5 Ways Consumer Behavior is Changing in the United States Forever

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the economy is in a recession and everyday Americans are going about their daily lives in ways no one could have anticipated at the start of the year (working from home, virtual happy hours, etc.). Some of these changes are temporary (e.g. masks), but some are going to last. Here are the 5 ways consumer behavior is changing in the United States forever.

Way #1 — People are relying less on brick and mortar

The novel coronavirus is forcing Americans to spend more of their dollars shopping online—a trend Zeta expects will continue long after a vaccine is discovered. The convenience of ecommerce—coupled with its increased product selection and (typically) lower price points for products—will make it the preferred mode of shopping for Americans in the years ahead. The transition will be especially noticeable within certain sectors of the broader retail industry like groceries, home goods, and personal-care products.

Way #2 — Reliability is supplanting price shopping

Americans will always love a deal, but it’s becoming apparent they love reliability even more.  Supply chain disruptions early on in the pandemic (remember the run on toilet paper?) left a lasting impression on shoppers. Going forward, Americans will care less paying the cheapest price possible for the products they need. Instead they’ll care more about knowing where they can turn to get the products they need without fail

Way #3 — Drop-in shopping is becoming a thing of the past

Out-of-home movement will struggle to return to pre-pandemic levels, which means spontaneous, brick-and-mortar shopping (e.g. when a group of friends walking in a commercial area decide to pop into a store and do some shopping) will become less common going forward. The growth of ecommerce, the expansion of mobile technology (e.g. 5G), and the lingering memory of the pandemic will keep people away from popular shopping districts (e.g.  Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive). This decline will be amplified by the impact of the economic recession, and consumer’s decreasing willingness to engage in nonessential or unplanned spending. 

Way #4 — Dine-in dining is dwindling

Few industries have been as wounded as the restaurant business thanks to COVID-19. A smaller supply of dining options (thousands of eateries are out of business across America), plus consumer unwillingness to sit indoors and in close proximity to strangers, will hurt dine-in restaurants for years to come.

Way #5 — People are staying away from out-of-home entertainment

COVID-19 is acting like a lightning rod for in-home entertainment. Consumers are no longer interested in waiting in long lines, sitting next to total strangers, or dealing with surging crowds. Shelter-in-place orders and social distancing mandates are keeping people away from all kinds of entertainment venues—movie theaters, casinos, amusement parks, and more. 

How else is consumer behavior changing in the United States?

There are many more ways in which consumer behavior is changing in the United States. To see the latest trends regarding consumer behavior, visit the Zeta data trends page for live updates.

Email Deliverability Best Practices for the 2020 Holiday Season

With consumers engaging in more discretionary spending than at any other point in the year, the  holidays might as well be called the “make it or break it” season for marketers. As such, marketers will often expand their targeting criteria, and blast out more offer-laden emails than at any other point during the year. Their hope?—to not only attract one-off, seasonal shoppers, but also rekindle the interest of former customers, and maximize the acquisition of net-new customers. This reality is why following email deliverability best practices during the holidays is so important.  

Of course, changing mailing behavior during the holiday season is nothing new. What is new is how important it is to plan, pace, and execute those altered mailing behaviors in an intelligent way. 

(Think of planning your holiday mailing campaign like training for a marathon—it’s all about careful preparation. If you just step outside and try to run 26.2 miles without preparing, you’re going to finish with a terrible time at best, or hurt yourself at worst. The same is true for email deliverability during the holidays. When marketers don’t take the time to properly plan their mailing strategy for optimal performance during this peak season, they put themselves at risk. Proper preparation is the key to easing ISPs into new send patterns for the holiday season. By waiting too long to prepare (or not preparing properly altogether), you can do real damage to your send program.)

There are several strategic steps every email marketer should take when it comes to building a holiday sending program to ensure deliverability issues are less likely to occur. Here are Zeta’s email deliverability best practices for the 2020 holiday season..

Do NOT make sudden, dramatic changes

On any given day, sudden changes in mailing behavior can trigger filter systems to update how they view and treat incoming mail. These updates can negatively impact a marketer’s program  for a short (rate limiting, bulking, etc.) or long (blocking or blacklisting) period of time. So, what makes the holidays—a peak season when there’s a large influx of mail from every brand—any different?

Nothing. 

