The challenge for marketers, according to Melbourne-based branding expert and marketing consultant Professor Mark Ritson, is to use technology to reach out to people in more effective ways while hiding the actual mechanism. This means crafting a more personal message and delivering it when it’s relevant.
“It’s become a lot faster and easier to identify customers and segments then communicate with them,” Ritson says. “However, the customers shouldn’t know that tech has been used to create a human touch – tech works best in the background.”
The power of invisible technology
Some brands, such as cosmetics retailer Sephora, are effectively using technology to deliver highly targeted and personalised marketing, resulting in a reduced marketing spend and a lift in sales.
Opening its first store in Australia in November 2015, Sephora has challenged the local beauty sector by providing an environment in which shoppers are encouraged to “play”. With dressing room-style décor and ample testers across its entire range, Sephora stores invite customers to try before they buy then share their experience on social media.
This invitation to have fun and try out new products is also reflected by Sephora’s loyalty club, which creates recommendations and offers based on past consumption and demographic preferences using a technology called behavioural clustering.
For the consumer, the experience is highly personal: it enables them to take control of their experience in-store while responding to their preferences online and at the register.
“Customers shouldn’t know that tech has been used to create a human touch – tech works best in the background.”– Professor Mark Ritson
The challenge for marketers, however, is that consumers know exactly how targeted sophisticated marketing can be – and they are easily disappointed when it fails.
According to business innovation consultant Seth Shapiro, there is a strong onus on brands to adopt new business models rapidly, and deliver more highly personalised messaging.
“The speed of information has increased so much that the wiggle room has evaporated,” Shapiro says. “The plus side is that your audience can be so much greater because you can reach so many more people so much more quickly if the product is good.”
To be effective, according to Shapiro, personalised messaging needs to be built entirely around the customer and their requirements, rather than the product, otherwise it runs the risk of simply being an annoying interruption rather than effective communication. “More and more we want brands to tell us the truth,” Shapiro says. “We want to feel like we think we know them, and that we can listen to them and trust what they say.”
This means using technology to identify and cater to, rather than generate, needs. Moreover, according to Ritson the underlying technology doesn’t have to be particularly sophisticated, so long as it’s used well. “
Too often it’s about the consumer helping us drive sales targets,” Ritson adds. “Really it should be about technology serving personal, not personal serving technology.”
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