As of July 2021, millennials and Gen Zers accounted for 141 million Americans, or more than 40% of the population. That means 40% of the population grew up with phones in their hands, are more likely to leave a brand for a competitor’s, and values brand experience as much as the product itself. We’ve also found that 83% of Gen Zers and 76% of millennials believe that brands should take a stance on social issues.
The reality is, most brands haven’t built a digital-first messaging strategy that meets the expectations of today’s consumers. And to make it more challenging, marketers are solving for these new problems with fewer resources. The question is, where do we go from here?
As a senior relationship strategist, I’ll walk you through levels that you can use as building blocks to rebuild a digital messaging strategy tailored for where your audience is at today, and where they are headed.
Level One: Build a Foundation for Customer Experiences
Brands need to know what consumers actually want from them. Or in other words, how does your brand provide value to your customers’ lives? In order to answer this question and build a foundation for impactful customer experiences, two things need to happen: establish a brand ethos and centralize your data.
Establishing a brand ethos is about what differentiates you from your competitors. For example, if you’re a shoe brand, it’s not too difficult to find a comfortable shoe that protects your feet, so why should consumers choose you over a competitor? Rothy’s is a great example of a shoe brand with a distinct brand ethos. The brand has established clear messaging around durable, machine-washable shoes that utilize single-use plastic water bottles for the signature thread used in every product line.
The second step to build a solid foundation for messaging is to centralize your data. Consumers don’t stay within a single channel or device when they engage. They check emails on their laptop on their lunch break and receive a push notification on their phone as they are walking into a physical store. Brands must have a clear, consistent picture of that consumer, no matter how they are engaging, so that the brand can react and message in the most relevant ways.
Level Two: Talk to Customers in One-to-Few Groups
First-party data is considered currency in today’s marketing landscape, but it doesn’t do any good sitting in a customer data platform (CDP) if it can’t be used, and used in the right ways. The insights from the data must be translated into messages sent out in the right channels on the right devices at the right time. But, what most brands consider to be one-to-one messaging is really one-to-few.
Start to maximize the value from your data by setting up your content pillars into three key areas: planned, automated, and real-time. Proper content calendar planning will allow you to fully integrate your brand ethos and leaves you room and flexibily to effortlessly accommodate real-time messaging when the need arises.
Now that you have your content planned, develop segments and layer in an audience strategy. Think beyond simply grouping like customers together and personas based only on demographics. Two online shoppers who purchased clothing in the last three months will tell you more than two individuals of the same age and income group.
You’re finally ready to build journeys that will capitalize on meaningful moments. Take into consideration channels, content, tone, and your cadence of messages. Target each consumer based on where they are in the customer journey by identifying what they expect from you and your industry.
Level Three: Personalize Experiences with One-to-One Messaging
We’ve all heard it. Personalization is king, but how do we accomplish this at scale? To successfully execute personalization at scale, it will require you to level up your efforts. Define and set a hierarchy for every channel available to your customers and give them the types of experiences they are seeking. It only takes one bad experience for a customer to change their mind about your brand.
Continue to learn and gain ongoing insights as you move forward. Build automations around critical points in the customer journey and then leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to help take you to the next level. The best marketers are not analyzing every data point collected, but rather allowing technology to help them anticipate moments of value to capitalize or moments of churn to prevent deflection.
Creating a framework that allows you to make adjustments and pivot to your learnings will only help to strengthen your program and get you closer to your long-term ROI goals.
If you want to dive deeper into obstacles, actions, and outcomes for each of these three levels, download the Merkle team and I put together, Rebuilding Your Digital Messaging Strategy.