Therefore, marketers must use strategic planning to introduce changes thoughtfully and slowly (while other maintaining best practices, of course). That means finding bold new ways to spread seasonal messages and connect with customers. 

How changing email behavior impacts email deliverability best practices

Get strategic about planning

Whenever volume is added (be it a new data stream, an extension of targeting, or some combination of the two) a review of list health should occur. During this review, questions should be asked to minimize any risk from the additional volume, such as:

  • Where is the data coming from?
  • Have the recipients opted in, and are they expecting the upcoming mail streams?
  • When was the last communication sent? Are these recipients engaged with the program? If so, when was their last interaction?
  • Are the recipients being engaged through other marketing streams outside of email? Is there data available about their interactions?
  • Has the list been run through an email validation service to reduce the likelihood of spikes in unknown user attempts?

Understanding the risk of mailing an unknown or unengaged population is vital for holiday season preparation. Although user unknowns (bad addresses) can be cleaned out through regular list maintenance, removing spam traps is much harder. Once a spam trap is created, it will not engage in mailings. So, to help flush them from the mailable population, incorporate past engagement into targeting. Because it’s unlikely engagement criteria will be employed with new-to-file recipients, addressing the source of traps is the first line of defense. Confirmed opt-out/in campaigns, CAPTCHA, and email validation at the point of collection are three ways to prevent traps from entering the database (the last thing any sender wants is to be blacklisted). 

Spamhaus, for example, is a blacklist no sender wants to get acquainted with. This blacklist is utilized by the top 4 ISPs, and a listing here can completely handicap a sender’s mail stream. In severe cases, it can even hinder multiple IP addresses (entire IP ranges in the most extreme circumstances). Landing on a major blacklists like Spamhaus can take weeks (if not months) to correct.

Once the mailing data is vetted, it should be introduced slowly. A sudden influx of mail mimics the behaviors of spammers and will often negatively impact a sender’s reputation, resulting in bulking. By incrementally increasing volume, the sender creates a new, paced pattern of behavior that’s monitored. Similar to an increase in volume, a ramp-up plan should be used when increasing the cadence of messages that will ultimately be pushed during holiday peak (keep in mind that when cadence is increased, volume is likely to increase as well).

In addition to volume considerations and data integrity, it’s important to understand how list makeup will change (as well as how it will change the resulting engagement).  List makeup, refers to how many users on the recipient list are active versus inactive.  Added volumes can easily dilute the population of customers engaging and, therefore, overall engagement rates. If these rates decline, it will make the sender look less desirable—something no marketer wants.  Fortunately, some of the larger ISPs are adept at personalizing inboxing, so those recipients with a history of engagement will continue to receive emails. That being said, if the metrics swing too dramatically into the negative as a result of fatigue, complaints, and other factors, it could be enough to override any positive engagement history. 

Be bold

Senders must avoid being another email in the inbox—strive to STAND OUT. New content and new branding should be tested well before the holiday peak so there’s ample time to optimize for any underwhelming messages. Unique branding and content makes it easier for recipients to identify emails in the midst of the holiday season, which subsequently makes it easier for them to be searched for, engaged with, or opted down from.

Being bold is one of the key email deliverability best practices

Know the pulse of the customer

Much like Ancient Greeks said “know thyself”, ISPs say “know thy recipient.” Even the best laid email marketing plans can be undone if the mail being sent is unwanted. ISPs like Gmail, Microsoft, and Yahoo are very attuned to what their customers want, so if they see an increase in complaints or diminishing positive engagement, the ISPs will punish the sender accordingly.  

Therefore, it’s absolutely critical for senders to use their pre-holiday time to get to know their recipients by asking questions like: 

  • Who are our recipients?
  • What are our recipients’ communication and product preferences?
  • What devices are they using to read our messages? To buy our products or services?
  • What does their purchase history tell us about their previous behavior? Their future behavior?
  • How is our campaign-level performance being monitored?
  • How did our recipients engage with email last holiday season?

These and other questions are key to ensuring the delivery of relevant mail. 

Meeting recipients’ needs should be the foundation upon which all messaging, targeting, and cadence are built. To that end, senders should strive to create open lines of communication with their recipients. That means informing them of any upcoming increase in messaging volume or cadence. It also means allowing recipients to manage their own sending preferences (e.g. opting down or out of emails via a preference center). Steps like these allow senders to accommodate the recipients who aren’t interested in receiving an onslaught of holiday marketing messages. 

