Shoppers Demand Seamless Omnichannel Retail Strategies

Omnichannel marketing is the rule for today’s retailing. While print catalogs continue as a vital merchant tool, with 42% of households reading catalogs per the U.S. Postal Service, integration of multiple channels–including online, mobile and social with direct mail–is now essential to our catalog and e-commerce clients’ success. Unfortunately, while the majority of consumers expect to shop seamlessly across all those channels, only 7% of retailers provide the unified “start the sale anywhere, finish the sale anywhere” experience that customers want, per the recent “2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey” by BRP Consulting, a retail management consulting firm.

Omnichannel, Cross-Device Shopping Is Now the Norm

Marketers just can’t afford to ignore that the majority of shoppers now interact with promotions, educational content and purchase services via multiple channels and devices. According to the same BRP study, three in five (62%) consumers surveyed said they check online reviews/ratings before visiting a store, yet just 61% of retailers offer consumer product reviews for research! Shoppers now rely on mobile to continue the digitally supported buying process in-store, with nearly 60% of shoppers looking up product information and prices while using their mobile phones in stores, per Retail Dive’s 2017 Consumer Survey. Also per BRP, nearly three out of four (73%) of consumers want the ability to track orders across all points of interaction, going beyond an estimated delivery date to include when the order is being prepared, date shipped from the warehouse, etc. Plus customers expect an automated return process, with 68% of consumers surveyed telling BRP they are more likely to choose a retailer offering an automated returns process.

Analytics Need Complex Channel/Device Attribution

Merchants can leverage customers’ cross-device penchant to optimize acquisition and conversion, argues a Direct Marketing News article by Pierre DeBois. But they must keep in mind that, while the opportunity to boost ad frequency and content persuasion across channels is huge, smart management is required to avoid turning targeted promotion into a bludgeon. As Bill Kee, Google’s group product manager for attribution, highlighted at the 2017 Google Marketing Next conference, “If I am on three devices, and if I see your ad five times, it means you’ve reached me 15 times…believe me I get it.” The first place to start is good omnichannel analytics to understand the contribution of each channel to ROI and its place in the customer journey. Only then can merchants cost-effectively tailor targeting and investment to maximize sales. One useful analytics tool is Google’s Unique Reach report, which displays digital ad frequency metrics across devices, campaigns, and formats to measure how many times a person views a given ad, and combines attribution influences from AdWords, DoubleClick, and Google Analytics, suggests DeBois.

Using Images and Chat to Direct the Customer Journey

Good omnichannel analytics also can improve use of image and video content to maximize the proven effectiveness of image/video in digital engagement, to answer the customer demand for education, and to direct prospects through the sales funnel. However, quantities of images bombarding customers across multiple channels can overwhelm and confuse, so both media curation and a content mapping strategy aligned to the customer journey are needed. One example of a targeted image strategy is use of an “image story” feature on a social media platform to orchestrate images and/or a short video, notes DeBois. Pinterest Lens, Instagram Stories, and Twitter Moments are all image story features. Because the majority of consumers research products and services online now, marketers also can gain an edge over competitors by offering customer-facing elements such as chatbots. In contrast to apps, which may be used only for a few discrete tasks and then ignored, a chatbot’s programmable assistance can provide both engagement and continuing response performance improvement.

For more, see the Direct Marketing News article.

These Digital Tactics Can Power Insurance Marketing Lead Gen

Sometimes insurance marketers, used to face-to-face sales and targeted direct mail, struggle to adapt to the highly competitive and noisy digital marketplace for lead generation. Some helpful tips from the Blue Corona web marketing agency should be of interest to AccuList USA’s insurance marketing clients looking to improve their digital lead results.

Fast, Mobile-Friendly Pages Capture More Leads

The natural place to start is the insurance marketer’s website, where the majority of potential policyholders will first interact with the marketing message. Basically, the website must grab attention almost immediately. If consumers don’t connect with what they see within 10 seconds of landing on a web page, they’ll move on, per studies. That means up-front contact information, compelling call-to-action, plugins that localize content, etc. But it also means speedy page loading. Studies show that a website needs to load in under 3 seconds (in fact, 47% of people expect a web page to load in two seconds or less, points out Blue Corona). And that speed needs to happen on a mobile device. Over half of all digital searches for insurance information occur from mobile devices; more specifically, 58.6% of average monthly auto insurance searches and 55.4% of life insurance searches are via mobile, reports Blue Corona. If digital pages and ads aren’t mobile-optimized, they aren’t going to optimize leads.

