How to Integrate AI Tech Into Each Step of the Customer Journey

The Customer Lifecycle. The Sales Funnel. The Buyer’s Journey. All of these phrases are similar expressions of the same thing. They’re used to describe the process that it takes for a visitor to become a customer.

The Customer Lifecycle. The Sales Funnel. The Buyer’s Journey. All of these phrases are similar expressions of the same thing. They’re used to describe the process that it takes for a visitor to become a customer.

While the models and names of stages may have changed through the years, many agree that it can be boiled down to four simple components:

Awareness > Consideration > Decision > Loyalty

The No. 1 goal for most businesses is to generate more conversions (which primarily consists of sales). This can be through their marketing efforts, sales tactics, brand communication, conversion rate optimization, and other methods. Of late, many companies have developed critical competencies in using AI to nudge customers towards sales, and have improved their numbers drastically as a result.

AI, machine learning, and big data technology can all work hand-in-hand to improve the customer experience and support an optimized customer journey, which leads to more conversions in several key ways.

Let’s talk about how you can start using AI tech in each stage of the funnel.

Awareness

Marketing strategies these days are often heavily focused on the top of the funnel to build brand awareness and attract new customers. For many businesses, recognition is nearly equivalent to the value of their brand. Elena Veselinova and Marija Gogova Samonikov explain in their book Building Brand Equity and Consumer Trust Through Radical Transparency Practices that brand impact is a continuous process that insures purchases, cash flow, revenue and share value. Brand communication and experience creates and builds a loyal base of customers that do not consider any other brand.

Creating a strong level of brand awareness takes time and strategy. Companies spend millions of dollars on marketing campaigns and advertising to increase their reach and recognition, but AI tech is able to take the guesswork out of these strategies by analyzing huge volumes of consumer data for more targeted campaigns. For example, predictive analytics software can collect, track, and analyze datasets from past customers to determine which strategies or tactics performed well. These datasets are turned into reports with insights to guide marketing efforts and place relevant content in front of the most interested eyes at the right times.

With AI-assisted marketing, advertising strategies can be backed with data to optimize ad placement. Machine learning systems can even identify the best influencers for brands to partner with in order to reach relevant audiences and grow brand familiarity.

Credit: Venturebeat.com

Consideration

The next step of the buyer’s journey is often overlooked by marketers because it can drag on for a long time, depending on the product and the customer’s needs. During the consideration phase, a customer is already familiar with a brand or product but are unsure of whether or not to actually purchase. Customers will typically research the product’s reviews, compare prices to competitors, and look for alternatives during this stage. Due to this, the number of potential customers tends to narrow down considerably as they move from this step to the decision phase.

Brands must work to combat each customer’s concerns and questions standing in the way of a purchase decision. One of the best ways to do this is by offering personalized content that is relevant to each person, making it easy for them to find the information they are seeking.

AI systems can be used to predict a customer’s needs based on consumer data and previous online behavior, and then encourage conversions with a tailored UX or even a completely customized landing page that displays content relevant to that customer.

For example, if a site visitor has viewed a certain product page and played a video demonstrating its features, these actions can trigger an AI system to target them with personalized content that prompts a conversion if they don’t proceed to buy immediately. This content could be something as simple as an email message with more information or a display ad with a special offer for the specific product.

Credit: Personyze.com

Then there are platforms that use conversational AI tech (such as chatbots and voice assistants) to power automated, text- or audio-based interactions between a business and its customers. These platforms can understand speech, decipher intent, differentiate between languages, and mimic human conversations with great accuracy. Increasingly, they are advanced enough to even understand individual context and personalize the conversation accordingly.

Based on data insights, AI tech can curate content that matches up with the issues that are most important to that person, whether it be product features, immediate delivery, long term savings, etc. Customers respond quite well to personalized offers — an Accenture study reported that 91% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a company that sent them targeted deals or recommendations.

Decision

Once a customer moves from consideration to action, AI tools can be used to support a positive sales experience and eliminate any bumps along the way. If a customer encounters an issue while browsing the site, or during checkout or payment, it could be an instant sales killer, if it isn’t handled immediately by something like live chat.

According to multiple studies, one of the most frustrating parts about online customer service is long wait times. By using AI-enabled chatbots, companies can instantly answer common questions and resolve issues or roadblocks affecting the progression of the buyer’s journey. And customers certainly appreciate these quick response times. AI systems can significantly increase conversions with effective personalization and swift customer service.

Credit: AIMultiple.com

Loyalty

The last step of the customer journey is possibly the most valuable. Over half of customers reportedly stay loyal to brands that “get them.” Returning customers also tend to spend more money than new ones, and an oft-reported stat says that on average 65% of businesses’ revenue comes from existing customers.

Businesses (and customers) can benefit greatly from loyalty programs that are backed with machine learning technology. Starbucks famously uses AI tech to analyze customer behavior, improve convenience, and identify which promotions would perform best based on that person’s drink or food preferences, location, and purchase frequency. Their loyalty program uses this data to send out thousands of offers each day for the products their customers are most likely to buy. Their customer loyalty program grew 16% YoY last year as a direct result of their Deep Brew AI engine.

Credit: Starbucks app

While a positive shopping experience and great products are certainly important factors in a customer’s decision to buy again, data-driven marketing campaigns that encourage loyalty can also help a company to grow their numbers of repeat sales. Again, AI-assisted personalization techniques can boost the chances of a customer coming back for more, especially if they receive targeted offers or shopping suggestions based on previous interactions.