While it seems counterproductive, giving recipients an easy, upfront way to “press pause” is the most effective way to avoid the symptoms of fatigue (e.g. rising complaints, dropping engagement, etc.) that can lead to deliverability issues.

Putting it all together using email deliverability best practices

Different strategies (cadence, message content, targeting, etc.) should be developed based on your recipients’ propensity to engage with content and, ultimately, purchase products or services. Remember that recipient interaction is a focal point for ISPs. If ISPs see their customers becoming unengaged or non-active with certain emails, the ISP will assume (fairly or unfairly) that the sender isn’t attuned to their recipient’s wants and needs. 

To learn more about email deliverability best practices for the holiday season, talk to Zeta—we’ll ensure this holiday season is your most productive season yet!  

Why CMOs Need Predictive Analytics Now More Than Ever

There are many factors (some more important than others) that contribute to the success of a marketing campaign. But of all the factors to consider, predictive analytics might matter more than any other. Predictive analytics are what make it possible for brands to communicate with prospects and customers in a more persuasive way, and set new benchmarks for engagement and conversions. Here are a few other reasons why CMOs need predictive analytics now more than ever…

More intelligent segmentation

To nurture and grow an engaged consumer audience, segmentation is a must. But effective, intelligent segmentation requires predictive analytics to determine which consumers are most likely to engage with which…

  • Topics
  • Asset types
  • Offers and promotions
  • Products and services
  • Campaigns and messages

The insights offered by predictive analytics (framing rules, etc.) make it easier for CMOs to ensure their marketing teams are targeting the right audiences with campaigns. 

Mitigating unsubscribes

When it comes to measuring a CMOs success, email subscription and engagement rates are key elements in the broader evaluation equation. After all, increases in subscriptions and engagement typically lead to increases in the most prized conversion of all: sales. This reality is what makes each and every “unsubscribe” so problematic—if a CMO can’t get people to buy into a free email, how can they be expected to get people to buy into a paid product or service? 

This is yet another reason why CMOs need predictive analytics now more than ever. Predictive analytics eliminate guesswork, giving CMOs clear insight into what prospects and customers need to see in the way of content to avoid clicking on that dreaded “unsubscribe” button.  

Speaking of what content people want to see…

Content only works if it delivers what people want to see. To that end, CMOs need to proactively know what types of content (as well as what content topics) will resonate most with their target audiences. CMOs can use predictive analytics to see how people interact with their content in real time, and use that information to optimize their marketing campaigns with more of the highest-performing content.  

Similarly, CMOs can capitalize on predictive analytics to better shape the voice of their brand. Aptly named tone-of-voice predictions use a brand’s communication and audience to predict what kind of tone the brand should use to get their messaging across effectively. These analytics are essential to drive successful marketing campaigns or to follow up right with customers.

The final reason why CMOs need predictive analytics? Lifetime value

At the end of the day, engaging customers drives conversions and increases growth of the brand—two things every CMO wants. According to a study by the Aberdeen Group, organizations using predictive analytics are nearly twice as likely to be able to identify high-value customers and make the right offers to them. 

Zeta helps CMOs make the most of AI, machine learning, predictive analytics, and more. If you want to create more successful marketing campaigns, talk to us

What Personalized Marketing Across Channels Looks Like

From social to SMS, desktop to mobile, today’s customer is spending time on lots of different devices and in lots of different channels. Therefore, the goal of every enterprise marketer should be to learn which channels work best for connecting with each, individual customer. By obtaining that insight, marketers can better create content and campaigns designed to captivate individual consumers and compel them towards conversion. In this blog, we explain how to create personalized marketing across channels in a straightforward way that any marketer can understand. 

Email

one to one marketing skirt sports

Email marketing is an easy area for enterprise marketers to set their brands apart with 1:1 marketing. Newsletters and other promotional email campaigns can be easily transitioned from “one-size-fits-all campaigns” to niche, informative sends with messaging that’s highly-relevant to a carefully selected audience. This is made possible through the incorporation of artificial intelligence into email marketing platforms. For example, when a customer abandons their cart, a smart email marketing platform can be used to send a personalized email to that shopper, reminding them of the items they’ve forgotten to purchase. This kind of personalized optimization can lead to a 2.5X improvement in open rates. 

