The challenge of owning moments
Google has recently shifted the focus of their thinking around advertising by adding “micro-moments” to the marketers’ dictionary, thus highlighting the importance of key moments in customer decision making. This is a clear shift away from the orchestrated sales funnel and the more comprehensive framework of the customer decision journey into the mindset of the impulse purchase. Alex, a modern female consumer, with the world of e-commerce and the sum total of human knowledge at her fingertips on her smartphone, may be doing everything from researching to purchasing a new swimsuit on her train ride home, with the outcomes of that process determined purely by the temperature in the train cabin.
The “battleground for brands”, as Google puts it, will be won by those brands that are present at those key moments with the right message, the right offer, and the right creative. Those which are not present risk not being even a part of the thought process, as the customer opportunities will be “closed” by the competitors offering a smooth road from consideration to transaction.
New channels and the availability of customer level data in real time make the possibility of delivering these targeted messages more tangible than ever. It is now possible for brands to run their entire communications in a data driven and – even more importantly – very responsive fashion (a concept we refer to as Real Time Retail). Although conceptually easy to explain, the approach is facing the complexities of the real world: i.e., Alex purchasing swimwear on a train will have a fundamentally different browsing and shopping experience if the air conditioning on the train is working vs. when it is not, with varied context driving different decisions and sales outcomes.
We have already seen brands’ Real Time Retail pioneering attempts. Targeted emails, personalized web experiences, and programmatic purchasing of media represent the first steps toward a dynamic advertising infrastructure focused on moments. However, most brands continue to use these now highly evolved channels to deliver “spray and pray” campaigns. This probably suggests that there is still very little understanding among marketing teams of the shift in operating model required to operate in a moments-driven world.
We believe in simplicity being an ultimate form of achievement. Thus, we think the underlying pathway to success is built on three very basic stages:
Find the right customer
Find the right moment
Deliver the right message
Finding the right customer The “who is my customer?” question is no longer dictated by a broad segmentation driven by qualitative research. It is instead defined by a 360-degree view of the customer, driven by collecting all pieces of data available about them across all touchpoints (physical or digital). In order to enable thinking about micro-moments, brands need to set up a tech infrastructure to monitor interactions with customers and collect data in real time, improve analytical capabilities to generate insights out of these data, and then use these insights to identify potential customers across all channels.
Example through the lens of Alex purchasing swimwear on a train: A 360-view (cross-channel customer database) recognizes Alex as a previous customer and an email newsletter subscriber with 98% open rate and 76% click-through rate. The data is used to add her through an API to a custom and targeted social media audience on Facebook, as well as to retarget her across display networks.
Finding the right moment Understanding who your potential customers are is no longer enough. Providing the right customer the right message at the wrong moment is just as poor an idea as delivering the wrong message altogether. A restaurant that delivers its menu via email to a customer at 7 am the morning after Valentine’s Day has missed its moment; a camping goods supplier that buys Facebook ads for 4 days after the music festival has finished has missed its chance. It is only those brands that are able to capture the data and respond in real time or near real time that win these moments.
The brands that succeed in this stage are those that are able to map their customer decision journey through a series of key moments. They are able not only to create and test content, but also allocate their media spend in a flexible and agile fashion.
Example through the lens of Alex purchasing swimwear on a train: An unseasonably warm September day in Sydney sets off a trigger for the brand’s marketing team that in similar weather conditions in the past, certain products were searched more often within the sales mix. These products thus become the priority for direct advertising throughout the day, so Alex receives the message for swimwear (which she browsed on the company’s website only twice in the past month), rather than for dresses (which she browsed six times).
Deliver the right message Knowing what to communicate is the element of the puzzle with the biggest gap between the majority of brick-and-mortar retailers and industry leading e-commerce players, with the former letting themselves (and their customers) down in the worst way. Brands put in an effort to identify and target their customer only to serve them the same generic TV commercial that their creative agency made for them three months earlier.
In the brave new world, brands need to take control of their content by manipulating it on margins to ensure it can be altered for the context the moment demands. What previously was a single piece of content from the creative agency containing one background, one call to action, and one picture of a model selected by the agency’s creative director might now be 27 different pieces, combinations of 3 different backgrounds, 3 calls to action, and 3 pictures of a model, all of which were tested against different audiences.
Example through the lens of Alex purchasing swimwear on a train: Alex’s website behavior identified her as a price-sensitive customer who is more likely to click on items when they are animated. She is therefore served pictures of animated models moving around, with calls to action focusing on temporary sales currently available on a handful of them. Another female browsing the same website on the same train sees two pictures of each item alternating every 5 seconds, with calls to action focusing on the speed of delivery.
What’s next? The real challenge for chief marketing officers and chief customer experience officers in delivering Real Time Retail is to be able to transform their organizations and tech infrastructure. While seemingly complex at first sight, such transformations tend to be easier than most large companies would think. They tend to be self-funding within months, so stakeholders (both senior executives and the team on the frontline of customer interactions) see the commercial impact and “get hooked on the heroin of cash”. Remember – small, incremental improvements make a large impact!
This article was co-written by Tim Doyle.