Create Emotional Connections With Your Customers Using Data

emotional connections

Much has been said about retail disruption, personalization, chatbots, and AI, with headline after headline enlightening the topic trends of the moment. Yes, we all know that mobile is the primary device when it comes to planning your marketing strategy; that the retail industry needs to evolve to keep up with the e-commerce giants; that the so-called industry 4.0 is the real thing; that personalization is the only feature that matters.

All these trends are clear markers of that simple truth we all know: customer preferences are changing so fast that it’s hard to predict or anticipate them these days. We can’t say which brands or products will shine in the next years with a soaring demand, nor which ones will lose ground.

Today, customer engagement requires innovative, specific, personalized experiences, and companies often strive to satisfy their needs. Following trends is dangerous: in the very moment you find a focus on a particular trend, it is likely already passed. You must learn to anticipate trends, create them starting from the knowledge you have right now.

Furthermore, traditional customer segmentation has become difficult and ineffective. Old-school data profiling is inadequate to illustrate the specific characteristics of the buyer personas, due to its broadness and non-specificity. Hard data, such as location, age, gender, or even interests, are not sufficiently distinct to portray a person’s profile and his behavioral patterns effectively.

Today, customers are accustomed to weekly product turnover, monthly technology updates, on-demand streaming services, on the moment news, and automated customer support: everything is available everywhere, at any time.

How can we expect our customers to stand still enough to let us detect their needs, design a solution, and provide it at our convenience? Even broaden concepts like sustainability or privacy compliance, considered as evergreen trends, are not always reliable in the mid or long term. One season it’s all about life-long garments made of organic cotton and the next one everyone wants that 10$-plastic-trendy shoes.

Now, imagine being introduced to this buyer persona: a young male, located in New York, with a lot of different interests - from sports to technology and music -, who spends around 70$ per month for discretionary activities.

How can you tell whether he is interested in taking insurance coverage / taking part in a guided tour through the mountains, rather than exploring new cities on a self-organized trip? How can you predict if he would prefer a long, descriptive written content, rather than a chart, to delineate the advantages of your service?

Traditional profiling can easily become a false friend: it gives the idea that you are gaining knowledge, while you are actually focusing on generic data and missing the real key to the heart of the single person. There are just too many variables among customers to pretend that using only a little part of them might be enough to predict their behavior.

And so what?

So, it is necessary to gain a deep, valuable, holistic understanding of who your customer is as a person and what he/she expects from you in terms of feelings, emotions, and experiences.

Customer loyalty is all about experiences. Offering high-quality products is important but delivering relevant experiences that resonate with the inner feelings of the recipient is essential. Thus, brands need to achieve a profound knowledge of their customers, investigating the key elements that provide the basis to establish meaningful bonds.

These elements are the personal characteristics that are stable across time and situations; the ones that determine the attitude and approach towards life and everyday choices, such as personality traits, values, and beliefs.

For example, the ideal buyer persona for insurance providers tends to be someone who has a high-risk aversion and an external locus of control rather than someone who is more prone to bear ambiguous situations and usually feels in control of his life.

More, someone who has a strong inclination towards adventures and spontaneity would prefer a self-organized, backpacked trip, while a person in the same socio-demographic sector, but with strong values of security, familiarity, and ease will probably pick a guided tour, with scheduled times and activities.

Communication messages need to be tailored to the recipients characteristics and their attitude towards information: not everyone copes and assimilates data similarly, and these differences need to be taken into great consideration.

Another example: people with a high need for cognition need to deepen the search for precise information to form an accurate opinion, while those with an inclination towards affection absorb emotional appeals better.

These few examples provide the necessary understanding of the individual differences that occur between people, not regarding socio-demographic or behavioral data, but concerning other aspects that have long been ignored.

Today, the state of technologies grants us the opportunity to identify, isolate and use this information to provide better experiences to our customers. Are you willing to gain this deeper understanding and stay on top of your customers’ desires?

 

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Customer Satisfaction: “The Bad is the Service of the Great”

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While numerous companies claim that they are shifting their business model toward a more customer-centric approach, it is possible to find a few examples of such change.

According to the book Uncommon Service, there are two ways to fit into this kind of ever-changing culture: companies can either improve their service to better satisfy customer needs or convince them they need what they have to offer. The first one, of course, is the only choice that’ll enable you to overcome the challenges of the digital transformation.

As a matter of fact, you need to learn to listen to the voice of your customer to gather enough feedback to act upon. The lack of comprehension between organizations and customers is evident if you look at the numbers: a Teradata report recently highlighted that only 41% of marketing managers are using data gathered by the audiences to implement and improve their strategy.

Common sense is often not enough to determine what your customer needs, data is gathered to benefit your marketing strategy and develop a new customer service model.

What should you do then?

We will start by highlighting a few essential concepts before we move on to the specific steps you need to take to stand out in a customer-centered ecosystem. Frances Frei, Harvard professor and Uncommon Service co-author, analyses the correct attitude of a business to succeed in this specific environment, understanding the financial model of your business is essential, but it cannot be what your company focuses on.