SMS

one to one marketing cloe recommendations

For most enterprise marketers, SMS has taken a bit of a backseat to other channels. Yet, when it comes time to create personalized, 1:1 marketing across channels, SMS should not be overlooked. In particular, SMS should be used to send personalized, real-time updates about purchases (packing updates, shipping updates, delivery updates, receipts, etc.).

In-App Messaging

one to one marketing boomtrain messenger

In-app messengers are a must for any enterprise brand with an app, as it’s a proven way to reach customers when they’re susceptible to engagement. By reaching out with a personalized, in-app offer that pertains to what a customer is looking at (see example above), an enterprise marketer can easily double or triple the likelihood of conversion. 

Push Notifications

push notif

Even though Sprig failed as a business, they succeeded in using push notifications to engage with consumers on a daily basis via mobile. Consumers who opt-in for push notifications are consumers looking for regular, personalized brand engagement. These are the consumers who should be peppered with customized offers and promotions based on their known needs or preferences. .

On-Site Messaging

boomtrain brenthaven one to one marketing

Onsite messages can be annoying, but it can also be highly effective at increasing conversions (subscribes, sales, etc.)  To avoid being viewed as “another annoying pop-up”, enterprise marketers need to ensure their messaging is relevant to the site visitor (this is made easier through the deployment of ID resolution tech). The above lightbox example from Brenthaven, only opens when a site visitor clicks on a personalized prompt based on.

How AI-Powered Marketing Automation Changed Things Forever

Artificial intelligence not only gives marketers the ability to understand the interests and behaviors of individual consumers—it also makes it possible to communicate with consumers in a personalized, 1:1 way at scale. In other words, AI-powered marketing automation allows marketers (and the brands they represent) to send relevant messaging across a multitude of channels to the right recipient at the right time.  

Understand the Behavior of Every User

Traditional marketing automation services relied on pre-segmented email lists (segmented using basic demographics such as age, gender, location, etc.) and a series of triggers manually created by a marketer and fed into a given platform. 

Conversely, the modern, AI-based marketing automation system…

  • Provides access to more channels than email
  • Helps marketers track the actions of individual users
  • accommodates a wider array of action-based triggers

Using AI, newer marketing automation platforms can track every action a consumer takes over multiple channels. Using this information, AI-powered marketing automation platforms create knowledge graphs for each user to document and learn their preferences. This depth of individual insight makes it easier for brand marketers to create micro-segmented groups of users that can be marketed to using more nuanced campaigns than ever before. 

For instance, Zeta’s AI technology pays close attention to individual consumer signals—behavioral, transactional, geographic, and more. Our AI can determine what items an individual shopper is putting in their cart just as easily as it can determine whether or not a consumer expresses interest in a specific landing page. 

For example, Nykaa (a beauty and cosmetics eCommerce), tracks consumer micro-engagement signals across several different channels. They then use this data to create richer audience segments (e.g. consumers who’ve purchased more than $100 worth of products but never more than $200, etc. etc.) Nykaa will then target these micro-segments with highly custom, highly personal email campaigns that accelerate the growth of engagement and conversions.

Facilitate a Personalized User Experience

For years, the scope of personalization in the realm of marketing automation was restricted to the use of basic tokens (e.g. ) set within a templated message. 

These days, AI-powered marketing automation can track and understand the personal preferences of individual consumers. That rich insight makes it possible for marketing professionals to go beyond elementary tokens, to offer deeply personalized content that can be created and distributed at scale. 

For an example of how AI-powered marketing automation supercharges personalization, look no further than Amazon’s product recommendations. Amazon strategically uses AI to learn what each individual consumer’s preferences are. Then, Amazon uses that knowledge to curate a customized pool of recommended products to help increase gross and net-new sales. 

At Zeta, our retail and eCommerce clients use our AI-powered marketing automation platform to accomplish similar objectives, including sending personalized product recommendations to prospective customers across a multitude of channels. 

For example, Snopes.com used Zeta to offer personalized content recommendations to its email subscribers, as well as its website users in real time. As a result, Snopes.com generated more than twice the number of pageviews generated from its previous marketing platform, and achieved a tremendous 49% open rate and 28% click-to-open rate (CTOR) for emails.

