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Delivering experiences people love: the new phase of customer-centric marketing

Consumers don’t want to interact with specific marketing channels – they don’t care about how much advertisers are spending on search, affiliate marketing or display advertising. What they want is to find the products they need in a way that feels totally natural, and to purchase those products as part of a seamless experience they enjoy – without ever realising they’ve been marketed to.

Successful customer-centric marketing is what turns opportunistic purchasers into brand fanatics – the customers every CMO hungers for. However, transitioning marketing teams into a truly customer-focused organisation isn’t a simple one. CMOs often must navigate between wider business expectations and their team’s day-to-day activities – a difficult balance to strike. How can thinking and strategies change to enable this shift?

At Rakuten Marketing, we work hard with our partners to put consumers at the centre of our advertising – from understanding who the customers are, through how to reach them, all the way to bringing them back again and again. Making this customer-centric shift might even mean re-thinking the basics from the customers’ points of view: who are your customers and how can they be reached? The answers aren’t always as you’d expect.

Discovering unexpected audiences

It’s no secret that customer acquisition is vital for brands today – 44% of companies say it’s their top priority[1]. However, it is fraught with challenges – finding the right customer and beating the competition for every purchase decision being just two of the most common.

How can marketing teams make sure their brand stands out from the crowd and betters the competition? One of the best ways is to use data effectively to attract customers outside of the norm, rather than just those people who mirror existing customers. Ultimately, I’m talking about making the most of technology and data to enable a more creative approach to acquiring new customers – taking prospecting to the next level.

Data, machine learning and artificial intelligence fuels Rakuten Marketing Prospecting. It digs deeper to find people whose interests align with the brand in question, who demonstrate a propensity to purchase online and who are likely to become loyal customers, regardless of demographics. Once the right customers have been found, it’s then down to the rest of your marketing mix – including other display strategies – to continue delivering value and keep them coming back for more.

The borderless consumer

Looking for customers outside the norm could also, of course, mean looking to new markets. As many as 35% of transactions driven for brands by our Rakuten Marketing Affiliate Network are now taking place outside of the UK. As borderless commerce matures, more shoppers actively seek out products to buy from overseas brands. Concerns around confusing websites and long delivery times have been abandoned thanks to the evolution in ecommerce platforms, translation tools and the ever-emerging trend of freight forwarding.

Central to the success of many of the brands expanding into new markets is an understanding of the nuances of the different customers in each market – who they are and where they can be found – not a quick an easy thing to master. Working with a partner with experience and expertise in the market in question that is able to help you understand these nuances is an essential way to expand into international markets.

Indeed, customers in new markets may not fit your typical demographic profile but can prove equally, if not more, valuable. As John Sadeghipoor, FitFlop Global Head of Digital Marketing, says: “New markets present more opportunity – with the help of Rakuten Marketing’s local experts, we were able to acquire and target a slightly younger customer beyond our borders, which is upping growth even further.”

Not only might these customers in new markets fit a different profile to the norm, it’s also highly likely that different ways of reaching them will be needed. Another Rakuten Marketing client, Cult Beauty, used affiliate marketing to enter the Chinese market. Not only did this allow the brand to test the waters but it also meant the team could lean on local publisher knowledge to help them reach new customers, for example through using WeChat and Weibo.

Consistency, transparency and integrity

Wherever your new customers are and however they’re best reached, to create an enduring relationship and transform them into brand loyalists, a consistent experience, across all channels both on- and offline, is essential. In the age of GDPR – where the need for transparency is higher than ever – this becomes even more important as more consumers come to understand the value of their data, and demand value in return.

This takes us back to my opening statement about the fact that consumers aren’t interested in which channels marketers use to reach them. As such, marketing campaigns must be devised by starting with the customer – who they are, where they can be found, and what they love. To prevent marketing teams from slipping back to channel-based activity and moving a step away from what the business and consumer requires, working towards customer-centric business objectives – rather than typical marketing or even narrower channel-specific objectives – is essential.

Working across affiliate, display, search and influencer marketing, Rakuten Marketing offers a full suite of solutions across the customer journey to really help cement and prove the value of the customer-centric approach within marketing teams. Using data, technology and machine learning enables the delivery and measurement of the most relevant advertising to engage and influence, regardless of channel, screen, publisher or platform.

If you’re heading to CMO Inspired Conference 2018 and would like to hear more from Rakuten Marketing, save us to your wish-list in in the event portal.

Blog post by Anthony Capano, Managing Director, Europe – Rakuten Marketing


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