Credit: Accenture.com

The Wrap

AI is proving to be the tool of the future for marketers. It allows marketing teams to use predictive insights and analytical data to encourage and assist every micro-decision taken by consumers. AI systems not only help customers move along the buyer’s journey, they can also provide a more meaningful experience along the way, leading to more conversions and brand loyalty down the road.

4 Tips for Targeted Customer Acquisition Marketing

Customer acquisition is the most expensive part of marketing, but no company can afford to abandon marketing for new customers. Acquisition marketing is essential, but brands must find a way to do it more effectively, and that starts with tighter, more data-driven targeting. 

Most marketing is blind. Brands put out messages and hope they are found by enough people who want to be customers that it justifies the spend. Even with targeted marketing, most campaigns are sent to broad audiences defined by a few key attributes, but not enough to eliminate the massive waste inherent in customer acquisition marketing.

Customer acquisition is the most expensive part of marketing. It can cost five times more than retention, and the costs keep rising. Still, no company can afford to abandon marketing for new customers. Even the best retention strategies bleed customers at an alarming rate; prospecting is the only way to offset that loss and grow.

Acquisition is essential, but brands must find a way to do it more effectively, and that starts with tighter, more data-driven targeting.

Data-Driven Acquisition Marketing

Customer modeling is the key to better targeting your prospecting. If you dig into your existing customers, you can identify commonalities and buying signals that allow you to direct marketing spend more effectively and reduce the overall cost to acquire new customers.

The hard part is knowing which attributes correlate most closely to the likelihood of a prospect becoming a customer.

Demographics Aren’t Enough

Demographics are a mainstay of target marketing, but in 2020 they’re not enough.

While demographics do have power in targeting your marketing, they don’t reflect buying signals in their own right. They can still be useful for targeting messaging and creative around more impactful modeling methods, but it’s important to look deeper.

Ideally, you want to build a target list around buying signals, then segment that by demographic information and target your creative to those segments. This means optimizing the creative and/or offer by doing things like matching people in the imagery to the demographics of that segment.

Demographics are also useful in building look-a-like audiences to target new customers based on the customers you already have. Even though demographic data does not directly indicate buying behavior, it can reveal insights when analyzed as part of the wider customer picture with data modeling tools.

4 Data Points for Better Customer Acquisition Marketing

With the above qualifiers in mind, which information actually does line up with more successful acquisition marketing? There are four key data points we like to use for omnichannel targeting.

1. Buying Behavior

When the goal is to understand what type of offer motivates what type of people to buy, purchasing behavior is one of the most important data points to consider.

When you identify that certain list segments respond to deep discounts, you can hold them out from general mailings and bring them back in when you have deep discounts to talk about.

When you can identify audiences with a propensity to buy around certain price points, build offers around those price points. If it’s above your product price, bundle a strong package deal that will lift response and increase your average order value. If your price is above the target, present it as an installment option with payments in the target zone.

This is exactly the kind of actionable information you can get from deep-dive data that is missing from demographic information. You’re not just targeting an age group, area, etc. You’re making a surgical strike at the behavior you want to influence.

2. Personal Life Triggers

Timing is everything. Once you’ve narrowed your target market by interest and buying signals, life triggers become a powerful way to spur new action.

Life triggers can be tied to events ranging from birthdays and graduations to buying a home, getting a new job, retirement, and other once-in-a-lifetime moments. By targeting marketing to a specific time in a prospect’s life when they are most likely to be interested in your offer, you stand a much better chance of making the conversion.

3. Shared Interests

One of the most important indicators of customer potential is evidence of interest in the product category or the industry it serves. While you may not be able to read prospect’s minds directly, there are many data points brands can use to pinpoint interest.

One way is to target audiences and lists built around interests that are relevant to your target customer, such as subscriber files for related media.

Perhaps a more exciting option: Social media provides new opportunities to leverage interest data points. Facebook, for example, allows you to build custom audiences including specific interests.

4. Searcher Intent

“Search data captured across e-commerce, pricing comparison, and product review sites are one of the strongest signals of intent and best sources for new customer acquisition,” says James Green, CEO of Magnetic, and he’s right. Harnessing this data in your customer models is one of the best ways to more tightly target your acquisition efforts and cut down on wasted prospecting spend.

This is why Google now uses searcher intent as the main factor in targeting its search algorithm. The intent is the most reliable indicator of what searchers actually want, and that makes it a powerful marketing tool.

In practice, this means identifying visitor paths, either on your website or across the web, and matching them with desired outcomes. What product pages are they looking at? Did they come from a related external website? Did you catch them on a specific search ad that is relevant to what they may want? All of this data can be used to build a better, more efficient plan for your acquisition marketing.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

All these data points are important for optimizing your acquisition marketing, but they’re not necessarily easily accessible. When you’re trying to do advanced customer lift modeling that includes things like buyer intent seen through visits to other websites, it really helps to have data scientists on your side. These experts can isolate those variables and build them into a view of the audience you’re trying to target.

These are essential tactics that businesses are using now, and more businesses will use them in the future. Make sure you get ahead of the curve by digging into the data points today.

The Art of the Virtual Pitch, Part 3: 4 Steps for a Successful Client Presentation

If you studied up on Part 1 and Part 2 of my series on the virtual pitch, you’re ready to handle the actual client presentation. Here are the top four things to consider when you’re getting ready to put your virtual pitch in front of clients.