Yes, budgeting and increasing revenues are, but the extreme focus on them could harm the relationship with your customers. Understanding the needs and wants of your clients is a necessity when implementing a specific financial model. What does this mean? Frei introduces the concept of a “bilingual” business, a model where service impacts the economic model of the company and not vice-versa.

With this in mind, how do you revolutionize the structure and business model of your company to put the customer first?

Step 1: Ask Your Employees

Common sense is often overrated when it comes to interpreting customers’ needs. Companies often think the product or service is a fulfilling solution for each segment of the Customer Base, so they don’t think they need to validate that idea. And what is the first step to validate an idea? Ask your first customers, those directly involved with the Brand: employees.

Neglecting employees’ opinions and innovative ideas might lead to an increasing gap between the customer and the company, which then reflects on the customer experience. Your job is to test your people. Create small groups where creativity and equality are encouraged, find out what they think are the most important attributes of the product, what should be improved and how these changes might impact your base.

Step 2: Ask Your Customers

Directly talk to your customer base, ask them what their needs are and what they want from you. Find out why your competitors are being appreciated and where they are lacking. Use those answers to isolate the attributes that are valued the most and, more importantly, use the ones that are valued the least.

Your company can’t focus resources on every aspect, as the dispersion of energies usually leads to mediocrity. The lesson is easy: Have the guts to be bad, don’t be afraid of the weaknesses of your business, be bad in the service of good.

Step 3: Analyze Your Results

With the first two steps you have hopefully gathered tons of information and actionable data. Now it’s the time to strategize, to prioritize and develop a plan where the customer is the center. It is time to take all the data and find solutions. And you will neve be able to do so if you don’t share all the data with your employees and figure out a plan together. Use the Voice of the Customer to set up a brand new idea to implement.

Step 4: Act Upon Data

That’s it. It’s time to reorganize your resources and establish yourself. Apple knew their laptop was the best product on the market in terms of design and operating system, but they were also aware that it lacked memory compared to other options. Yet, it was not a priority for the people that purchased them. Be smart about your strengths and even smarter about your weaknesses.

These four steps give you a general guideline to better connect with your audience, to strengthen the partnership with your consumer by understanding what they want from you and especially what they don’t want. Don’t be afraid of weak performance, use that part that is not performing well and turn it into a powerful marketing lever that could possibly increase visibility and attract attention. Use the data you gather to change, evolve and develop a new model for your business, a model where the customer is the beating heart of every single action.

 

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Create Value, Start by Listening. The Use of Voice of Customer

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Companies are increasingly aware that their value is the result of their customers’ value and the capability to gradually improve their loyalty, profitability and Net Promoter Score.

Despite the rising attention to the “customer obsession” and the growing presence of technologies that allow brands to understand their audience better, it is still hard for companies to achieve effective results, get closer to customers, and intercept their real needs and expectations.

What is often missing is the use of integrated development strategies that allow to listen to consumers throughout the whole product development process, creating a continuous interaction between Brand and consumer. The result would be a deeper understanding of the real market needs and the creation of an authentic relationship with the customer, a proper real partnership.

In addition to the need of containing costs, it is often difficult to manage effectively the results of a multi-channel approach caused by technologies that have disrupted the dialogue between brand and customer.

Unlike the past, the digital revolution has transformed communication habits and changed people’s lifestyles with incomparable speed; it is a change most companies have yet to understand, not to mention how to incorporate it within their strategies.

As a matter of facts, companies face a big contradiction: on one hand, the huge amount of data ‘generated’ by the Digital Age; on the other hand, the inability to keep up with these changes and the need to close the gap and align contact channels with current customer habits.

Brands and consumers have never been as close as they are today, potentially. For this to happen, however, there is an obligated path: companies must restart from the relationship with their customers in order to create value and identify the correct strategies within this liquid and highly unfaithful market.

The question is: How can you build value through partnership with customers? Here is our proposal in four steps.

Step 1. Build Identity: from CRM to Customer Intimacy

While the need to know your customer represents a true leitmotiv among marketers, the knowledge that would make this happen is, in fact, less common. You must go beyond a simple collection of data, and learn how to develop a person-to-person approach aimed at create a more personal relationship with your customer.

Thus, the real target is to reach an effective interaction between people and brands, which would allow you to understand consumers’ needs, anticipate their desires, deeply comprehend their identity, and highlight their emotions and real interests.

Intimacy with customer has to be the first requirement of your strategy!

Technology has significantly simplified how we achieve these goals, thanks to the variety of tools that increase the proximity between companies and customers: messaging platforms, conversational interfaces, apps and listening platforms. There is plenty of possibilities for a real omnichannel Voice of Customer!

Step 2. Tailoring: from Customer Intimacy to personalization

Customer intimacy and data analysis are at the key elements of services, communication and personalized products. Knowing the identity of each customer must become a pillar of your business, so that you’ll be capable to retain consumers and acquire new ones.

