What is context? According to Merriam-Webster, context is “the situation in which something happens or the group of conditions that exist where and when something happens.” We’ve been using it since late Middle English speakers adapted the Latin contextus, from con (together) and texere (to weave). For marketers, context means understanding attitudes, behaviors, and preferences to address the requirements of individual customers in their moments of need.
It is critical for marketers to embrace customer context. Why? Winning in the age of the customer depends on the interactions that people have with your brand, and compelling customer experiences materialize only when your firm understands its customers and anticipates their needs. The context of all those interactions determines whether customers will engage and, more importantly, transact with your brand again. Marketing’s job is to harness the power of customer context to create a repeatable cycle of interactions, drive deeper engagement, and learn more about the customer in the process.
When it comes to location-based marketing and proximity-marketing, more often than not, marketers seem fascinated by the beacon technology.
With 82% of shoppers making their actual purchasing decision in-aisle, it’s no wonder that vendors are betting on beacons and indoor positioning systems to help marketers interact with consumers in real time.
A year ago, Forrester warned of the hype around beacons. Despite huge interest and numerous successful pilots, we have yet to see very many successful commercial rollouts. This is not so much about the technology (even though battery life and operational deployments raise technology issue), but primarily because reach is limited today and because few marketers can deliver smart contextual messages at scale. They must also define engagement scenarios and automated rules to deliver relevant messages to individual customers.
Location data alone is dumb. Sending someone a coupon to redeem in a nearby store just because they’re passing by isn’t enough. For ads and messages to be relevant, firms must combine location data with insights like past behaviors, preferences, needs, and situations. It is also likely they will have to combine multiple technologies to reduce the complexity of in-store operational deployments and boost the accuracy of location data.
There are many more opportunities than just pushing marketing messages in real-time. Using location data is more important than just capturing the attention of nearby smartphone owners — it’s about powering contextual marketing.
In particular, marketers should fuel contextual marketing with location data to:
Increase brand preference by delivering personalized experiences
Improve the customer experience on location
Advertise more efficiently
Unlock audience targeting and offer intention data
When I published the Market Overview: Real-Time Interaction Management back in May, I highlighted more than 100 vendors that provide real-time interaction management (RTIM) solutions or solution components. I outlined in that report how enterprise marketing technology vendors address – to varying degrees – all five RTIM requirements: customer recognition, contextual understanding, decision arbitration, offer orchestration, and measurement and optimization. My Brief: Demystifying Real-Time Interaction Management provides further details and defines RTIM as enterprise marketing technology that delivers contextually relevant experiences, value, and utility at the appropriate moment in the customer life cycle via preferred customer touchpoints.
I’m now pleased to announce the publication of The Forrester Wave™: Real-Time Interaction Management, Q3 2015, which provides a detailed evaluation of eleven enterprise marketing technology vendors in terms of their RTIM solution capabilities. This 35-criteria evaluation includes a diverse group of vendors that address a broad range of RTIM capabilities: Adobe, Experian, IBM, Infor, Oracle, Pegasystems, Pitney Bowes, Salesforce, SAS Institute, SmartFocus, and Teradata.
To successfully grow in Asia Pacific (AP), you must excel at understanding customers’ needs, wants, and behaviors and have the capabilities necessary to transform this insight into improved customer engagement. But that’s true everywhere. What sets the AP region apart are the continued vast differences between markets. Appreciating these market differences, and the impact they have on customers’ expectations, is critical when sourcing enterprise marketing capabilities.
At Forrester’s recent annual Marketing Leadership Summit in Shanghai on March 25, I gave a presentation focusing on ways to build a contextual marketing engine and propel customers to the next best interaction. Key takeaways included:
Heavy mobile users in China are generating many new customer contexts. Heavy usage of mobile devices in China has changed the ways that people interact with enterprises. Today’s customers don’t just interface with brands via customer response, customer purchase, and customer services; more commonly, it happens outside of those campaigns. The context of all of those interactions determines whether a customer will engage — and, more importantly, transact — with the brand again.
Contextual interactions are changing marketing in China. Early adopters like Didi Taxi use contextual marketing from Day One and provide persistent incentives to engage with both providers and customers. Wanda Group, China’s leading business real estate company, acknowledges customer contextual interactions in its shopping malls across the nation and provides merchants with mobile moments to improve the effectiveness of their targeting.
As the hub of our offline and online experiences, mobile interactions are a powerful catalyst for contextual marketing. The untapped opportunity in mobile for marketers will be to get an extremely granular understanding of their customers, then anticipate their expectations, and develop unique insights to power better marketing across all channels, not just mobile.
