Driving Multichannel Marketing Through Online Preferences
Customers’ channel preferences are changing left and right – and it’s more important than ever to know which channel your customer is paying attention to and using.
Whether selling to consumers or to businesses, leveraging an online preference center is an effective best practice used by savvy marketers to deliver strategic communications and engage customers. Essentially, it is a place where the customer shakes hands with a brand.
Maintaining Productive Online Preference Centers
Here are six considerations to keep in mind when operating Online Preference Centers:
- Give Customers a True Choice in Their Communications. The first step in creating a preference center strategy is identifying the channels a marketer can support and finding out if those channels can be integrated at the database level. Channels may include all the traditional media, but it is important to consider social and mobile, too. Use the preference center to confirm preferred address and contact details for data accuracy.
The next choice is one of frequency (ie, monthly, or maximum number of messages per week). In the past, the frequency of customer marketing communications often was determined by budget, occasionally determined by result optimization and often determined by the needs of multiple groups within an organization (a marketer only has one list of customers, and that list might be accessed by many people, resulting in too-frequent communications). Some channels, such as mobile, require frequency expectations – and a preference center can help enable the customer to provide their own frequency of communications.
Finally, customers should be able to choose their content. Marketers may want to consider groupings of content (ie, sports or entertainment) as well as types of content, such as offers, events or new-product launches.
Another aspect of the preference center is the “save” of the opt-out. When customers click on the opt-out link, the preference center can offer alternatives to the customer, such as less-frequent communications and the availability of different channels or different content. This allows a customer to opt down or to change content preferences.
- Enable Multichannel Marketing. Most marketers today communicate with customers across several different channels. Many understand that campaigns and corporate content should vary by channel, particularly in today’s environment where email, social and mobile communications are often managed by different teams. But, good marketers also know that campaigns must be carefully coordinated across different communication types. Remember that we all have our own version of what multichannel means to us. Putting the customer in charge of his or her own multichannel experience will mean better relevancy and results.
- Learn About and Understand Customers. Marketers can obtain a multitude of useful information about consumers through information provided in an online preference center. At the very minimum, asking for an email address, mobile phone numbers for text opt-in or a physical address for fulfillment is essential in improving data quality.
Beyond those imperatives, there’s an opportunity to ask for information that will enhance the customer’s relationship and the flow of future communications. For example, consider offering dynamic surveys and polls to gain information about customers that can result in improved offers and communications. Leverage the fact that a brand recognizes its customer, and all of the behaviors associated with a preference profile can be tracked to best serve the customer.
- Engage With the Customer. The term “engagement” is often overused today, but it is one of the best reasons to consider an online preference center as the basis of many programs that produce dialogue and create value.
Customers can create their profile to opt in or out of programs, but they might also register products, obtain warrantee information, store gift information for friends and family or participate in an online community at the center. Provide reasons for customers to come to the preference center – and to return repeatedly.
- Improve Loyalty and Retention. Creating a place where customers can directly communicate with a brand is a key aspect of customer retention and loyalty. Even if the marketer is not ready to implement a loyalty program, he or she can leverage a preference center to encourage customers’ continued interaction with the brand. Consider offering highly targeted coupons (customers’ IDs and data allow a marketer to be smart about coupons) or bringing in a local element by providing details about the nearest retail location. This private, customized brand gateway offers a great opportunity for customer retention and repeat purchases.
Brands that offer loyalty programs can refine the preference center as customers access loyalty program benefits. Consider temporary card printing, viewing reward information or point balances, checking progress toward rewards or viewing previous purchases. These functions work within the preference center context to increase customer visits and interaction.
- Keep It Simple for the Customer.The preference center can provide corporate-level communications or give single brands the ability to communicate with customers within a corporate framework. A preference center provides value regardless of brand situation and increases value as customer preferences and data are applied more frequently. But, it is important to remember the customer experience across brands in order to ease any potential frustrations because of internal roadblocks. If a marketer has multiple brands, it should consider brand-specific preference centers that are integrated with other company brands.
A Valuable Resource – in Both Directions
Online preference centers provide customers the ability to tell marketers what they want – and allow marketers to save money by only providing communications in the chosen channels, and determine the
best return on channel combinations. Ultimately, greater message relevance means better results.
Jeannette Kocsis, senior vice president, digital marketing, oversees client digital strategy and media programs at The Agency Inside Harte-Hanks. Jeannette is responsible for integration of new media, including social and mobile, into client offerings. Reach her at email@example.com.
Online preference centers offer benefits to marketers as well as consumers. Monitoring each customer’s preferences helps improve targeting, provides direction for multichannel campaigns and boosts engagement, among other rewards.