Marketing and Soft (vs. Hard) Data – 4 Ways To Empower Your Strategy

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One-to-one marketing is a strategy of customer relationship management that relies on the personalization to foster customer loyalty and make a better return on marketing investment.

The idea behind it is that one size doesn't fit all when it comes to communication; so, treating each person differently is essential to be convincing, persuasive, and effective. To empower your strategy, in fact.

This is true between Brands and customers as much as between human beings. But, while people's capability to adapt their communication depending on the interlocutor is potentially endless, determined by their social and empathic skills, Brands often do not have this ability.

To some extent, this is due to what kinds of data Brands possess about customers, which are incomparably lower - in the number and types - compared to those that people have or can get.

“Demographic and behavioral information only give marketers part of the story they need to effectively segment a customer base. The problem with both of those types is that they do not tell us why people are doing things, which, as marketers, is the most important thing for us to know.” (Susan Baier)

By using only socio-demographic data, all customers that fall in a specific category (i.e. new moms, Millennials, Londoners) would be marked identically. These are necessary information but, taken alone, will lead you to a vague image of your customer, and few indications as to whether they will be interested in your product.

Adding “soft”, subjective and qualitative data to traditional “hard”, socio-demographic data like age, location, and economic status enables the understanding of who your customers truly are and why they make certain choices, so that you could envision what they will appreciate most and how they will behave in the future.

We are talking about customer attitudes, aspirations, values, lifestyle, and personality - so relatively stable information - on the one hand, and about their feeling, perceptions, and emotions - which are temporary and contextual - on the other.

Unlike hard data, soft data are not readily available. To find them, you have to dig a bit deeper into the virtual and physical touchpoints where your relationship with customers takes place.

What are these touchpoints? Here are four that represent optimal sources of soft data.

SOCIAL PROFILE
The social profile is undoubtedly where you can find the most heterogeneous information about a user: images, videos, text posts, self-descriptions, likes, comments and content sharing offer a comprehensive picture of a user's interests and way of thinking, but also of his/her hobbies, lifestyle, and personality.

WEBSITE AND ECOMMERCE
The massive amount of data resulting from a user's behavior on your brand's website and eCommerce can be analyzed and interpreted at different levels of depth. For example, for a fashion brand, information can go from what the user has purchased to what are his/her own style and emotional relationship with clothing.

STORE
If you think that customer analytics have to do only with your digital properties, you are wrong! By recognizing biometric and audio cues with in-store analytics solutions, you can identify customers’ in-the-moment feelings and state of mind.

For example, facial recognition technology and GSR sensors can be used to show:
• What areas of your store are most engaging
• Whether and when customer feel stressed or disengaged within your store
• What products and elements are most appealing
• What emotional reactions your store layout and your shop window generate

CONVERSATIONAL INTERFACES
Today they are almost exclusively employed as customer support tools, to answer simple questions and provide guidance in well-circumscribed domains, but conversational interfaces (the so-called “chatbots”) can potentially become much more.

If put in the role of "virtual interviewers", they become a new tool to perform market research, both quantitative - by administering a structured questionnaire - and qualitative - applying natural language processing to open questions.

What is important to be aware of is that your online and offline properties can offer much more insights than you already collect, and these insights can help you build a picture of your customers as "people", not just consumers.

Moreover, analyzing these soft data with artificial intelligence techniques enables you to build predictive models of consumer behavior and individual traits. Then, applying them to your content delivery system allows you to personalize messages, offers, and experiences based on the unique features of each customer, thus taking your one-to-one marketing to the next level.

Photo by Dương Trần Quốc on Unsplash

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

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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