If you studied up on Part 1 and Part 2 of my series on the virtual pitch, you’re ready to handle the actual client presentation. Here are the top four things to consider when you’re getting ready to put your virtual pitch in front of clients.

Assume Your Technology Will Fail

Even if your wifi is blazing fast, even if you’re an expert with your presentation platform, you have to assume that some element of your tech will fail. If you just accept it as a given and plan out workarounds in advance, you’ll be able to keep your cool in the moment. At the very least, make sure you send the presentation out to everyone in advance as a PDF under 10 mb, so it makes it through everyone’s email provider without issue.

Mix Up Your Usual Presentation Order

You’re probably used to the in-person presentation standard of one person presenting 5-10 sides on their own. When you’re all in the room together, that works great. But with a virtual presentation, you’re in a constant battle to keep people engaged. Moreso when everyone is working from home amid the COVID-19 chaos.

So mix it up and have a few different people present a section together. That way you break up any possible monotony and keep listeners on their toes as presentation speakers keep changing. It also helps to showcase the various members of your team, lets their personalities shine, and really shows the client what you bring to the table beyond the ideas.

Pro tip: Incorporate this technique into your deck by including the name and photo of the presenter on each slide.

Schedule Pauses to Take the Audience’s Pulse

Losing the nonverbal cues of an in-person meeting can be tough, so you have to plan for a manual way to assess whether people are with you, or if they’re getting bored and frustrated. It’s an adjustment, but the fix is easy. Ask questions and address your audience by name.

Plan to mention specific people when it’s relevant. For example, if you know Scott handles digital campaigns, give him a shout out as you’re getting into discussing digital. A simple, “Scott, I know you’ll be interested in this …” goes a long way to make sure Scott and his colleagues are listening up.

It’s subtle, but making everyone feel that they could be mentioned or questioned helps you engage and makes sure everyone is paying attention.

Rehearse and Review, Even If It’s Painful

We’ve come full circle. You have to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, so that when your technology fails, your presentation doesn’t. Over the course of multiple rehearsals, you’ll be able to feel out and address any pain points. There’s no substitute for doing a full rehearsal.

Pro tip: Up your game by recording the presentation. No one is excited about doing that, but it is one of the very best ways to see how your team can improve, and how you as an individual can grow. It’s okay to wait to review until after the pitch isn’t so fresh, so you can try to be more objective, but make time to watch the recording. If you just said to yourself, “I don’t need to go that far,” then you absolutely have to.

Optichannel Marketing Campaigns Get an Additional Boost With Direct Mail

Not every brand has a big brand’s marketing resources. Here’s are two case studies in how optichannel marketing is being used at a more reasonable level of investment by real, medium-sized businesses to increase campaign effectiveness and bottom-line results.

Not too long ago, we looked at how some of the biggest companies in the world — including Disney and Neiman Marcus — use optichannel customer experience strategies to deliver great marketing ROI. Even among big brands, though, the customer experience magic of Disney may be out of reach. So let’s take a look at how optichannel marketing is being used at a more reasonable level of investment by real, medium-sized businesses to significantly increase campaign effectiveness and bottom-line results.

Response-Lift Modeling Finds New Campers and New Revenue for Summer Learning Initiative

The hard part of operating any business focused on school-age children is the built-in rate of attrition. Students grow up, graduate, and otherwise age out of your programs every year. It’s likely that at least 25% of your customers won’t be back the following year due to matriculation alone.

To refill those seats without breaking the bank, these institutions must focus marketing on lead generation and new customer acquisition — two of the most expensive goals in marketing. It’s challenging to do that and still find a way to market profitably.

One such program is Galileo Learning, which operates 75 children’s summer camps across parts of California and Chicago, Ill. Age limits on the program mean that large portions of the customer base graduate out every year.

Finding a way to replace those students quickly becomes prohibitive. Summer Erickson, head of marketing for Galileo Learning, saw that many direct mail strategies were becoming too expensive for the ROI. The answer she found was to combine a very effective mail piece with tight customer models built on the data of current customers.

“The customer modeling tool was a game-changer for us,” says Erickson. By using response-lift modeling to identify prospects on external lists who were highly likely to respond, Galileo was able to market much more efficiently. They used the savings to create better mail pieces that would also drive better-than-normal response, and the mailers were localized to each of their nine markets where Galileo operated camps.

The results, Erickson says, surpassed her most optimistic expectations. The campaign brought in 155 new campers and $66,000 in new revenue. And she expects even better success from a wider program launched later in the year.

Holiday Direct Mail Adds Optichannel Targeting, Gets 6X More Impressions, $200k-Plus in Donations

Sometimes you need to break out beyond a single channel to get the best results. Meals on Wheels (MOW) in the Diablo Region of California spurred $230,000 in new donations by doing exactly that with its holiday donor appeal campaign.

The campaign broke with MOW’s traditional strategy in two main ways:

  • They built three audience segments defined by demographics and customer look-a-like modeling.
  • MOW added targeted digital advertising to amplify its direct mail, which made sure the target audience saw 6X more campaign impressions that they would have in a mail-only strategy.

First, much like Galileo, MOW and its agency starting working from the donor database, using existing data from real donors to identify three list segments who would be most responsive to this campaign: current donors, lapsed donors and prospective donors. Although the names sound straightforward, the segments were developed by examining the demographic and engagement data of known donors across dozens of factors.

