Putting engagement first in marketing

The cross-channel evolution of marketing is enabling companies to develop deeper connections with their customers through personalisation, data-driven insights and engagement

Marketing strategies have evolved, particularly over the past year, to deliver deeper multichannel experiences, more creative technological solutions for customer retention and better data-driven insights into customers’ needs. Here, five marketing leaders share their perspectives on multichannel strategy and how to enrich the experiences customers have of their brands, as part of a virtual roundtable discussion. 

Taking a holistic approach 

Marketing has shifted from a focus on channels to a more holistic approach. Those achieving excellence in the delivery of customer experiences are engaging more effectively with technology, data and insights. Devising a customer-centric approach to marketing is made possible through more effective mobile marketing. 

For Mantas Ratomskis, head of CRM and retention at virtual health platform Kilo Health, creativity is key to navigating issues related to privacy, changes to cookies and mobile marketing. He says that having the right technology partner – Kilo Health works closely with Airship, a mobile-first customer engagement platform – is crucial to achieving this. 

For many, the future of marketing relies on a clear, engaging approach to messaging. At NatWest, messaging must evolve throughout the customer lifecycle. Angela Byrne, managing director of shared experience and digital transformation, says the investment in the technology used to manage this was once a lengthy and costly investment. Now, technology can be implemented more easily and adapted more readily, enabling greater engagement and better experiences for customers. Steve Tan, vice president and general manager of EMEA/APAC at Airship, adds that the future of marketing will be more about reacting and delivering in real time, and that it will be more customer focused. 

However, with greater capability to deliver one-to-one experiences and engagements, marketers must strike a balance between personalisation and the value of the brand. Personalisation has led marketers to focus too greatly on the granular details about each individual customer. A stronger strategy, the speakers agree, is to experiment and remain creative around the depth of personalisation, while also ensuring data is well understood. Technology capabilities are also improving, allowing marketers greater insights at faster speeds than ever before. 

Balancing personalisation 

Ratomskis highlights how 20% of a company’s customers typically provide 80% of the revenue. Focusing too much on individual personalisation, he suggests, will dilute the resources devoted to those loyal – and valuable – customers. Others agree that, while every customer is valuable, constantly attracting new customers is time-consuming and ineffective, while also carrying the potential for brand dilution. By understanding what the most engaged customers want and need in terms of their relation- ship with the brand, marketers can deliver better strategies and experiences. 

For Nuffield Health, this was never more apparent than during the pandemic, when the company lost a third of its gym members. Holly Ainger, marketing director at Nuffield Health, says the company approaches personalisation by analysing customer data to deliver more relevant experiences, leading to a long-term relationship between the brand and the customer. The key to achieving this, she and Tan agree, is by harnessing the power of first-party data. 

Byrne adds that connectivity is important in terms of data management. Aligning different systems requires an investment in technology and the implementation of the right APIs. In doing so, companies can deliver a seamless, multichannel experience for their customers. 

The speakers agree that better customer experiences can lead to greater retention and improved loyalty. But achieving this requires a clear understanding of customer data and the technical capability to act on it at the right time. The pandemic has influenced many brands to re-examine their customer retention and loyalty strategies while also propelling them to offer more creative and useful digital experiences for their customers. 

Focus on loyalty and retention

Ainger’s passion about loyalty and retention shines through Nuffield Health’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. To ensure those who remained loyal felt valued, the company created a digital fitness platform, allowing customers to work out anywhere. To retain customers, Ainger had to examine the churn rate and analyse the best approach toward supporting people in their relationships with the brand. The success of this has extended beyond the pandemic as Nuffield Health is considering ways of monetising its app for both members and non-members. 

Bupa Global, the specialist offer for high net worth individuals, faces a similar challenge in regards to peer-to-peer recommendations and customer retention. Marketing and customer director Neil Kirby says customer feedback is essential to driving retention. Insurers, however, thrive when customers do not need to use their services. That presents a paradox because those who have actually used Bupa’s services are more likely to recommend them. 

The future of marketing relies on a clear, engaging approach to messaging

To tackle this, Kirby implemented a two-pronged approach. First, Bupa Global delivered services that could be used on a regular basis, such as physical therapy, opticians and dental treatments, to encourage people to engage with the brand. Second, the company reached out to customers directly to ensure the human connection was fostered in the customer journey. This yielded greater satisfaction and retention. 

Combining the digital and physical experiences delivers a seamless, multichannel customer journey that capitalises on the brand’s value and ensures loyalty in the long term. Tan says it’s important to drive rich personal experiences throughout the customer lifecycle. In response to the growing use of mobile interactions between customers and brands, Airship has unveiled a live chat functionality that enables companies to have one-to-one conversations through branded apps or over SMS. There will be no end to the opportunities for increased customer engagement as brands deliver seamless experiences and multiple ways to interact with data guiding how that is delivered to each customer. 

All agree that data is essential to understanding the needs of customers, but a creative and strategic multichannel approach will lead to greater success. Marketers are primed to achieve this because of the proliferation and ubiquity of mobile, the increased accessibility of technology for automation and a clearer understanding of the role personalisation and insights can play in customer relationships. 

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