5 innovative marketing strategies – mapped along the customer journey

Some brands see the omnichannel marketing challenge before them and quake in fear. Others are crushing it. We’ll focus on the latter. 

Mapping the best of these efforts along the customer journey demonstrates how important timing and trust are when planning, implementing and optimizing digital strategy. Be not afraid.

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1 – First things first, does anyone know who you are? / AWARENESS

Breaking through the clutter is tough, but when you can leverage new technology to spark an innovative form of brand engagement, it’s a good thing. Fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff did exactly that when the highly popular brand created a VR based runway show, complete with a Rebecca Minkoff branded cardboard viewer. 

Through commoditizing access to the brand, this strategy brings what was previously reserved for fashion royalty, to the regulars. This also reflects a larger trend of fashion designers eschewing the “status quo fashion show” and going direct to consumers.

 

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2 – Building trust is all about knowing what matters most, and delivering it. / CONSIDERATION

Millennials are known for their passion around sustainability, including things like knowing where products come from. Amazon is speaking directly to that need with Amazon Elements, a tool that allows customers to track items from creation to expiration through the Amazon app.

The more comfortable people are with all aspects of your product, the more likely they are to make a purchase – a critical next step in the customer journey.

 

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3 – Once they know you, and believe in you, it’s time to make the sale. / PURCHASE

Instacart and All Recipes teamed up to make sales happen faster and at greater value. Customers can add an entire recipe’s ingredients to Instacart from AllRecipes in one click. The strategy adds more value collectively than either brand could have alone. 

This solution drives revenue and allows both Instacart and Allrecipes to bask in the glow of delighted customers. Customers use a matrix of brands in their daily life, understanding which ones they love and exploring partnerships, shows you understand them, and know how to make their lives better.

 

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4 – Welcome to the honeymoon phase. Sale is made. Everyone is happy – until they’re not. / ADVOCATE

Sooner or later you hit the “What have you done for me lately?” problem. Best advice is to act before customers even ask the question. Patagonia picked up on their customer’s passion for the brand and rolled out a pickup truck destined to tour the nation on an apparel mending mission.

This strategy puts Patagonia face to face with customers, reinforces the brand messaging that they stand behind their products, and creates social media value through sparking conversations online, and on the road.

 

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5 – No one knows your brand better than your best customers. / INNOVATE

Customers who love your brand are much more likely to help you grow. MIT professor Eric Von Hippel led the research that popularized the “lead-user” approach that engages customers who care deeply about the brand to co-create new product ideas. I’ve personally seen this strategy work well with CPG brand clients testing new product concepts.

Brandy Melville is a top fashion brand for teenage girls taking a similar approach. The brand (with 3.3 million Instagram followers) has a team of about 20 “Brandy Girls” who “work paid shifts in the back room of the brand’s Santa Monica store, where they brainstorm new concepts and consult on existing ones,” according to Racked.com.

“Let’s say there’s a cut of a T-shirt that’s doing really well, they’ll ask our opinion on it. Do we like it? Should we make more? If so, what colors?” – Kjerstin Skorge, a 16-year-old from Malibu

Strategically, mapping marketing strategy against each stage of the customer journey helps to more effectively transform browsers into buyers, and buyers into innovators. Increasingly in client projects we’re using the customer journey as a timeline to map messaging against, and it’s been an invaluable process for stronger conversions and recall.

 

Anthony Cospito is Managing Director of Popbox Digital 

Luxury brands and bots – A bespoke fit?

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Leaders in the $20 billion global luxury market are leveraging the rise of messaging apps to thrive in the conversation economy – leaving laggards without much to say.

High touch service at scale is no longer the purview of the wealthy. 2.5 billion people use messaging apps daily, with projections rising to 3.6 billion by 2018 according to advisory firm Activate.

The good news – luxury brands already understand the value of customer intimacy and proximity. The bad news – smartphones are commoditizing both.  Thought leaders like Nordstrom are already a few steps ahead.

Nordstrom’s personal shoppers work closely with the brand’s most exclusive customers. They know their sizes and tastes well, with many talking and texting like old friends. Sensing an opportunity, Nordstrom launched TextStyle in the summer of 2015, a messaging app to strengthen their already strong customer connections.

 

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TextStyle allows personal shoppers to message with customers and make purchases directly from the conversation without having to enter a credit card or complete a form. This strategy leverages technology to reinforce two classic luxury brand attributes: proximity (being accessible from any smartphone), and customer intimacy (always knowing what to recommend).

