The very term ‘digital marketing communication’ implies the element of human contact. For years, we have been told by experts that two-way communication is the new way of marketing created by social media that we must wholly embrace to keep in touch with modern audiences. However, large shares of millennial customers are still less than impressed by our follow-up emails and instantly close our website pages when a chatbot window appears. Is there something wrong?
What in the World Are Self-Service Technologies?
As it appears, many people switched to online shopping and digital technologies to avoid communication rather than get more of it. If you take a trip to a nearby McDonald’s restaurant, chances are you will see a lot of customers using self-ordering kiosks or collecting their online pre-orders instead of waiting in line. The key benefits of this path are speed and silence. You do not waste time on unnecessary communication and you do not get distracted from your thoughts. Here is a fun fact for you: cashier-less Amazon Go stores are predicted to generate $4.5 billion in 2021. So much for ‘the magic of human communication.
But How Does This Transfer to the Marketing Domain?
Well, the pattern remains the same. If you are bothered by overly intrusive ‘Happy to help’ store assistants, chances are you are going to be equally furious about annoying pop-ups and chatbots. You want to do your online shopping in full silence with minimal distractions, pay for your order, select the optimal delivery time and leave without a single interaction with the brand. Guess what? Most of millennial customers need live assistance only when your self-service system is counter-intuitive and does not work as it should.
Why Should You Embrace Automation and Self-Service?
Well, formally there is no arbitrary reason to do this especially if your business model emphasises personal touch and direct communication with your consumers. However, we can name quite a few reasons to consider adding this option as an opportunity for your millennial clients and other less talkative customer segments:
1. Multiplication Effect
If you are enamoured by the idea of two-way communication, the number of your customer support specialists becomes a bottleneck. This is especially problematic if you lack the resources for the provision of 24/7 support. Self-service technologies imply that you drive consumers to your website, provide all necessary information, and let them purchase your products with zero involvement on your part. For a well-tuned system, it does not matter whether you are willing to serve 10 customers or 10,000 customers. If you use effective linkbuilding tactics and boost your rankings in search results, customer journeys can be completed without a single customer-brand interaction.
2. Customer Satisfaction
As noted earlier, many customers do not like being interrupted in their pre-purchase analysis. However, this does not mean that you cannot use traditional pull marketing methods. A well-designed FAQ like on the PhD Centre website, as well as integrated reference materials, can still provide for high conversion rates. At the same time, the consumers are not ‘pushed’ into completing their purchases right away and are not constantly prompted to give their money to you. This increases their satisfaction and demonstrates your respect for their intention to proceed at their own pace.
The 2017 survey from Microsoft identified that 74% of consumers preferred self-service customer support solutions to human operators. One of the key reasons for this was the capability to solve their problems right away. People actually like solving problems themselves, especially if this means getting things done faster. In digital marketing, your clients may be better off reading articles on your website, using your integrated comparison tools or consulting your product selection guides rather thanwait for a live operator to respond. After all, somecustomersprefer to purchase their new pair of sneakers or craft products for their kids at 3 A.M. just because they feel like it.
What Are the Key Problems of Automating Your Digital Marketing Activities?
Just because digital marketing automation and self-service technologies are demanded by many customers, this does not mean that they are inherently superior to traditional marketing communication.There are some aspects where they can be seen as less advantageous or pose serious barriers to their implementation.
1. Customer Effort Score
Customer effort score or CES is the indicator measuring the complexity of purchasing a product or a service. While it can be lower in well-tuned self-service systems, it starts to spike when your consumers actually need human assistance and cannot receive it on time.
2. Low Transparency
Most digital systems allow you to track the performance of marketing instruments fairly well. However, it is substantially more difficult to understand why your bounce rates start to increase or why your customers do not complete their purchases. With self-service systems, it may be more difficult to see your weak spots and the ways to eliminate them.
3. Lack of Rejections Management
The lack of ongoing communication also makes it difficult to manage customer rejections. Since they are not openly voiced, you are generally limited to measuring bounce rates and page heat maps as passive optimisation tools.
How Can You Optimise Your Systems for Automated Digital Marketing?
Whatever your digital marketing strategy is, you may want to experiment with self-service options to see if they can make some of your clients happier. Here are some initial suggestions for optimising your existing systems:
1. Think about the Whole Customer Journey
Imagine a person hearing about your product or service and entering your website for the first time. They should be able to follow a well-laid track from learning about your offerings towards recognising their capability to satisfy their needs and making their informed purchase decision.
2. Always Invest in Testing
If you want to achieve self-service holism, you must be 100% certain that no bugs or errors will distract your customers from their path. Test your resource from all popular operating systems, tablets, and smartphones and use adaptive website design where possible.
3. Do Not Go Fully Automatic Just Yet
Many marketers fascinated by these concepts may be willing to initiate a full conversion towards self-service technologies in the nearest future.However, their priority right now is to get as much customer feedback as possible. As weird as it may sound, well-functioning systems must be free of any bugs and weak spots. However, you can only find them through close interaction with your clients. Make sure to always provide an alternative contact path to get through to a live customer service specialist and collect any feedback and suggestions relevant for improving your existing systems.
The main benefits offered by digital marketing automation include:
- The capability to offer 24/7 support in multiple languages;
- Automated processing of orders without human involvement;
- Effective handling of customer support tickets speeding up problem resolution;
- Additional order processing channel for introverted consumers avoiding traditional sales;
- Instant reactions to consumer queries with minimal additional investments.
These advantages may be especially significant for smaller firms lacking the resources necessary for providing 24/7 consumer support as new AI-powered systems offer 24/7 chatbots supporting multiple languages at reasonable prices. This allows practitioners to close the gap between their companies and corporate market leaders and achieve the levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty that could not be attainable previously. At the same time, the implementation of such solutions may be affected by a number of important considerations including:
- The lack of customer rejection management options;
- Low transparency of automated marketing communication;
- The need for extensive testing and alternative contact options.
While the already existing solutions offer sufficient self-service capabilities for many customers, the inability to contact the company in situations requiring human assistance may cause dissatisfaction and lead to lost leads. In this aspect, firms need to invest in thorough testing and provide additional options for contacting human specialists. This combined approach will allow them to identify the existing bottlenecks where automation can increase the speed of queries’ processing without disrupting the existing mechanisms of two-way communications that cannot be presently replaced by automated systems. Catherine Smith is an online Marketing Manager at PhD Centre, specialising in PhD thesis writing.She is passionate about researching and writing on various topics, including Education, Marketing, and Technology.