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How to Market in 2021: Aligning Strategy with Changing Consumer Behavior

customer experience

Rich Smith from data-as-a-service Jornaya shares how marketers can leverage data to adjust strategy based on changing consumer behavior brought on by COVID-19.

The pandemic precipitated significant behavioral changes for consumers. For most, the biggest change was sheltering in place in an effort to limit outside, in-person interaction. This resulted in a huge spike in online activity that caught many in the marketing industry flat-footed. With such a crowded digital landscape, marketers must adjust their strategy to gain the attention of already distracted consumers.

The Death of the Persona
For many years, marketers have been attracted to strategies that concentrate on building personas: segmenting groups of people based on demographics, socioeconomics, occupation, location, and other external factors. While these factors are important to understand, personas are becoming outdated as they are essentially the “average” of a group of people.

Since there is no such thing as an “average” customer, relying solely on personas in today’s marketing landscape will not make an impact.

In the real world, consumers are far more complex and don’t adhere behaviorally to what the average of the persona they are lumped into would suggest. Think of personas as marketing to averages for average marketing teams.

Another way to look at this is to consider two people who have the same job, live in the same area, and are shopping for a car at the same time. Customer A who was employed and actively shopping yesterday abruptly lost their job today. As a result, they stopped shopping. As unfortunate as it is, this is the reality that consumers are facing and marketers need to adapt their strategies to meet the circumstances of the moment.

Elite marketers are now using behavioral data combined with MarTech tools to let the consumer’s individual behavior drive the engagement strategy for that consumer. This is achieving significant increases in marketing ROI and customer lifetime value while also creating greater customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.

The right data empowers marketers to deliver personalized experiences in the face of changing consumer behavior—without relying on “averages.”

Data-Centric Strategy
Keeping up with changing behavior by leveraging data, helps marketers understand the customer journey and create a data-centric marketing strategy. While first-party data accessed through lead forms and cookies can give businesses a sense of who is shopping on their site, third-party behavioral data takes things a step further by revealing real-time information on an individual’s shopping behavior off-site as well. Marketers can see everything from page views to site duration to sudden behavioral changes, and using that data to customize messaging and experiences that are relevant to the individual customer.

Building marketing messaging around actual behavior as opposed to a static persona creates a more sophisticated strategy that’s more likely to result in higher conversion rates. Especially as the industry continues to see dramatic changes in shopping activity brought on by the pandemic, leveraging behavioral data will become more apparent. With this data, marketers can gain insight into which customers are in-market and where they are in their buying journey.

Take Customer A as another example: A marketer leveraging behavioral data may note the sudden decline in shopping activity and conclude that this individual has low intent. On the flip side, this marketer can also use behavioral data to see when Customer A becomes in-market again, what specifically they are shopping for, and leverage this information to craft a personalized message.

By improving the ability to segment customers and prospects by likelihood to be in-market for services at any given time, behavioral data enables marketers to get the most out of their marketing outreach efforts.

Folding Privacy into Strategy

Consumer privacy must also be a top consideration when it comes to marketing strategy. The model customer experience always puts the customer first.

This is still true but marketers need to change their approach to accommodate consumer privacy concerns.

We have seen that as much as customers prioritize a personalized experience, they also feel just as strongly about their privacy, noting that they will cease doing business with an organization if their data is mishandled.

Privacy regulations have been more prevalent in recent years with the introduction of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), Proposition 24, or the California Privacy Rights and Enforcement – which expands on CCPA – and other states following suit. As a result, marketers who are leveraging data must be aware of where that data comes from, how these regulations are affecting their strategy, and if customers understand how their data is being used. If partnering with a third-party data intelligence company, it’s important to note their compliance practices and if they maintain records that show permission from a customer to use their data.

Creating Exceptional Experiences
As we make our way into 2021, it’s apparent that some things for marketers won’t change. Consumers will continue to stay socially distanced and do much of their shopping online, and marketers will have to deliver an engaging customer experience with personalization that matches that of face-to-face interaction.

The best way to do that is to stop averaging consumers by relying on marketing personas and instead understand individual buying journeys by compliantly using available data. From there, marketers will be able to keep up with any changes in consumer shopping behavior, create exceptional experiences, deliver the most relevant and timely interactions, honor consumer privacy, and increase conversion rates in the process.

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Rich Smith, CMO, Jornaya
Rich Smith is CMO of Jornaya, a leading behavioral data intelligence company that helps companies attract and retain customers using a proprietary network of more than 35,000 comparison shopping and lead generation sites.


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