This was originally published in Total Retail
The process of acquiring customers today looks very different than it did in the days before the advent of social media and smart devices. Now that consumers are hyperconnected and acutely in tune to their friends’ endorsements, they’re looking for more from brands. And many brands are responding. By personalizing the experience for each prospective buyer and understanding the nuances of the customer journey, companies stand to enhance customer relations and drive significant revenue gains in the process.
How to Ask for Less While Engaging Consumers More
Generally speaking, companies today are getting more creative to draw consumers into the funnel. Rather than relying solely on a special promotion or offering just a brief preview of their product, they instead are extending free trials — think about the freemium model — to entice consumers to engage more deeply with their products or services. This model, often used when companies first transition to a subscription offering, provides consumers the opportunity to “test drive” the product for free before committing to a full subscription. This approach lowers the barriers to entry for consumers and enables the business to expand its user base.
Digital experiences are further enabling this approach and can complement physical as well as digital products. The end result? Brands can engage customers in more meaningful ways and incent full purchases at a later time.
The Divergence of the Acquisition and Retention Relationship
Access to readily available product information — e.g., opinions, buyer recommendations, and reviews from peers, journalists, analysts and competitors — means that consumers no longer move through the funnel in a predictable way, following standard sequences and steps. Rather, consumers engage when ready, pinging from one access point to the next, gathering bits of information from influencers and sources.
The data that consumers produce as they ping their way through their purchasing decisions allows marketers to vastly improve targeting capabilities and drive more efficiency. Marketers can use tools such as Facebook Custom Audiences and Google Customer Match to build and find audiences that already look and behave like known purchasers.
Because of the ambiguity in the funnel, the relationship between acquisition and retention can no longer be thought of as before-and-after partners, but rather should be considered as two separate parts of the customer journey. Brands should plan their acquisition and retention strategies with this in mind.
Emerging Channels Take Shape
As competition has increased in the online space, so too have acquisition costs. This more rigorous competition is forcing brands to broaden their acquisition channels into areas like social media to work in conjunction with traditional tools, such as search and display. New channels are helping brands target audiences more directly and at lower rates than traditional channels. Brands that are re-examining their budgets should consider augmenting their existing programs with newer, complementary channels.
Making Marketing Tools Work
There’s no shortage of marketing tools available to brands today, and you can bet there will be many more tomorrow. The real value in these vehicles, however, is in understanding which ones deliver unique conversions and which simply overlap at the end of the funnel. For example, how do search, display, social and affiliate strategies work together? Attribution modeling unpacks the data-rich zone of digital marketing and is a strategy all brands should harness to fully understand the optimal mix and spend of their marketing tools and channels.
In addition to understanding how marketing tools work together, brands must not lose sight of the other assets they have to attract and acquire customers — and that includes their products, story and unique value proposition. Brands must clearly articulate this trio in order to deliver meaningful value and extend the relationships they have with their customers.
In today’s hypercompetitive era, a polished, well-run website is only one part of the equation to delivering successful customer engagements. Brands must get down to the most innate details of the customer journey. That means personalizing the experience for each prospect from the initial contact through the acquisition phase by understanding and accounting for the outside influencers that can drive decision making, while also taking advantage of new and emerging tools at their disposal. While it may seem like a long, arduous process, the result will be a bigger, more connected customer base and a boon to your bottom line.