This article was originally posted on Forbes.
The marketing landscape has transformed throughout the years — from traditional newspapers and television to digital-first media strategies like email, video, social media and connected TV (CTV). The lessons from the pandemic created an acceleration of this shift to digital and could have a lasting impact on the industry.
As the senior VP of customer innovation and marketing at a company that offers technology solutions to enable personalization, I believe now is the time for brands to adopt a marketing mindset that approaches consumers as individuals. They should focus on communications that deliver relevance and thoughtfulness with the right message and product offering for the consumer at the right moment on the right channel.
As brands adopt a modern marketing approach for the digital world, here are three steps I recommend to put them on the track to success.
Step 1: Treat Customers Like Humans
Marketing should be human. Brands need to treat each consumer as a unique individual. Over the next five years, developments in consumer identity and how brands leverage consented first-party data could have a profound impact on our lives. These shifts in how marketers use data will likely impact how we view brands’ access to our personal information moving forward.
Increasingly, I’ve noticed that consumers are becoming much more careful about how companies use their data. Many consider the collection and sharing of consumer data, in particular through third-party cookies, to be an invasion of privacy. This is likely thanks in part to consumer advocacy and privacy protections like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and others that are in development that double down on privacy protections. Additionally, Google Chrome plans to join other browsers in disabling third-party cookies.
To deliver relevant messaging while respecting consumers’ data, brands should incorporate personalization without third-party cookies. By using first-party data that they gather through their own domains (on-site or in-app), as well as offline retail points of sale, marketers can combine “signals” beyond gender and age — including frequency of visits, preferences, purchases, history and so on — that give them the power to treat consumers like humans using personalization.
To do this, brands should ask each consumer to opt into data collection. Think about how we would order a Lyft ride if we didn’t reveal our location and sharing destination information. Lyft rewards us for taking frequent rides by collecting our data. How about free coffee? If we want that free cup of coffee from Starbucks on our birthday, we share our birthdates. In my experience, consumers are not opposed to sharing personal information with a brand they trust for personalized services and rewards like these. This is why random ads are an annoyance but personalized ad offers are a service.
Step 2: Be Where Your Customers Are
The idea of a digital strategy is nothing new for marketers. What’s new about today’s digital strategy is the focus on the omnichannel delivery of personalized content. Why? Because consumers demand this.
According to a 2018 Accenture study, 91% of consumers say they are more likely to shop with brands that “recognize, remember, and provide them with relevant offers and recommendations.” As a result, marketers have increasingly focused on engaging customers using omnichannel strategies in an effort to provide hyper-personalization. For example, companies could craft campaigns that recommend products to customers based on contextual data (weather, temperature, location) and consented first-party data (email address, phone number, preferences, and any website behaviors).
Brands should be where each consumer is and offer a relevant product or service in the right context and on the right channel.
Step 3: Remain Agile In Changing Market Conditions
2020 and 2021 epitomize the changing market conditions in a way we have never seen before. In 2020, the onset of the global Covid-19 pandemic caused the digital marketing and advertising communities to search for new and innovative ways to meet customer needs — often with limited budgets. As consumers shifted their life and work to the digital realm, e-commerce flourished — led by brands that sold directly to consumers. In early 2021, many businesses were able to reopen physical locations, while many consumers’ preference for digital networking and commerce remained. For 2021, IAB reported a leap in allocated ad spend for desktop video and CTV channels. And the pandemic isn’t over yet. The challenge is: How does your brand remain agile in the way it messages individual consumers in constantly changing market conditions?
One example is that a global hospitality brand might decide it is insensitive to sell hotel rooms internationally when people can’t travel overseas during the pandemic. It could suspend its advertising of hotels in international destinations affected by Covid-19 and instead focus on domestic travel. Companies can also use automation to immediately address changes and enable differentiated messaging strategies in micro-markets. Each market and region has a unique demographic, so messaging should be customized to each area’s needs. (Full disclosure: My company offers automation solutions for personalized marketing.)
Brands need to be agile by making changes to their messaging to meet consumer demand for personalization. Personalization means providing one message or offer to one individual in a very specific context. For example, you could use details like the time, an event, the current weather, the temperature, the pollen count and — with respect to Covid-19 — where masks or vaccination passports are mandated right now.
The pace of change in the marketplace will continue to accelerate, so now is the time for marketers to prioritize a modern approach. If brands focus on these strategies, they can directly affect how customers view their brands and provide their loyalty — now and post-pandemic.