Customer engagement is predicated on a company’s ability to unify customer data, leverage AI-enabled technology, and create compelling omnichannel experiences.
English technology guru Michael Aldrich, the creator and father of online shopping, believed an electronic, interactive, “many-to-many” approach to mass communication could change the way business was done.
Not only was Aldrich a brilliant inventor, he was also correct.
His pioneering computing work in the late 70s (specifically 1979 when he invented “videotex,” for all intents and purposes the first system to enable e-business) fundamentally changed the landscape for the retail, auto, and finance industries, among others.
For the first time, electronic transactions – and thus the online customer experience – were possible.
But it’s doubtful that even Aldrich could have anticipated the impact the fruits of his labor would have on B2C marketing some 40 years later.
Rethinking Customer Engagement
Today, online sales are increasing approximately 10X the rate of in-store.
As a result (and probably as a cause), brands are increasingly shifting resources and priorities toward perfecting the online experience.
Shoppers today have more of virtually everything – exponentially more product choice, more access and options of where and how to research purchases, and greater ability to control their experience.
It’s up to the companies they do choose to engage with to provide a nearly flawless experience, which, in turn, will increase customer engagement.
And more brands are starting to move from a technology- or company-centric mindset to putting the customer at the core of their B2C marketing strategy.
Related Content: How Does B2C Marketing Automation Help Engage Customers?
These brands understand it’s their responsibility to anticipate customer needs based on predefined preferences, and deliver what they want before they even need to ask.
But, for many marketers, achieving this level of understanding is easier said than done.
Since Aldrich set out to change e-commerce, an exponential amount of disruptive channels, tools, and platforms have been introduced, each claiming to modify or support or enhance customer engagement.
With so much noise – and numerous “point solutions” seemingly sprouting up on the daily – marketers need more information and education than ever.
These three B2C marketing trends (which, candidly, are more overarching industry movements) will help you get a better grasp on how you can improve customer engagement in an ever-growing B2C ecosystem:
1) Using Big Data to Create Unified Customer Profiles
Big data is a simple term used to describe the large amounts of information that inundate a business every day.
Collecting customer data across each communication platform, at every possible point of the customer lifecycle, can help brands process an abundance of information about their customers’ habits.
Collecting this information from in-store purchases, online shopping behavior, email engagement, and mobile app usage allows the creation of a unified customer profile for each individual buyer.
Brands that apply big data to achieve this understanding of their customers are able to create highly personalized and relevant marketing interactions along each step of the customer lifecycle.
Knowing, for example, that a customer didn’t engage with an email but did redeem a promo code sent via SMS is incredibly valuable information. As a result, the brand could continue to engage with that individual via SMS to see if it is the most effective marketing channel for that customer.
2) Using Artificial Intelligence-Enabled Technologies to Automate Predictions
As previously discussed, the large amount of customer data available can be overwhelming for even the most skilled marketing analysts.
Revisiting the example above, in which the customer seems to be most responsive to SMS messages, how can a marketer possibly achieve this level of personalization with thousands of customers in a database? Attempting to do so manually would be futile.
Artificial Intelligence Marketing (AIM) helps overcome this obstacle.
It bridges the gap between big data and personalized customer interactions, by analyzing all data collected for a contact to create personalized interactions with each individual, and leveraging technology like machine learning and automation to scale this personalization to even the largest databases.
By using AI technology to effectively sort data, marketing teams can gain significantly more in-depth customer knowledge and understanding, a catalyst for superior product recommendations, customized incentives, and personalized interactions.
The result? Improved engagement and increased conversions, with less time spent manually tweaking marketing tactics.
3) Creating Omnichannel Marketing That Engages
Omnichannel marketing is all about delivering a consistent brand experience, conglomerating all customer data into a unified profile that defines a strategy across every single channel.
By implementing omnichannel marketing strategies, marketers can see where individuals engage, and where they don’t, with greater transparency than ever before. They can then use this information about each customer to create holistic, increasingly personalized messages, incentives, product recommendations, and overall shopping experiences.
The outcome is not only increased conversion rates, but also positive impact on brand loyalty and customer retention.
If advancements in the last 40 years are any indication of what’s to come in the next 40, B2C e-commerce still has incredible, even unimaginable, innovation ahead.
But by leveraging these major B2C marketing trends to learn as much as possible about customers, you can increase customer engagement and maximize your customers’ experience with your brand.
Related Content: 5 B2C Marketing Trends to Watch For in 2017
The better the customer profile, the more personalized the campaign and, subsequently, the more connected the buyer feels to their brand of choice.
Learning how customers want to receive communication, what they prioritize, how they want to engage with a brand, and finally, what will keep them coming back, can be some of the most valuable resources for a brand.
This knowledge has enormous potential, but only for those with the capability to collect, understand, and utilize it.