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Digital communication: using the right channel to enhance customer engagement

Experian Panorama

 

 

 

 

CheetahMail, the digital marketing service from Experian, has released the whitepaper “The perfect digital blend: engaging customers through email, SMS and social media”, based on a survey conducted in 2010 with consumers in the UK, Netherlands, Germany, France and Spain. The research focuses on the best approaches to use and combine digital communication channels (email, SMS and social media), and understand how to engage consumers in the new digital landscape.

In the last few years, the digital channels have increasingly taken a central place in our communication behaviors. We use them to socialize, keep in touch with distant, and not so distant friends and relatives, to share knowledge, links and finds, to learn and to work. But what’s important for businesses across the region is the ever increasing trend of using digital communication channels to keep a relationship with brands and companies. These channels require new levels of expertise to be used effectively. As Steve Lomax, Managing Director of Experian CheetahMail in EMEA says, “We know that it can be difficult to keep up with the pace of digital innovation and make the right technology and communication choices. Even for more digital savvy brands that we work with, there are challenges”.

One of the most important findings of the research is that 66% of consumers want brands to ask them about their channel preference before communicating. Of course most of them also expressed their skepticism about the brands ability to choose the right channel. When asked if they trusted companies to make the appropriate decisions when it comes to choosing which channel to communicate through, only 11% of the consumers surveyed agreed in the UK, while this figure was higher elsewhere, up to 40% in Spain. Matching consumer needs and wants will increase engagement and improve significantly the relationship with them, as this indicates that consumers want to be in control of the communication preferences. Companies must send not only the right message to the right person at the right time, but also through the right channel.

SMS

Though smartphones and their internet connection capabilities have increasingly blurred the line between SMS and emails, consumers still perceive SMS as a highly personal communication channel. As a result, consumers are less accepting of general marketing messages sent through this channel, as they will feel intrusive, but the opposite will happen if the message is related to a recent interaction, such as a confirmation of an appointment, a purchase or a delivery date. Also, time-sensitive messages such as last minute sales and promotions are well received, especially among south Europeans (50% in Spain and 31% in France, compared to 7% in the Netherlands).

Social Media

Facebook has now more than 500 million users, according to data from Experian Hitwise, traffic to social networking sites has surpassed search engines for the first time in the UK and three quarters of consumers across all five countries surveyed in this Experian CheetahMail research are using at least one social networking site. With these figures in mind it’s no surprise that marketers are intensively pursuing social media in their marketing campaigns, but brands need to be very thoughtful on how they interact with consumers in social networks, both in isolation and combined with other communications channels as email.

One strongly positive figure is that 51% of consumers stated that they were prepared to engage with brands on social media sites, and a third follow / friend the company they work for on sites as Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

The two main reasons for consumers to engage with brands are to find about special sales and offers (24%) and to hear other consumers’ experiences and reviews (23%).

Email

Although email frequently makes headlines in business and mainstream publications for its alleged death, the figures show quite the opposite:  The 2010 eConsultancy Email Census recently highlighted that 75% of businesses rate email as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ for return on investment, higher than that of any other digital marketing channel, and in the latest global benchmark figures from Experian CheetahMail, email volumes are up 42 per cent year-on-year and revenue coming from email marketing campaigns is up 35%.

The increase in volume means that to maintain response rates high, marketers have to increase the targeting and relevance of their campaigns. About half of customers would be more likely to respond to an email campaign if this was sent with a discount offer for a product the customer was researching online. Targeting based on lifestyle, age or location would mean increasing response for more than 20% of consumers. The message is clear: consumers will reward companies able to send emails tailored to their individual circumstances and preferences.

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