Each person on the list received a personalized donor appeal letter with infographics highlighting the benefits of donating to MOW and a coupon CTA to make a donation.

Overall, the campaign blanketed the audience with 75,000 pieces of direct mail alone. But that was just the beginning of the campaign.

In addition to those 75,000 mailpieces, MOW built email, social media, and online display advertising to amplify the direct mail message. Together, this added 467,542 additional marketing impressions for the campaign — more than a 600% increase in overall brand exposure, compared to a mail-only control group.

The results were impressive for MOW, even for a holiday appeal: $230,000 in donations, 43% new donors, and donors from the optichannel campaign averaged 169% more than donors in the control group who only received direct mail.

Great Customer Experience Starts With Your Marketing

How your brand engages prospects sets the tone for the entire customer relationship. Here are three things your marketing must do to show prospects that you understand how to treat them as customers.

How your brand engages prospects sets the tone for the entire customer relationship. In fact, the customer experience — especially before purchase — is influenced more by when, where, and how you talk to them than by your website’s or app’s UX polish (although, bad UX can certainly still ruin the experience).

Here are three things every brand must get right to lay the foundation for a great customer experience.

1. Customers Must Be Interested in What You’re Saying

How often do you see marketing that you’re just not interested in? Is that a good experience for you as a customer? Do you think it’s a good experience when your brand’s marketing has the same impact on its potential customers?

The ability to control where and to whom your message appears is the core of successful omnichannel marketing, but brands get it wrong all the time.

It starts with knowing your current customers. Knowing what your audience wants to see in your marketing is a function of how well you understand the data around your current customers and how you apply those insights to prospects. For example, building look-a-like models based on your current customers allows you to target demographic and behavioral features in prospect audiences that make them likely to be interested in your messaging.

Once you understand the data points that will allow you to target prospects, your marketing must be able to put those insights into action. That’s where your omnichannel marketing strategy comes into play. Each channel has its own, unique ways to target audiences, and you need to be able to use those channels to deliver your messages to just the people who want to see them.

On social media, for example, you can target people by interests, likes, and follows that match what you know current customers are interested in. Online display advertising can target website visitors based on browsing profiles. Search ads target based on the search terms you buy.

There are a thousand ways to get there, but targeting your omnichannel messages is essential. Once you see engagement and know that marketing is on-target, then you can expand the customer experience strategy to reach new target audiences based on broader profiles.

By talking to prospects about things you know they’re interested in, you’re showing them that you understand what they need and you’re not going to waste their time.

2. Customers Must Be Open to Engaging on That Platform

Many brands put their marketing in front of people wherever they can and whenever they can, and the result is a generation of people who tune out marketing as little more than background noise.

It’s this simple: If your ad annoys people, it’s not a good customer experience.

The secret to providing consumers a good marketing experience is to be there when it’s helpful and not be there when it’s annoying. If your marketing is annoying, prospects will just tune it out — but they won’t forget that you annoyed them.

Many TV and online ads fall into this trap, but there are times and places for good marketing to create positive brand experiences. Direct mail is one channel that customers interact with on their own terms. Direct mail marketing is there when customers want it, not when they don’t. Even online marketing, despite the annoying nature of so many digital ads, can create a great customer experience if you put the ads in the right places at the right time.

Paid search, again, is a good example of advertising that works hand-in-hand with its platform to provide a positive experience. There’s no better time to promote your solution than when someone is actively asking the question.

Good omnichannel marketing doesn’t just focus on where leads may be found, it focuses on where leads have been found and where they engage and convert with the kind of marketing you’re doing. By positioning your marketing in the channels where your prospects want to engage with that kind of content, you start a customer journey that can make customers fall in love with your business.

3. The Time Must Be Right to Have a Customer Experience

Timing is everything. All the demographic and interest-based targeting in the world won’t turn bad timing into a good customer experience.

The timing of your marketing is affected by several cycles, some of which are universal, like seasonality, while others are unique to each customer or to your brand. Great omnichannel brands identify these cycles and use them to deliver great experiences.

There are important points in individual customer lifecycles, such as identifying when a known prospect will be ready to buy or an existing customer will be ready to repurchase. When a brand recognizes those moments and acknowledges them with a positive message, that creates a good customer experience. These milestones matter to your customers, and so do birthdays and other important dates in their individual years.

This is where customer journey maps can come in handy. By sketching out the entire customer journey from initial consideration through repurchase and (hopefully) product evangelism, you better understand what customers are doing at each step of the way. This helps you identify which messages are needed at milestone points in the lifecycle as well as the kind of experiences that will help nudge people from being just customers to true brand evangelists.

In the end, all of this work isn’t just about making marketing that converts more, it’s about creating marketing that connects with your target audience on a personal level. If you get these three things right before the purchase, you lay the foundation for a great customer experience throughout the post-purchase journey.

Taking Omnichannel Marketing Outbound in 2020!

While a strong omnichannel customer experience is important, it’s equally important to incorporate omnichannel marketing into your lead generation strategy. Content optimization, customer modeling, and profiling through a strategic optichannel plan will produce a strong customer acquisition system.

Omnichannel marketing is an important piece of any brand’s customer experience (CX) strategy, but too often it stops there. While a strong omnichannel CX is important, it’s equally important to incorporate omnichannel marketing into your lead generation strategy. Content optimization, customer modeling, and profiling through a strategic optichannel plan will produce a strong customer acquisition system.

