3 Steps to Influencing Brand Preference
Brand preference is built by listening to consumers and addressing both their immediate and long-term needs. With those insights now available, retail marketers can surpass the old goal of delivering the right message at the right time through preferred channels. Now, they can leverage insights to inform and inspire consumer action. Retail marketers and consumers are on a new journey together; the goal is to make it a mutually profitable trip.
Understanding is the first step in engaging consumers, but it alone doesn't build brand preference. Connecting with consumers on a personal level and helping them successfully address a need is the root driver of brand preference which, in turn, presents brands with the opportunity to influence shoppers’ decisions and actions.
To succeed, retailers need to understand that influencing a shopper's brand preference is a three-legged stool: understand the consumer, decipher intent and enable the purchase journey.
Achieving True Customer Insight
Today's consumer is in complete control of their purchase journey. Based on their needs and preferences, they define what constitutes a meaningful brand experience and determine if a brand is trustworthy. This self-directed approach has forever changed the rules of brand engagement.
Retailers "know" their shoppers by building deep, data-rich customer profiles of behavior patterns, preferences and needs. These unified customer profiles drive every aspect of a brand's marketing strategy; it's the decoder ring to success.
Successful brands use these data-rich customer profiles to drive personalization and omnichannel engagement campaigns. Personalization means more than using the shopper's name. It means leveraging behavioral data to mirror the shopper's tone and preferred channel and type of interaction. Coupled with omnichannel campaigns, consumers stay engaged for longer periods of time with brands that focus their interaction strategies on consumers’ intent rather than channel. That means starting and driving engagement across all channels, not just email.
To keep a meaningful conversation going, it's critical to understand the next step in consumers’ purchase journeys. Without the ability to accurately decipher intent, delivering the right message at the right time on the right device to the right person becomes a guessing game. At every step in the purchase journey, consumers want to accomplish specific objectives — e.g., identify potential vendors, understand the pros and cons of products, find out what their peers think, etc.
A brand that can capture and decipher intent has a competitive advantage in enabling shoppers to more quickly achieve their objective. The more accurately and consistently a brand identifies and responds to intent, the greater the trust the consumer places in that brand.
How can brands decipher intent? By linking predictive analytics and a consumer's up-to-the-minute universal behavior data variables with rules-based campaigns. Predictive analytics determine the best degree of fit between a shopper and meta-level purchase paths based on past customer behaviors and their outcomes.
By linking the "best fit" path with behavior-based data variables, retailers can spot intent and define campaign rules that effectively engage shoppers in the right next step. The key is to gain the ability to intelligently interpret universal behavior — i.e., a holistic understanding of the consumer based on all internal and external data sources, across all channels and kept current in real time.
Influencing Shopper Behavior: Helping is the New Selling
Consumers are always looking for information, how to connect with like-minded peers, and advice on how to solve a problem when something goes wrong. They expect brands to listen to them regardless of channel and do the heavy lifting to help them address a need.
Shopper enablement is the most powerful tool in a brand's marketing arsenal. It connects brand actions directly with the results consumers are trying to achieve. It turns engagement into a competitive advantage by delivering the right interaction and content at the right time to the shopper through the best channels.
Armed with data-rich profiles, retailers are engaging shoppers with personalized content, offers and campaigns that are contextually relevant and timely. Leading brands know there's a strong correlation between how effectively they help consumers and building shopper preference for that brand. Helping is the new selling.
The success of this correlation relies on knowing how to decipher consumer intent accurately. Furthermore, the three key capabilities for deciphering intent and enabling shoppers are a 360-degree unified customer database, customer intelligence analytics and sophisticated behavioral targeting. When not used together, they can create a disconnected experience that does more harm than good. When used in concert, they can forge a brand experience that makes a lasting — and highly profitable — impression.
Today's consumers are in control. They define a meaningful brand experience according to their needs and preferences, and then decide if a brand is trustworthy. If retail marketers want to make the cut, they need to recognize that this empowerment has forever changed the rules of brand engagement.
Nick Worth is chief marketing officer of Selligent, an international marketing automation provider that powers brands’ customer engagement programs.