Marketers need to go far beyond the concept of service provision; the customer must be put in the conditions of creating a true identification with the product and the Brand. Today, artificial intelligence and machine learning make it possible to deploy solutions which efficiently customize not only products and services, but also communication.

It’s a matter of shaping the message, regulating its extent, tone of voice, and choice of words to fit each client’s profile and to increase its effectiveness as a consequence.

Step 3. Build engagement: from personalization to partnership

The realization of personalized solutions goes through a dynamic process of engagement with those considered potential beneficiaries, the customers. Thus, a marketing strategy that aspires to customer satisfaction has to include among its objectives the creation of customer engagement solutions.

How? Opening privileged channels with the customers in order to actively include them in the continuous improvement process (listening before talking). It is essential for your listening strategy to identify innovative and engaging tools that can guarantee bidirectionality, participation and commonality: for instance, co-creation activities, contests or crowdsourcing technology platforms.

Step 4. Build satisfaction: monitoring performances to create continuous value

The collection of the voice of customer is crucial for performance verification activities that represent an indispensable part of the continuous process of improvement. A customer satisfaction assessment helps brands keeping customers satisfied, with critical benefits to the profitability and the possibility of expansion.

Although most companies have used satisfaction assessment tools, there is often a mismatch between the moment of the brand experience and the moment they ask for a feedback. Today more than ever, it is extremely necessary to adopt channels and strategies capable of gathering the voice of customers while the experience is happening.

In addition to a greater reliability, the collection of contextual data will allow to differentiate strategies on the basis of the different profiles that characterize the consumers of each store or point of interest.

Effective tools that can be used to gather timely information are geolocation systems, inclusion of VOC paths within Brands’ Apps and notification requests related to the passage of potential customers and prospects.

The brand experience starts from the expectations that customers have created, which in turn depend on how much they are satisfied. At this date, every successful company knows that the creation of value begins by valuing their customers. You must listen, and the best way to do so is by taking up on every opportunity technology has to offer.

 

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How the DCX Can Improve Customer Lifetime Value

customer lifetime value

Today, customer retention is gaining attention in business. The importance of customer satisfaction, loyalty, and repurchasing behavior is becoming central. The focus has shifted from customer acquisition to customer retention marketing, due to the recognition of its primary relevance.

It is a matter of fact that acquiring new customers is important, but not at the expenses of the ones that already exist. There are plenty of statistics about the massive impact that customer retention can have on business value. Nurturing the relationship with customers, in order to gain their loyalty and advocacy, and watch them coming back over and over, is the main purpose every Brand should pursue.

Therefore, even among those silos that are focused on numbers and sales, the concern shifted to the value of retention. Despite the fact that acquisitions have always held more weight, and metrics were chosen to examine the revenue of new purchases, today there is a better way to measure business success: customer lifetime value.

 

WHAT IS CLV AND WHY IS SO IMPORTANT

In order to get a better understanding of the value of customers, rather than using metrics such as Return On Investment (ROI), companies should choose Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).
ROI measures the gain and loss generated on an investment, within a specific period of time; otherwise, CLV measures the revenue brought by one customer throughout the course of all the interactions with the company.

The main fault of ROI is that it gives a short-sighted business perspective: the concept of “return” requires to set the time by which you want to measure the net profit of your investment. On the contrary, CLV measures the entire value of a lifetime relationship between brand and customer, shifting to a long-term perspective.

Furthermore, Return On Investment considers only the amount of profit gained, regardless of the meaning of specific, different interactions. Repurchasing behavior, positive word of mouth or any action of searching, posting or talking about brands value as much as the return of selling products, or even more.

Switching from an acquisition- to a retention-oriented business strategy requires a different mindset: rather than giving value to consumers based on the amount of their first transaction, brands should measure the cumulative profit provided by customers during the entire duration of their relationship with the company.

 

HOW CX CAN IMPROVE CLV

How can companies accomplish the purpose of cultivating long-lasting relationships, in order to increase Customer Lifetime Value? Focusing on customer experience.
First of all, companies should consider the overall journey of customers. Looking at the bigger picture they can identify the weaknesses and work across functional areas to replace the causes of dissatisfaction and discomfort.

Moreover, concentrating on the relationship, rather than on single interactions, they can cultivate emotional bonds, based on trust, dependability, and reliability. That is the basic requirement of relationship marketing: providing relevant experiences that delight, satisfy, and engage every person, connecting/resonating with their inner meanings.

The first step to the extent of building a strong reputation of the company is to work on the customer touchpoints. The growing area of conversational support, provided by chatbots and messaging tools is opening to new patterns. Due to advances in Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and natural language technologies, Brands can engage customers with personalized and helpful communication.

This kind of “conversational commerce” is growing up quickly, as long as it provides a continuum thread between companies and people, offering the chance to add value to every part of the customer journey. People can search for information, receive support, get personalized recommendations, chat with the company representative, read reviews and click to purchase, without even leaving the messaging app.

Among all the benefits provided by AI, personalization is the feature that best helps companies improve the customer experience. AI technologies let brands easier target specific market segments and provide personalization at scale, using the data gathered by behavior-based algorithms and predictive analytics.