Here are three ways to use the power of omnichannel marketing to enhance your outbound marketing and generate leads, acquire customers, and lay the foundation for strong customer relationships.

1. Omnichannel Content Optimization

The biggest difference between omnichannel CX and omnichannel marketing is that the CX mostly happens on your owned channels, and it mostly engages existing customers and lower-funnel prospects deciding to become customers.

But how do you get those prospects into the pipeline in the first place? Traditional mass marketing? That’s not the right way to introduce prospects to a highly targeted, personalized, omnichannel experience. Maybe Disney can pull that off, but most brands need to put more effort into building a strong foundation for the customer experience.

That’s where omnichannel marketing comes in. We recently dove into how four brands deliver great omnichannel customer experiences by anticipating individual customer needs and removing obstacles that would have a negative impact on customer experience. In omnichannel marketing, you take that same approach to outbound marketing content. That can be as simple as offering a discount or as complex as creating videos to counter known buying objections.

Great omnichannel marketing comes from understanding what your target audience wants and needs, and providing content that addresses those drives. At a minimum, you must develop ad content tailored to the specific segments you’re targeting. Blasting the same offer to all of your audience models is not omnichannel marketing.

For prospects who are already pretty far down the funnel, target them with ad content that makes it easy to see that you offer the things they want and will make them easy to get.

Not all prospect segments are going to be that far down the funnel, though. You may be using omnichannel marketing to drive awareness and get top-of-funnel prospects to sign up as leads and receive your newsletter. Here, educational content can be highly effective. If they’re new to the market, promote blog content that answers common newbie questions. If they’re experienced — but not looking to buy yet — promote high-value content that makes an impression and encourages them to come to you for answers (technology companies like Cisco and HubSpot do a wonderful job of this).

Keep in mind that a targeted audience offers new opportunities to optimize content. For example,  Google affinity audiences allow advertisers to loosely target visitors of competing websites. For these kinds of campaigns, you can talk specifically about the kinds of things those websites cover.

2. Turn Customer Data From a Microscope Into a Telescope

Every brand has customer data, but even though that data lets marketers examine their customers in small — even microscopic — detail, most have a hard time using it to do much more than send birthday emails and make fairly shallow product recommendations.

In order to use your data for true outbound omnichannel marketing, you need to turn that data around so it can be your telescope instead of a microscope. You can do this by examining the data to extrapolate traits from your existing customers that also should appear on likely customers — i.e., look-a-like modeling.

The process is two-fold data science. First, you identify the segments you want to model in your customer data and look for data points they have in common. These traits may indicate someone is likely to become your customer, but it’s not a single-factor analysis. Each segment may have demographic, psychographic, and behavioral variables you can synthesize to create models that will help find other likely customers.

Then you use those models to target both online and offline marketing. For example, Facebook has long offered look-a-like targeting to its audience. Google offers similar options across its whole online and mobile ad network. You can also use these models to identify mailing lists that include the right kind of audiences and target them with relevant marketing.

Omnichannel marketing is not just for direct response, either. It is highly effective at getting the right content in front of your target audience on social media. You can use these models to target content promotion on social networks and make sure the right stories from your accounts wind up in the feeds of the right people on each network.

3. Make Omnichannel Marketing Optichannel

As mentioned, omnichannel marketing takes everything you do to build your omnichannel customer experience and applies it to lead generation and customer acquisition. You can take this further to an optichannel strategy by constricting your outreach to just the channels where each customer prefers to engage with marketing. That may sound counterintuitive as part of an omnichannel strategy, but consumers and business audiences are both showing fatigue with being hounded by ads from every brand on every channel. There are benefits to actually limiting the channels you use for specific customers by selecting ones that can be effectively optimized.

If you can identify the preferred channel of a specific audience segment — or, ideally, individual prospects — and create a great experience for them on that channel, you stand a much better chance of laying the foundation for a great omnichannel customer relationship.

Omnichannel CX has been a breakthrough for many brands. Done well, the techniques it uses can provide your customers with the kind of experiences that keep them coming back — it’s like customer relationship magic. But if you can’t take those principles and apply them to your outbound marketing as well, you’re doing a disservice to brand growth. Use these tips to turn your CX strategy around and leverage the power of true omnichannel marketing.

The 1-2-3 Guide to Ace Mobile App User Acquisition

Acquiring users for your native mobile app isn’t a new challenge, but it keeps getting harder. The number of apps on the market keeps on rising, and competition in every app sector keeps increasing.

Acquiring users for your native mobile app isn’t a new challenge, but it keeps getting harder. The number of apps on the market keeps on rising, and competition in every app sector keeps increasing.

Last year, over 6,000 apps were released every day on average in the Google Play store alone.

App marketers are working in a saturated market, competing for a limited number of users, who are becoming more discerning when it comes to the apps they install and use.

Without an enormous budget, there’s no choice but to get creative with user acquisition if you want your app to get you any meaningful usage among your customers. It’s time to master some new tactics in order to make sure your app remains a center of growth for your business, while keeping your cost per acquisition (CPA) in check.

1. Get Creative With ASO

App Store Optimization (ASO) remains a key pillar of any good user acquisition program. Careful use of keywords is still crucial to get your app to rank highly in app store searches and on app charts, with 65% of downloads on the iOS app store still coming through organic search, as per App Annie’s “State of Mobile in 2019” report.

