The business to consumer (B2C) landscape is changing dramatically. Customers research or buy online but they also want to walk into a store to find inventory or call a contact centre to activate a service. This demand for a seamless online and offline customer experience is challenging B2C organizations and shaping the market of the future. Amazon is a perfect example. This online trailblazer created a consumer that expects to find everything online but it has now purchased Whole Foods to establish a substantial offline presence. Now it is about finding the balance between online and offline.

In the past, marketing teams made major investments in tools to meet online demands. Now marketers are faced with a customer that could be either online or off. Decisions such as how much to spend in each area are difficult especially when online costs are being driven up by the bidding models presented by Google and Facebook. The answer of how to be more targeted will lie in the data.

Data will drive more intelligent decisions that will allow marketers to better understand prospects and customers at the individual level. It means there is an opportunity to present personalized, relevant and timely messages and promotional offers that generate responses on a channel they will engage in. This is not artificial intelligence (AI) which is just a tool that is years away from being effective or affordable

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. It is about intelligence based on demographics, psychographics and behavioural data that is brought together from both online and offline channels to create analytics and modeling to gain insights and drive engagement. The result is people-based marketing.

Today’s insight provides limited intelligence based on single one-time campaigns and channels delivering a 1,000-foot view after the fact. The usual campaign method is to first pick a segment and then a channel that seems a good fit, build a message and campaign, and then hope prospects respond positively. Or you can buy a prospect list that may look like your target customers, then direct mail or email them and hope this will be more personal or customer-centric. Neither of these methods deliver great success and any intelligence is usually very inconclusive. The people-based marketing approach starts from the ground up and gets personal with individual prospects and customers.

People-based marketing needs to start with the individual in mind and how they will engage with the brand across multiple channels to eventually become a customer. To start, you need to bring prospect and customer data together so it can be analyzed and modelled for your market to identify the best target prospects. This will bring together data from corporate systems (first party) on how customers engaged with the brand, marketing campaign data, industry information (second party) that could include data on the competition or geographical information, and lastly prospect and profile information (third party). The consolidated view of both prospects and customers will allow analysis on who are the best customers and prospects using look-alike models, deciding what is the right message and the best online or offline channels to engage.

From the analysis and modelling, targeted campaigns and messages can be selected and created while considering the journey a prospect will take when engaging with the brand. As they engage, it is important to track and record activity continuously so the modeling can be enhanced and optimized to convert into customers.

People-based marketing starts with targeting prospects individually (i.e. one to one) rather than using segment-based targeting and start-stop promotions (i.e. one to many). This always-on and long-term approach performs better than a one-time campaign approach. Recent results using people-based marketing show 60% higher response rates (Exchange Wire, May 2016) than the traditional method. When faced with difficult ROI questions, it is hard to ignore the real results of people-based marketing. Amazon has proven the effectiveness as they have become the masters of presenting the right message to their customers to entice more sales. They did it online and now we can expect to see them using similar techniques offline.

People-based marketing is the next logical step for B2C organizations but it is a long-term project. Your marketing approach will not change overnight but you can start small. Invest some of your marketing budget (e.g. 10%) each year toward people-based marketing and work to enhance it over time. With the complexity in the data world, marketing teams may need support from a trusted consultant or partner but really understanding your target will pay dividends in the long term. Marketers will need to move toward a people-based marketing approach and make data the cornerstone of their campaigns.

This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Direct Marketing.

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Gabriel Constantin

Gabriel Constantin is the president & CEO of CentricIQ, a leading marketing intelligence and performance agency. Gabriel has spent more than 16 years in the marketing analytics and technology arena and collaborated with global brands in the healthcare, financial services and retail sectors. Gabriel has led the development of CentricIQ LINK, an enterprise level solution that integrates online and offline communication channels in an all-in-one marketing platform.

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