Individualisation Has A Lot Of Growing Up To Do

by Duncan MacRae

The majority of Europe’s top eCommerce companies fail to deliver truly individualised content to their customers and heavily rely on email and social media for their digital campaigns. In doing so, this leaves the potential of mobile app technology largely untapped.

This is one of the key findings of a study by Teradata Marketing Applications (TMA), a division of analytics and marketing apps firm Teradata, on the state of omni-channel digital marketing in Europe. The study, which highlights that individualisation is very much in its infancy, looked at how 299 top eCommerce companies in the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Denmark use the three digital channels – email, social and mobile – for communicating with their customers.

Strategic priority

Individualisation has become a top strategic priority for marketing departments around the world. However, when looking at how eCommerce brands are currently applying individualisation in their digital marketing campaigns, it seems many initiatives have not yet left the ‘blueprint’ stage.

While 49 per cent of the companies Teradata researched used personalised content on their websites, only 29 per cent did so with emails and even fewer, 23 per cent, with mobile apps. And, although 30 per cent of the companies had a Preference Centre on their website, just 29 per cent gave customers the option to select preferences when setting up a web account. A scant 10 per cent offered preference settings in their mobile app.

On average, 43 per cent of the companies studied asked for a customer’s date of birth. But strikingly, only 36 per cent of those used this information to send an individualised birthday email and none to send a birthday message via push notifications. Also, of those companies with a mobile app, 35 per cent asked for permission to use customer location data – another opportunity missed to increase the relevancy of their marketing campaigns.

Global revenue growth for mobile commerce is expected to reach £477.5bn by 2018, up from £67bn in 2013. This trajectory underscores the opportunity for marketers to engage consumers on their mobile devices. With this in mind, Teradata Marketing Applications evaluated eCommerce companies’ use of mobile push notifications and in-app messages, their frequency, and use of visual content, also looking at how many companies employed in-app messaging as part of their engagement practices.

Across all six markets, 66 per cent of the companies studied had at least one mobile app. However, only 21 per cent of the apps evaluated sent push notifications during the four-week study period. This appears contradictory given that almost twice that amount, or 42 per cent, requested customer permission to do so. Plus, among those apps sending push notifications, the number of notices sent was fairly low, with 14 per cent sending one to three per month, and only five per cent sending one to two pushes per week. Just eight per cent of the companies used mobile apps to send in-app messages to their customers while using the app, and only a little more, 14 per cent, used visual content in the form of emojis.

Of the companies evaluated, 71 per cent sent at least one promotional email during the course of the study, showing that email remains a reliable and prominent channel. To further explore how email is used by top brands, TMA analysed the frequency of emails being sent, whether visual content was used, and whether the messages were adapted for mobile devices.

On average, 50 per cent of all companies studied sent one to two emails a week, and 14 per cent sent one email per month, compared with 15 per cent of the companies sending no emails at all and 14 per cent issuing only confirmation emails to acknowledge a given customer action. Of those companies whose programs include email, 77 per cent offered account subscriptions, and 67 per cent offered newsletter subscriptions, both being ways to collect email addresses and establish ongoing relationships with customers. Nearly four out of five companies (78 per cent) sent fully optimized emails, recognising that a growing portion of their customers is now opening emails on mobile devices. About three out of five (58 per cent) emails incorporated fully responsive design. In 79 per cent of all cases, marketers devoted more than 50 per cent of the email space to visual content, although only five per cent chose to use video.

Almost all of the eCommerce companies studied are very active on the leading social media channels, demonstrating these platforms’ appeal for engaging today’s digital customers. Facebook, at 87 per cent, was the top channel used, followed by Twitter (82 per cent), YouTube (76 per cent), Google+ (69 per cent), Instagram (57 per cent), LinkedIn (57 per cent) and Pinterest (48 per cent). Just two per cent of the companies studied were active on SnapChat, a newer platform, and only in France and the UK.

Facebook accounts also showed, on average, the most followers of any channel, with YouTube second and Instagram third. When it came to actual usage, though, Twitter led with an average of 11 posts per week, followed by Instagram (seven), then Pinterest (six and a half). Facebook ranked fourth with 6.3 posts per week. eCommerce companies from the UK and France showed the highest presence on all social media channels, while Denmark and Italy had the lowest. The UK had the most followers across the top five social media platforms, although, interestingly, YouTube proved to be massively popular in Italy, with nearly 3.5 million followers.

Sophistication

Although the technology, solutions and services for omni-channel marketing are available now, according to TMA, the varying degree of sophistication in using email, social media and mobile apps indicates that many marketing departments are struggling to find the right synergies across digital channels. When done right, all digital channels ultimately merge into one omni-channel experience in the eyes of the digitally minded consumer, the company added. The goal then for marketers, is to discover which channel should be used, when it should be used, and to deliver what message.

Volker Wiewer, International VP at TMA, says: “One of the essential benefits of integrating all digital channels is how naturally they complement each other. For example, let’s say a customer receives an email with an interesting offer and journeys to a dedicated landing page. But let’s say too that the customer doesn’t complete the buying process and leaves items in the shopping cart.

“With omnichannel marketing, instead of receiving an email reminder the customer receives a mobile push – which not only prompts the customer to complete the purchase but also lets the customer praise the experience on social media. All of these digital interactions can be planned, coordinated, executed and monitored through solutions like our Digital Marketing Center.”

TMA studied how eCommerce companies in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands & Denmark engage their customers across three main digital channels: email, mobile apps and social media. Marketing actions taken by 299 brands were documented and analysed over the course of four weeks, from mid-March to mid-April 2016. Industries represented included retail, travel, fashion and IT.