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Lost in Translation: 5 Barriers That Distance Digital Marketers from Customers

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by: Todd McCormick (@TMcCormick2011)
31 July 2014

Think about the kind of treatment you expect when you walk into a brick-and-mortar store. You don't want to be hounded by salespeople pushing products that you don’t want or need. You also don't want to be ignored, at least not when you need help. You want salespeople to pay attention — to notice what interests you and help you find exactly what you you’re looking for.

Today's ecommerce and e-tail brands are in a race to provide this kind of customer experience online — to better understand and engage individual customers.

Brand recognition is everything for these brands as they try to sell online. The Internet has much more to offer businesses than just an online storefront; it also opens up opportunities to connect with customers — to start conversations, listen to what they want, and respond in a way that gets them invested in your brand.

But developing relationships with digital customers can be tricky. Like in any relationship, you need to interact with them. It all starts with digital listening — tracking online behavior to create rich profiles of individual customers. But if you can’t prove you’re listening by responding appropriately, all that effort was in vain.

The last thing any marketer wants is for technology to get in the way of the customer experience, but it happens … a lot.

Don’t get lost in translation — review these five technology barriers that often distance digital marketers from their customers, and think about how you can eliminate them:

1. Data in Silos

If your customer data is stored across multiple, disconnected databases, you can’t fully understand or communicate with your customers as individuals.

You wouldn't greet customers at a store without at least some modification. Think about saying "Good morning, ma'am" to a male customer ... in the evening. Not a great impression. Sure, you could just say “hello” across the board, but that’s not very personal or engaging.

Too many marketers are doing this in a digital context, addressing everyone with the same cut-out greetings, information, and offers. They might even know this is a problem, but the information that could help them is stuck in silos, unable to be pieced together.

2. Inability to Customize Content

Having rich customer profiles doesn’t mean anything if you can’t use the insights from that data to trigger relevant content. Just consider the following findings from our "Best Friends Brands" study — a survey of nearly 4,000 online shoppers:

  • 58% percent of online shoppers won't open emails that seem unrelated to their needs
  • 40% won't open emails with subject lines that seem irrelevant
  • 25% of online shoppers have stopped buying from brands because of their email approach
  • 71% of consumers would be more likely to purchase from a brand with emails tailored to their likes and preferences

(Check out this infographic from Direct Marketing News for more stats from our study.)

To engage your unique customers in unique ways, you must be able to segment customers and deliver content based on their behavior. It also helps to try out different content, using A/B testing to determine which images or copy each group finds most engaging. This approach helped Peter Glenn Ski and Sports achieve a 63 percent click-through rate on its first test run.

3. Right Message, Wrong Channel

Some customers find video more compelling than text-only messages, while others might respond better to SMS offers than long emails. When you learn what works best with each user, you can increase open rates and conversions, while sending fewer unwanted communications. Everybody wins. Cable and telecommunications reseller Bridgevine, for example, increased conversions 300 percent with its automated SMS program.

4. Right Channel, Wrong Time

As mobile usage continues to skyrocket, so have the opportunities for digital marketers to deliver not only the right content on the right channel, but also at just the right time. By unlocking the power of geo-tracking and location data, you can keep tabs on your on-the-go customers and trigger content that really hits home.

For example, LifeShield, a company that sells and installs wireless security systems, has discovered the value of geo-tracking. Its hyper-local email campaigns (including a campaign that send localized crime statistics to customers and prospects) have the best open rates and outperform non-localized emails five times on conversions.

5. Lack of Insight

All of these communication barriers boil down to one thing — a lack of insight about how customers interact with your brand. Tracking individuals’ behavior doesn’t just offer insight into how to communicate with them. You can also use what you learn to better engage new customers who have similar demographics or interests.

For instance, say you have a new customer who’s a college football fan (Roll Tide!) and also a new dad. You know sports fans really like their jerseys and monogrammed beer mugs, so you could send him offers for those. But you also know, based on success with other customers, that sports fans who are new parents like to get their kids into the mix. So, why not also send him offers for onesies or infant-sized hats with his favorite team’s logo?

Do you have the right tools and strategies in place to listen to your customers and respond with what they need to feel invested in your brand?

Related Resources:

1) Ebook: “15 Post-Purchase Emails That Build Loyalty and Drive Revenue

2) Blog: “5 Approaches to Minimizing Unsubscribes

3) Tip Sheet: “7 Tips for Nurture Marketing


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