Delivering the best customer experience throughout all the touchpoints allows customers to achieve the highest levels of satisfaction and loyalty - the starting point to create a solid bond between brands and people.

Just as much as customers have started to choose value over price, companies should consider enhancing the worth of the relationships they establish with people: Customer Lifetime Value can be helpful to gain a deeper understanding of this parameter.

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The Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends For 2019

Gartner has just released its insight for the ten key trends you can’t afford to ignore in the next year. These Gartner Top 10 Strategic Technology trends are expected to impact and transform industries through 2023.

The core concepts presented are all about shift and change and disruption, as technology is becoming an inextricable part of our world.

Three themes dominated the speech:

  • Intelligence. Increasingly the engine that drives future capabilities. An intelligence-ai driven future;
  • second is digital, in an increasingly blended fashion;
  • then mesh, as the importance of ecosystems.

In 2019 we will look at these three things coming together in an increasingly integrated fashion.

1: Autonomous things
Whether it’s cars, robots or agriculture, autonomous things use AI to perform tasks traditionally done by humans. By 2021 10% of new vehicles will have autonomous driving capabilities.

2: Augmented analytics
Data scientists have increasing amounts of data to prepare and analyze. Organizations can miss key insights from hypotheses the data scientists can't explore. That’s why “By 2020, more than 40% of data science tasks will be automated.”

3: AI-driven development
Developers will embed AI into applications and use AI to create AI-powered tools for the development process.

4: Digital twins
A digital twin is a digital representation that mirrors a real-life object, process, or system. The focus today is on digital twins in the IoT, which can improve enterprise decision making by providing information on maintenance and reliability, Expect this to grow in 2019.

5: Empowered edge
Expect information processing and content collection and delivery placed closer to the sources of the information, with the idea that keeping traffic local will reduce latency. “Technology and thinking will shift to a point where the experience will connect people with hundreds of edge devices.”

6: Immersive technologies
Conversational platforms, which change how users interact with the world, and technologies such as augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR) and virtual reality (VR), which change how users perceive the world, will lead to new immersive experiences.

7: Blockchain
The blockchain is a type of distributed ledger, an expanding chronologically ordered list of signed, permanent transactional records shared by all participants in a network. Expect blockchain to take off in many industries in 2019.

8: Smart Spaces
Connected to the digital twins concept, a smart space is a physical or digital environment in which humans and technology-enabled systems interact forming an open, connected, coordinated and intelligent ecosystem.

9: Digital ethics and privacy
Customers will have a growing awareness of the value of their personal information and will be increasingly concerned with how it’s being used

10: Quantum computing
Still not ready for prime time, quantum computing will evolve, as an exponentially scalable and highly parallel computing model.

Last but not least, seven digital disruptions you might not see coming in 2019, as they are infused in your day-to-day experience,
and their expected impact:

1

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The New Marketing is People Centric: Know Your Customer Personality!

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Every day, enormous amounts of money around the world are spent on advertising tailored for socio-demographic groups. But demographic analysis is only part of the story about your customers.

If you want to get the whole story you must start considering your customers as people, rather than merely seeing them as someone buying the product that you’ve got. To do so, you need to stop relying solely on an objective-based perspective and start getting a more in-depth view of your customers.

Qualitative information such as customer personality can show you more clearly what is important to them and how they make buying decisions. Moreover, as customer personality relates to their attitudes and behavior, it can be useful for developing your products and services as well as for creating powerful communications.

For example, you probably didn't know that extroverts:

  • Look for the hedonic value of products (see notes 5; 4)
  • Feel more positive consumption emotions and affective commitment towards brands (6; 7)
  • Use more word-of-mouth communication (11)
  • Tend to be highly fashion-conscious (9)
  • Are more favorable toward transformational ads than informational ads (8)

While if you are dealing with conscientious customers, you should mind that they:

  • Look for the utilitarian, functional, task-related, and rational value of shopping (4)
  • Tend to be prestige-sensitive (9)
  • Manage their money more because they are future oriented and have positive financial attitudes (3)
  • Are more favorable toward comparative ads than non-comparative ads and informational ads than transformational ads (8)

And if your customers are open-minded, consider that they:

  • Support technological innovation (13)
  • Place greater importance on reliability rather than on style when buying a computer (10)
  • Are less prestige-sensitive (2)
  • Tend to make more online purchases (1)
  • Are more favorable to recycled and sustainable products (12)

These are some of the personality traits included in the Big Five Model, also known with the acronym OCEAN: Openness to experience; Conscientiousness, Extroversion; Agreeableness; Neuroticism.

One of the major arguments against the use of the Big Five Model - and personality traits in general - in marketing is the difficulty of obtaining such kind of information about customers.

However, the expanding of digital and social platforms makes available terabytes of data about users, including subjective qualitative data. This gives marketers the unprecedented opportunity to understand customer personality and deliver AI-driven personalized contents on a large scale.