Provide Omnichannel Reach 

We mentioned this a lot already, but today’s AI-powered marketing automation platforms allow marketers to reach users via a range of channels. This gives marketers a tremendous operating advantage over legacy platforms given that modern consumers are constantly transitioning between media channels and devices. Interestingly, AI-powered marketing automation platforms can actually learn the preferred channels that individual consumers prefer to engage with. This knowledge helps marketers build campaigns in such a way that they can place greater emphasis on the channels known to yield the best results with any given individual. 

Communicate at the Right Time With AI-Powered Marketing Automation

At this point, you know how an AI-powered marketing automation platform helps marketers with the “what” (personalized content), “who” (per dynamic triggers) and “how” (via appropriate channels) of marketing communication. Now it’s time to see how it helps with the “when” of sending out a communication.

In the same way that consumers have different content interests and channels, they also prefer to receive (and engage with) marketing messages at different times. An AI-powered marketing automation platform helps marketers determine what those times are, so that messages and campaigns can be sent for maximum relevance. This increased relevance should lead to a deeper content connection, more consumer interest, better conversions, and—ultimately—more sales.

Create a Unified View of Each User

Whereas older marketing automation platforms only collect consumer information for basic fields such as name and email (which greatly limits audience segmentation), AI-powered marketing automation platforms can capture every consumer (even an anonymous website visitor) interaction with your brand—what buttons they click on, what pages they spend the most time on, etc.).

This wealth of information can be used to create a more unified view of each consumer based on behaviors, sentiments, and preferences in addition to basic demographics. With the Zeta Marketing Platform for example, marketers can view the entire activity history of a given consumer. This makes it easier to monitor engagement patterns and identify conversion leaks.

Final Thoughts on AI-Powered Marketing Automation

The AI-powered marketing automation platform allows marketers to reach the right user through the right channel at the right time like never before. Marketers can now deliver highly personalized communication to each user via their preferred channel. Moreover, marketers can track every activity of a given consumer and connect with them accordingly. If your brand is looking to find new ways to excite and delight prospective customers, embracing an AI-powered marketing automation platform is something to seriously consider. 

4 Ways to Boost Mobile Engagement for Your Brand

Almost half (45%) of the world’s population owns a smartphone, and many of those 3.5 billion owners rely on said devices to connect to the internet every day. As far as 21st century technologies go, it’s an unrivaled level of consumer adoption, and it’s why brands are doing everything they can to boost mobile engagement.

As a matter of fact, many businesses now view mobile engagement as their most important measure of digital marketing success. It’s why brands from Allbirds to Zappos are constantly striving to optimize their content (email, video, push notifications, etc.) and their digital properties (apps, websites, landing pages, etc.) for consumption over mobile. 

So, how can your brand boost mobile engagement?

Here are four tips we think you’re going to like. 

Simplify your brand’s website

Working on a seven-inch screen is a lot more taxing than a 30-inch monitor. To that end, your brand should do everything in its power to make the navigation of its website as simple as possible. Navigation bars with too many options or lengthy drop-downs are an absolute no-no if you want to boost mobile engagement. Similarly, form fields (logins, sign-ups, download requests, etc.) should be as simple, straightforward, and (ideally) pre-populated as possible. Consider  integrating with OAutho services like Google, Facebook, and Twitter to make elements of the user experience as frictionless as possible. 

Make the most of email 

People use smartphones to check their email more than anything else, which means creating smart, savvy marketing emails is a sure-fire way to boost mobile engagement. Email can be used to notify prospects and customers about important brand updates, special offers, product announcements, and so much more. (For advice on boosting mobile email open rates, check out this article.)

Integrate SMS into your engagement strategy

Even in the era of 5G, data connectivity issues can happen, and when they do, it hurts mobile engagement. That’s why it makes sense for your brand to integrate SMS into its mobile marketing strategy. Whether your brand needs to contact old customers about special promotions, or share exciting product updates with prospects, SMS is an easy way to boost mobile engagement. 

Invest in mobile-exclusive offers

Implementing mobile-exclusive offers incentives consumers to spend more of their time engaging with your brand over mobile than desktop. These kinds of offers can be distributed any number of ways—email, push notification, SMS, etc.—and they’ve proven themselves successful time and again in terms of boosting mobile engagement.    

(Historically, Amazon has done a fantastic job of using mobile-only offers to increase app downloads, app usage, and web traffic derived from mobile.)

Want more tips to boost mobile engagement?

We know we barely scratched the surface on mobile engagement—for more advice on what it takes to ramp those mobile engagement numbers up, request an editorial piece from our marketing team here.