The 'Who' and 'When' of Effective Targeting: Why Timing Matters

By Evan McGonagill

June 5, 2018

When it comes to understanding and connecting with your customers, segmentation can be an immensely powerful tool. Splitting a diverse audience into distinct groups allows you to reap the benefits of more precisely targeted content, and it only takes a few insights about differences within your audience to increase the impact of your marketing—with significant lift in conversions and revenue to follow.

But segmentation isn’t just about recognizing different types of people: it’s also about differences between the same people at different moments. Customers have changing interests and needs depending on where they are in their buying journey, and the brands who know how to serve the appropriate content at the right moment can not only see the shopper through to conversion, but can also ensure a smoother customer experience and higher rates of customer loyalty. It’s not just the ‘who’ that matters, but the ‘when.’

This mindset is especially relevant for big-ticket items with long journeys to purchase, such as automobiles. Someone who is just beginning to consider buying a vehicle will have totally different needs from someone who has settled on make and model but is wondering how to finance the purchase. And the consequences of lumping those two shoppers together in the same bucket can be big: brands can lose customers by sending a message at the wrong time. Imagine you bought a car and then went back to the website a week later only to discover that the same car was now on special offer for 25% less. Your excitement about your recent buy may quickly sour into a feeling that you’ve been undervalued, maybe even cheated, by the company. Instead, that customer should have been recognized and rewarded with more relevant content, like tips on maintenance and answers to product questions they may have encountered as a new owner. Segmentation can help brands avoid this nightmare situation and ensure that every customer feels supported and prioritized at all stages of the journey.

In a recent webinar offered by Marketing Week in partnership with Monetate, Amaar Mohammadally (Senior Strategy Consultant, Personalization, Monetate) broke down how segmentation can make a difference in the messaging you use for customers at different points. Here’s what specified content might look like for customers at progressive stages of the automobile-purchasing process:

  • Research mode - When the shopper is in research mode, your business should focus on providing relevant top-level information and facilitating product comparisons, promoting test rides, and encouraging email sign ups to set up future retargeting efforts.
  • Buying mode - When that customer enters buying mode, the brand should help them navigate the details of selecting a model and making the purchase, by promoting tools like car configurators and providing information on financing options. You should also distinguish the brand at this stage with strong values messaging, and offer special incentives to encourage them to buy.
  • Customer loyalty mode - Once the customer has made the purchase, keep the relationship active by pushing accessories, servicing reminders, and dealership information. Now, in particular, it’s important to avoid offers and incentives that are not only irrelevant to the customer, but might even cause them to feel slighted by the brand.

A single customer may have vastly different needs depending on when you’re reaching them. So why treat them as a static entity? Businesses that excel at connecting with their customers know to be sensitive to the particular considerations and emotions associated with the various stages of a customer’s relationship with their brand. Using segmentation to inform the timing of your targeted content can allow you to send the right messages at the right time—and, crucially, avoid the wrong ones.

In the end, lifecycle messaging isn’t just about closing an individual sale: it’s about long-term customer loyalty. Smart targeting ensures the kind of positive experience that makes a shopper feel valued and supported throughout their buying process, and lays a foundation for customer loyalty that will continue to pay you back in revenue over the course of a long relationship.

To learn more about segmentation and how it fits in with a suite of other personalization approaches, check out the recorded webinar.

Evan McGonagill is a content writer for Monetate, where she researches and produces whitepapers, blog posts, and other material about commerce and personalization. Evan has a background in libraries and archives, and she uses her interest in the structure and flow of information to think about how brands can harness data to build more personal connections with their customers. When she isn't in the library or learning about personalization, you can find her playing music in West Philadelphia.

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