A Q&A with Michele Salerno, Director of Sales and Marketing, Asst. VP, Celerant Technology Corp.
- Digital marketing is an endlessly evolving discipline for retailers. Please list and explain best practices in digital marketing.
- How should retailers leverage top trends in digital marketing (e.g. micro-moment marketing, location-based marketing, personalization, etc.) to reach their customers?
- What’s the single most important piece of advice you can offer retailers regarding digital marketing?
IRT: Digital marketing is an endlessly evolving discipline for retailers. Please list and explain best practices in digital marketing.
SALERNO: The very first thing for retailers to understand about digital marketing is that a plan that may have worked beautifully for a competitor may not work at all for them. That’s one of the biggest challenges and why so many retailers are experiencing results from digital marketing campaigns that fall short of what could be achieved. Digital marketing isn’t different from any other type of marketing in that the best results are achieved from solid foundations — and the only way to build a truly rock solid foundation is to completely understand both your customers and the products that you sell.
There are no shortcuts for that; you have to start there. Of course, very few retailers completely understand their customers. Or, they once did, but customer tastes have changed over time. That is to be expected, and one of the beautiful things about digital marketing is that it is nimble enough to respond quickly to those failures. Changes can be made in real time as opposed to having to design a new billboard or script, shoot, and edit a new TV commercial. Course corrections always yield casualties of some sort, so it’s best to begin with a set of proven knowledge and reasonable assumptions.
Here are some best practices to help hone digital marketing to its ideal.
- Segment your email list. The worst kind of digital marketing is the kind that spams the same exact message to every person on an email list. Not only is this ineffective, it is also counterproductive. Do not ever take the email contact channel for granted. It is an invitation to reach a customer directly, and it can be revoked at any time. Reaching out to customers is a tremendous responsibility that can end with you losing that customer forever if handled poorly. Some will even block your entire domain so that you can never reach them digitally again. It is definitely worthwhile to take the time to determine how many different customer personas you really have and then segment each recipient accordingly. There’s no magic number here, some retailers may truly only have 3 distinct personas, some may have over 50.
- Craft the most appropriate message for each segment. Each customer segment needs to be spoken to differently. Even if you are sending the same message, they need to hear it differently, and they may also need to hear it at different frequencies using different offers and language. One of the worst places marketers can cut corners is in developing the creative that reaches customers. Every word that you use — every color, every font, the layout of every picture is a direct reflection of your brand.
- Integrate digital marketing with all of your customer data. Good marketing automation platforms help optimize campaigns by measuring every activity that happens with a message. This link didn’t get many clicks, so people didn’t like it. Open rates were down on this message, so the subject line must have been weak, etc. This is valid, but integration with retail management platforms gives marketers much more data to work with. What did a customer do AFTER clicking a link? Did she spend 30 seconds on a product page? Did she buy the product? Did she put it in her cart and abandon it? Did she come into a physical store and buy the product a week later, or maybe a similar product? Tracking all of these behaviors helps better optimize how to market to each individual customer. Also, some behaviors should automatically trigger engagement. A returned item should trigger a service recovery message, an abandoned cart should trigger an immediate reminder, and a purchase should trigger a request to review the item some time later. Every action a customer performs should make you smarter at understanding how to market best to her, so integrate as much as possible so every engagement and any touchpoint aggregates to make digital marketing more precise.
- Monitor and measure. One of the biggest selling points of digital marketing is that it is inherently measurable. It’s easy to see what is working and what isn’t, but it’s much more difficult to understand the why behind it. That’s why digital marketing works best when looked at from the perspective of sales, service and satisfaction. The best way to explain this is to imagine a marketing campaign goes out to a targeted group of customers touting a discount on a hot new item. If the results are less than expected, the natural assumption is that the messaging was off. Maybe it was, but it’s also important to take a step back and understand the entire situation. It might be that some customers are no longer in the segment that fits them best. Perhaps the product just isn’t in demand as much as you thought. Maybe your limited time offer came at the beginning of the month and most of the recipients don’t receive paychecks until the end of the month. It could be almost anything, and the beauty of digital marketing is it gives you the power to respond to those drivers quickly and effectively — but you have to be able to understand what those measured results are telling you.