This is more than moving from a partial view of customers to a more comprehensive one; it is shifting from a merely commercial approach, what we know as "customer-centricity", to a more intimate and long-term relationship, what we will call "people-centricity".

To enter this new era, start thinking about it: how will you enhance your marketing when you also get the human side of customers?

Photo by Marina Vitale on Unsplash

Notes:
(1) Bosnjak, M., Bochmann, V., & Hufschmidt, T. (2007). Dimensions of brand personality attributions: a person-centric aproach in the German cultural context. Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, 35(3), 303-316.

(2) Casidy, R. (2012). An empirical investigation of the relationship between personality traits, prestige sensitivity, and fashion consciousness of Generation Y in Australia. Australasian Marketing Journal (AMJ), 20(4), 242-249.

(3) Donnelly, G., Iyer, R., & Howell, R. T. (2012). The Big Five personality traits, material values, and financial well-being of self-described money managers. Journal of Economic Psychology, 33(6), 1129-1142.

(4) Guido, G. (2005). Shopping motives and the hedonic/utilitarian shopping value: a preliminary study. ACR European Advances.

(5) Matzler, K., Bidmon, S., & Grabner-Kräuter, S. (2006). Individual determinants of brand affect: the role of the personality traits of extraversion and openness to experience. Journal of Product & Brand Management, 15(7), 427-434.

(6) Matzler, K., Faullant, R., Renzl, B., & Leiter, V. (2005). The relationship between personality traits (extraversion and neuroticism), emotions and customer self-satisfaction. Innovative Marketing, 1(2), 32-39.

(7) Mooradian, T. A., & Olver, J. M. (1997). “I can't get no satisfaction:” The impact of personality and emotion on postpurchase processes. Psychology & Marketing, 14(4), 379-393.

(8) Myers, S. D., Sen, S., & Alexandrov, A. (2010). The moderating effect of personality traits on attitudes toward advertisements: a contingency framework. Management & Marketing, 5(3), 3.

(9) Myszkowski, N., & Storme, M. (2012). How personality traits predict design-driven consumer choices. Europe’s Journal of Psychology, 8(4), 641-650.

(10) Nevid, J. S., & Pastva, A. (2014). “I'm a Mac” versus “I'm a PC”: Personality Differences between Mac and PC Users in a College Sample. Psychology & Marketing, 31(1), 31-37.

(11) Ranjbarian, B., Forghani, M. H., & Ghafari, M. (2013). Personality traits and the use of word of mouth communication as a source of travel information among inbound tourists who visited Isfahan. International Journal of Academic Research in Economics and Management Sciences, 2(3), 20.

(12) Sandy, C. J., Gosling, S. D., & Durant, J. (2013). Predicting consumer behavior and media preferences: The comparative validity of personality traits and demographic variables. Psychology & Marketing, 30(11), 937-949.

(13) Wood, S. (2012). Prone to progress: Using personality to identify supporters of innovative social entrepreneurship. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 31(1), 129-141.

Download The 7 Pillars Of The New Customer Loyalty to define the foundations on which to build your engagement and loyalty strategy, create innovative experiences and establish a lasting and valuable relationship with your customers.

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Nudge Marketing: 3 Psychological Strategies to Grow Your Business

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We are not always rational beings. Most of the times, we make decisions on an irrational basis, and afterward, we look for logical explanations to justify them.

The same as consumers. Our emotional states and moods play a fundamental role in determining our preferences and choices so that leveraging on these subconscious drivers becomes an excellent way for marketers to promote desired, more valuable behaviors.
In this scenario, nudging may make your marketing more powerful as it shifts the focus towards subtly creating new habits rather than explicitly asking consumers to do something with the promise of 'extrinsic' rewards - usually financial - such as discounts or prizes.

Most of you probably already know what 'nudging' is: a method that uses positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions to influence people's behavior, thus making a certain choice easier than an alternative path without the person actively being aware of it.

But, perhaps, fewer know what nudging is NOT:
- A substitute for marketing, which compliments but not replace. Simply put, marketing makes the need salient and creates the desire while nudging facilitates the follow-through.
- A way to mislead or confuse the consumer. Instead, it should be transparent to be effective.
- A trap or a manipulation, as opting out of nudging should be as simple as the tap of a button.

If McDonald’s employees are trained to offer only medium or large options to customers when taking orders for drinks and desserts and emit the small alternative unless the consumer explicitly asks for it, this is a 'bad nudge'.

We see a lot of bad nudges in advertising, sales, and human relations in general.

Good nudges, on the other hand, are those that benefit the person - whether it is the consumer or citizen - not (only) your business. And there are countless examples out there too: many schools in the USA are using nudging to move students towards healthy choices, as well as to improve learning and academic outcomes; some virtuous companies are applying similar strategies to promote a safer workplace culture; and the UK government has its dedicated Nudge Unit to encourage people to make better choices for themselves and society.

So, how can you harness the power of good nudge to grow your business too? Look at these 3 examples of easy-to-implement strategies.