App marketers continue to use updates to the app’s name, description, and icon as their go-to methods for improving ASO, although updates to app name and description dropped slightly in 2018.

app user acquisition chart
Credit: AppAnnie.com

However, ASO tactics have evolved and improved. Working ASO to the max in 2019 means using seasonal keywords, images, and branding to take advantage of yearly events, like winter holiday sales; whether it’s something geography- or culture-focused like Singles Day, or a global shopping hype machine like Black Friday.

App marketers are also seizing the opportunity to use tentpole marketing to adapt ASO to sporting or cultural events, like the Super Bowl or the Oscars, as a way of attracting more users. High-profile feature launches are another window for ASO updates that bump your app’s visibility in app stores. For example, Progressive Insurance created a game called Super Duper Bingo, created from ads of the previous years and marketing clichés to air during the 2016 Super Bowl.

app user acquisition example
Credit: Brandchannel.com

What’s more, today’s app marketers also update screenshots and videos on a regular basis, in order to keep app branding consistent across all touchpoints. For iOS apps, updates to keyword banks and promotional text copy also provide important potential for ASO.

2. Make Mobile Affiliate Marketing Measurable

Affiliate marketing may have a bad reputation in some circles, but it’s going through a rebirth for app marketers.

Some marketers are starting to approach affiliate marketing as they would any other type of performance marketing, by vigilantly measuring conversion lift using more sophisticated attribution solutions.

With smarter measurement in place and less risk of fraud, marketers can allow influential affiliates to promote their products with social media posts, native paid advertising, and sponsored on-site content, as well as traditional affiliate marketing ads and UTM-enabled links.

The more holistic approach to affiliate marketing channels leads through a trackable and measurable process that makes it easier to optimize each stage of the user journey. Because you only pay after a lead has converted, affiliate marketing is a great way to keep your CPA down and improve ROI.

Succeeding at affiliate marketing for increasing app users requires plenty of research into finding the right third-party partners to help extend your reach to new audiences. You’ll also need to tread the fine line between developing an attractive affiliate program, with healthy commissions and low barriers to entry, and keeping it cost-effective so that you aren’t paying over the odds for each lead.

3. Drive Revenue With Retargeting Ads

App retargeting ads are still among the most effective ways to drive conversions and revenue uplift. Over the last two years, one out of every four conversions was enabled by retargeting programs, and apps running retargeting ads enjoyed nearly 50% more revenue uplift over those that did not. That’s according to a recent study from mobile attribution analytics company AppsFlyer, based on its analysis of 4.5 billion retargeting conversions.

app user acquisition graph
Credit: AppsFlyer

 

Thanks to the availability of more sophisticated retargeting engines from the various ad networks, app marketers are better able to identify and build ad targeting audiences of potential users who have shown interest in the app, but failed to convert to paying users.

These are prime leads for retargeting ads that remind people about the benefits of the app and convince them to return, to upgrade to a paid license, or to make in-app purchases.

New segmentation tools also allow marketers to develop focused retargeting ads that are shown only to those leads who are likely to deliver the highest revenue, improving ROI. This should be combined with advanced personalization techniques, drawing on your existing data on lead behavior and interests to make retargeting ads more relevant and more effective.

4. Get All the Reviews You Can

The importance of reviews is old news for app marketers, but many still seem to overlook just how significant reviews and ratings can be. About 95% of people read app reviews, and 80% say they trust them, per a BrightLocal survey, making app reviews highly influential for success in acquiring users.

Many app marketers focus on app reviews on third-party sites, and fail to bring in enough reviews on the app site itself. After the app store, the most likely place that potential users will look for reviews is your app download page. Plenty of app reviews and a high customer satisfaction ranking impacts on your app’s overall scores for ASO, significantly improving download and installation rates.

Frequently, marketers who bring in user reviews don’t gather enough of them. Your app needs around 60 reviews to get an average rating, and around 150 reviews to be ranked as one of the top apps in the app store. So it’s imperative to constantly find new ways to bump up the number of your reviews.

app user acquisition example two
Credit: MobileAppDaily.com

And don’t forget that your reviews need to be authentic to potential users. If you have dozens of reviews that are all positive and uncritical, visitors will dismiss many of them as fake and won’t take them seriously. So resist any temptation to pay for positive reviews or to make them up yourself.

Combine Multiple Tactics

App user acquisition isn’t easy — and it can be very expensive — but using the right tactics can help you get more downloads, installs, and in-app time without spending a fortune. Retargeting ads for interested leads who haven’t yet converted, fine-tuning your ASO in creative ways, gathering enough authentic reviews, and advancing affiliate marketing networks are all critical pillars of a successful user acquisition campaign.

By mixing and matching these smart tactics, you’ll be able to create an app user funnel with multiple entry points that keeps your app profitable.

How Blockchain Is Beginning to Increase Customer Loyalty

Customer acquisition vs. retention is a debate that has continued to rage for decades. But in a digital age of personalized experiences, customer loyalty is once again a very hot topic and many of the biggest brands are turning to blockchain technology. Now some of the biggest airlines are replacing Airmiles with crypto.

According to Forrester Research, most online retailers invest around 80% of their online marketing budgets on acquiring new customers. However, most people reading this already know that it costs five times more to secure a new customer than it does to keep an existing one.

Customer acquisition vs. retention is a debate that has continued to rage for decades. But in a digital age of personalized experiences, customer loyalty is once again a very hot topic, and an increasing number of companies are turning to blockchain to finally disrupt and bring the loyalty business into the 21st century.

