A dynamic strategy for wooing online consumers

A little over a year ago, I wrote about one of my favorite Bill Murray movies, "Groundhog Day." My point in that earlier article was focused on the need for companies to get better at customer recognition, and I used the character played by Bill Murray to demonstrate the frustration your customers can feel when they are forced to re-live the same day and the same events over and over again, in regards to their dealings with your company.

And then I watched the movie again recently. And I decided it was the best digital marketing movie ever made -- even though it was released in 1993, the same year as Mosaic, the world's first web browser.

What led me to this conclusion? Again, my last article focused on Bill Murray as your frustrated consumer: "Why don't you recognize me?" "Why don't you remember what I did with you just yesterday?" "Why do I seem to be the only one who remembers anything?!" And this reality continues today, and it is something companies must continue to address through better customer recognition.

But my last article completely ignored the second half of the movie, when Bill Murray becomes the personification of the savviest digital marketer in the world. How does he do that? If you recall, his goal in the movie becomes very single-minded. He wants to bring his love interest, Andie MacDowell, into a "conversion." And early on, that appears to be an insurmountable task. In other words, she as a consumer is completely uninterested in brand Bill Murray.

But Bill Murray, digital marketer, has one big advantage. He gets to learn from each and every interaction he has with Ms. McDowell and apply that knowledge in the same setting the very next day (because, of course, he relives every single day). As an example, he finally gets her to join him for a drink. The very first time he orders first and orders a whiskey and water. Ms. McDowell orders sweet vermouth on the rocks with a twist. Not much in common there, right? So the next "day," he orders sweet vermouth, with a twist, and she looks at him and says "That's my favorite drink!"

So we've moved from awareness to a small degree of interest.

But Bill botches it because she then suggests they should toast to something. Bill suggests they toast to the groundhog, and Ms. McDowell replies. "I always drink to world peace." So the next "day," Bill orders sweet vermouth with a twist, and when she suggests a toast, he replies that he'd like to toast to world peace. Ms. McDowell's interest in a "conversion" increases.

By learning her likes and dislikes, and what was truly important to her in that product category, and then using that information in subsequent interactions with her, Bill is able to pull her through to a "conversion." And that, my friends, is how digital marketing should work.

Yet, as we know, real life isn't like Hollywood. We don't get involved in car chases very frequently. Spaceships hardly ever land in our backyards. Most of us don't look like George Clooney or Scarlett Johansson. As a result, not enough marketers follow the script, so to speak.
 
Every interaction represents an opportunity for a marketer to learn about his or her consumers. We've long had the capability to record what a consumer clicks on in an email and what he or she does subsequently on a website. Marketers who use web clickstream data enjoy a four-fold boost in performance, according to Forrester. However, only 11 percent do so.

While some marketers use custom-built decision engines to interpret these data, any marketer can start with the basics by using a little bit of technology and a lot of common sense. For instance, a quick look back at recent email campaigns can tell a marketer what the most popular offer was. Why not target those who responded to that offer with a similar offer? Why not target those who did not respond with something else?

A marketer new to this kind of thinking could spend a year or more simply looking for coincidences that could drive additional campaigns. But the real benefit begins when communications start corresponding to portraits of customer behavior.

Or take search. The keywords of a search can quickly indicate to a marketer where that person might be in the purchase cycle. If they are looking for a "date," you still have some selling to do. If they are ready to get "engaged," you want to close the deal. The content you present to people as a result of their searches should naturally vary greatly on your landing page, or where you take them to your site.

Simply put, email, search terms, and web behavior become preferences that drive dynamic interactions. Any up-to-date email platform can populate a dynamic email based on attributes. So consumers who responded to offer A get one new offer, while those who didn't get another. The same approach, by the way, works with simple polls. A marketer can insert a poll into an email or website and append the result as an attribute.

What this approach does is enable the marketer to learn about the customer over time, just as Bill Murray did. By recording the clicks, the search terms used, and even the display ad copy clicked, the marketer can determine what about the brand excites individual customers. For instance, over time, a retailer's email customer may tend to click on the same sorts of items. The retailer, then, should respond by focusing more on those items in that customer's email. Another marketer could gather key bits of profile information via polls and segment out moms with families from single guys. The opportunities are endless -- as endless as Bill Murray's Groundhog Day.

Chris Marriott is vice president and global managing director for Acxiom Digital.

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Comments

Claus Rodgaard
Claus Rodgaard August 10, 2009 at 10:28 AM

Good article and great analogy.

Our experience here at VerticPortals has been that the customer likes the idea but its difficult to move the knowledge from one campaign to the next one. However we seen more and more customers who understands this and moves away from a campaign state to mind to a continous approach.

Claus
www.verticportals.com