September 21st, 2017 by Sam Del Rowe

Brands that aren’t using artificial intelligence technology are at risk of falling behind, according to a study from OMD EMEA in partnership with Goldsmiths, University of London. The study indicates that shoppers are increasingly expecting high-quality, personalized experiences, and suggests that artificial intelligence technology can deliver those experiences.

The study surveyed more than 15,000 consumers across 13 European countries and yielded several findings regarding customers’ experience with artificial technology in retail. Nearly twice as many consumers reported being familiar with artificial intelligence technology as unfamiliar, with nearly a quarter already suing the technology via a device or app and a further 41 percent wanting to get one. Additionally, just 17 percent of consumers said that they would reject help from artificial intelligence across retail sectors. However, 47 percent admitted that they would be less patient if they knew they were interacting with the technology.

With these points in mind, the study suggests that brands focus on a few things when implementing artificial intelligence technology including where to insert artificial intelligence technology in the communication process, when humans should take over, and how to make the whole process as seamless as possible.

“As an industry, we need to turn the bundle of technologies described as AI into services that people can care about, such as their insurance app or their cinema chatbot. It needs to be an upgrade to apps, ecommerce, and so on,” Jean-Paul Edwards, director of strategy and product development at OMD EMEA, said in a statement.

September 14th, 2017 by Sam Del Rowe

 

True Influence, provider of account-based marketing platform InsightBASE, recently released the results of a study identifying the terms in which marketers are showing the greatest increase in interest.

Using the InsightBASE platform, True Influence monitored the online activities of companies nationwide for a period of two years to establish baseline activity levels. Next, online activities from January 15, 2017 to July 15 2017 were monitored and compared to the baseline levels. Finally, keywords with the greatest increase in online activity were isolated using the InsightBASE Relevance Engine.

The results of this process revealed the greatest increase in interest in the topics of account-based marketing, email marketing, and location-based marketing, followed closely by B2B marketing and video marketing.

“This trending study is significant because it clearly shows what is happening in the minds of marketers everywhere. As the B2B buying journey begins with online research, the use of intent signaling data powerfully illustrates a significant capability for B2B marketers. Now, more than ever before, they can see which products and services companies are researching online, tailor and personalize their marketing activities more specifically, and win new customers faster than ever before,” Brian Giese, CEO of True Influence, said in a statement.

September 11th, 2017 by Oren Smilansky

This morning, I was surprised to come across new research which finds that customer satisfaction for utility companies is at an “all-time high.” According to Cogent Reports’ 2017 Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement Residential study, electric and natural gas utilities posted a record breaking score of 767/1,000. The best of these firms, the press release states, “have created experiences with customer ease and convenience in mind.”

I find this somewhat hard to believe, since my experience with utility companies has never been particularly remarkable, and it has certainly not improved in the past few years.

Granted, these companies seem to be at a bit of a disadvantage in the experience department to begin. Customers generally want to have as little contact with their utility providers as possible. Send me my bill, I’ll pay it, and leave me alone for the next month. Seeing an electricity bill–especially during New York City summer months–is not something anyone looks forward to.

What I can say is that my interactions with my current utilities provider–who is ranked in the top 15 in the Eastern Region–are, and have always been, pretty much the same. Once a month I’ll get an email notifying me that my bill is due, that I have about another month to pay before they shut my power off, and that I can pay either online, via mail, or phone.

I consistently choose to pay my bill via the telephone–not because I prefer that channel–but because, for some reason, my online account hasn’t worked properly since I moved into my current apartment. And, though I’ve tried to resolve the issue, it has been too much trouble to fix, even after speaking to a customer service representative who made it fairly clear that to do so would require jumping through more hoops than it might be worth.

Fortunately, I’ve learned how to navigate this company’s confusing phone system. I’ve had to, because if I call the main number listed on the company’s website or in the body of the bill email, I will be directed to another line dedicated specifically to payments. (I’ve written this number, as well as my account number, in a notebook so that I can skip this step and save a few extra minutes each time I call.) Then, once connected to the correct line, an automated voice asks the customer to manually enter his account number–a process which I’m sure can be automated based on the identifiers they’ve already provided (namely, my phone number). When the payment is processed, the robot on the line recommends that I should have a pen and paper handy and write down the confirmation code. 

Now, I don’t claim that this a particularly straining process, but it requires the effort of manually entering data that should be saved in the company’s system. The repeated payment process should be much more seamless than it currently is. And, in an ideal world, customer service would proactively help me figure out how to configure for the easiest payment option. (One can dream!)

