Making the case for a customer centric approach towards promotion.
Too frequently within the on-line environment the target audience for campaigns and promotional sites is ignored.
Often on-line promotions are little more than a translation of something developed for another medium. In the worst cases a campaign is transferred directly. This ignores much of the research and consideration that went into the original campaign and transfers the limitations of one media to another. It ignores the strengths of the Internet and highlights its limitations.
Customers interact with television or print in a different manner to the Internet. Television allows little interaction beyond selecting which channel to watch. The Internet allows users to provide information and respond to messages to gain more appropriate solutions and meet goals. It provides customers with a chance to deal with a company early in the relationship. Ignoring this results in solutions that fail to fully capitalise on the medium.
Interaction provides an opportunity to reinforce brand pillars, but brings with it risks that are often ignored. If it is poorly thought out, inconsistent, misleading or error prone it will affect users’ perception of the brand. A site wishing to promote a car as a pleasurable, comfortable experience will fail if it does not exhibit these qualities.
The reason greater consideration is not given to the target audience may be reluctance to spend money on a medium that was hyped then failed to live up to expectations. However, the on-line population continues to grow and offers opportunities not present in other mediums.
Promotion on the Internet often fails to learn from marketing in other mediums. Market research of customers needs, attitudes and behaviour has been used for years. There are still examples of companies buying banner or promotional space without considering the audience and whether there may be a more effective alternative. Market research provides a good basis, however, it usually does not go far enough, ignoring the interactive nature of the medium.
Internet promotion needs to take into account context, when it is encountered and what the user is doing. The use of splash screens is a key example. The user has already made the decision to visit a site yet before they can achieve anything they must view an animation promoting the company. This is the equivalent of your local green grocer refusing to serve you until they have told you they are the biggest and most profitable grocers in the area.
The use of sponsored items on search engines is a good example of how promotion can be effectively integrated with the user’s goals. The sponsors relate directly to the topic for which the user has searched producing benefits for both parties. This is not the only way this can be achieved. Rich media banners can provide immediate value to the customer and even traditional banners can support users’ goals if presented in a timely manner.
Any promotional offering on the web needs to consider the full life cycle of the users interaction. Very often drive to site and how best to maintain interaction with the brand are considered independently. Many promotional sites seek short-term solutions, relying on a single interaction to promote the benefits of a brand. They seek to generate awareness as quickly as possible rather than initiating a relationship.
If the Internet is to truly meet its full potential as a marketing tool it needs to be approached as a unique space but draw on previous learning within marketing, human factors and software development. It needs to take account of the target audience their goals, abilities and the tasks they wish to perform in context. In short a customer centric approach.