Why it's time to make customer engagement about context, not campaigns

New Forrester research paper sets out the argument for why marketers need to abandon campaign mentality and start adopting a more contextual marketing approach

Marketers today must identify and employ customer context if they’re to a repeatable cycle of interactions and drive deeper engagement with their customers, a new industry paper claims.

Forrester’s The Power of Customer Contextsets out the case for building a contextual marketing engine utilising customer data and technology, as well as why context, and not campaign-based activity, is needed to create valuable connections in the market today.

According to report author and senior, Carlton A. Doty, the context of customer interactions is what determines whether individuals will continue to engage and transact with brands. Marketing’s job is to tap into this and foster sustainable customer engagement.

“While that’s not what we typically think of as marketing, it ought to be,” Doty stated in the report. “For all the activity you try to catalyse through campaigns, individuals more commonly interact with your brand outside of those campaigns.

The Forrester paper was based on a range of recent industry and consumer surveys, along with interviews with 21 vendor and user companies actively adopting a context-based methodology towards their customers including McCormick and Company, Nike, and Mini USA.

As an example of interaction through context, Forrester highlighted McCormick and Company’s FlavorPrint site, which engages customers through everyday interactions. Users can tell the site what they like, what food ingredients they have and cooking equipment, and it recommends recipes.

Since the site launch, users have doubled repeat usage, increased time spent on the site ninefold, and McCormick has reported double-digit growth in spice purchases with this user group.

As further proof of the need to shift from ads to interactions, the Forrester report noted a recent North American Technologies Online Benchmark Survey of more than 60,000 online adults, which found only 13 per cent trust ads on websites. Just under one-third said they trusted ads in any channel.

Doty admitted the shift from campaign mentality to lifecycle engagement was a challenge for many marketers because of the need to meet short-term numbers and ROI. But he urged all to make the switch from “customer acquisition to interaction management, and from media schedules to customer moments”.

To do this, the report advocates adopting a circular interaction engine driven by big data and a brand’s customer database. Sitting on top of this, the contextual marketing engine should then spark interactions across the customer lifecycle from discovery through to buying, using and engaging.

Forrester outlines four steps to achieving this:

  1. Defining a marketing strategy to unleash useful interactions – this includes identifying a brand’s unique interaction cycle as well facilitating customer journeys, not just feeding the funnel;

  2. Reorganising marketing processes to spark the interaction cycle – to do this, marketers need to manage the ‘engine’ as a product, not a project, as well as tap into content, Forrester said;

  3. Adapting your enterprise marketing technology portfolio – adopting marketing automation platforms and providing personalised content and experiences are a must;

  4. Accelerating innovation with big data and analytics – marketers must excel at customer recognition, not just segmentation, Forrester said.

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