and needs, bringing a more authentic voice to all marketing communications and content.

Indeed, authenticity is critical when it comes to forming connections between brands and consumers. With 86% of consumers reporting that authenticity is a deciding factor when determining which brands to support, the more authentic you are in your communications, the greater the sense of transparency and trust you will engender with them, which will lead to loyalty.

C-suite agenda

During the pandemic, marketing was elevated within the C-suite as the voice of the consumer. Without understanding the zeitgeist of the marketplace, in good times and bad, the C-suite cannot adjust to the threats and opportunities at hand and successfully navigate the future.

One of the new ‘rules’ of post-COVID marketing is, therefore, C-level engagement. In order to be authentic in your communications as a marketer, you need a deep understanding of who your brand is: what its values are; what its tone and voice are; who its key customers are – all of which are of paramount importance to other functional leaders.

From there, you can craft authentic communications that accurately reflect your brand personality while uncovering the pain points of your target audience. Everything from style to word choice to the visual elements you include are part of what gives a brand personality, and should be carefully crafted and honed in order to connect with your target customer(s). Moreover, developing a personality that responds to how customers are feeling and acting in the moment, and is authentically reflective of that across every touchpoint a customer has with your brand, is key to developing trust.

Consider, for example, how a company like Bombas has made improving the lives of people facing housing insecurity a key element of its brand ethos and product strategy, or how Old Navy has made all clothing styles accessible to people of all shapes and sizes with no change in price. During the pandemic, the British Heart Foundation also demonstrated empathy by offering COVID-secure collection of donations normally dropped off at collection points, for those who perhaps didn’t want to, or couldn’t, leave their homes. These are brand personalities with an authentic vision and a clarity of purpose behind them to which consumers can align their own values.

Conclusion

Ultimately, becoming ‘more human’ starts with being human and therefore having a point of view; a tone; a look and feel. In essence, in today’s climate, marketers need to think ‘human-to-human’ instead of ‘brand-to-consumer’.

Do you specialise in Online Strategy? We want to hear from you!

Each month on Digital Marketing Briefing we’re shining the spotlight on different parts of the print and marketing sectors – and in December we’ll be focussing on Online Strategy solutions.

It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help marketing industry professionals find the best products and services available today.

So, if you specialise in Online Strategy and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Clair Wyld on c.wyld@forumevents.co.uk.

Dec – Online Strategy Jan – Content Management Feb – Lead Generation & Tracking Mar – Email Marketing April – Digital Printing May – Social Media Jun – Brand Monitoring July – Web Analytics Aug – Conversion Rate Optimisation Sept – Digital Signage Oct – Brochure Printing Nov – Creative & Design Dec – Online Strategy

Supplier e-commerce sites ‘failing’ B2B buyers

B2B suppliers are failing buyers, new research has found, with 52% of e-commerce sites not fully meeting expectations. Difficulty finding relevant products (32%), none or not enough product images or videos (30%), and an inability to talk to someone or ask a question (28%) were identified as the top frustrations with underperforming sites.

The research also highlights an increasing volume of order errors, with 37% of buyers reporting errors with online orders at least on a weekly basis, and 11% reporting errors daily.

The survey, conducted by Sapio Research on behalf of Sana Commerce, found accelerated digital transformation in the B2B buying space, with more business being conducted online than ever before. E-commerce platforms have seen the largest increase in usage since the outbreak of the pandemic (58%). In fact, two thirds (66%) of companies are spending more online now than they did prior to the pandemic, by an average of 45%. The research shows that companies are now spending an average of £3.6m online each year, with 428 business-critical orders placed each day.

However, as more purchasing has moved online, order errors have disproportionately soared, suggesting that many suppliers didn’t have the scalability needed for this widescale shift. 37% of B2B buyers have reported errors with online orders at least on a weekly basis, equating to £1.3m in orders being affected by errors per company, each year.

This compares with just 28% experiencing weekly errors in 2019. As a result, 46% of respondents are finding their productivity and efficiency levels affected while they contact the supplier to fix the issue, and 46% are experiencing delays in the already problematic supply chain. When asked what they believe to be the reasons behind these order errors, 38% of B2B buyers cited suppliers displaying incorrect inventory (38%), incorrect product information (37%), and incorrect shipping information (35%).

Survey respondents were also asked what was important to them in the buying process, and four in five identified the relationship between themselves and the supplier, with almost half classing it as very important. In fact, 84% said they would be more inclined to buy from a supplier they had a great relationship with even if the terms of sale were not as good as a competitor. Yet, despite the obvious importance of relationships it seems that many suppliers are still getting it wrong. 39% of B2B buyers identified supplier relationships as a customer experience challenge, coming only behind delivery and tracking (44%).

Commenting on the research findings, Michiel Schipperus, CEO at Sana Commerce said, “A look at B2B buying experiences in 2021 highlights the importance of sustainable supplier relationships, which don’t end after the purchase is made. However, as purchasing has rapidly moved online, it seems that many suppliers have failed to meet expectations and let their buyers down.

