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How to talk to your customers, not at them

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WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, Instagram stories, and a plain old text message – those are just a few of the ways that marketers can reach today’s consumers.

And while there is no shortage of channels that a company can use, there is a major challenge – how can today’s marketers wade through the noise and communicate in a trustworthy, meaningful, and impactful way that resonates with consumers?

Engaging messaging starts with learning about the personal, individual preferences of consumers and what makes them tick.

What platform does a teen in China use? How should messaging differ for the head of a household in New York City versus the head of a household in Kansas? What’s the best time to engage with the millennial in Europe? These are all questions that companies face when developing marketing plans for unique, global audiences of one. It is also where marketing and technology converge.

To be successful today, marketers must become technologists; their departments have taken on more responsibility and they are playing a growing role in selecting the Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, and automation technologies that are being implemented within their organization, all with an eye towards reaching that ever-changing target audience of one.

How to talk to your customers: Start with the channel

When evaluating engagement strategies and considering what platforms to leverage when communicating with customers who differ in age and location, there are several factors that need to be considered:

  • The “local vs. global phenomenon”
  • The attitudes and biases customers have towards different channels, both on the local level and on the global level
  • The potential leverage of traditional, ubiquitous channels, such as SMS messaging

With those points considered, it is vital that companies take a multi-channel approach, but maintain an element of uniformity that strings messages together across all modes of communication.

It is also important to be aware that customers move from one channel to another, and as new platforms emerge, companies must contemplate the life cycle and efficacy of each new channel. For example, while Snapchat and Instagram are newer platforms that companies are exploring for customer engagement, Facebook remains the preferred social network among millennials, Gen Xers, and baby boomers, and therefore should be considered as a potential means of engagement.

With so much data available – and most customers willingly providing this personal data – companies are now expected to respect the privacy and rights of the individual consumer in these interactions, understand where and when to connect with their audience, and tailor messages accordingly to suit the individual’s preferences.

Emerging technologies – such as AI and machine learning – will be able to dig even deeper into customers’ preferred means of engagement, allowing companies to specifically target and engage with individuals based on even the smallest communication preferences and restraints. The speed of these technologies will then help drive effective real-time engagement on the customer’s preferred channel – another instance of meeting the consumer where they are.

Channel set, now focus on messaging

While half of the success of customer engagement rests on communicating the message through the right channel, the other half lies in getting the message right. This is another area where technologies such as AI, automation, machine learning, and Big Data can help streamline and tailor messages for specific customer segments.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) became a reality faster than imagined, and they have helped cut down archaic processes that require someone to be on the other line to help resolve an issue or recommend a product.

Consumers’ issues can now be resolved faster than ever, through voice-assisted technologies and chat bots. Interactions that used to take one or two clicks now require zero clicks – case in point, voice assistants like Amazon Echo. Through voice-assisted technology, customers no longer need to go through the trouble of purchasing their daily staples, as voice assistants are able to recognize their consumption habits and place a regular order when an item is running low.

Similarly, AI and machine learning will provide intelligence on targeting the language and tonality of messages. We are already seeing this in the customer service realm through the implementation of chat bots, which are becoming more conversational and contextual, mimicking human dialogue, and making recommendations specific to the customer’s needs.

These technologies will also be able to bring in different datasets, such as weather patterns, traffic, point of purchase, sales data and other information sources, where companies can make their offerings more contextual, relevant, and meaningful. For example, an apparel company could use AI to help analyze the weather patterns of a city where a consumer is located, and overlay that with the traffic and public transportation challenges of that city. The result? Chat bots can automatically make more effective recommendations on what type of jackets or outer wear are most suited for the area.

Companies have a wealth of data at their fingertips regarding customer habits and attitudes, which they must mine through in order to determine their marketing strategy across the globe. Those that choose to effectively harness this information to understand their audience’s behavior will be able to identify patterns of engagement and react accordingly; making a true impact on the right channel, with the right message.

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Rohit Tripathi
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August 17, 2018
Rohit Tripathi

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