eBook Overcoming Marketing Challenges Part 4: Contextualization

Context is king when communicating with customers

Delivering contextualized marketing content requires a level of sophistication that is harder than some companies would have you believe, but yields greater results than ever. When customers receive truly contextualized marketing messages, both response rates and subsequent commercial results soar.

  • 30% of marketers blindly send messages regardless of profile or location
  • 63% of companies cannot track customer journeys and serve relevant content accordingly
  • 68% do not personalize their web experience based on demographics and behavior
  • 72% are not personalizing based on contextual information, eg location

Read on to find out:

  • The importance of consumers being always connected
  • Why consumers trade personal information for personalized experiences
  • The more you know your customer, the better your relationship can be
  • Content may be king, but mobile is definitely queen

Find out what contextualization can mean for you, how to achieve it and how SmartFocus helped Peak Performance realize their potential.


Contextualization: context is king

The ‘Marketing Pain Points and How To Overcome Them’ 2015 Econsultancy report revealed 80% of respondents agree that ‘context is king’ when communicating with customers, but that 30% of marketers are still blindly sending messages regardless of profile or location.

Delivering contextualized marketing content requires a level of sophistication that is harder than some companies would have you believe, but yields greater results than ever. When customers receive truly contextualized marketing messages, both response rates and subsequent commercial results soar. A contextual approach is now not a ‘nice to have’ but a ‘must have’.

Despite the declaration of its importance, companies are considerably less likely to be acting on the belief that context is king. Only 37% of companies surveyed are able to track customer journeys and serve relevant content accordingly. Without this degree of granular information, customer experiences can only be broadly relevant at best and nowhere near as effective as personalized experiences. Even fewer companies are able to deliver relevant web experiences.

Just 32% are personalizing their web experience based on demographics and behavior, and only 28% are personalizing based on contextual information, like location.


Five ways contextualisation helps marketers

The success of contextualized marketing can be boiled down to one main asset: the capability to identify and give your customers exactly what they want.

Contextualization as a concept is simple enough: it offers a perspective based on the conditions and meanings surrounding something. But in practice, it requires factoring in shopping habits, demographics, preferences, time, location, price, past purchases, and behavior. These are all things that unconsciously play a role in a shopper’s purchase decisions. Digital contextualization serves to bring these factors to the surface, using them to optimize the customer-brand experience. Here’s why:

1. Consumers are always connected Today’s ‘perpetually connected consumer’

(Forrester) seeks to live at the epicenter of information exchange. Desiring a powerful sense of relevancy and desperate not to miss out, consumers jump from different devices, disparate social media platforms, and various information sources to get exactly what they want when they want it. Because they won’t wait around, it’s critical to make sure that the information you deliver is coming at the right time, in the right place, and based on appropriate context that will lead customers to engage with your business. Let’s say you’re a shoe retailer in Florida wanting to send out a promotional offer for sandals. If you send out a blanket email to the whole of your database, it may not be reaching the people who would take advantage of your offer. For example, if it’s February and your customer Amy has moved to Chicago, sandals would not be her ideal online purchase during a flurry of snow storms. If, however, you’re using contextualized data to determine which promotions to send to whom, you’ll know that an offer for warm boots will be going out to Amy in the right place at the right time – and she’ll be much more likely to use it.

2. Consumers trade personal information for personalized experiences

“61% of shoppers under 34 are willing to share their data for a more personalized shopping experience”

Modern-day consumers (especially Millennials) believe marketing should be a dialogue between brand and customer. In exchange for sharing personal details, they expect to receive more contextually relevant information. This information gives rise to context that powers micro-moments of personalization. When a consumer is happy to give a brand their personal details, they expect all marketing messages to be specifically relevant to their current situation – they do not want to be bombarded by general messages or irrelevant information. For example, the traffic-detecting app Waze uses consumer details in exchange for contextually relevant information useful to a particular journey. Responsible for over $200 billion in annual spending power, Millennials are also comfortable with publicly evangelizing brands on social media who get it right as well as shaming those who miss the mark. It’s therefore crucial that marketers understand how to engage each consumer in ways that are meaningful to them. 

3. The more you know about your customer, the better your relationship can be

“Relevant emails drive 18 times more revenue than broadcast emails.”​
Jupiter Research

Relevance is of utmost significance when it comes to marketing to today’s modern consumers. Whether it is demography, location, weather, lifestyle, or product relevance, contextualization allows you to provide appropriate communications to your customers.

If I regularly shop at a particular brand, I want to receive marketing messages that are relevant to my personal preferences. Every time I buy from them, I expect their data system to get smarter – to work out what my future interests are going to be, and to not send me content that wastes my time.

For example, I subscribed to emails from a department store where I bought my father a pair of slippers. They bombarded me with male-focussed email content after the purchase, so I unsubscribed as I wasnt able to change my email preferences.

