UK brands were fined £1,985,000 in the past year for unwanted marketing calls, termed as “a range of unlawful marketing activities”. These fines were issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), responsible for policing data protection across the nation. The ICO’s seven-figure sum isn’t an isolated figure or knee-jerk reaction. Its activities follow European data protection law; and across the board measures are being taken to clamp down on unsolicited marketing contact. This includes initiatives such as pan-European cooperation and “secret shopper” operations that test just how brands use the marketing data they’re given by consumers.
Take a moment to consider whether your own firm could be subject to such a fine. With omnichannel communications taking place across an increasing number of channels, can you be sure all output is ship shape?
While the vast majority of organisations would never dream of taking part in such practices, the fallout from an increased resilience to, and willingness to deal with, so-called “nuisance” marketing communications has the potential to damage all brands; particularly as consumers begin to edit their own communication channels. Applications blocking specific channels and organisations are constantly evolving, with the likes of ‘Trump Blocker’ and ‘Clinton Blocker’ rising to prominence as noise builds around the US election campaign.
With consumers becoming increasingly willing and able to block communication streams they no longer want to see, here are three tactics brands can use to ensure they are not cut off:
Treat customers as individuals
The most important factor in preventing being barred by consumers is to make communications something that customers welcome, and ideally even look forward to. To do this, consumers have to be treated as individuals, instead of a single, faceless mass. Individuals will have their own interests and preferences, both in what information they receive, and which channels they receive it over. Knowing that Alan from Detroit likes information about sales and discounts emailed to him, while Tanya from Dusseldorf wants to share information about brand-new products over Twitter, is a crucial part of delivering a new-generation customer experience. If brands can use their knowledge of customers to provide personalised communications, over a channel that suits the customer, they are far less likely to be branded a “nuisance.”
Communicate in the form your customers want
While personalisation and targeting is important, it’s easy to become complacent. Brands must react to changes and ensure they are always communicating with consumers in the appropriate manner, and with the right message. For instance, if a brand’s customers begin moving en masse to Instagram, it needs to follow them there, and act appropriately: for example, by sharing images of new products or celebrity endorsements, and liking suitable brand images from consumers. This will have far better results than continuing to use channels such as email that, while they worked in the past, might now be seen as an inconvenience.
However, it is important to remember while providing customer service across new channels, that they cannot just be tacked onto existing systems. Brands must take the time to properly integrate, so they emerge with a true omnichannel customer service.
It is important for brands to continually monitor and react to changes in buyer behaviour. The more relevant communications are to a person’s current interests, the more likely that person is to stick with the brand. For example, if a consumer switches from constantly following sale and special offer updates on social media to only looking at news of new products, a brand should change its approach accordingly.
Make their day
Being reactive is important in ensuring customers do not block a brand out of hand. But even better is being proactive, anticipating consumer needs and offering what they need as soon as, or even before, they need it. If somebody is obsessed with the US election campaign, for example, it could be an idea to share holiday deals with them which tie in with Election Night, or link to the best designer t-shirts featuring a Stars and Stripes design.
For this to happen, you must be able to monitor and analyse consumer communications for potential opportunities to act, and then capitalise upon them in a swift manner. To do this, all customer communications channels and data have to be integrated and responsive, in order to give the right offer at the right time.
Making sure consumers never want to block a brand can seem like work, but the potential rewards are massive: better customer relationships and a more loyal audience. Ultimately, customers need to trust the communications they receive from brands. Without that trust, brands will never be popular enough to drive on to greater success, let alone be voted into the White House.