 

“The service is part of a push to use technology to preserve the close relationships Nordstrom sales associates cultivate with individual customers.” – Nordstrom CIO, Dan Little

 

Delivering stellar service will only become easier as software continues eating the world – personal shoppers included. Facebook’s M, is an early form of artificial intelligence that marries human-like engagement and deep subject matter knowledge. Cortana, Siri and Alexa are voice based assistants that may be clumsy now, but no doubt getting smarter with every stumble. Platforms like Messenger for Business are fast tracking chat based customer service to 800+ million users.

 

Digital already influences three out of four luxury purchases and will soon impact 99% of sales, according to McKinsey and Business of Fashion.

Everlane was one of the first luxury brands to team up with Messenger to deliver customer service and track shipments and returns. Approximately 200 request come in daily, handled by 1-2 employees according to Frerk-Malte Feller, leading Business on Messenger at Facebook.

 

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These are early days but within the next 12-24 months luxury brands need to define new ways of serving customers via mobile in every way possible – and deliver flawlessly. Classic luxury segments like travel and yachts are already teaming with IBM to bring a new breed of AI sales assistant to life.

 

IBM’s Watson is quite the seasoned traveler paired with WayBlazer, billed as “the first cognitive travel platform.” WayBlazer uses IBM Watson’s natural language processing services to dynamically present hotel recommendations based on natural dialogue such as: “Where are the best hotels in the Caribbean for my honeymoon in June” or “Best hotels with pools on the Amalfi Coast for a stay at the end of August.”

 

With 81% of luxury buyers planning their own trips, according to a study from Leading Hotels of the World, advanced services like WayBlazer could become the norm for a demanding new generation of mobile-first consumers.

 

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Yacht Harbour is another Watson powered platform that brings artificial intelligence to high-end vessel sales. Personified via “Brook” (i.e. Siri for yachts), this Yacht Harbor AI helps buyers navigate the daunting vessel purchase journey. An enhancement likely to bring a shorter sales cycle and higher margins.

According to L2, a leading digital benchmarking firm, 80% of future growth in the luxury category is tied to digital – giving early leaders a strong advantage in growing market share and deepening loyalty.

Some of the old guard luxury brands may have missed web 1.0, or even the social wave, but those ignoring messaging as a platform to better serve customers risk being left out of the conversation.

Anthony Cospito is Managing Director of Popbox Digital and brand Storyteller with C Space.

Lyft customers are nicer than Uber customers, what’s brand got to do with it?

Every Lyft driver I rode with mentioned it, “Lyft customers are much nicer than Uber customers.” They’re not sure why, but the attitudes are miles apart.

Most also drive for Uber so they would know, and regardless of city they say the same thing. What then, does it say about the brands themselves?

The drivers I spoke with in the NYC area and Boston describe Uber customers as being rude, demanding, and full of complaints. Is it Uber’s infamous surge pricing practices that put customers on the defensive? If so, should Uber tell its customers to “Uber-have?”

Drivers said Uber customers make them feel “like a second class citizen”, saying they are “angry and bossy”, and often leave “a mess of food and drinks.” One driver even mentioned an Uber customer who brought a huge dog into her tiny car, while another started polishing her nails — fumes on high.

Lyft customers go the other way. Drivers say most are “extremely considerate” and “pleasant to deal with.” One driver said she feels safer when customers are happier, “when there’s no stress in the air, we lower our chance of an accident.” A recent tweet by a Lyft driver goes a bit further:

“I PICKED UP A PASSENGER AND WE GOT ALONG SO WELL WE ENDED UP GRABBING DINNER. I LOVE PEOPLE!”

But that’s the odd part, the service between Uber and Lyft is the same. Exactly the same. Same car, same driver. Same same. So why the difference in disposition?

Are Uber customers reflecting back on the brand they’ve come to know and be wary of? Mistrust has been known to put a damper on budding relationships. Perhaps it’s Lyft’s pink moustache of days gone by that inspires more smiles more than scowls. Or, maybe it’s how the brands approach new customers. The homepages of Uber and Lyft provided some direction.

Uber.com has rotating images at the top, most of which target new drivers — not riders. Lyft.com is all about the customer, and makes it easy to get a car with a dead simple form. Competitive brands like Gett are coming up fast with a solid product, growing market share and global ambitions.

In a sector where disruption is the norm, both Uber and Lyft need to keep their eyes on the road – and in the rear view mirror. Smart underdogs like Gett have a history of blowing past the status quo.

Bigger picture implications? Brands not 100% customer-obsessed (especially those in the competitive segment of transportation) should hit the brakes and get ready to make a u-turn.

Anthony Cospito is Managing Director of Popbox Digital 

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