Shouldn’t we be talking about environments more and not just channels?

Shouldn’t we be talking about environments more and not just channels?

From execution to engagement

To gain a competitive advantage wherever possible, we are constantly on the lookout for the latest technology and emerging trends to deliver against increasing customer expectations. We are busy predicting and preparing for the effects of augmented reality on the retail experience, instant messenger bots impacting the role of email and the growing applications of virtual reality to name a few. However, rather than jumping on how these can be executed to deliver campaigns, we should be taking the time to understand the environment a message is likely to be engaged in.

Where will the customer be? What are they doing? How will the message fit into their life at that moment? What value does it bring and why will they be receptive to receiving it?

Using these and the many more that surround them has become increasingly important for understanding customer behaviour, as the lines between what we have traditionally viewed as individual channels have blurred. A realisation beyond executing the same message for different devices that was first hit home for me by Tom Goodwin, then SVP of Strategy and Innovation for Havas, during a presentation on advertising for the post digital age.[1]


Customer behaviour

Our naming of each media form after the singular method for engaging with it has made channelisation unhelpful as it no longer reflects human behaviour; in particular our use of the infinite screens that are an accepted part of life.[2] We all enact this everyday when we reach for our smart phones to get an update on the news; catch-up on that TV show missed last night or browse what to do at the weekend whilst listening to our favourite radio show. Many of which we are quite likely to do at the same time, multi-tasking to win back more time in our day.

Despite the opportunities offered by this and the advancing functionality of smart devices making “mobiles probably the best canvas we’ve had for advertising, what we have tended to do is focus on it having a smaller screen and making things smaller.”[3] Instead, we should be uncovering insights on the environments our messages are engaged in and tailoring these to customer needs and preferences in that moment where possible.


The messaging

This is not to say doing so is easy, nor an impossible challenge either. Customer journeys are often unique, with many finding ways to engage with us that hours of planning couldn’t identify. However, we are still only talking about the marketing chronicle of the right message, at the right time, delivered using the right method and approach.

There needs to be a well-defined strategy from the beginning. A single proposition that defines the essence of who you are in an honest, short yet impactful way needs to be at the heart of all messages irrespective of when, where and how the communication is engaged with. Naturally, we prefer clarity through consistency so re-purposing this for different screens is not being responsive and only serves to confuse customers who have plenty of other choices to move on to.

Each communication, whilst supporting this proposition, needs to have customer experience expectations in its foundations. The best place to start is getting out of the office to observe and speak to them. Customers will show and tell you when and how they engage with messages, what information they are looking for and the influences on their journey to purchase. These findings can be built upon to form a bigger picture using purchase, registration and online browsing data.

As much as we love to help each other out and make life easier, the objective behind all of this is to intelligently trigger purchase behaviour. We already personalise the content we display on websites based upon what we know about the user’s previous activity. However, wouldn’t it be more effective if the smart phone they were browsing it on was recognised and located the customer in store? If research had indicated that customers often visit the website at this moment because they can’t find the item in person, this could be used to trigger the signage they are seeing to guide them or show similar in stock alternatives and/or accompanying items. If customers prefer and get the most enjoyment from engaging in person, don’t fall into the frequently triggered trap of driving people to an online end destination. Instead, use this online space to inform and enable experiences in the physical one.


How does this benefit the business?

As with all activity, it needs to solve a challenge or deliver against a need. These, whether they talk to attraction, conversion or retention, should tie into marketing objective/s that in turn feed into business ones.

The focus on providing customers with the best possible experience is because ultimately it is them who have final say on if a business succeeds and even prospers. Is there any better a reason as to why they should be the priority?


Measure and measure again

We have no idea about the results of our activity, the influences on these and whether the objectives have been achieved without carefully identifying and collecting key measurements. This is a very obvious given. There has also been a lot said about both in-house and agency marketers being more accountable for the ROI they drive and it is hard not to agree with this.

However, lets not throw out the high-level performance metrics just yet. The focus on dollars shouldn’t be at the expense of insights that reveal how, where and with what our customers want to engage.

Although this is made more complex by their not being a definitive approach to accessing specific information, they show what customers are interacting and spending the most time with and when. Revealing the content that gets the most interest, as well as that which doesn’t, provides a clearer understanding of what drives behaviour from a particular point in the purchase journey.

Going back to our chronicle, it allows us to predict and serve the right message at the right time, therefore creating a stronger likelihood of accommodating for the environment the customer is engaging with us in and their needs in it.


In summary

The behaviours for accessing information have changed thanks to the freedom brought to us by our smart phones and devices of the future. It has made us more demanding than ever as we expect our individual needs in that time and place to be instantly available. Whilst striving to make this access effortless through functionality like voice and gesture controls, we need to deliver value for the customer by listening to and providing what they want in that moment. It must support them in helping us achieve our objectives.



[1] Tom Goodwin, Advertising for the post digital age, ADMA Global Forum, 11th August 2016.

[2] Goodwin, ADMA Global Forum, August 2016.

[3] Goodwin, ADMA Global Forum, August 2016.

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