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Marketers in the West are currently fascinated by WeChat's success in the East.
I think part of the fascination is that something other than email is being used for one-to-one marketing and communication.
Companies are interacting with consumers in all sorts of inventive ways through this ubiquitous messaging app.
It got me thinking about one-to-one marketing, and the fallacy that certain channels can provide it.
Understanding the consumer
Getting into the consumer's head involves thinking about our long-inculcated awareness of the broadcast and the private.
The most important part of a message (the bit we notice first) is often not the content, but the intended audience.
If you receive an email sent to the entire company by the CEO, you immediately think it could be big news. If you personally receive an email from the CEO, you immediately think it could be a big opportunity.
The consumer has a similar instinct for the nuances of messaging, wherever they receive them.
Despite social media's potential, most companies broadcast
Social media is a fantastic sandpit for personal communications. But most companies' commitment to social is half-hearted.
Here is the typical usage of Twitter by a brand that doesn't understand the medium:
- Posts once a day with bland content that's created on the hoof or watered down by legal team.
- If a consumer replies to this one tweet, the brand will Like the reply or add a generic comment such as 'we're glad you think so, Name!'
- The majority of the Twitter usage is reactive, replying to complaints.
- Replies to complaints simply direct the customer to another channel (usually call centre).
Granted, many companies use social media in a much more proactive fashion, approaching a one-to-one model.
It's WeChat usage that seems to be the exception, with brands successfully infiltrating social messaging (with the permission of the user) to give the same flexiblity as email and add social validation and increased data input.
Zara's store locator within WeChat (Source: walkthechat.com)
Search is verging on the personal
Although the majority of Google users see search as about permission and intent, it is becoming a personal channel as well, with the continuing evolution of Google Now.
The ability to show personal details in search (such as order history) is a big change. However, it must be said that some of this personal information is taken from Gmail.
Chris Lake showcases new Google Now experimentation.
Websites are often impersonal...
When the EU 'cookie law' came in, consumers didn't care one jot about banner messages explaining they were being tracked.
In fact, the only time consumers care is when this message gets in the way of content.
Similarly, ad blockers are mostly used to improve the UX that consumers have on their laptop or phone, not to protect the identity of their device.
That's because nothing will change consumer perception of most websites as tools to be used almost anonymously (until they have to register).
...so is display advertising
Though we accept cookies, consumers see display advertising as interruptive and functionless (a 'price to pay').
Consumers also regard display ads as impersonal, even in the case of retargeting, where they understand the ad is dynamic (and often more tailored than email).
Again, this is because the website is notionally 'open' and available to all, therefore broadcast.
This is the nature of advertising, of course; about awareness and relatively low conversion from large exposure.
Email is the best of all possible worlds
Many in digital talk about email almost as it were analogue (tired and old hat). But few underestimate its power when combined with CRM, automation and great creative.
Email is two way (when done correctly), affords relatively high frequency of contact, works on permission and, in many cases, consumer intent.
Though consumers understand that marketing emails are sent in batches, they pay attention to them and do not see them as disruptive (engaging when they are ready).
Lots of marketers across a wide range of companies would admit that email is their most important marketing channel (it is for Econsultancy), cost-effective, vital for retention and consumer engagement.
To learn more about email marketing, book yourself onto our training course in London.