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Email, personalisation, emotion and listening are key themes in digital marketing right now

To help Dorset firms stay in touch with the latest trends in reaching customers, a team from Dorset Growth Hub visited the 2018 Technology for Marketing show at Olympia, West London.

Dodging the enticement of a giant Scalextric track, candyfloss machines and virtual reality simulators, the team focused on attending seminars and talking to companies about how their products could benefit small and medium-sized businesses. What they learned can be summed up in four words: email, personalisation, emotion and listening.

President of Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce, Andrew Knowles, a Digital Specialist who attended the show for Dorset Growth Hub, said: “Perhaps surprisingly for an event about technology and marketing, the focus was very much on consumers as real people living busy lives. People don’t mind being marketed to, but only at the right time, in the right way. Digital tools are making this easier, but only for businesses willing to invest in learning what works.”

Email – In the post-GDPR world, email marketing is in rude health. Presenter after presenter made it clear that email remains at the heart of many successful marketing campaigns. This is driven by several factors, including tailoring emails to different stages of a customer’s journey, rather than simply blasting out generic mailshots to everyone.

GDPR was presented very positively, as a cause for significantly improving the quality of mailing lists. One case study described email open rates of 60%, a far cry from the tiny proportions often associated with mass mailings.

Personalisation – Another reason for the growing success in email marketing is improved personalisation. Businesses are learning to see customers as people, each one having different interests and preferences. Digital automation and artificial intelligence (AI) make it easier to create customised marketing messages, through email, websites and social channels.

An intriguing example of AI and personalisation was a campaign in Italy by Nutella. Computers created seven million brightly coloured and unique label designs, all of which were printed on jars. The result was each jar became a collector’s item.

Emotion – This word turned up frequently in presentations, as firms endeavour to use digital marketing to ‘surprise and delight’ their customers. Successful marketing has always been about engaging emotions, but several presenters implied this connection had been lost in the early days of digital marketing.

Pet lifestyle business PetsPyjamas was held up as a great example of a brand that had found success by tapping into the strong emotional bond between dog owners and their furry friends. The company doesn’t just sell products; it provides spaces online where owners can enthuse about their dogs.

Listening – Say less and listen more was another common theme from speakers with deep experience of digital marketing. Businesses that listen well are learning to say less, but what they say carries more value because it’s better informed. There are so many ways to listen – both online through social media, and offline by talking to people. Businesses can learn a huge amount by listening to and sharing customers’ stories, both good and bad.

N Brown, the multimillion-pound company behind several UK fashion brands, now recruits nine out of ten customers online, with up to half its sales coming via mobile devices. The company has successfully transitioned from being a traditional mail-order catalogue retailer, and it ascribes much of its achievement to having learned to listen well to its customers.

Paul Appleby
Author: Paul Appleby