Artificial intelligence (AI) enhances an online retailer’s ability to engage with customers, says Peter Thomas. The technology that is now redefining retail enables algorithms to make the same complex decisions a human could, sifting through the data, but much faster and at volume. It means the customer experience (CX) becomes more tailored and personalised; the customer journey more comfortable. When used well, the tech helps both retailer and consumer.
It was well publicised prior to May 25 that GDPR would likely have a detrimental impact on email marketing, in terms of its effectiveness and popularity. The sheer volume of emails requesting consent in the run-up to the deadline, combined with subsequently reduced list sizes (with many companies unnecessarily seeking re-consent to hold customers’ personal information), posed a real threat to the supremacy of the marketing channel.
However, new post-GDPR research by the UK DMA reveals that nearly three-quarters (73%) of consumers say email is their preferred marketing channel. Out of eight marketing channels, email comes out on top despite industry concerns about the effect of GDPR. Media coverage has clearly had an impact, with 90% of respondents saying they are now aware of the new data laws, but the spike in GDPR-related emails ahead of May 25 doesn’t appear to have impacted consumer preference for the channel.
The DMA’s latest Customer Engagement – Acquisition and the consumer mindset report explores public attitudes towards the future of customer engagement. A key focus of the report is to analyse the relationship between members of the public and brands during moments where consumers question whether to try a new brand or stick with what they know.
Still Number 1: email marketing post-GDPR
Email is the most popular channel by a significant margin – 73% of consumers named it within their top two (out of eight) in terms of preference, and 90% place it in their top four. Other channels included post, social media, text message, online (i.e web banners), face-to-face, messenger apps (i.e Facebook Messenger) and phone. This isn’t necessarily a big surprise, email is a significant part of our everyday lives as professionals, individuals and even consumers. It would be a rare case to find someone you know that doesn’t possess at least one email address, if not more.
The next most popular channel was post, with 41% of respondents selecting this. Four times as many place this channel as their first or second preference than those who place it at the bottom of their preferences. Evidently, post still has an important part to play as a marketing medium and is a unique alternative to digital channels. Traditional print media provides consumers with a personal experience – something tangible they can interact with, take with them and go back to at their leisure. Its unique nature makes it a robust medium.
Conversely, phone is clearly an unpopular marketing channel with consumers; 59% placed phone calls in the bottom two rankings and 84% placed it in their bottom four. This is often due to the intrusive nature of phone calls, especially when rogue companies harass consumers with unsolicited marketing calls. Very few consumers chose messenger apps as a preferred medium. Given that this channel is not yet used at scale, this is not too surprising.
Consumer preferences towards social media, text message marketing and online marketing are more polarised, with similar proportions of consumers ranking these channels as their most preferred and least. This could reflect a mix of positive and negative experiences of receiving marketing via these channels among consumers today.
Keep your messaging clear and simple
Marketers should bear in mind keeping messages simple and relevant to consumers – nearly two-fifths (38%) of consumers rate simple-to-understand messages as those most likely to engender their trust. In addition, the UK DMA’s Consumer Email Tracker Report 2017 found that personal and relevant emails are an absolute must for consumers, which is particularly important given that 99% check their non-work emails every day.
This year’s Customer Engagement – Acquisition and the consumer mindset report also found that relevance of marketing messages is positively correlated with trust across marketing channels. Meaning that when people find a message or offer relevant to them, they are more likely to show a stronger level of trust in that channel. When responding to an interesting marketing message consumers tend to respond in several ways: 48% say they will search for the company website, 41% bear the information in mind for later use and 37% will click on a link in the message. Clearly, by contacting consumers with messages that are relevant to them, businesses can influence consumer behaviour both directly (i.e a click on an email link) and indirectly (i.e consideration of the brand).
Email the most relevant marketing channel
Consumers also believe email to be the most relevant marketing channel. A majority of 64% rank marketing messages they receive via email relevant to them vs 43% ranking online marketing relevant – just 28% rank marketing messages they receive via phone call relevant. Evidently, it remains a key way to engage customers when it is used to promote the right opportunities at the right times.
The results featured in the report also highlight the issue of consumer trust in marketing as a whole. All marketers, no matter what channel they are using to reach out to consumers, need to be conscious of how to be useful and relevant.
When it comes to how marketers are trying to build connections, any degree of scepticism among today’s consumers can always be fended off by consistently delivering relevance and value. Your customers will thank you for it and the business will benefit from it.
Email marketing post-GDPR – important role in marketing strategy
Well-targeted email marketing campaigns present a great opportunity for businesses of all sizes to reach their ideal market, no matter what their audience looks like. By adding email marketing to your list of digital marketing tactics, businesses can improve their reach and visibility, allowing marketers to engage and convert more leads on a consistent basis.
However, any successful marketing strategy must make use of a variety of channels to reach as many of your target audience as possible, at their convenience. Traditional print media still have an important role to play and consumers value them, as will social media in the future as it further integrates into our daily lives. Whatever marketing channel or combination of mediums you decide, keep the messages relevant, simple and targeted – this will be key to increasing your effectiveness in the future.
To find out more about the DMA or this research, click here.
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