Few Marketers Make The Most Of The New Customer Data Gold Mine
Because smartphones are the hub of our offline and online experiences, they generate valuable insights for contextual data-driven marketing. However, the majority of marketers are not yet ready to exploit the convergence between mobile and big data.
Short Term: Engage Your Customers In Real Time In Their Mobile Moments
Harnessing and extracting actionable insights from this unprecedented wealth of customer data will enable marketers to serve customers in their mobile moments on a channel where they will increasingly spend the majority of their digital time.
Long Term: Power Better Marketing Initiatives Beyond The Mobile Channel
Mobile is more than simply another digital channel. Marketing leaders should combine mobile data with other sources of customer intelligence to get a deeper understanding of customers, anticipate their expectations, and act on these insights to improve all marketing initiatives.
How does the CI pro responsible for marketing technology buying make an informed decision when faced with so many options? Well, to quote Ron Davies (feel free to summon the voices of Three Dog Night, David Bowie or Shelby Lynne, if you prefer), “It Ain’t Easy!” To help CI pros with their decision-making, my latest brief The Marketing Technology Buyer’s Dilemma provides advice on how to maintain customer focus while navigating market changes.
Marketers have paid lip service to customer-centric marketing for a long time. But consumers and business buyers have flipped the conversation from "Oh, they think they know me" to "They better know me, or I'll find someone who does." For brands to be truly competitive in the Age of the Customer, companies must become customer obsessed – or risk losing market share to the competition.
At Forrester’s Forum For Marketing Leaders next week, Forrester analysts and industry speakers will address why marketers must go 'beyond the campaign', to deliver real-time customer value. We'll hear from Jeannine Rossignol, Vice President of Marketing Services at Xerox, who will discuss Xerox’s Get Optimistic initiative. Designed to engage buyers by talking about what they care about (hint: it’s not your brand!), the initiative feeds self-interest with highly relevant, customer-centric content.
In the run-up to Forum, I posed a few questions to Jeannine. Here's a sneak peak of what's to come next week.
Q: B2B marketers aren't typically known for being customer-centric. What was the biggest barrier you faced as you attempted to pivot?
Barriers are just opportunities in disguise (I am an optimist, after all). How you view them can make all the difference in whether you can overcome them or not. Businesses today face unprecedented choice on a daily basis – and to stand out among their options, we can’t just say we’re customer-centric; we have to make them believe it. And for most of us that requires a complete mindset change.
Too many marketing leaders still lump tablets and smartphones into the same mobile bucket. That’s a mistake. Why? Because tablets are not primarily mobile devices. Instead, they are mostly used within the home. Marketing leaders must create a differentiated tablet experience or risk dissatisfying their best customers and missing opportunities to engage when customers discover and explore their products.
Here are the key takeaways from new research I conducted in the past few months:
Tablet marketing matters. Tablet marketing enables marketers to engage with influential customers who spend less time on PCs and print media. People use tablets differently from smartphones, requiring marketers to adapt their approach.
Marketers should use tablets to enhance discovery and depth in the digital home. Marketers will see the benefits of designing immersive tablet experiences for people discovering and researching their brands and products. They should use search marketing to drive better conversion rates and tablet commerce. And they should maximize TV ads by creating tablet extensions for multitaskers as well as creating new marketing experiences in the digital home.
Shift to contextual marketing. Most of us have only had mobile phones for, at most, 12 years. I have already explained here why we’re all mobile teens, figuring out our relationships with others and with brands. Unsurprisingly, marketers face challenges integrating mobile and tablet in the mix. It’s time to stop thinking about devices and instead shift to thinking about contextual marketing.
To borrow from McCann Truth Central, most of us have owned mobile devices (not to mention smartphones) for, on average, 12 years — and we’re still figuring out mobile phone behaviors and the impact of mobile on our relationships. We have distinct mobile personalities.
This means we’re all mobile teens, trying to envision our futures and figuring out our relationships with others and with brands. If mobile marketing is entering the teenage years, then needless to say, tablet marketing is in its infancy.
To draw the analogy a step further, let’s consider marketers as parents. What does this mean? It implies that marketing leaders should help their kids grow and develop, play to their strengths, accept their differences, and reinforce their identities without forcing them to become what they are not. It means that the future will be full of surprises, with unknown territories and new use cases to come for not only smartphones and tablets but also reinvented laptops and personal computers. A lot of the attention will be paid to the new baby (the tablet), certainly creating some conflicts with the older sibling (the smartphone), which is particularly keen to become independent despite its relative immaturity.