The changing landscape of customized marketing: Merging emotion with e-commerce

How to use customized marketing to your full advantage


When Lester Wunderman first began his foray into direct mail marketing more than 60 years ago, he was a pioneer of his time. Before Wunderman, the concept of appealing to a customer directly rather than through a blanketed, generic marketing approach was virtually unheard of. Yet, through his initiative, companies across myriad industries began to realize the benefits that could be reaped by creating targeted, personalized messages that made clients feel important and appreciated.

Since then, the concept has boomed. Anyone who’s ever received a “personal offer” in the mail from a brand can attest to the power of such customization. Yet, until recently, most of these offers were mass mailings only masquerading as personalized. That same personalized offer might have been sent to your neighbor or co-worker, using the same messaging as yours. As such, the impact was lost and those outreach dollars were wasted.

Thankfully, the rise of digital marketing has enabled tech-savvy marketers around the world the opportunity to move beyond a strict direct mail approach. Now, they can gather and analyze Big Data amassed daily to determine the preferences, goals and pain points of their individual users. Then, they can send electronic messages that are actually customized to address those issues. Whether it’s through an e-newsletter, a social media post, and email or more, the avenues for online advertising are plentiful, and customers are listening.

But, are you saying the right thing? Let’s take a look at how digitalization is helping brands effectively merge the head and the heart of advertising and how you can get it right.

Visit Innovation Enterprise's Digital Marketing and Strategy Innovation Summit in Shanghai, 5 & 6 September 2018.

Optimizing Opportunities for Conversion

The crux of personalized marketing is to determine who your target audience is, how they’re interacting with your content, and what you can do to intrigue them. To that end, someone who only clicked on your webpage once, spent two seconds on it, and hopped away, might not be a hot lead. However, someone who browsed your online e-commerce space for 30 minutes, put two items in their virtual shopping cart, and then abandoned it, might be a more viable prospect.

No one wants to be spammed with banners and flashing advertisements after they’ve only clicked on a link once. In fact, research shows that out of all the negative feedback a company receives on its website, distracting banners account for 88% of responses, while animation and retargeting ads both accounted for 100%.

To optimize an opportunity for conversion, brands can focus their efforts on those customers who have expressed genuine interest in their offerings. The ideal platform for rolling out this approach is to proactively merge an e-commerce program with a customer experience one, effectively combining the head of advertising (commerce) with its adjacent heart (UX).

Merging E-Commerce and the Customer Experience

While the ultimate aim of any e-commerce program is to drive sales and conversions, it can’t successfully do so without catering to the customer first. Transactions and operations might be one facet of digital marketing but unless they’re married with a user-friendly approach to relationship building, they can quickly fizzle out.

Thus, it’s important to integrate the heart of marketing into every customer touchpoint. Traditionally, these responsibilities have fallen onto the shoulders of the marketing department, where teams converge to make sure no prospect falls through the cracks as the path to purchase nears the finish line. Taking the time to invest in these pursuits isn’t for nothing. In fact, a recent study revealed that when brands take the time to implement a marketing strategy that centers on emotional-based connection, they can increase their number of active customers by more than 15% and boost same-store sales growth by 50%.

Yet, it should initiate at the very beginning and span to include more technical aspects as well, including login requests, troubleshooting inquiries, customer service tickets, and more.

When these entities are left divided, there can be an inherent disconnect. Those focused on front-end marketing are deploying tactics including geo-targeting and beacons to find customers and deliver targeted recommendations or promotions. Then, in the background, back-end IT personnel are reviewing that same customer’s online journey, using specific data points to upsell and make suggestions. To illustrate the latter, consider Amazon’s approach, which shows you what others who have checked out with your same items also bought, and suggests add-on items to make your purchase complete.

Separately, these approaches might be semi-successful on their own, but imagine the potential if they converged. Thanks to advancements in programmatic advertising, companies could discern the preferences of web users before they even land on their webpages. Implementing this forward-facing approach means that brands can customize the way their websites are organized, displaying appropriate products at the forefront and using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to marry customer data with a dynamic web experience, before the e-commerce engine is even engaged. This level of personalization has the potential to transform digital marketing, but it can’t happen without a change.

To achieve this, organizations may need to invest in additional infrastructure or data analysis programs. They may also require a mindset shift, going away from viewing the head and the heart of marketing as individual sectors and instead considering them as one. Lester Wunderman wasn’t wrong in his assessment that customers would appreciate feeling distinguished. He just needed a few decades for technology to catch up to the idea. Now that it has, successful companies will be those that leverage it to appeal to both the rational and emotional side of their most coveted asset: their customer base. 

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