Lazy brands using ‘outdated’ and ‘irrelevant’ email to message customers

Mark Johnson's picture
by Mark Johnson

Brands’ communications are falling into a channel gap when it comes to reaching their most loyal customers as they repeatedly fail to speak to their subscribers via the most appropriate platform.

A study into subscription services from independent media agency The Kite Factory, explored the habits, attitudes, preferences and bugbears of consumers in this space and found that the majority of brands are missing a trick by relying on email as their key form of communication. 

The research showed that 35 per cent of the 2,000 respondents interviewed said they were most likely to discuss subscription products on Facebook, 27 per cent on WhatsApp and 17 per cent on Facebook Messenger.

Brands rely too much on email

A sizeable 80 per cent of respondents said subscription service providers still use email to communicate with them, with 19 per cent of brands turning to Facebook and nine per cent opting for Twitter. 

The gap was particularly significant among 16-24-year olds, just nine per cent of whom said they preferred using email to communicate about their subscriptions, though this is compared to only 18 per cent of those aged over 55. 

This disconnect between the way businesses communicate and the platforms on which their customers are talking to each other is a key contributor in brands failing to achieve meaningful dialogue with existing or prospective customers in the subscription space. 

“Understanding where customers are having conversations is just part of uncovering the full customer journey and providing an inclusive experience where people feel their needs are met every step of the way”, said Robin Trust, CEO of The Kite Factory.

“The business tools for WhatsApp and Facebook are young compared to email but show a progressive attitude, and it’s important for brands to have a voice on those channels. 

“However, it is clear from our research that the vast majority of businesses are still not there. Those who already use these channels to speak to their customers are certainly enjoying the benefits of first mover advantage.”

Forecasts of change

Kite referred to forecasts it said showed the subscription market could be worth £1bn by 2022 (up from £583m in 2017), and it said the report also proves just how crucial effective communication is at all stages of the subscription journey when it comes to retaining customers in a competitive market place, the firm said. 

Customers at different stages of the buying cycle – from the consideration stage, to sign-up, to post-purchase - all have different needs and therefore should receive different communications.

Some 70 per cent of 16-24-year olds are passionate about the importance of personalisation, but 60 per cent of respondents said they receive communication that is not personalised to their needs or interests, suggesting a lazy, one-size-fits-all approach by many brands. 

Marketers are often not aware of the full extent of the tools available to them to analyse existing customer data, The Kite Factory said, nor the huge variety of touchpoints that can be utilised for analysis in the pursuit of gaining a full and detailed picture of a customer’s behaviour – what influences them, what is important to them, how they think and practical insights such as their income and disposable cash.

Kite noted that brands often fail to standardise and organise their customer databases or garner vital layers of third-party data from external sources. 

AI and machine learning

And for those marketers who are collating their customer data efficiently, the improvements in machine learning now used to identify patterns in the data mean they are able to be smarter in applying it to personalised marketing strategies.

“The key to effective personalisation lies in the use of data”, Trust added. “Tracking behavioural data throughout the whole user journey and identifying what triggers provoke specific actions is crucial to truly harnessing insight into individuals’ preferences. 

“Brands must invest more time and budget into employing specialist data analysis in order to build a fuller subscriber picture from the outset. 

“Effective personalisation should be neither complex nor intrusive. Our research – and our experience with many of our clients – shows the vast majority of consumers respond positively to communication that is clearly tailored to their preferences rather than blanket emails that fail to make that all-important emotional connection.”

The Kite Factory, which rebranded itself from MC&C earlier this year, commissioned a survey of 2,000 consumers across the UK in 2019. 

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