We are in the age of educated consumers. Whether purchasing laundry detergent, a new car, or a computer, educated consumers want relevant information before making purchase decisions. And educated consumers don’t want to be sold something—they want to be empowered to make the best choices.

Last year, analysts predicted that interactive marketing tactics would continue to grow in popularity, while traditional tactics such as broadcast, print ads and direct mail were expected to decline by 20 percent or more. Current market studies support the validity of these predictions.

The retail industry in particular has a hard time sending email blasts without being labelled as spammers. The blast campaigns of the past produce low response rates, and just a half a percent spam complaint rate will start to get you blocked by major mailbox providers all over the world.

Labelled a spammer?

A prominent European retailer alienated their customers and were left with a red-faced marketing department after an email promotion that went wrong.  They offered a two-for-one coupon that allowed two people (you and a friend) to save up to 50% each on an outfit.  The concept was well received.

However, the company automatically added all of the "friends" to the email file and sent two promotions a week, even if the friend did not make a purchase or actively opt in for email.  The retailer’s spam complaints were drastically increased, and long time customers were sending angry messages to customer service and even to the president of the company.

Satisfying educated consumers requires that marketers provide the right information, when, where and in what forms these educated consumers want it.

As a result, marketers must master new ways to answer critical, long-standing questions about the overall effectiveness of both traditional and new interactive online marketing programs. For example, what level of interest was generated by last week’s special offer? Is the marketing program reaching the desired demographic regions?

A resource-efficient approach for interactive marketing

To take full advantage of interactive marketing, B2C marketers need to adopt a holistic approach based on the simplification of processes and the integration of deep customer intelligence.

The email blasts of the past have been replaced with online marketing that creates a dialogue with consumers, requiring the creation of custom content that can hold the attention of the educated consumer. Your online marketing strategy must have:

  • Built-in capabilities for triggered/ event-based email marketing to allow marketers to personalise content and introduce rules-driven communications that can be scheduled to meet campaign objectives.
  • Interactive dialogues that can be triggered from email or landing page responses as well as web-browsing history on company website properties.
  • Marketers can quickly and flexibly set up microsites, landing pages, and forms to suit each project.

Monitor and optimise: increase workflow efficiencies

Many of today’s interactive marketing solutions fail to address the overall marketing workflow. Without addressing the iterative processes that dominate marketing projects, these task-oriented tools cannot deliver significant improvements in productivity, efficiency and bottom-line results. Make sure your marketing platform offers:

  • The review of all campaign elements to drive accuracy, compliance, and excellence by tracking approvals and annotations.
  • Workflow, to manage the process steps and make sure the right people are involved and the correct steps are taken.
  • Financial management of the overall marketing budget, with visibility of the costs relating to specific marketing activities and how they impact ROI.
  • Digital asset management, including version control, brand consistency and the customisation of collateral.

Using all your customer data

Interactive marketing also requires that marketers can get access to the right information. Customer data is typically gathered and managed by multiple departments and organisations within each business. Many marketing tools limit the amount and type of customer data that can be referenced.

B2C businesses must fully leverage deep data drawn from multiple channels from offline connections to email response, form and survey data and company website browsing history. As a result, marketers can create highly focused content for uniquely engaging customer experiences.

The large European retailer learned a lesson the hard way. They then took on a more customer-centric approach and have had more success with email marketing:

  • They segmented their file to identify those people who enjoy daily promotions. This has boosted revenues from a core group of loyal enthusiasts.
  • They scaled back frequency for subscribers who are not active (no opens, clicks or conversions in the past six months). These low engagement customers get fewer email messages, but are sent "win back" campaigns every eight weeks with special offers. The win back campaigns re-engage about 2 percent of customers every time.
  • They use social media to invite opt-in subscription requests from new fans and followers.
  • They made the email sign up more prominent and interesting on the website by allowing new subscribers to customise a discount for an outfit of their own making. By creating an interactive experience, they reduced the time from email sign up to first purchase by 21 days (it takes 21 days less to convert a customer for the first time.)

Clearly, to build trust and loyalty, you can’t spam your customers and their contacts. The era of the educated consumer is here, unleashing revolutionary changes in how B2C marketers must interact with audiences. Nowhere is this new balance of dialogue, education and selling more evident than on the web.