Invest in SEO, Pay-per-Click Ads to Drive Traffic

How do you get prospects to those fast-loading, compelling, mobile-friendly pages? Search engine optimization is a basic requirement today for driving traffic. Out of the over 200 ranking factors, Blue Corona lists a few top tactics for getting to that coveted first page of a Google search: optimized title tags and meta descriptions on pages; site security (https vs http); mobile-friendly pages; schema markup; quality content; fast page downloading; social media signals; quality backlinks; and optimized images. But all searches are not created equal. Marketers want high-converting leads not shoppers. So Blue Corona suggests buying pay-per-click ads targeting search phrases that indicate high-commercial intent, such as “buy auto insurance” rather than “do I need auto insurance?” The ad content can then target a top consumer trigger. In most cases, that means competitive rates; for example, 70% of consumers say they look for the best deal when renewing an auto policy.

Engage via Blogging, Focused Content

A blog is another way to not only build traffic but also establish authority on insurance topics, build trust and go from policy hawker to insurance resource in the eyes of potential policyholders. If the average person consumes 11.4 pieces of content before making a purchasing decision, per Forrester, then insurance marketing wants to be at the top of that content list in terms of impact and quality. Blue Corona suggests blog topics such as “Factors You Didn’t Know Affect Your [Life/Auto/Liability/Etc.] Insurance Coverage,”  “How Much [Health/Auto/Liability/Etc.] Insurance Do You Need?” and “10 Tips for Keeping Insurance Rates Low.” Whether a blog post or a website page, the goal is to help insurance shoppers deal with an often confusing topic. TransUnion’s 2017 Healthcare Millennial Report found that 57% of millennial consumers identified as having “no understanding” or a “limited understanding” of their insurance benefits, while 50% of Generation X and 42% of Baby Boomers said the same. So don’t give prospects too many choices on website main pages, which can overwhelm and drive them away, and focus instead on the key solutions people need from insurance, advises Blue Corona.

For even more digital marketing suggestions to help retain policyholders and hone competitive edge, see https://www.bluecorona.com/blog/insurance-marketing-ideas-strategies

Format Drives Differences in Direct Mail Results

In planning direct mail campaigns, marketers often turn to standard industry benchmarks courtesy of the annual “Response Rate Report” from the Data & Marketing Association (DMA), soon to be a division of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). However, while general direct mail response rates for house lists (5.1%) and for prospect lists (2.9%) far outpace those of digital media, the mailing piece format selected can make a key difference in expected results.

Mailer Format Shifts Response Metrics

For example, an oversized flat envelope package tends to deliver the highest response rate: 6.6 % for a house file and 4.9% for a prospect list. Next most effective in terms of response are postcards, with a house file response rate of 5.7% and and a prospect names’ response of 3.4%. At the tail end, but still far above digital efforts, comes the standard letter format, with a 4.37% response rate for house names and a 2.5% response for prospecting.

Balancing CPM & ROI in Format Selection

Some marketers hesitate over the more expensive oversized flats, which have the highest cost per thousand (CPM) among formats at $481 for house files and $467 for prospect files. Which is why postcards continue to win fans among B2C and B2B marketers, with the lowest CPM among direct mail formats benchmarked. However, despite their higher CPMs, the solid response rates of flats mean they can deliver the highest ROI (37% and 30% for house and prospect names, respectively). Postcards and letter packages, meanwhile, are tied in terms of ROI, with house mailings garnering a 29% ROI and prospecting turning in 23% ROI.

Purchase the whole report or see a free summary article for more data.

Publisher Mistakes Undermine Online Subscription Efforts

Subscription marketing is a goal for most of our B2B and B2C publishing clients, so we wanted to pass along a recent Publishing Executive (PE) magazine article warning of some common online errors by publishers that are undermining circulation marketing investments.

Use Premium Content to Lure Subscribers

Access to premium content should be online but limited to subscribers, urges PE author Eric Shanfelt, founding partner of eMedia Strategist. After all, why subscribe if you can go to the website and see all content for free? Unfortunately, some publishers are so baffled by the technology of locking down content as subscriber-only that they don’t even put their premium content online–losing a big selling point with digital traffic. Others are worried about reducing Google search traffic or ad impression dollars by limiting content access, but they are not factoring in the cost of lost subscribers, argues Shanfelt. Of course, for success with subscriber-only premium content, the website must then prominently promote that premium content and its subscriber-only status via clear incentives and calls-to-action, he adds.