COGNITIVE EASE

It is pretty intuitive. Our brains are lazy, and we are less likely to do something if we think it’s going to be hard – whether it’s losing weight, quitting to smoke, buying a product or signing up for a service.

One major reason is that perceived difficulty undermines people's self-efficacy - the belief in someone's capacity to execute behaviors necessary to achieve specific goals.

On the contrary, the perception of ease can be a powerful nudge towards engagement and purchasing, as it enhances consumers' self-efficacy and their intention to move on.

This way, Zipcar managed to go over a major barrier to car share use - the belief that shared cars are scarce and hard to find - by subtly showing to users on its website's map how easy a Zipcar is to find and use.

OPTION RESTRICTION

It may seem counterproductive, but streamlining your offer can help you increase conversions as you nudge customers towards making a decision, rather than being paralyzed by too many options.

For example, having too many social share buttons in a webpage or too many form fields in a drop-down menu cripples users' decision making, thus decreasing conversions.

The same happens in the offline world. An experiment conducted by the New York Times in a grocery store on two different Saturdays found that, after exposing 24 different flavors of jam on the first day and only 6 on the second day, purchases increased from 3% to 30%, meaning that the store sold 600% more jam by just reducing the set of options.

INTERNAL CONSISTENCY

Once we make a choice or take a position, we feel the need to behave consistently with that commitment.

That is notoriously what door-to-door salespeople rely on: they ask a series of 'easy-to-answer-yes' questions (such as ‘Do you think that a more comfortable bed could improve the quality of your sleep?’) and, once you’ve said yes to one, it becomes harder to say no to the next. They managed to get in; that's why this technique is called 'foot-in-the-door'.

Petitions rely on the same principle because agreeing to take part sets people up to make a more significant commitment further down the line, from a simple signature to event participation and financial support.

Nudging works most effectively when it is used for good, creating a “win-win” situation for both companies and individuals.

We've seen examples here that make one thing clear: nudging holds the potential to move the marketing paradigm towards a proper understanding of the subconscious drivers of consumer behavior. But it is equally clear that it works most effectively when used to create a win-win situation for both companies and individuals.

If this belief becomes a premise, the current distinction between good and bad nudging will turn into a separation of what is nudging from what is not. And naturally, this is our hope.

Photo by Caleb Frith on Unsplash

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Travel Customer Journey – The Evolution Of Planning and Purchasing

 

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Brace Yourself; Vacation days coming!

Whether it is the summer or winter season, the desire to travel never misses the opportunity. For those who want to plan their trip, but also those who produce and sell vacation-related products and services.

The desire to explore the world has not changed over the last century, and will not change in the next future. What has evolved dramatically - in the last decade - is the way we research, plan and purchase our trips. What Google has called The Travel Customer Journey. A disruption made possible - again - by the smartphone.

Long gone are the days when planning a vacation (a honeymoon or a business trip) meant you had to trust a specialized agency, with little control over the final result. In the nineties, the Internet has opened a whole world of information for the customers, and then mobile technology did the rest, switching the balance of power definitely.

Today, the smartphone is the first point of reference whenever we need to find the solution to a problem or the product that perfectly fits our needs. Travel planning makes no exception, as perfectly summed up by a series of reports released by Google on Think With Google.

As more research happens in the traveler's customer journey, there are more micro moments - when people turn to a device with intent to answer an immediate need. In these moments, the stakes are high for travel brands as preferences are shaped, and decisions are made. What happens in these micro-moments ultimately affects the travel decision-making process.

In our times of economic constraints, organizing a vacation can be tricky business:

  • People see the travel as an investment, and so take all the time needed to research the possibilities (mostly using their mobile devices).
  • Travelers usually worry they are not finding the best solution or making the best decision, even while they are paying and booking.
  • Even when they find a last minute opportunity, most customers bounce back and forth between destinations, websites, agencies, and price comparison engines.

Customers are much more conscious and demanding than in the past. They spend more time researching and comparing the alternatives (in terms of destinations and providers). They go through a multitude of touchpoints and, even though they take quick decisions, ultimately ponder every single detail.

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If your brand plays in this industry, the task is clear and simple:

  • You must show up during the critical micro moments of travel research process;
  • You must be there, reachable whenever customers need your attention or help;
  • You must be useful, engaging them with relevant, useful, personalized contents and offers;
  • You must be quick. If you do not convert your customers, someone else will (namely a competitor).

The main reference for this article is the ‘Travel Micro-Moments Guide’ published by Google. The underlying assumption is that “travelers increasingly turn to mobile in real time and on-the-go, making informed decisions faster than ever before. For marketers, this means there are new opportunities to connect throughout the entire travel customer journey, across devices and channels.

Researchers have defined four main travel micro moments that matter:

I Want To Get Away - We explore options and ideas, looking for inspiration.

Time To Make a Plan - We have a destination, and look for dates, flights, accommodation.

Let’s Book It - We are ready to book and look for extra activities to reserve.

Can’t Wait To Explore - We prepare to live the experience, and share it with the others.

