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Don’t Get Schooled by Frustrated Consumers

By Patrick Reynolds | 8.22.18

Back-to-school season is well underway. And with it comes a barrage of back-to-school campaigns and promotions irrelevant to the majority of consumers who’ll see or receive them.


Certainly, as a brand or retailer marketer, you want to have a strategy in place to capture a piece of the consumer’s wallet. But it should be the right strategy; that is, one that views consumers from a holistic perspective and treats events such as back-to-school season as one element of a data-driven, personalized approach to marketing aimed at building long-term customer value.


Not every holiday is for everyone

Back-to-school season is good example of this because not everyone is going back to school. Consider:


From dazzlingly white sneakers to “millennial pink” everything, back-to-school spending is expected to reach $82.8 billion according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), and families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average $684.79 each.


Knowing that money is going to be spent on back-to-school clothing, shoes and supplies, brand and retailer marketers can’t resist but to make huge investments in targeting consumers this time of year with countless promotions and discounts. While there is money to be earned, is this the right approach for maintaining a loyal customer base year-round?


According to U.S. Census Bureau data, just 25 percent of the entire population ages three and up are enrolled in school. That means, marketers who focus all their marketing efforts on this one “holiday,” are badgering a majority of current and prospective customers with irrelevant offers and promotions. These marketers also need to consider who they shouldn’t talk to with holiday-specific communications and figure out how to best serve these underserved customers without getting hung up on holiday marketing.


Of course, back-to-school is just one example of the need to balance short- and long-term marketing efforts, as well as the need to take a more personalized approach. Think about Easter, Valentine’s Day, and Moms, Dads, and Grads season. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the potential sales and overlook the frustration you might be causing to customers and prospects who aren’t in on
the celebration.


We certainly aren’t suggesting that marketers ignore these holidays; we’re
simply suggesting they take a step back and ask themselves, “Is my marketing addressing the right audience?” Yes, some consumers are going to increase their spending over the next month, but what about each individual’s spending throughout the year? Brand and retailer marketers need to make sure their strategies are individualized to reach each relevant customer, at the right time, with the right offer.


Focus on lifetime loyalty

Instead of focusing so heavily on holiday marketing to capture their share of consumers’ wallets, brand and retail marketers are better off with a strategy that focuses on the lifetime value of a customer. According to Edelman, customers that continue to support your brand over time will spend 67 percent more than new customers. You need to make sure that your marketing and loyalty efforts are giving each customer that unique experience to ensure they’re coming back.


Mistakenly, many brand and retail marketers have trained customers to wait for big sales. This training fails at the long-term goal of deepening customer relationships. In fact, our research has shown that 83 percent of consumers said that they would leave a brand if a competitor offered more generous rewards points. Marketers need to adjust their approach, as traditional sales and promotions teach customers to always be on the lookout for the next discount. Instead, marketers must optimize value across the customer lifecycle. One way to do this is through a holistic loyalty program that goes beyond points and uses data to create a more personalized customer experience over time.


A successful loyalty program that increases the lifetime value of a customer needs to incorporate a core value proposition including hard benefits (discounts), soft benefits (personalized experiences), and utility, as well as a broad mix of engagement motivators that offer targeted value to your consumers. Marketers can achieve this by leveraging customer data to understand behaviors and preferences and then predict what would interest customers most based on that historical knowledge.


Customer data can help brand and retailer marketers determine how they can market to those consumers not particularly interested in a holiday or event such as back-to-school season. It can help answer questions such as what customers have already purchased, which promotions excite them, and what other products might they be interested in based on past purchases.


As we head back to school, brand and retailer marketers need to take a look at their loyalty strategies, making sure they’re building maintaining consumer relationships that increase lifetime value, not just focusing on that one holiday

sale—because marketers who continue to blast irrelevant messages to their consumers during back-to-school and other holidays just might get schooled by frustrated customers who leave for a better experience from a competitor.

About the Author

Patrick Reynolds is CMO at SessionM, a customer data and engagement platform. Previously, he ran marketing and strategy for two successful startups in the streaming audio industry. He also has client-side experience as CMO of a publicly traded retailer, as well as multiple leadership positions with leading international advertising agencies.