What Online Retailers Need to Know about Behavioral Marketing in 2017

04/18/2017 03:51 pm ET

The challenge of building robust customer profiles has baffled brands since the dawn of the digital age. Sure, you can analyze demographics, create buyer personas, leverage predictive analytics to tell them what they want to buy, conduct surveys, and a litany of other things. But while there are many effective marketing tactics, very rarely do they capture the essence of the customer and create an experience that leaves a lasting impression.

There is a tremendous, untapped opportunity to blend technology and human intuition to create new and improved buying experiences. This blend is known as Behavioral Marketing. By analyzing profiles of users’ previous online behavior to determine what the user will look for next, marketers can achieve a deeper level of personalization, which provide brands with new insights about consumer desires.

Ryan Urban, CEO of BounceX, cloud-based behavioral marketing and analytics software, says marketers who defragment their audiences and create more holistic customer profiles are better staged to execute marketing efforts based on behavioral patterns instead of siloed interests.

Ryan Urban, CEO of BounceX
Ryan Urban, CEO of BounceX

When retailers talk about humanizing the shopping experience, what do they really mean? Why is this the most effective approach?

Urban: It is our experience that although retailers, specifically marketers at retailers, probably recognize the inherent differences in the experience that brick and mortar shoppers receive versus that of digital shoppers, they don’t internalize the negative impact that these differences have on their bottom line. In a physical store, store associates are capable of recognizing the nonverbal behaviors of shoppers and help guide them towards the product, size, or color of their choice. They are capable of identifying intent, recognizing hesitation and providing guidance. In the digital world, these queues are lost in the overwhelming amount of data that e-tailers are capable of capturing, unifying, and proactively utilizing to optimize the digital shopping experience. Behavioral marketing, specifically people-based marketing, empowers e-tailers to identify consumers and communicate with them based on their expressed intent, regardless of the device, channel or browser they are on.

What advice would you give marketers to prep for the science-enabled future of marketing?

Urban: Use data to create more human relationships. It is not about how many cool technologies you can implement into your ever growing tech stack, it’s about unifying your products to create cohesive marketing experiences that are both relevant to the consumer and persistent across all of the touchpoints a consumer has with your brand.

Can you explain the offline shopping experience that is most difficult for brands to replicate online?

Urban: Think about what you do when you’re shopping in a store. If you know what you want, you’ll go straight to that rack and pick it up. If you’re not so sure, you’ll likely move from rack to rack, you’ll examine a few different items, sometimes you’ll pause to take a closer look, other times you’ll find something you really like and pick it up to try on. It’s your body language that good sales associates are able to capitalize on. It’s their job to understand where in the customer journey you are and determine all the ways they can motivate you to take the next step, whether by encouraging you to try something on or telling you that the top looks good. Online, however, the idea of ‘stepping in’ seems impossible. But it’s not – in fact, it’s very similar. Online, brands can gauge consumer interest in a variety of ways, but considering that multi-channel shopping is the norm for most consumers today, that’s a great place to begin. Consumers today can engage with brands and even products in areas far beyond the website; there’s email, social platforms, paid media.

One advantage enjoyed by physical retail stores is the sales staff available for questions and persuasion.
Copyright: leaf / 123RF Stock Photo
One advantage enjoyed by physical retail stores is the sales staff available for questions and persuasion.

It’s up to the brands to ensure that across each of those unique channels, consumers have an experience similar to the one they’d have in a store. Just as each new point of engagement represents a step forward for the customer, each of those touch points represents the brand’s opportunity to operate like a sales associate and guide that customer even further. The problem is that marketers today think they’re achieving this with just a multi-channel approach – the fact that they have a marketing strategy for each channel. That’s essentially the equivalent of beginning with a new sales associate each time you move closer to making the purchase. Who wants that? Instead, marketers should have one single strategy, just as customers should have a single, devoted sales associate, that guides customers across every channel, building on every experience they’ve already had and motivating them to continually move forward.

What do you see as the biggest learning curves and gaps that online retailers are facing for monetization and discovery purposes?

Urban: Online retailers are not dumb. They are merely confined by the antiquated limitations that larger organizations place on their ability to be agile in a new era. Online retailers understand that consumers have 3.64 connected devices. Online retailers understand that consumers expect consistent communication and, above all else, convenience. The opportunity to create an impact on the bottom line lies in their ability to unify their marketing data (both online and offline), create people-based communications (not channel based communications), and execute experiences for the human behind the device.

Where do you see the biggest advancements in behavioral marketing in the next 3-5 years?

Urban: The most significant advancement in not just behavioral marketing but marketing as a whole that I see happening in the near future is a shift in perspective. Today, marketers have become scatterbrained, as they attempt to keep up with the ever-evolving ways to engage their consumers. We’ve spread ourselves thin in an attempt to touch every single channel and lost sight of the true goal, which is a result. We have teams devoted to email, social, ads, etc., but we don’t have a team devoted to the customer – to ensuring that the customer experience is optimized across each and every touchpoint, from start to finish.

As new channels and technologies continue to emerge, a people-based approach to marketing will become increasingly crucial, and the key to making that shift lies in data. Brands today are sitting on more data than they know what to do with, from offline POS sales to email and ad engagement data, and any attempt at organizing that data in a comprehensive and actionable way has been hopeless. Behavioral Marketing will become the tool that finally brings that otherwise ‘dark data’ to light by connecting it all back to the individual in question regardless of channel. After all, it doesn’t matter if she came from Snapchat, an email, or a YouTube video; all that matters is how she reacted and how best to motivate her to continue engaging.

Ultimately, Behavioral Marketing will enable brands to identify their consumers regardless of where they are and unify their currently siloed teams and channels under one cohesive, data-driven, and people-based strategy, finally achieving the vision of Omnichannel that’s been discussed for years.

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