Quick, Easy Subscription Pages Need to SELL

A website or mobile subscription page should not be just an order form, Shanfelt advises. Remember that most people who visit a subscription page are just considering subscribing. They need to be sold. Visitors should clearly see the benefits of subscribing and what they get (deliverables). Plus the page should generate a sense of urgency to sign up and use FOMO (fear of missing out) to push orders. Equally important, the subscription process should be quick and easy.  Make the subscription link easy to see and navigation simple by putting an obvious menu item and widget on every website page, with a link directly to a single-page subscription form, not a multi-step process. And finally, make sure the subscription page is not only secure but loads quickly on desktop or mobile. If it doesn’t load in 2-3 seconds, up to 50% of potential subscribers could be lost, warns Shanfelt.

Invest in Data Tracking and Integration

In order to test and adjust marketing tactics, online subscription and confirmation pages should use Google Analytics for e-commerce conversion tracking and cross-domain tracking to see how people get to subscription pages and how well they convert from different sources. Subscription/confirmation pages should also use tracking pixels from Facebook, Google, Bing and other digital sources, as well as from customer data platforms and e-mail systems.  More important, circulation data needs to be integrated with the website subscription pages and any e-mail or marketing automation systems. For effectiveness, that circulation data should be updated automatically in real-time or, at a minimum, manually once a month. If the website is synchronized with the circulation system, people can log into the site by authenticating against subscriber data to get access to premium content, for example. Integration also allows for conditional content blocks in follow-up e-mails to upsell non-subscriber leads, for sending of automatic renewal reminders, and even for a sync of subscriber lists with programmatic ad networks.

For more tips, see the full article.

Arts Marketers Need Digital CTAs That Drive Subscriptions

While direct mail continues to be a sturdy workhorse for AccuList USA’s performing arts marketing clients, digital campaigns–via online display ads, e-mail and social media–are required in a multi-channel world. Digital subscription drives offer cost-effectiveness, off-season branding, audience segment targeting, and synergy with direct mail. (Check out our Digital2Direct program to see we help mate mail with e-mail and social media ads.)  But with more competition for attention in the crowded digital space and with less room for persuasion than “snail mail,” digital promotion success is especially dependent on a well-designed and targeted call-to-action, as pointed out in a recent blog post by strategists at MogoARTS, a digital marketing agency for arts and cultural organizations.

Customizing CTA by Audience

An effective call-to-action will differ by targeting, the post points out. With renewals, the targets are lists of current season subscribers, so the CTA messaging can be direct and should highlight an incentive like a discount or savings for renewing early or by a deadline. For acquiring new members or reactivating lapsed subscribers, targeting includes lists of previous season ticket buyers and e-mail opt-in prospects, who need to be shown the benefits of subscription (or reminded). The CTA messaging for lapsed subscribers and multi-ticket buyers should give a reason to come back or upgrade to a subscription by promoting package savings or special benefits, such as free parking or early access to add-ons. CTAs to entice new members will need to spell out subscriber benefits, either across ad units or on a landing page, and showcase varied package options.

Tips on CTA Creative

The blog post also lists some CTA creative suggestions for arts marketers, whether the decision is to leverage programning/events or benefits to drive action. In pushing benefits in digital ads, listing one benefit per banner maximizes message impact and avoids overcrowding with too much text; patrons will see multiple banners over the life of the campaign after all. If the decision is to push programming, then other formats such as video or Facebook/Instagram News Feed Carousel ads may spark greater engagement than a static ad.

General CTA Best Practices

MogoARTS cites three best practices for any CTA: 1) customization for the different audience types, meaning renewing, lapsed or new members; 2) emphasis on the benefits of a subscription package over a single ticket purchase; and 3) highlighting of the savings/special rewards available for subscribing now. For CTA examples, see https://www.mogoartsmarketing.com/blog/subscription-campaign-best-practices-2018

B2B Sales Trends Boost Mobile-Friendly Online Acquisition

With Forrester Research forecasting steady growth in B2B e-commerce, reaching $1.2 trillion in sales, or 13.1% of all B2B sales, by 2021, smart e-commerce marketing is more essential than ever for AccuList USA’s B2B catalog and e-commerce clients. A recent bigcommerce.com blog post highlighted many important trends for B2B e-commerce, but we’ll focus on three marketing-related takeaways.