Although it could be described as the epitome of first world problems, many of us don’t want to download an app on our smartphone for every airline we travel on. We have unwittingly created a never-ending list of exchanging points from a myriad of program partners and it’s cumbersome at best, and it shouldn’t be. Thankfully, there seems to be a wind of change in the air and blockchain technology is already beginning to prove it’s much more than another buzzword.

Airline Loyalty Programs Go Crypto

When thinking of blockchain and cryptocurrencies, you could be forgiven for thinking of pie in the sky projects built on empty promises that never come to fruition. But, maybe we should be thinking differently, especially now that Singapore Airlines is introducing a blockchain-based loyalty program and even replacing its air miles with cryptocurrency.

It seems that we are moving into a phase of real-world adoption and although this technology is still in its infancy. We are looking at the radical transformation of traditional loyalty programs as we know them. The current system does not work and is leaving many people with a strong sense of loyalty program fatigue.

What if Blockchain could provide a frictionless system that was both cost-effective for both brands and customers. It would be much easier to increase engagement if you could store all of your collected points in a singular digital wallet. The good news is that this could be one of the many reasons why some of the worlds most prominent airlines are replacing air miles with crypto.

In July, Singapore airlines launched KrisPay and proudly declared that it was the world’s first blockchain-based airline loyalty digital wallet. The technology behind the new system was developed in collaboration with KPMG Digital Village and Microsoft.

“By creating a miles-based digital wallet which integrates the use of miles into their daily lives, KrisFlyer members have yet another way to use miles instantly on everyday transactions.”
—Singapore Airlines CEO, Mr. Goh Choon Phong.

The Blockchain Loyalty Platform Happy Hour

Elsewhere, qiibee, the decentralized blockchain-based loyalty ecosystem, is aiming to provide a loyalty platform and developer interface on which every loyalty application can be tokenized. But, it is attempting to revolutionize the loyalty industry and refreshingly not with promises of technological innovations, but with partnerships and real-world adoption.

Germany´s leading cocktail bar and restaurant chain, Sausalitos is already on board rolling out a new loyalty program. Elsewhere in Europe, Swiss coffee brand Lattesso is also releasing a blockchain-powered loyalty program on the qiibee ecosystem, but this is just the beginning.

Italian Retail Association Confimprese recently formed a strategic partnership that will bring together relationships with some of the world’s most renowned brands across multiple industries. Confimprese’s members include KFC, Disney, Pandora, and petrol station network Agip, with over 6,000 points of sale in Italy.

Although it’s unclear at the moment at which brands will be taking part, the Swiss loyalty token protocol is already helping brands around the world run their loyalty programs on the blockchain. But, this is just a handful of examples of how customer loyalty programs are on course for inevitable transformation.

“Customers worldwide are familiar with air mile programs and loyalty points, and although these are important practices for retailers and brands, customers are limited and restricted in how they can utilize their points and rewards. Now Lattesso customers will be able to exchange their loyalty points for cryptocurrencies from their smartphones.”
—Gabriele Giancola, Co-founder, and CEO of qiibee.

There are many more examples of how the worlds biggest brands are beginning to rethink customer loyalty using blockchain. Now that we all know that it’s merely a decentralized ledger that is unchangeable and fully transparent, maybe the buzzword itself can be retired so that the tech can become invisible.

By providing greater transparency to consumers and more control over their loyalty programs to improve the customer experience. Early indicators suggest that loyalty points will eventually be replaced by tokens that enable users to transfer between friends or redeem for purchases.

It will take several years for this technology to truly enter the mainstream, but with the world’s biggest airlines already embracing it, maybe the future is much closer than any of us realize.

Wrestling the One-Time Buyer Syndrome

Marketers have different names for them. Some marketers call them “One-and-done” customers. Others call them by more innocuous “1-Time Buyers” phrases. The latter is the literal description of what they are. But I call them “problems” — potential or immediate.

Marketers have different names for them. Some marketers call them “One-and-done” customers. Others call them by more innocuous “1-Time Buyers” phrases. The latter is the literal description of what they are. But I call them “problems” — potential or immediate.

Considering how much marketers spend to acquire any new customer, those one-timers pose real challenges. In the metrics-governed marketing world where ROI means everything, they put marketers in the corner from the beginning.

“Great! Someone just walked in, bought and walked out with merchandise! But will we ever recover the acquisition cost from them? We gave them a fat 20% discount just for showing up!”

In the old days — not too long ago, though — marketers used to plan to break even on new customers on their second or third purchase. Now, no one seems to have that kind of patience in the fast lane, where “everything, all the time” is the norm and the consumers are distracted constantly by competing offers and messages. Hence, many retailers put out an ambitious goal of breaking even at “hello.”

The Customer Acquisition and Retention Challenge

That translates into good news for low-cost acquisition channels, like email or Facebook, and bad news for relatively expensive channels, like direct marketing or traditional media. Regardless of channel usage, however, marketers must be smart about both retention and acquisition. In other words, they must stop the bleeding and pump in new blood at the same time.

I often see that one-time buyers make up over 80% of the customer base of a retailer. Even when we go back four to five years and count every transaction, the lowest figure that I’ve seen hovers around 60% or so.

That means, even in an unusually decent case, more than half of new customers do not come back. Pretty scary stuff.

