Digital marketing is evolving to transform customer experiences as well as reach out to audiences on new channels, typically of their choosing.
The challenges this poses for marketers came under close scrutiny at the Festival of Marketing 2016 in London this month. It claims to be the only conference in the country designed solely for brand marketers and attracted more than 3,000 delegates.
A common theme to come under discussion was that the customer is not only fully in charge but also shifting attention to new channels, which brands have to identify and become relevant on if they are to grow.
Get Trained Up Or Ship Out, Unilever Warns
This need to “up” digital marketing’s game to keep up with changing markets and fickle consumers led to the Festival of Marketing starting off with a friendly, yet stark, warning from headliner Keith Weed, CMO at Unilever. Far too many people who are marketing in a digital world—a term he prefers to digital marketing—are bluffing it. And they need to stop.
“You’ve got millennials coming through, and then you’ve got people in their 50s and over who have to be digital to communicate with our millennial children,” he explained.
“But it’s the people in the middle, in their late 30s and early to mid-40s, who aren’t digital natives and have not had to become digital natives to chat to millennial children. These people are running departments and far too often they’re bluffing it, they need to train up, tool up, and get out there. If they don’t, the millennials are rising and they’ll be replaced.”
It was this need to get out there and live digital that encouraged the setting up of the Unilever Foundry, the FMCG’s startup division that identifies startups worth partnering with.
The project has led to partnerships with startups who can personalise marmite jars, add product placement in television shows during post-production, set up a direct tea brand, and launch an experiential Magnum ice cream pop-up shop. (For more, read CMO.com’s interview with Jeremy Basset, head of Unilever Foundry).
Sorrell Turns Transparency Table On Facebook
As CEO of WPP, Sir Martin Sorrell has been on one end of the transparency debate for many years, but he was able to turn the tables on Facebook at the Festival. It has always been illogical that Facebook could mark its own homework, he claimed, while professing to being very pleased the issue had come to the fore.
“Facebook cannot be referee and player,” said Sir Martin. “Ignoring the video views that were up to three seconds long and claiming that their overall views were similar to television adverts, when half the time the sound is turned off, is a great example of that.
“It’s great news for the digital marketing industry because I’ve always said that sunlight is the greatest detergent. We need these things out in the open. It’s like when Google was on the front page of the Financial Times having to confess that it had seriously underestimated bot traffic—that, too, was great news for digital marketing.”
Sorrell also predicted that the marketing industry was threatened by short-term thinking at brands and too much concentration on cost, manifesting itself as zero-growth budgeting.
Could Gyms Be BP’s Next Big Rival?
The widely discussed need to develop new models to appeal to consumers in a digital world has prompted a radical rethink at BP, according to Matt Rich, global strategy manager.
He is working on making a trip to the forecourt more appealing than today’s underwhelming experience of handing over £90 for fuel you can’t see and don’t really feel any benefit from. To reimagine the forecourt, he has set up a team dedicated to working far faster than the brand has ever been used to. Aside from advising that other brands do the same and do not shy away from changing faster, he suggested all brands should ask fundamental questions about their rivals.
“At BP, at least, we realised we needed to work at a far faster pace than before and we can now go from an idea to a pilot in forecourts within a month,” he said.
“But we’re also re-examining who our competitors are. Could Amazon move in to forecourts, with people picking up their shopping from lockers as they fill up? We sell coffee, so we also look at how much better Starbucks is at running a loyalty programme on mobile and how they use data. Then, as electric cars become more popular, will people expect to use a forecourt as a place to get a charge? Would that mean we have an opportunity to entertain them for half an hour? If so, that could make gyms our big rivals we could learn something from.”
Augmenting A Whole New GAME
Like many brands, Fred Preggo, group insight and marketing director at GAME, explained the gaming brand had known all along it could not survive by competing with the likes of Amazon on price. Instead, it has always realised that in-store experience is essential. This has been dialled up in its new brand strategy that puts customer experience at the heart of its new offering through social events, augmented reality, and multiplayer gaming.
“We knew we had to get into multiplayer gaming to get people wanting to come to our stores for something they can’t get from a rival who just focuses on price,” he said.
“We have just launched a Game Arena in our Manchester store, where people can play games by themselves or against one another. Profits in the store are up 10% in just the first month and so we’re going to be rolling it out across another 10 stores in the coming months.”
Preggo also encouraged marketers to put customers at the heart of their apps, through functions that bring visiting a store to life. The new GAME app, for example, uses augment reality so games’ fans can pose for picture in a store with their favourite character. It also allows users to scan a game’s name on its case, prompting it to start playing on their phone so they can make an informed purchase. The preview facility works in any store, meaning a GAME customer may preview the game in a rival’s store but can still press “buy” in the app.
