Live from ACCM: Who's in Control? Author Keith Wardell Puts Marketers Back in the Driver s Seat
May 22, 2008 — Yesterday, at the 25th Annual Conference for Catalog and Multichannel Merchants (ACCM) in Orlando, Keith Wardell, author of Marketing Out of Control, a handbook for profiting from the new balance of power, explored how marketers can adjust to today’s consumer-centric marketplace. Co-produced by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and Multichannel Merchant, ACCM is being held at the Gaylord Palms Resort and concludes today.
“With a title like Marketing Out of Control, you may be expecting a little doom and gloom,” began Wardell. “However, at the same time, there are so many good things happening in terms of technology and the opportunities for better communication with customers . . . I think we are going to be entering a new era of marketing efficiencies that will allow marketers to contribute significantly to the corporate bottom line and the growth that we expect after the current economic downturn.”
Marketers today find themselves in a position in which consumers are controlling the process of purchasing and the information used to purchase, Wardell explained to ACCM conferees. “There is now a layer between us and the consumer’s decision about whom they are going to do business with. . . . We used to control the information the consumer used. Today we don’t.” Reasons for this, according to Wardell, include the evolution of the Internet and wireless, increased consumer fragmentation, and increased number of choices and decisions available to consumers.
With increased decisions, Wardell pointed out, the more important customer satisfaction becomes. “The more decisions, the more time it takes to decide,” he said. “So the potential for dissatisfaction becomes much greater.”
Wardell presented four transitions a company can harness to help them overcome these challenges and profit from a consumer-controlled marketplace.
Proactive vs. Reactive
The first transition, Wardell noted, involves moving from “major channel proactive to multichannel reactive.” The proactive, more traditional approach involves the “awareness” and “engagement” stages of a campaign, and tends to be a one-time event with a broad audience at the discretion of the marketer, he explained.
However, once the consumer takes the initiative by contacting the marketer, the approach becomes reactive, explained Wardell. Messages can then be delivered individually in response to the consumer’s initiative. “They are usually automated with a single template that is used frequently (i.e., weekly, daily, etc.) with dynamic content based upon the individual customer initiative (i.e., products related to those purchased or browsed).”
The Power of Personalization
Wardell next stressed the importance of moving from mass marketing to personalization, citing a recent study by the CMO Council. “Personalized marketing techniques are still in the early stages of being integrated into most companies’ marketing campaigns and budgets,” he said. The personalized approach tends to involve data-driven reactive campaigns. “The data tells us when to talk to them, and also what content to send them, based on past purchase behavior.”
In a video clip, Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council, elaborated this point, saying, “There is greater pressure on marketing spend to see greater justification, and making marketing dollars go farther and making them more efficient. Personalization does that. It is a real engine for economic growth, a big shift in the trend. I see there being a big uptake in the next two or three years.”
The third transition, Wardell said, is the move from product proliferation to mass customization. This involves customizing the product, customizing the selection, and customizing the delivery.
In another video clip, Todd Callaway, interactive marketing manager of Shawfloors.com, described an example of this: An online tool that allows customers to visualize types of floor covering as they would appear in an actual room in their home, before they make the decision to buy.
Wardell told ACCM conferees that the last of the four transitions is the move from consumer confusion to a simple solution.
The challenge here, Wardell explained, is “how to make those transactions not product-centric but customer-centric. In the world of customer initiative and few sustainable product advantages, simplifying your process and your incentives can make you stand out.”
What does the future hold? Wardell predicted that marketing budgets will be increasingly moving away from the areas of engagement and awareness, and into that of collaboration and transformation. “Once the customer comes, there will be more investment in how that customer is treated, and in making that process easier,” he said.
“Television is going to start to be more and more like direct marketing,” Wardell predicted. “In the last Super Bowl, more than half of the ads asked you to go to a website.”
“Catalogs also play the role of sending people to websites,” he pointed out. “These websites, and their reactive campaigns are going to start to pay off. You’ll be asking more of the customer in the collaboration stage. More money is going to more measurable, more direct [efforts], in order to achieve more marketing efficiency.”
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