What Marketers Can Do to Retain Customers

If that figure goes over 80%, I recommend starting with a more refined acquisition strategy. Simply because without new blood coming in, there won’t be much to talk about in the near future.

The first thing that I would ask is how aggressive the marketers want to be in terms of channel usage. I’ve seen bold ones who go the multichannel route with varying degrees of cost-friendliness, and conservative ones who would stick only with cheap and measurable channels.

To Retain, Acquire Customers Intelligently

Regardless of the degree of aggressiveness, the first concern is if they have been targeting the “right” prospects.

Years of experience in data and analytics business taught me that not all customers are created equal. You may have multiple pockets (or segments) of vastly different types of customers in your base, starting with the most valuable customers to downright barnacles who are professional bargain-seekers with no chance of being a loyal customer.

Going after the right kind of customers during the acquisition stage will curb the one-time buyer problem.

Whether you want to toss a bunch target samples to Facebook, go to third-party data vendors or join a co-op for modeled prospects, I strongly suggest marketers define the ideal target for them first.

  • When you say “valuable,” what does that really mean?
  • In terms of frequency, is that measured by the number of transactions or days between transactions?
  • In terms of dollars, is that in total customer value or average spending level per transactions?

There are many ways to do it, and what I am suggesting is to try them as many as you can — when it comes to target definitions — and keep testing them. Targeting requires adjustment of the gunsight, with many rounds of practice shots.

One of the tricks I’ve learned while being a vendor all of my life is that you never try one method, one channel or one type of target. Because, if that “one” thing fails, you’ll be fired. Simple as that. But if you try three to four different combinations of target definitions and methodologies, then you have a better fighting chance to stay in the game, thanks to cumulative learning. After all, 1:1 marketing is all about learning from the past endeavors, isn’t it?

Here’s What I Recommend

So, I recommend trying different types of targeting (i.e., target definition of any “look-alike” modeling or simple selects) in different focus areas. For example:

  • Behavioral Targeting: Target after you your audience’s best behavior, however you define them. I would use separate measures, such as transaction frequency and dollar amount, as responsiveness is often inversely related to sheer value (e.g., an infrequent visitor who spends a lot in one transaction).
  • Demographic Targeting: What do those most valuable customers look like? What demographic clusters do they belong to, and what are their key demographic profiles? This type of targeting may not be as precise as behavioral targeting, but basic segmentation often provides a common language among disparate players in the acquisition play, including copywriters who would come up with relevant messages for each segment. Commonly defined clusters also open doors toward new target areas (e.g., targeting Millennials when an existing target base is mostly in older age segments).
  • Regional Targeting: It is not unusual to see a high concentration of customers around physical store locations, even for online traffic. Test in and out of traditional footprints for an effective expansion strategy by channel.
  • Product Targeting: Depending on the product lines, you may be dealing with vastly different customer profiles. Customer profile by high-level product category is important, as it is not a good idea to have a one-size-fits-all type of targeting when you carry distinct lines of products. The average of multiple types of customers is really nothing; there are no such things as “average” customers, when they are separated in dichotomous universes.

There are many ways to slice and dice this, but the important thing is to let the ideas fly within reason (i.e., don’t overdo it, either). And at some point, you will run out of options just using RFM segments, so plan to dive into look-alike models; many list vendors and social media publishers offer modeling, either in forms of traditional models or machine learning. But even the most cutting-edge targeting engines won’t work if the target is way off. Attracting barnacles is just one example.

Now Retain Those Customers

Then I would turn the attention to the retention side to curb this one-time buyer problem. But this time, I suggest marketers look at it not just from the segment/targeting point of view, but from the timeline point of view, as well.

How to Find a Marketing Tech Edge

One of the challenges of all the marketing tech being developed is simply discovery. The majority of it might not be a fit for your business, but the right few can change the game. How do you learn about enough new technologies to find those needles in the haystack?

All About Marketing Tech LogoOne of the challenges of all the marketing tech being developed is simply discovery. The majority of it might not be a fit for your business, but the right few can change the game. How do you learn about enough new technologies to find those needles in the haystack?

So we’ve been working on a new kind of virtual conference, one that deals directly with marketing technology and will give you a chance to hear 24 new marketing tech firms pitch their bleeding edge products and services to you.

All About Marketing Tech

This is happening at All About Marketing Tech, a brand new virtual conference we’re hosting March 1 with the help of CabinetM.

All About Marketing Tech will have two tracks. The one will have traditional webinar-style presentations on the technologies marketers are using for specific tasks, like lead generation, content marketing and online retail. That track will kick off with a keynote from Travis Wright, the author of Digital Sense, and include sessions from David Raab, Robert Rose, Brian Hansford and more.

The second track is your chance to see new technologies in a way we’ve never done before. It will have three 90-minute TECH Talk sessions where new marketing tech creators will tell you about what they’ve built in 10-minute TED Talk-style presentations.

The three TECH Talk sessions will each focus on a specific area of technology:

  • 11:30 – Through the Funnel: Customer Acquisition and Engagement
  • 1:15 – Emerging Categories: Mobile, ABM, Video
  • 3:00 – Know Your Customer: Analytics/Measurement

You most likely have not yet heard of the companies who’ll be presenting, but that’s the whole point. This is your chance to get an early look at marketing tech that’s still coming to the market — before your competitors even know it exists.

It’s going to be a great chance to expand your knowledge of marketing technology, and identify tools that could make a huge difference for your business.

I hope to see you there! Click here to register.