The ways that we consume media are changing rapidly. Audience engagement with brands is evolving, with experimental mediums like Instagram stories, voice-search, podcasts and augmented reality (AR) giving users entirely new touch-points and brand-experiences.
These communications platforms and tools have also changed the way we read, listen, watch and shop, creating a living ecosystem of marketing opportunities that extends from the real world to online. Omnichannel is no longer a buzzword but an essential strategy that brands need to adopt – or risk falling behind.
Shifting attention spans and the urge to ‘keep up’ with the world have driven an increase in multi-screening, with 76 per cent of Australians now using the internet while they watch TV. Audiences are searching for more information, at faster speeds and greater volumes. With news and reviews constantly at their fingertips, they’re making more informed decisions with all the data they can gather. And they’re turning to new sources: 86 per cent of women use social media for purchasing advice, with half (49 per cent) saying they depend on influencer recommendations.
Customers no longer just want to browse goods, they’re engaging with physical retail spaces, printed materials and online content in a more meaningful way. ‘Experiential retail’ is on the rise, as customers seek community, connection and the lifestyle encouraged by ‘cult’ brands and influencers. For example, skate wear brand Supreme has developed such a devoted following that it sees hundreds of people in three-person-deep queues snaking around the block, waiting for its weekly collection drops.
Even formats that are (mistakenly) thought of as ‘traditional’, like print or out of home, aren’t immune to the changes: brands are pushing boundaries with eye-popping interactivity and innovation. Motorola teamed up with magazine Wired to produce a print ad where readers could change the colour of the phone displayed; Glacial beer created a paper-ad that doubled-up as a way to cool your bottles quickly; and Corona created a billboard ‘sculpture’ that used beach litter to highlight the issue of plastic waste.
The digital and physical are also blurring, with click-and-collect, customised in-store experiences, and AR letting people browse, try-on or test products without ever touching a physical item.At the same time, people are turning away from marketing that feels intrusive or doesn’t provide genuine education or entertainment: in Australia, an average of 25 per cent of online ads viewed on a desktop are now blocked by ad-blocking software.
All of this means that competition is fiercer than ever. You’re no longer just competing with the other companies in your industry, but also with hundreds of posts in a crowded news feed or search page, from the latest news to memes, viral videos and even messages from friends and family. Brands need to do everything they can to stand out.
One way to do this is by using all available data to make informed decisions and craft relevant messaging for every stage of the customer journey. This could be as simple as using gender, location and job title information to share content relevant to those demographics, or it could be as sophisticated as overlaying purchase data and predictive behavioural metrics to create detailed audience profiles and segmentation. Armed with this kind of insight, you can offer tailored messaging, imagery and offers that will resonate, turning your audiences into happy customers.
The key is to integrate it across your business. While marketing has historically been siloed, with departments separated across the likes of digital, comms, events, direct and social, this has led to a fragmented approach. Integrating data from all these departments will give you the bigger picture. If the same customer has interacted with you on Facebook, subscribed to your emails or spoken with customer service, you can piece this information together to develop a complete view of them. You can retarget with hyper-relevant content, personalise their next catalogue with their most-bought products or customise the subject line of your email newsletter to guarantee a click.
It’s no longer just about ‘servicing’ customers, but about building a narrative around them.
Single channels no longer have the impact they used to. TV viewing, for example, once commanded national attention. Now, other avenues like streaming services are on the rise, and with Netflix, Stan, Amazon Prime and Foxtel Now easily available for Australian consumers, there’s more choice than ever.
In the past, marketers worried that different messages across different channels would confuse people. Now, the most successful brands are brave enough to meaningfully stretch themselves across channels and niche audiences.
Genuine engagement is about communicating with audiences on their terms to build brand trust. Unifying all your marketing channels towards this common goal will enable greater collaboration, increase efficiency and offer more opportunity to innovate.