Building Brand Affinity in the Digital Age

Today’s retail landscape is faster-paced than ever before due to technological innovation. Marketing struggles to stay ahead of this ever-changing curve. Today’s tactics are quickly becoming yesterday’s tradition.

Previously retailers knew their customers personally from their visits in store. Shop owners would know their regulars intimately; what they liked and disliked; what they bought; along with their habits and a host of personal details through good old-fashioned human interaction. Store owners could hence cater directly to the changing needs of their regular shoppers.

Then the digital age arrived, and online sites such as Yahoo and Google cut out this element of personal interaction. They can tell retailers what customers were buying, but not much more. This has now become tradition, and needs disrupting if brands are intent on building awareness. The new stage of marketing, disrupting this tradition, revolves around techniques involving data, personalisation, mobile and AR (augmented reality).

There are three things every brand today should be doing to help increase personal interaction and affinity among potential customers.

1. Know your customer

Know what they do, know what they buy, know how often they shop, know how often they come back, know that Saturday is their best day, know that they shop when the kids are in bed, on the way to work, on a mobile, on an android, on an app or on a website.

There is so much data and insights out there readily available, and it goes far beyond simply purchase history that the likes of Google or Yahoo show you. With the information available you can build an accurate picture of your customer, finding their preferences, habits, timings and ways they like to shop.

Personalisation really is key in today’s world, just as it was to the shopkeeper originally. Too often businesses don’t actually know their customers, and all it takes is a little innovation and proactivity.

2. Know your customer’s universe

Know their environment and what is going on around them. This is all about their propensity to buy, what will they purchase next?

Take a look at their media consumption, their online habits and social channels. If someone buys a kindle they don’t want to be recommended another kindle. What did other kindle buyers with a similar profile buy next. That’s the second level of data analysis, built upon customers’ core profile and preferences.

This is where a lot of retailers are missing a trick. Take Hobbs. Their data set will show you that their average customer is a professional 45-year-old woman looking for a suit or clothes for an event. If I were Hobbs, I would think how many women are 45 who now are working in an environment where they actually do not need formal wear? There might be a growing market for “cool casual” for example, a need Hobbs can address.

Only through knowing your customer’s unique universe can you have the full picture, enabling you to predict what they will buy next, something most brands and retailers are unable to do proficiently. After all, what’s the sense in offering someone a Kindle if they’ve only just bought one? Next up, how to interact with them.

3. Toe the line between tailored and intrusive

Data based on customer insights and personalised marketing must tread the narrow path between effective targeting and being invasive.

Showing you know too much can alienate customers and risks scaring potential customers away for fear of the security of their personal information.

For example, adverts that pop up on social media for products you’ve just searched for on a search engine or promotions based on your emails can leave you concerned for your privacy. It can feel violating and disconcerting.

Facebook is intrusive, Google is intrusive. Retargeting was the first to be intrusive and is unlikely to attract the customer to a brand. If you are shown an ad that is firstly intrusive and secondly incorrect you are never going to go to that site again.

Ad blocking is the result of retargeting. People began ignoring adverts, and then advertisers started becoming intrusive, and customers resorted to ad blocking. This was where the line was overstepped.

Marketers have the challenge of striking the necessary balance of a targeted marketing campaign.

To effectively build greater brand affinity, innovative personalised marketing, driven by data, is vital. It is your prerogative to know your customer and their universe. You need both in conjunction for best results, to know everything about your customer, and everything about their environment to know what they will buy next. But you must be mindful of customer privacy, treading that fine line between insightful and invasive.

By Elizabetta Camilleri, who is Co-founder & CEO of Shopological

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