But I’ll give it to these companies–the tend to stay to the point, and only reach out to customers when it’s absolutely necessary. They read the crowd, know what their main function is, and don’t clog my inbox with pointless messages. When I get an email from my utility company, I know exactly what to expect when I click on it. And the fact that my lights haven’t been shut off yet is maybe enough reason for celebration.

 

August 31st, 2017 by Sam Del Rowe

Email subject lines under 21 characters generate a 31 percent higher-than-average open rate, yet account for less than 5 percent of all email subject lines, according to a study from Yes Lifecycle Marketing.

Yes Lifecycle Marketing analyzed the subject lines of more than 7 billion emails deployed through its cross-channel marketing communication platform Yesmail360 for the study, which yielded several additional findings. Subject line length had the most significant impact for the retail and technology industries, while for the financial services, publishing, and hospitality industries it was not a significant factor. Additionally, just 2 percent of all emails sent in Q2 2017 had an element of personalization in the subject lines, yet these emails yielded 50 percent higher open rates than those without personalization in the subject lines.

“While shorter subject lines can sometimes stand out in the inbox, especially on mobile, length is only one of the many email components marketers should take into account when developing their campaigns,” Michael Fisher, president of Yes Lifecycle Marketing, said in a statement. “The key is still to give subscribers enough information up front to encourage them to open – either through a relevant, personalized subject line or through one that piques interest and appeals to consumers’ curiosity.”

August 28th, 2017 by Oren Smilansky

Many a study has concluded that customers are willing to pay more for a better experience, but does this theory always hold up when placed under the magnifying glass? After all, isn’t price a major part of the experience?

I’ve been thinking about prices lately, and wondering just how miserable an experience I’m willing to tolerate if it means that the product or service in question is more affordable than the alternative. And the answer is a lot. I’m willing to put up with a ton of crap just to save some dollars. And yes, I understand that this makes me sound incredibly cheap, but I know for a fact that I’m definitely not the only person who feels this way. 

Example. I’ve been a Planet Fitness gym member for almost three years now. The main reasons being that Planet Fitness’ clubs are a easy to find in New York City, as they’re conveniently located usually within walking distance from my apartment, and they’re affordable. My willingness to excuse their flaws has quite a bit to do with their low monthly membership fee, which is a quarter of the next best option in my town.  

And Planet Fitness, for all its charm, has its share of imperfections. At least the gyms I’ve been to do. The experience is…quirky, if I’m being generous. On several occasions, I’ve been stopped at the front desk after swiping my membership card, only to be told by the attendant that there’s a problem with my account and payment information. This despite the fact that I’d already been set up in their system for an auto-pay plan for almost two years. They also charged late fees because of this payment error, which wasn’t my fault to begin with. And when I asked about a possible refund for this error that wasn’t mine, they weren’t able to help me. In the past week, I’ve received two automated phone calls from them, telling me, again, that there was a problem with my account, and that I needed to fix it. Fine. But when I tried to log into the website, as instructed, the system isn’t able to process the changes I made. These are problems that illustrate that the company hasn’t invested in the technologies that would make things easier for customers.

Another issue is that the place is consistently messy. Anyone who’s been to this gym knows that they give away Tootsie Rolls in a big bucket, which is of course generous, but also odd for a couple of reasons: a) the last thing most people attending a gym need is candy by the fistful, and b) people don’t throw the wrappers away like they’re supposed to, opting instead to toss them on the floor, or in the machines’ bottle holders. At the gym I go to, they also have a peculiar tendency to send in a janitorial staff member of the opposite sex into the locker room unannounced. My list of grievances goes on, but they get away with it and I remain a loyal (if annoyed) customer, because their prices are great.

Another company that comes to mind for similar reasons is Megabus. Whether I’m going to Boston of Philadelphia or Rhode Island or Washington DC, I can usually count on them to offer tickets at roughly the same price (between $10-$25). But, in their case, there are also trade-offs. One is that the bus is rarely on time, both arriving and leaving. I’ve arrived on trips two hours later than the advertised ETA. At the beginning of one recent trip, the bus driver even announced that the ETA advertised on the website wasn’t reliable, and that we, the passengers, should ignore it in the future. Once, I tried to get a refund for a ticket that arrived two hours late, only to wait on the phone for 30 minutes with customer service. These buses have wifi access, but the connection is about as reliable as Amtrak’s, which is not very reliable at all. All this being said, Megabus’ prices beat the competition. And with the $60 or so saved on what would have typically been spent on a train ticket, I’ve expanded my budget for the rest of the trip.

I guess that what I’m trying to get at is that, for me, and for many, saving money is an essential part of the experience. I’m usually willing to pay less, and maybe even suffer a bit, if it means I can afford a better experience later–perhaps somewhere else.  



 
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