Acquisition Is the New Online Focus

The days are gone when B2B online strategy could succeed by putting up a website as a customer service portal, a place for existing account re-orders or a passive catalog display. Online selling is becoming a core part of B2B business and sales strategy, argues bigcommerce.com post author Jillian Hufford, marketing analyst at nChannel, a multi-channel integration provider. B2B marketers should start by profiling customers to better target online and offline promotions to find high-ROI traffic. Note that a robust SEO/SEM strategy, coupled with website search tools, is essential given that 74% of B2B buyers report researching at least part of their work purchases online. Easy, seamless cross-channel ordering is another basic of online customer acquisition now. Plus, an investment in online content marketing, coupled with SEO strategy, can leverage educational and expert content on the website to attract searchers and win Google rank.

Online and Print Catalogs Work in Tandem

Five years ago, more than two-thirds of B2B sellers thought they would stop mailing paper catalogs. That hasn’t happened, but many B2B merchants are using an integrated multi-channel effort to balance smaller or less frequent print catalogs with more interactive online catalogs. For success with print-plus-online, the online catalog cannot merely mimic the print version. E-commerce means investing in interactive online tools that allow customizing, sharing, distributing, ordering and tracking, all supported by integrated back-end technology.

Mobile-Friendly Means Revenue-Friendly

Ever-expanding B2B mobile use is driving big marketing changes. Google and BCG research data from 2017 shows why: 80% of B2B buyers are using mobile at work; 60% of B2B buyers report that mobile played a significant role in a recent purchase; and 60% of B2B buyers expect to continue to increase their mobile usage. B2B retailers who are dragging their feet on mobile-friendly adaptation risk dragging down their own revenues; BCG research found that brands that are “mobile leaders” earn more traffic, more leads and more revenue than “mobile laggards.”

For more B2B e-commerce trends, and examples of real-life company online successes, see Hufford’s attached blog post.

P&C Insurance Embraces Direct Mail Response

Direct mail by property and casualty insurance clients continues as a staple of AccuList USA’s list brokerage and data services business, and so we were pleased to see a Valentine’s Day love note to P&C direct mail from the marketing consultants at IWCO Direct.

P&C Insurance Industry Loves Direct Mail

The IWCO post notes that nearly 400 insurance companies mailed more than 5.7 billion pieces of mail in 2017, according to Comperemedia. The property and casualty insurance category accounted for 53% of that volume, with more than 3 billion pieces of direct mail mailed by 110 companies. Of those direct mail packages, 95% were Marketing Mail (formerly called Standard Mail), mainly for acquisition (89%).

Mailings Reflect Ongoing Promotional Trends

Comperemedia and Competiscan data highlighted trends revealed by those direct mail packages, too.  With 55% of policyholders likely to shop around for insurance as a policy comes up for renewal, smart insurance providers are taking a proactive approach and contacting policyholders in advance to remind them why they should remain with their current P&C insurance provider. Also to woo shoppers, both in acquisition and renewal, insurance promotions are direct about savings messages and competitor pricing comparisons. Finally, the industry’s continued embrace of direct mail does not ignore the digital revolution; in fact, direct mail packages are highlighting the industry’s growing self-service digital functionality for policyholders.

Basic Direct Mail Tactics That Up Response

Leveraging industry trends and success stories, IWCO lists three basic tactics proven to boost response for P&C acquisition and cross-sell mailings: 1) Comparison charts touting coverage benefits over those of top competitors, and an offer to match coverage pricing and benefits upon policy review if appropriate; 2) Promotional cards with a clear call-to-action via website, mobile app, and/or toll-free phone; and 3) An eye-catching personalized tagline. See https://www.iwco.com/blog/2018/02/14/pc-insurance-marketing-trends-valentines-day/

How Can Performing Arts Marketing Find the Best Targets?

Since AccuList USA has successfully worked with performing arts and cultural organizations in audience development, supplying data and data services to help them acquire new patrons, ticket buyers and supporters, we were happy to see a recent npENGAGE.com post underscoring the key role of quality data targeting in performing arts marketing success.

