Segmentation, personalisation and gamification to keep your customers engaged in 2021

Over the last year businesses had to find new and clever ways to connect with customers to maintain relationships, boost sales, and inform them of changes to operations and policies.

And while thankfully we’re through the worst of the pandemic here in Australia, marketers are still faced with the challenge of needing to constantly re-invent their approaches to keep their customer base engaged and loyal.

In a Validity Inc. webinar, The Next Big Thing APAC, I was joined by industry experts to discuss how businesses can go about engaging their customers post COVID-19, and time and time again the same best practices came up – segmentation, personalisation and gamification.

These strategies are only going to keep growing in popularity and usage. So, if your marketing program is in need of a refresh in 2021, here are three pro tips to get you started.

Quantity is not equal to quality

When your marketing team is brainstorming new ways to engage with your customers, it’s important to not just focus on increasing email send outs promoting sales.

Discounting can be a race to the bottom, and businesses should aim to only offer discounts to customers they want to keep within their loyalty program or email database.

Marketers offer a ‘$10 off your next order’ promotion, rather than a discount off the sale price. This discount applies to someone who is already planning on buying from the business again.

It’s important to note that increasing email volumes to customers across the board can sometimes have an adverse impact on the business if deliverability isn’t strong to begin with.

The real question should be around ‘how to create more engaged customers’, and this is where customer segmentation comes in.

Segmentation and personalisation

According to Tunc Bolluk, VP APAC at Validity Inc., customer segmentation and personalisation is “the cornerstone of every good marketing program”. The more you know about your customer, the better you can serve them, and the better your business will perform as a result.

According to Validity and the DMA’s report, Email Data Quality: Compliant, Correct and Complete, 31% of businesses surveyed said they collect data on customers’ product interests, creating hurdles but asking your customers about their interests enables you to entice them.

If you are a large department store that sells a wide range of products, it’s critical to find out what a particular customer is interested in when they subscribe or are added to your database, or you risk sending them marketing materials for products they have little or no interest in.

If you send an Electronic Direct Mail(EDM) about women’s shoes to a male customer interested in tech and outdoor goods, you’re doing both the customer and business a big disservice.

Don’t be scared to ask your customers for more personal information.

When consumers trust a business, they’re willing to share information about themselves in order to gain better access to deals, special offers and more personalised content.

It’s all about a value exchange.

An important part of this is being transparent about why you’re requesting points of data from your customer, as well as how they will benefit from the collection.

For example, ‘We’d like your birth date so we can send you a special offer on your birthday’.

In addition to asking your customers for more information about their interests, you can gain valuable insights about them by looking at other data points such as their purchasing habits, behavioural patterns and demographics such as age, gender and location.

Once you’ve gathered intel about your customers’ interests and preferences, you can then segment your customer base into groups based on certain traits.

This makes it simpler to tailor and personalise your marketing and sales efforts to the needs of specific groups, which is one of the most effective ways to boost customer engagement, loyalty, and ultimately sales.

Get creative with your approach

One of the most effective ways to entice customers to engage with your products and services is to make it a fun and interactive experience for them.

Gamification has become a popular way to reach customers and can include things like competitions, puzzles, ranking lists, scoring systems and incentives, which are designed to encourage engagement and connection, and ultimately conversions.

A highly popular and successful example of gamification is the Nike + Run Club app, which offers all runners the opportunity to join its community.

In addition to allowing runners to measure their efforts, it allows the sharing of race statistics on social networks and offers challenges where participants can win badges and trophies.

The role of these features is to create a connection with users and to retain them as a result.

There are lots of recent examples of well-executed campaigns where brands have blended gamification with a practical outcome for the consumer.

Take eye wear brand Ray Ban, which employed a clever new strategy during peak COVID-19 restrictions by giving its customers the ability to try on sunglasses virtually.

Sephora encourages customers to try makeup shades virtually using its Virtual Artist app.

These businesses have seen an opportunity to enhance the customer’s shopping experience, which in turn helps to cement their relationship with them.

COVID-19 has changed the business and marketing landscapes permanently – email volumes and e-commerce sales rose globally to new records during the pandemic and have continued to remain high across the board.

And while marketers are communicating with an increasingly digitally savvy customer base, they’re also competing with a lot more noise from competitors than they have previously.

Therefore the challenge is to retain these new customers, and maintain these higher engagement levels, post-pandemic.

The most successful businesses will be those who know their customers well and use this information to personalise communications, as well as those who continue to reinvigorate their approaches to keep customers entertained, engaged and loyal.

A highly respected digital marketing professional and data storyteller, working primarily in the email industry for almost 2 decades.

Guy Hanson, Vice President Customer Engagement (International) at Validity Inc.