“Reliability – in data, service, and information – is evidently a crucial part of a good relationship, and this is a shortcoming that seems to be causing high volumes of order errors that are not only costly to the bottom line, but also to the buyer-supplier relationship. To eradicate these problems, suppliers should ensure their e-commerce sites are fully integrated with their ERP so they’re able to provide buyers with real-time, accurate information to inform their purchasing decisions.”

Loss of accurate social media advertising data a strain on MarTech

Loss of accurate social media advertising data, thanks to iOS updates, had biggest effect on MarTech industry this year

That’s according to a study undertaken by the team behind global affiliate platform www.Awin.com, in which 250 senior marketers and business owners from medium or large MarTech companies were asked for their opinions on 2021 so far.

Overall, 81% of those asked said that they had been affected by iOS14 or the above updates around the tracking of their social media advertising campaigns over the last year. The “opt-out” privacy feature installed in the iOS14 update reduced advertisers’ ability to personalise and re-target their social campaigns.

One of the most prominent recent talking points was the effect of the iOS15 update on the industry, despite only launching just over a month ago in September 2021. 73% of the senior marketers involved in the study agreed they had noticed mail open rates ‘severely inflated’ thanks to the update. The update allows users to turn on ‘protect mail activity’, whereby Apple will automatically load images and CSS, making it appear as if the email has been opened.

Over half (55%) of the marketers who had noticed an inflation in mail open rates claimed that they have abandoned the measuring metric altogether in favour of ‘click-through rates’ and ‘conversions’. 28% of senior marketers also claimed they had switched to a subscription model off the back of the software release, stating that customer retention was the ‘only way’ to get the information they required.

As well as the effects that developments have had on the industry so far in 2021, senior marketers were also asked their thoughts on what 2022 might have to offer.

Some of the most common trends that were highlighted were found to be:

Immersive VR65% of senior marketers predicted this as a trend for 2022

There are already a few apps that let consumers see how an item may look in their house, for example, or apps that allow users to scan the internet for deals on their favourite pair of shoes using just one photo.

Chatbots will be able to handle more complex matters: 22% of senior marketers predicted this as a trend for 2022

It’s likely that by next year, users could see chatbots trusted with payments, become entirely voice driven and improve on emotional intelligence, to name just a few suggestions from senior marketers.

Chatbots may be able to analyse the pattern of every interaction in order to keep customers engaged and improve response capabilities.

Increasing demand for Marketing Architect roles: 15% of senior marketers predicted this as a trend for 2022

Although slow to gain acceptance among some firms, the number of Marketing Architect roles are set to rise with the demand from companies increasing in an attempt to steer the way in some of the above trends for example.

Kevin Edwards, Global Client Strategy Director at www.Awin.com, said: “2022 will be the year when marketers have to decide what measurement metrics are important to them. With third-party cookies on the way out and the tech giants making it increasingly difficult to measure campaign success, MarTech businesses who can offer data light and privacy-centric solutions will find themselves increasingly in favour.

“Introducing immersive VR and increasing chatbot intelligence will require huge investments from companies if they’re looking to get ahead of the trend. However, they are a clear signal of how brands are increasingly focusing on customer experience above all else”.

Sam Higgins, Chief Marketing Officer at Prezzybox also commented on the effects the iOS changes have had on the business “Analysing the paid social platform, we can see that the iOS changes have had a negative impact on the conversions being tracked in the Facebook advertising platform.

“Looking at data from 14th September – 25th October 2021 and comparing this to the same date range in 2019 (2020 is different due to lockdown), we are seeing a 75% drop in website purchases being recorded in the platform whilst budget remained the same.

“Obviously, this has resulted in a huge increase in the cost / website purchase, making us re-analyse our paid social strategy. Moving forwards, we are tracking paid social within Google Analytics as this gives us a much more accurate representation of how paid social campaigns are performing.”

IPA Bellwether reports UK digital ad budgets rise

The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising’s (IPA) Bellwether reports marketeers have revised their budgets upwards in the first quarter of 2017, the highest level recorded in almost a decade.

Some 26.1 per cent of those companies polled remain positive about 2017/18 budgets, signalling growth for the coming year,  while 11.8 per cent of companies said that marketing budgets would increase during the first quarter of 2017.

32 per cent of those companies polled also reported improvement in the financial pipeline, compared to 19 per cent that predicted things would be worse during the quarter.

The IPA reported marketers on tighter budgets are seeing greater value from digital and positioning ad spend accordingly, mostly as a direct result of the unknown effects of Brexit negotiations and wider economic uncertainty.

However, despite a positive outlook for digital ad spends in 2017, the IPA predicts stagnation materialising in 2018, with marketers being advised by experts to proceed with caution.

Speaking about the report, the IPA’s director general Paul Bainsfair said: “The election result has thrown further uncertainty into an already volatile environment.

“It is inevitable that this has had a knock-on effect on UK. Specifically, for marketers this has meant a desire, where possible, to seek out more activation driven advertising. As evidenced strongly in this latest Bellwether Report, this has resulted in a further move towards advertising in the digital space.”