Why are digital marketers struggling to keep up with consumers?

Consumers are both voracious and fickle. Marketers must simultaneously keep pace with technology and anticipate trends. Not sure where to start? Consider these five ways in which marketers consistently lag behind the consumers they’re trying to reach.

 

Consumers add too many devices, too quickly

According to Ericsson, 90 percent of American households have at least three devices connected to the Internet. On average, it’s actually 5.2 per household. When it comes to tracking users, marketers can’t keep up. The problem comes partly from a stubborn reliance on cookies.

“Cookies are becoming less and less important,” said Scott Monty, EVP of strategy at SHIFT Communications. He’s looking at “universal IDs, such as Facebook Connect, Google or even Apple IDs. These are the keys that hold the unique habits, likes and patterns of individuals.”

Erick Brownstein, founder of The New Agency, based in Los Angeles, has another concern.

“Is it really too many devices?” he asked, “Or is it device usage is shifting? For example, my kids are using my phone, my laptop and my tablet…In the shared device scenario, cookies won’t work.”

To catch up, marketers should look at contextual user and household profiles, targeting that uses offline consumer data and optimization based on time-of-day and other environmental variables.

 

Consumers want deeper, longer conversations

Thanks to abundant, immediately available information, buyers across all segments are now having longer, broader conversations on multiple channels. This leaves many marketers scrambling to learn how to create compelling, ongoing conversations with prospects and existing customers.

“Realizing that we’re in the age of the long engagement is only the first step,” said Tyler Gray, SVP editorial director at Edelman. “Once you admit that’s the way people purchase, download, or donate, you realize the challenge of trying to sustain that level of conversation. It’s hard.”

Like vampires, marketers must be invited into the consumer’s home. Said Gray, “You have to get permission to join conversations before you can ever try to drive or own them. That takes permission. And permission means constantly elevating or enlightening conversations.”

Targeting the right consumers and with the right messages increases your chances of success.

 

Consumer content moves too quickly

Chasing fads isn’t for the faint of heart. The allure of viral success is irresistible, but for every Oreo Super Bowl tweet, a hashtag fail proves that many marketers aren’t nimble enough to engage on short timelines.

“Rather than trying to get lightning in a bottle,” Brownstein said, “smart marketers understand there are other strategies and tools for amplifying real-time messages.”

For example, Brownstein advises prioritizing highly targeted influencer networks over broader social networks. The best marketing is on-topic and on-target, not faddish and fleeting.

“Hope is not a good strategy,” Brownstein said.

“You don’t have to be first,” added Center Ring Media’s Dan Rosenbaum, a journalist and analyst specializing in consumer and enterprise technology markets. “You want to be able to keep the dumb-looking mistakes to a minimum.”

 

Only consumers know how much personalization is too much

It’s the Goldilocks Syndrome: How much personalization is “just right”? Some consumers want to be wowed with suggestions based on their purchase history and known preferences. Others want to save time during checkout — and nothing more.

Don’t bother asking consumers — they’re not sure, either. For Brownstein, the solution is to slow down and get to know the customer, ideally through data and earned insights.

“It goes back to the fundamentals of selling,” he said, “to old-school relationship-building that existed before the Internet. In other words, have a two-way conversation and bring value, as opposed to building bigger, better bullhorns.”

 

Consumer platforms change rapidly, and unpredictably

When it comes to new technology, consumers have the luxury of experimenting with virtually no downside. Marketers, on the other hand, need to be smarter with their choices. This means moving more slowly.

Brands are in an unenviable position, said Monty. “They want to stay hip and relevant with the latest trends. But they also need to focus on where the larger audiences are. There are only so many places that marketers can be, due to limited time and resources.”

It’s not consumers who worry about ROI.

For Ekaterina Walter, marketing consultant and author of the best-selling Think Like Zuck, careful experimentation is crucial. “Constant learning is everything,” she said. “If you don’t take risks and try out news things, how will you know what will resonate? Plus, your communities continuously evolve. So should you.”

But, as Rosenbaum said, “Consumer tech is cheap, but marketing tech isn’t.” The trick is learning how to experiment without breaking the bank.

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