Given the premise, we see a huge opportunity for those who provide products and services related to the various the steps of the travel experience. The digital customer journey of the travelers has become more complex than ever, and so you have multiple chances to engage customers.

Whether you are an online or offline business, you may tap into one of the main micro moments or everywhere in between those, proposing suitable and innovative solutions. In example: a micro-insurance delivered on the smartphone at the right time; a local transportation mobile app filled with shopping and entertainment suggestions; a conversational interface or Facebook Messenger chatbot that helps customers find the best prices or deal.

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Of course, mobile is the keyword to understand the new scenario, because the micro moments mostly unravel online:

Recent data show that there are already more searches on mobile than desktop for select travel categories, such as family vacations and luxury travel. And when it comes to planning holiday activities, mobile devices are giving travelers increased flexibility. Many travelers are willing to plan activities on the fly, while they are at their destination.

The optimization for mobile is mandatory now that customers take faster decisions and expect faster experiences:

Over 90% of travelers using mobile devices will switch to another site or app if their needs are not being met. 79% of mobile travelers say that when researching on their smartphones, they are looking for the most relevant information available, regardless of where it comes from.

The continuous transition from the real world to the digital dimension generate a whole new set of data that you can use to get a better understanding of customers. When it comes to travels, in fact, not all customers are equal.

Also, this type of experiences is heavily influenced by the emotional and psychological traits. Data-backed psychographics research becomes essential if you want to sketch a proper customer journey map, build a successful digital strategy, and ultimately deliver truly personalized contents linked to the emotional profiles of the different customers.

Once you determine customers’ behaviors and deepest needs, you can anticipate their needs and desires. You will also be able to prioritize the right audience and target the most valuable customers with tailor-cut contents, notifications, and promotions.

Travel marketers need to account for the new multi-device, multi-channel landscape. And those who are moments-ready—and consistently manage their share of intent to meet consumer demand—will take the lion's share of the reward.

Photo by Deanna Ritchie on Unsplash

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Be Human – Matching Customer Personality is the New Key to Relevance

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There came a time when the digital era took over the analog world and completely changed the face of marketing, with no possible turning back.

If you ask how things changed, most marketers will likely point at three main areas of marketing that have been disrupted: Speed, Relevance, Reach. The rise of digital means you can (must) be incredibly fast and get an unprecedented coverage - something you could only dream two decades ago.

If we focus on the mere numbers, there is no comparison between the analog and the digital worlds. It gets a bit more complicated when it comes to relevance, a purely subjective concept.

When we say or hear that digital technology has given us highly relevant marketing and branding campaigns, what are we referring to?

In our previous article about the Psychographics we have emphasized how a good seller always understands his customer, and has an easy game knowing how to communicate with him - not just what to propose but how to sell it. In his own way, he is surely relevant.

In the digital communication, this kind of ‘human’ relevance is lost: messages are targeted to specific groups of users, which are segmented and profiled based on some objective, explicit and observable data (typically demographic and behavioral).

Attitudes, emotions, and personality are almost never considered, although they are a big part of what makes the human communication so appropriate, empathic, and relevant.

Here, we are talking about the importance of psychology and the influence it has on the development of marketing and technology. What can psychology do to increase the relevance of your Brand’s communication on digital channels, where technology - with its speed and reach - has replaced the human touch?

For decades now, psychological studies have played a prominent role by identifying strategies to improve the effectiveness of marketing campaigns through the principles of persuasion. One such strategy, known as message tailoring, involves the adaptation of communication to the characteristics of the customer.

As researchers have shown, messages that fit with an individual’s attitudes and dispositional motives are processed more fluently and evaluated more positively than incongruent messages. These effects have been observed across several domains, including prevention, behavioral change, and consumer purchases.

For marketing and advertising professionals, this means that tailoring the messages so that they match customer personality can be a promising tactic to increase the effectiveness of campaigns.

To better understand this interweaving of disciplines, we have to pass from theory to practice. For example, by framing the messages through the well known Big Five model of personality, it becomes possible to target a broad variety of motives, including:

  • Desire for excitement, social rewards, energy, and fun - powerful drivers for Extroverts.
  • Sympathy, interpersonal harmony, connection with family and community - values more significant for Agreeable people.
  • Efficiency, order and goal pursuit - primary motives for Conscientious people.
  • Quiet, carefree, safety and security - people with lower Emotional stability pay more attention to these benefits.
  • Creativity, curiosity, innovation, imagination and intellectual stimulation - perfect features when interacting with people Open to experience.

As a result, an advertisement emphasizing a specific motivational concern, congruent with the user’s personality traits, would be more effective in term of attention, evaluation, and impact.

To sum up, in an era where the customer centricity is more and more about personalization, understanding customers as human beings in their uniqueness is the only way to anticipate their needs and desires.

If you know what they are about to do before they actually do it, you will unlock the true power of digital and mobile technologies; Technology may make giant leaps forward in all areas, but communication is definitely where Natural Intelligence still wins.

