Experian®, the global information services company, today published a new report providing strategic recommendations on the areas where marketers should make key investments in order to engage with today’s increasingly empowered consumers.

‘Driving effective marketing in a recession’ explains how responding quickly to changes in the marketplace needs to be driven by using customer insight and analytics to make better, more informed decisions about how, when and where to target customers. With consumers growing increasingly thrifty and less brand loyal, Experian’s report recommends that companies adopt a more agile, insight-driven approach to marketing. For example, according to Hitwise, an Experian company, online searches for discount vouchers have risen by 143% in the last year, indicating an increased likelihood of consumers switching between brands.

Providing the latest thinking on how consumer brands can drive greater marketing effectiveness, the report’s recommendations include:

1. Use intelligent marketing
It is essential that marketers understand how customer behaviour and value has changed in the recession. Developing customer profiling, clusters or RFV models are key to identifying different customer groups, trends and triggers. According to Hitwise, 27% of online shoppers in 2008 were over 55 years old, more than double the number in 2005. This changing consumer behaviour means that customer centric insight should underpin a new and adapted intelligent marketing approach that identifies key target groups and messages to retain and secure sales revenues and margins.

2. Understand media preferences
Customers expect to be contacted through different media and understanding their needs and channel preferences will allow marketers to build integrated and consistent online and offline messages. This will enable marketers to develop targeted offers and promotions that reach consumers through the right channel, at the right time, with the right message. Illustrating this point is the fact that according to Hitwise data, consumers are turning away from retail websites and spending more time on social networks – suggesting that retail brands need to be quick to adapt online propositions to reflect this trend.

3. Adapt the channel mix
Understanding which new and traditional channels are delivering the highest returns of investment is crucial to achieving a truly integrated campaign. It is no use relying on old models based on yesterday’s market conditions. Effective, timely and measurable digital channels – like email - should be explored. According to a CMO Council study of 650 global marketing executives, 45% said they would look to increase their email marketing investment in 2009. Similarly, understanding which mix achieves the best response from customers – be it traditional or new media - is vital, and the integration of those channels is a key to success.

4. Nurture and engage with existing customers
Engaging with customers on a one-to-one level during a recession is extremely important because they are more likely to spend on brands they trust. The better an organisation serves its customers, the harder it will be for competitors to lure them away. However, according analysis from Experian, 60-70% of a company’s perceived ‘best’ customers have not actually purchased in the last 12 months, signifying that companies are taking one or two seasons to recognise that high value customers have lapsed. Companies should ensure that expenditure on customer experience programmes is ring-fenced as they will play a key role in managing customer interactions and brand perceptions.

5. Tailor content and messages
Messages across all media and channels need to be adapted into a compelling story that strikes a chord with the customer at that moment in time. Underpinned by customer insight, organisations should create engaging and relevant messages based on understanding the customer’s needs and preferences - continually reminding them about the great value their relationship with a brand offers them.

The report’s author, Marie Myles, Director of Marketing Consulting for Experian’s Integrated Marketing division, said “As consumers’ purse strings tighten, they will increasingly look for brands to engage with them on their terms. This means implementing customer insight effectively and allocating budgets to accountable channels that will deliver the highest returns. For example, in March 2009 retail websites received nine times more traffic from Google UK than Facebook and 377 times that of Twitter. For driving traffic, social networks may not be an optimal channel at present but probably do play a role in wider brand marketing.”

“By focusing on the right channel brands can communicate key messages that effectively meet the needs of the customer in a timely fashion, increasing loyalty, engagement and sales. The most successful marketers will be those with their ears to the ground, and who are quick to adapt and invest in the right activities.”

To download a free copy of ‘Driving effective marketing in a recession’ visit www.experianim.com

Published on: 5:26PM on 6th May 2009