In a rapidly changing digital landscape, marketers must re-think the roles that their brands play in consumers' lives – and how they bring those roles to life across platforms and touchpoints. To be effective, they need a means of targeting consumers with seamless, relevant experiences as they move between devices; they need a deeper understanding of the emotions their brand experiences generate, and they need the capacity to respond to these insights in real-time. In other words, they need research that adapts to the new marketing agenda.
We asked media owners, media planners and marketers to talk about the issues that research must help them address this year. Here are the challenges topping their list – an agenda for marketers and market researchers in 2016:
What do meaningfully personalised consumer experiences look like in 2016? Consumers quickly get frustrated by clumsy use of personal information or behavioural targeting that defines them on the basis of a single action and bombards them with often irrelevant or outdated messages. They start to feel deeper discomfort when those messages follow them insistently around their digital lives. At the same time though, they expect their brand interactions to reflect increasingly personalised digital media experiences. How can marketers stay relevant without leaving their audiences feeling uncomfortable?
Tracking individuals across different devices is both technically difficult and vulnerable to regulatory challenges. However, as Sameer Desai of Mundipharma explains in this interview, there are other ways of delivering relevant content to consumers. By combining in-depth consumer segmentation with programmatic targeting techniques and look-alike models, marketers can ensure that they are targeting only those people who are genuinely interested in and open to spending more with their brand. Applying such data-driven targeting has enabled Holiday Inn Hotels to drive uplifts in conversions of more than 500%.
Marketers must not only customise their approach to different audiences, but to the different contexts in which they encounter them. As different social platforms take on particular roles in people’s lives, it’s important for the tone and style of brand communications to adapt to each channel. Understanding consumer motivations in different social spaces is the key to delivering marketing that is both engaging and shareable.
This is all the more important given social media’s increasingly open-ended role in brand-consumer relationships, with people expecting to conduct all types of brand interaction through the channels of their choice. This might involve consuming content, but could also involve browsing products, interacting with customer service, and completing purchases. Unless marketers can enable a full range of brand experiences on the right social channels, they risk frustrating their potential buyers.
Consumers may be spending a greater total amount of time on digital platforms, but that time is hugely fragmented – and contains huge variations in how open they are to engaging with brands. Marketers must adapt to an environment in which people jump nimbly between disappearing Snapchat messages and 6-second Vine videos, regularly skipping past videos after the first three seconds and providing ever-narrower attention spans for brands to aim at. To engage an audience, marketers must increasingly compete within these micro-moments, adjusting both creative and planning strategy to fit. Get it wrong, and they will be guilty of interrupting and irritating connected consumers. Get it right, and they will be able to turn in-the-moment relevance into longer-term engagement.
Dealing with Big Data has topped the agenda of many marketing departments over the past year – and it will continue to do so in 2016. However, simply dealing with data as it arrives is unlikely to give brands a competitive advantage. As Caspar Schlickum of the digital media platform Xaxis points out, marketers need strategic thinking to shape the types of data that they collect – and how they combine that data with other sources of insight. When marketers plan data collection and analysis on the basis of the end-user experiences they want to deliver, they are far more likely to deliver the intuitive experiences that people want.
Through social media, we have more data available than ever before on people’s behaviour, interests and motivations. We also know more than ever about the emotions generated by their different experiences of a brand. TNS already uses the analysis of social media conversations to provide near real-time feedback on anything from the emotive power of advertising to the depth of loyalty being created by customer experiences. Maximising the potential of such insight involves researchers thinking outside of the siloes that have dominated our industry in the past. Information can no longer be compartmentalised between ‘communications effectiveness’, ‘corporate reputation’, ‘product launch evaluation’ or ‘customer experience management’.
Connected consumers view their experience of a brand in a seamless, holistic way. It’s important that both marketers and researchers do the same.