Marketing will have to be personal to stay relevant: Avlesh Singh, WebEngage

The next phase of marketing is going to be dictated by the same degree of personalisation that defined marketing in truest sense, says Avlesh Singh, CEO & Co-Founder, WebEngage.

I have never played baseball nor do I see myself ever becoming pro at it. If five years ago I had gotten an email from some random XYZ company about the offer on professional baseball clubs, then there was a high probability that I would have opened it, spent some time reading it and even clicked on the link if I had more spare time. Today, if I get a similar email then I would either ignore it or make an easy choice between “delete-it” and “mark-as-spam”.

Why? Marketing was different then. Earlier, it was a one-way communication, where the brand used to speak and the user had to listen. There was a unilateral communication arrangement and users didn’t seem to mind as unlike today, users were not surrounded with myriad sources of information.

Today, a user is overwhelmed with information. Every day he is waking up to 100 unread emails, 100 other push notifications, endless posts on their Twitter and Facebook timelines, gazillion display ads everywhere, text messages, with a television endlessly blaring all the time. So, in the presence of surplus choices, users have adopted a selective attitude towards what they want to see and hear. They have become intuitive to ignore ads and are sparing their attention only to those that excite them the most. This behaviour is particularly visible in the folks belonging to age group of 18-24 years.

Therefore, there is a greater challenge in front of brands to not just relay the information, but make them stand out from the clutter to secure users’ attention. This is a radical development that we are witnessing in marketing lately. Users have now begun exercising control over the ads that should reach out to them. It’s like telling the brand – “either be good or bugger off”.

Another aspect of this is the increase of ease with which brands can record users’ information in such a vast quantity and communicate with them at the same time. This is perhaps the most drastic development that has happened in advertising or marketing at large in recent times. Users, on the other hand, are expressing least qualms in letting the brands collect their information, but in return expect that the future content from those brands are hand crafted for them. Users understand that the brand knows about them and should speak to them accordingly, like it should not sell me a baseball club when I clearly don’t need it.

Marketing started with personal one to one conversation, now called word-of-mouth marketing. Then it shifted to television and print. Later, Internet came into the picture, acquiring a major chunk of the marketing budget. But regardless of the channel, the essence of marketing had been invariably missing. But, it cannot continue further. Personalisation is the future.

The next phase of marketing is going to be dictated by the same degree of personalisation that defined marketing in truest sense.

However, to achieve personalisation it is imperative that you have the unique view of the user across all channels and devices, as in summation of the user’s engagements with your brand. But the user of today is undertaking a very complex journey before deciding on purchasing from you. He engages with your brand via multitudes of touch points and each of these touch points contribute to his decision of making the purchase in some proportion.

So to make sense to the user, there should be coherence in your messaging across all these touch points, which call for the need of omni-channel engagement. There is an entire industry emerging to address this problem with WebEngage too in the race.

The next wave of marketing is going to be pleasant and probably more empathetic. User data would become new currency and brands would spend more on technology, particularly AI, and big data than they did on traditional marketing agencies. Brands either have to embrace it or lose the race.

(Avlesh Singh is CEO and Co-Founder of WebEngage, a multi-channel user engagement platform that enables online businesses to personalize engagement with their users across mobile, web, and email.)

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