Getting Personal Drives In-Store Conversion At Boots
Boots has also been busy working on customer experience to drive footfall in its stores, explained Robin Phillips, omnichannel and development director.
It already has a good view of its customers through its Advantage Card, which has 15 million active users. However, the brand has known it could do more and has been working on getting a single view of the customer by collating data from several sources, such as online orders, Advantage Card data, as well as optician and hearing appointments. The result is far better segmentation as six very loose categories have been refined down to 200 or more customer segments.
The latest project at the pharmacy chain, though, is refining the customer segment down to just one person, through individual appointments with trained staff offering make-up advice.
“We’re really proud of our new Beautiful You service,” said Phillips. “It’s a unique service for each customer that helps to bring our products to life. It’s a one-on-one with a trained staff member to see which of our products work best for each woman. We’re not pushing our own No 7 range, it’s totally impartial, and it’s really popular. It’s been a particular big hit with younger women, which is obviously a key demographic for us.”
The early signs are good, Phillips suggested, with the service having an instore 50% conversion rate among those customers purchasing products recommended for them in their consultation.
Mixing Bots And Humans At KLM
This notion of putting customers at the heart of a brand’s strategy was picked up by Karlijn Vogel-Meijer, social media manager at KLM. She advised that other brands should follow the airline’s lead and interact with customers fully on whatever social channel they use. The airline recently brought in a Facebook Messenger service and will soon allow people to book, pay, receive a boarding pass, and check in through the channel.
“You can’t make your customers come to you, you have to be able to go wherever they are,” she explained.
“Our app is great for frequent flyers, and the website is useful for occasional flyers, but if people haven’t heard of you or you’re not always their first choice, you need to be where they are. You can’t then expect them to click a link to go to where you want to have a conversation. So we’re working towards being available on all the social channels our customers are using, not just to answer questions, but to allow them to transact fully without having to click away.”
On the subject of answering queries, the Messenger service saw a massive spike in queries, which prompted the airline to start working with Artificial Intelligence. However, it does not want to appear cold and does not trust a “bot” to get it right every time. Hence, for general queries, a bot will suggest an answer that needs to be approved by a human.
Are Your Customers Where You Think They Are?
This need to keep on top of how customers’ behaviour is changing also translates into how their use of channels is changing, Tom Benton, head of digital at Danone, warned the delegates.
His advice for brands who know they need to put social within their digital strategies is that they should put in the research to find out where their customers are.
“We did a lot of research this year and last to find out the things you’d expect, like mums use Facebook 18 times a day,” he said.
“However, the penetration of Facebook Messenger among young mums has dropped by 30% in the last year alone, while Snapchat has gone up nearly 600%. At the same time, the number of mums playing Candy Crush is down 80% year on year, while now the big game is Pirate Kings—40% of mums are playing it.”
There are no hard-nosed, business-related KPIs that Benton could point to as validating the team working 24 hours, seven days a week (helped by a team of army wives in Brunei). But he pointed out the company had a dual purpose to help people and to make money.
“We do put content on our social channels, and it’s well responded to, but my team is essentially there to help mums with their questions,” he said.
“We’ve got our response times down, from an average of seven hours to 24 minutes, which we’re really pleased with.”
Get Influence By Loosening Grip On Brand Control
Everybody knows about influencer marketing, but Hugh Pile, Western Europe CMO for L’Oréal, was on hand to remind delegates that it can only work if you are a little more relaxed about handing brand influence into the hands of a third party.
“We’ve all got to give up having total control of our brands all the time,” he told delegates.
The reward is being able to tap into a growing army of influencers who have massive reach. In beauty, for example, the top 10 influencers have an audience of 70 million. However, if brands try to control influencers, their campaigns will never work.
“It has to be more than a contract, it has to be a relationship where you co-create content together,” he said. “There’s always going to be a proper sign-off, but you can’t just tell people what to say and do because, frankly, if they feel they’re going to lose their credibility, they won’t work with you.”
Pile pointed to the recent success of True Match, a foundation supplied in 23 varieties to match different skin types. The product was launched with the help of 23 influencers, for each shade, and led to 1.9 million video views. The key, he pointed out, is to establish the influencers that match the campaign objectives and the brand’s key messages.
“Influencers are a huge success for us,” he said. “You have to go into relationships with a very clear understanding of what your brand stands for and what you’re hoping to achieve, and then you can choose whom you work with. We look at reach, but also how influential that reach is, and we also look at how their work resonates with what we want to achieve.”
This type of relationship relates to trendsetters and “gold”-status celebrities the beauty brand works with. However, Pile was keen to point out that brands should also engage with “superfans”—the consumers who have a few thousand followers and are great at spreading the word about new launches. By simply identifying superfans and sharing content with them, Pile insisted brands could get deep and wide exposure because “everyone’s a network, we all are.”