We are empathetic human beings, and we can flexibly adapt our attitude, language, and relational approach. In this perspective, machines are still far away from us, and will probably always be.

That is why you should strive not to replace human with technology, but to fill the gap between the two by infusing more human capabilities into technology. Talk to your customers as humans, and you will ultimately build strong, intimate, long lasting relationships.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

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Recently, we have talked about Gamification as an unconventional way to engage customers and increase loyalty, in a world where the two go hand-in-hand and are intimately related.

Now we take a step back to move forward, shifting the focus from the engagement to the understanding. Even before thinking about ‘how’ to drive customer loyalty, in fact, you need to figure out ‘who’ your loyal customers are.

Behavioral science has done a lot of work to provide marketers with valuable insights. The aim is to put customers in a buying mood, by pushing the right buttons, finding the right needs to tap and shaping them with the right words.

As an effect, you will be able to drive customers’ preferences and other virtuous behaviors, including positive word-of-mouth, loyalty, and so on. These goals are of primary concern to all marketers, regardless of the industry or the competitive arena.

If word choices reveal - consciously or unconsciously - our state of mind, so the shared language reveals shared meanings, and shows a certain view of the world which continues to strengthen over time.

In the same way, marketing language says a lot about the relevant culture, mindset, and attitude amongst professionals, and the more we think about it, the more we get skeptical about the long-term effectiveness of this approach.

We can sum it up in two questions. The first one is of a purely linguistic nature.

Who Takes Center Stage?

Reach the target audience, shape customers’ needs, drive preferences and choices, stimulate customers to buy. All these expressions have something in common, beyond being overused: the brand takes action, not the customer.

We talk a lot about customer-centricity and the shift from passive to empowered customers, but the reality is that more is said (and “story-told”) than done.

Our language reveals what implicit stereotypes and beliefs are still embedded in our brains, including such of companies and brands actively shaping customers’ attitudes and thus driving desired behavior - but does this not represent a step back from the very concept of customer empowerment?

One of the most important - and most sensitive - issues for brands is customer loyalty. When it comes to loyalty, we use to say that loyal customers are typically those more satisfied, engaged, and delighted.

That is absolutely true, but we are again taking in account solely the perspective of the Brand, and so considering an oversimplified and incomplete version of the reality, the one that better explains marketers’ goals rather than those of the customers.

And here comes the second question:

What about individual differences?

This approach takes into account customers as if they were a single monolithic entity, to be treated in the same way. Of course, as human beings, we are not totally separable: we share common basic human needs, motives and cognitive patterns that determine our spontaneous behavior in response to certain stimuli.

Individual differences, however, play a crucial role in determining people’s preferences and choices, whether it comes to personal life, professional decisions, or purchase behaviors.

Sometimes consciously, sometimes not, our dispositional motives continually shape and drive the experiences that we have, including our buying experiences. So, why should these factors not be considered in your marketing and communication strategy?

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There is clear evidence that tailored messages are considerably more effective than one-size-fits-all campaigns, and that the effectiveness of tailoring increases with greater customization and adaptation to the unique features of the recipient.

For example, as suggested by Higgins in 2000, you should frame your message to match the recipient’s personal goals by focusing either on promoting gains (e.g., “Product X makes teeth stronger”) or on preventing losses (e.g., “Product X prevents cavities”).

Moreover, many other researchers have shown that messages that are consistent with an individual’s motivational orientation are processed more fluently and evaluated more positively than inconsistent ones.

The effects of what we can call the “message/person congruence” have been examined in correlation to differnt psychological characteristics, including the Big Five Factors, by changing the framing of a message to target specific motives, such as desires for excitement and social rewards, connection with family and community, efficiency and goal pursuit, safety and security, creativity and intellectual stimulation (i.e. see Personalized Persuasion).

For years, retailers have been using a variety of personal information, such as purchase and the website journey history, to tailor their online offers to individual customers. But an emerging literature in the field of Marketing Psychology says that personality traits are no less important.

If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and see things from that person's angle as well as from your own”, Henry Ford said.

One of the first rules of persuasion is: Know your audience. In a world of companies and Brands striving for relevance, understanding your audience’s point of view is a strong element of differentiation. Understanding every single customer’s point of view? That would be the turning point!

First of all, customers are individuals, and every individual is unique - the way we think, behave, and act, we all do it differently. As the way we communicate to others reflects our mindset, even the way we respond to (and are attracted by) different communication styles changes significantly, depending on our personality. We are more likely to interact, listen, share, believe and be persuaded by communication styles tailored on our peculiarities.

To cut it short, understating customers’ ability to shape the world around them proactively gets into conflict with the very idea of customer-centricity. More, overlooking customers’ individual characteristics undermines the concept of personalization, turning it into a ‘buzzword’ without any substance.

Taken together, these two ‘gaps’ offer huge opportunities for those who are willing to overcome the ‘Business As Usual’ (to quote Brian Solis) and define a real turning point in the world of customer experience. What would you do if you were able to “persona-lize” your marketing strategy?

Cover Photo by Bryan Minear on Unsplash

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