2014 – what does it mean in the 1-1 world ?

2014 probably most of all promises to be ‘business as usual’ for the 1-1 fraternity. There are not likely to be any fundamental changes, but there is going to be the ongoing journey of the rise of digital engagement and the challenge for marketers for how best to manage it.

There are a few.

In a way the biggest challenge is probably more the threat of those less qualified to have an opinion trying to get involved in this specialist area and stuffing things up. For example, those that simply think sending emails represents a customer engagement programme, and think that sending one a day is better than one or two a week. A certain pizza brand has sent me so many emails over the holidays that I was forced to want to unsubscribe, only to discover that it was actually quite hard to. None of this was best practice and the net effect for them is one less customer getting their messages (let’s face it, this isn’t going to make them go broke, but funnily enough someone else mentioned their activity to me, which suggests I may not be alone).

Email, as the cheap and cheerful channel, is now so abused that it’s impact is struggling, although it’s saving grace at the moment would seem to be smartphones, as people are significantly more likely to open emails on smartphone before deleting. I’ve heard some surprisingly high average open rates being bandied around recently and so those feeling pleased as punch about it need to do the analytics around share of mobiles opening first, and then the activity thereafter; click throughs and engagement are more important than ever before.

Social is still there as a threat, more than an opportunity. However, the recent flight from Facebook to Instagram and Snapchat of teenagers shows how fickle the social media marketplace is, and therefore a high risk medium term strategy for a brand to pin its customer engagement programme on rather than a proper strategic CRM owned approach.

Another threat is the creeping doom of mail. With NZ Post’s announcements around the drop in delivery days, and the uncertainty now about what that means, little wonder most senior marketers you speak to are going gangbusters developing their email databases. They don’t want to be backed into a corner with unwieldy delivery days and also uncertainty on price and format options (which remain very limited or otherwise costly). This of course in the radiant light of the best response rates to direct mail in a generation, a new world where we joyfully recommend direct mail wherever possible because it is working its tiny socks off thanks to the contribution of email clutter, mailbox emptiness, and improved production capability.

The above is a nice lead in key opportunities.

Firstly, we have the ongoing reduction in cost with a corresponding improvement in quality of digital colour production options. And related, we have the rise of Big Data and Data Insights and how we are able to better leverage it. And then there is how to leverage mobile.

Digital production is at another great place in its evolution. It’s now got cheap and good enough to do some really cool stuff, using insights rather than the fact that we can print your name in interesting ways. A challenge historically has been not enough data, but now some of us at least are swimming in it this is opening up some opportunities. Expect to see some sophisticated work crop up.

Big Data. Let’s not linger here on what it is. Where we are seeing it used increasingly is in understanding shopper behaviour, whether in service or retail industries, where customer behaviour triggers can be observed, logged, analysed and segmented. And then drive something. We aren’t seeing the potential cross referencing it with social media yet, although that of course is happening overseas and the NSA are specialising in it.

What it means is that the pressure on the market for good analysts is increasingly tough – everyone wants analysts and there are only so many good ones to go around. If you’ve got a good one, keep them happy!

Mobile (and tablet) is a phenomenon and harnessing it as a channel is still a challenge. Where of course it is working is as a much better environment for opening or re-opening emails. What we will see more of is marketers experimenting with ways to make their brand have a better life on the mobile, whether through Apps or significantly better mobile sites. It’s the reason to be there we all need. Loyalty programmes of course can have a special place here…

Finally, loyalty is in for an interesting year. There is a new CEO at Fly Buys, so expect to see some change there as new ideas come in. And there are all sorts of rumours around changes to existing loyalty programmes so expect that too – what you can guarantee is we will see more loyalty scheme activity, rather than less. NZ embraces loyalty programmes and the critical factor is simply making them valuable to the business and not simply a big bottom line cost. For what it’s worth, my impression is that direct marketers are getting better at backing up their expertise with proof points that validate decisions. The data (some might call it big data) sits behind this ability to prove points too.

In summary, direct marketers should keep pushing for their share of the marketing pie but make sure they are using data and real ROI to prove their value to the business. Which should be easier as our digital future evolves.

Author: Ben Goodale

With thanks to SAS for the image