Identify & Understand the Best Audience

Basically, performing arts marketers must acquire prospects with the potential to become long-term, high-value patrons; retain them; and maximize their dollar contributions. That challenge is not easy when studies show 72% of single-ticket buyers do not return, points out npENGAGE article author Chuck Turner, a senior analytics specialist at the Target Analytics agency for arts and cultural clients.  So a cost-effective marketing strategy will rely on data analytics both to target those with the highest relationship potential and to personalize messaging and offers for boosted ROI and loyalty.

Target to Increase Revenue & Donations

Analysis should look at the value of patrons in terms of the average of all revenue earned, including things such as gift shop and concession sales and tuition for classes offered, as well as ticket sales and subscriptions, Turner urges. That means targeting likely high-revenue prospects, plus, since it’s easier to increase revenue from existing patrons than to acquire new ones, targeting the right members of the audience pool for offers of add-ons and upgrades. For both groups, Turner suggests selecting those with higher average income, and thus higher capacity to spend. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average high-income person spends over $8,200 on entertainment each year, so if average program revenue per attendee is $34.33 (the average performing arts program revenue per attendee in 2013), there’s room to grab a bigger share! When it comes to increasing donations, external list data on both discretionary spending ability and nonprofit donation history can be used to target significant nonprofit donor prospects for acquisition, and that data can be appended to the existing audience database to better target for add-ons and upgrades. Turner points to Target Analytics findings that, on average, up to 40% of nonprofit audiences can be top prospects for significant contributory giving–if you communicate to prospects with a message that resonates with their mission-based interest.

Segment to Maximize Lifetime Value

With limited resources, performing arts marketers need to be more strategic and proactive in focusing on the most valuable segments. This means tracking lifetime value, defined as the net profit attributed to the entire future relationship discounted to its current value. Again, quality data can help target the right people–those with high lifetime value–with the right message. For both audience database and prospecting mailing lists, Turner stresses selecting targets based on charitable giving and income/discretionary spending ability. Conversely, knowing those unlikely to donate or spend helps minimize investment in unprofitable segments. For more, see https://npengage.com/nonprofit-fundraising/arts-fundraising-and-analytics/

Focus on E-mail Data for 2018 Insurance Marketing Success

Success with e-mail in 2018 insurance marketing boils down to using quality, targeted data–something that AccuList USA is committed to delivering. Data provider V12Data summed it up well in a recent post offering basic insurance e-mail data tips.

Start With Clean, Up-to-Date Data

With an estimated 30% of e-mail subscribers changing their addresses each year, make sure all e-mail lists are up-to-date, with addresses validated and verified, including any e-mail addresses that have been matched and appended to a postal list. Good list hygiene should include removing duplicates; correcting formatting errors; identifying addresses known to be associated with spam traps; and eliminating hard bounces, invalid e-mails/domains, and e-mails associated with complaints.

Profile, Segment and Personalize

There’s no point to all that quality e-mail data if it’s not used to understand and target your audience. That means looking at both actionable internal data, such as customer service records, transactions, credit card purchases or e-mail responses as well as relevant demographic data, either from first-party collection or appended via third-party data aggregators. Consumer demographics could include date of birth, home ownership, occupation, gender, estimated income, age, presence of children, investments and more. Then segment your lists in order to offer the right product to the right audience segment. Plus use data to personalize offers and creative, and that means going beyond a Dear FirstName. Today’s e-mail audience expects and demands personalized offers.

Pay Attention to Buying Cycle and Life Cycle

Smart e-mail campaigns nurture customers and prospects through the buying cycle. Because those who request general information and those who fill out a request for quote form may be at different stages of the buying cycle, they need different messaging. Website signups can be sent a personalized welcome message, while subscribers who have not taken further action can get a follow-up nurturing message about products and services, with a call-to-action promoting a free quote or agent call. When a prospect makes a quote request, e-mail messaging can focus on getting to a policy sale, with more policy information and a specific offer or promotion. Note that life cycle counts as much as buying cycle. Consumers are more likely to buy insurance during major life-event changes, such as marriage, divorce, moving, home purchase, a new baby, retirement, etc.  Leveraging that data in targeting sends the right offer at the right time for maximum response.

Check out AccuList USA’s insurance marketing data expertise and clients on our website.