Contextualized marketing allows businesses to be in the know about their customers and be recognized as a company that values what’s going on their customers’ lives.

4. Webrooming is where retail’s future winners will dominate

By 2017, webrooming will result in $1.8 trillion in sales whereas ecommerce sales are estimated to hit $370 billion. Webrooming – where consumers research products online and then actually purchase products in-store – indicates that customers want a more tailored, personable experience.

Contextualization offers the bridge between online and offline customer activity to provide useful insights as to when and what your customers are interested in buying, paving the way for a smooth and easy transaction process.

5. Content may be king, but mobile is definitely queen

“By placing mobile at the center of the omnichannel strategy, retailers and brands  will enable a new level of interaction, engagement, conversation, loyalty and revenue.”​

With the application of beacons and now virtual beacons for mobile devices, companies can send real-time messages to customer’s smartphones when they are in the vicinity of a particular store or in a specific section of a shop. These messages range from special offers tailored to the individual, based on purchase and browsing behavior to sending a welcome message telling the customer how much they’re appreciated. This kind of instant communication between brand and customer is rapidly changing – and enhancing the landscape of brand loyalty.

However, be mindful of not spamming a customer with messaging in this way, as this will reverse the desired effect.

What can contextulization mean for you?

Contextualization triggers:

Contextualization – true personalized marketing

Personalized marketing message: Hi Jane, We hope you’re enjoying your new hiking boots. Get in touch if we can help you with anything!

Contextualized marketing message: Hi Jane, here are the top five products your friends have recommended from our new range. Plus here’s the weather for your favorite hiking routes for the weekend. Get in touch if we can help you with anything!

Contextualization begins and ends with your data and the data you are able to collect from your customers. This data is your crystal ball that enables the most powerful contextual marketing campaigns to happen. The major element of contextualization is that it has to be done in real-time. That’s not just about having data available in real-time, but making sure triggers happen in real-time using decisioning, which is the opposite of workflows. Workflows operate by setting up steps such as an email followed by another email two days later that customers go through, led by a marketer. This is a workflow based on a marketer’s best guess of what the customer might do. It’s limited because no single marketer can fully guess what all of their customers are going to do at any one moment. In contrast, decisioning is focusing on a customer trigger, followed by the second point of action that happens from a customer or a prospect. It’s forcing your customers down a path they may not want to go down. In comparison, decisioning is about reaching consumers at the moments that most influence their purchasing decisions.

Smarter emails, where content adapts on-open, are the solution to achieving contextualized messaging. These emails use technology that contextualizes recommendations on open, and has content that adapts at the moment your message is opened, whether that be via a push message or an email. In a mobile world, with customers now choosing when they interact with you, this kind of capability is essential. If a product has gone out of stock by the time the email is opened, then the content will change.

If the email message is about current sunny weather when the message is sent, but has infact turned cloudy when the message is opened, the message will change. This makes the long tail of marketing campaigns much more powerful. All emails become relevant because it doesn’t matter when anyone opens them – even if this is several weeks after send. They become place holders for when the customer is ready to interact with you.  This is great for retailers but what about non-retail businesses. This is just the kind of thing airports are doing to understand more about their customers. When a passenger arrives at an airport, the airport’s mobile app will recommend content based on their browsing history. The app can show a map to provide customers with directions to relevant retailers as well as displaying currency exchange rates that are relevant to the country they are going to.

Contextualization starts to get really powerful when you start mixing up all your different marketing channels. Let’s say a customer has gone into a store, has the store’s app and has searched for the women’s jeans department. How about when the same customer goes and browses at home on a tablet looking at the collections they looked at they see recommendations that are powered by the categories that were viewed in-store. This is a whole new level of personalization and contextualization that means the customer is more likely to be in a buying mood.

Contextualization does not work without an intelligent system that can also act in real-time utilising your data. That is the contextualization engine. You need one system that runs all your contextualization elements and that’s what makes it powerful. Separate silos won’t work here. Use a cloud solution like The Message Cloud by SmartFocus to cross reference data from all available first party sources and then add in location based ones as well. You have to make sure your content is relevant, and if you have the right data and triggers in place then you are on the road to doing that. Something our customers get very excited about is when we tell them their historic data is not a hindrance it’s a massive help. You have a treasure trove of data that tells you everything you need to know about your customers, combined with real-time interaction information, and that’s when the golden moment happens.

The final point to remember is not to scare your customers. With this kind of relevant marketing able to happen with contextualization it can be quite easy to almost come across as overfamiliar, especially now you can contextualize from a customer’s first visit. You need to be careful how you trigger certain messages. You might be thinking that context-aware marketing sounds fantastic but that the process of making the process come alive for your company sounds daunting. Every day we provide contextual campaigns to our customers through The Message Cloud and we see the success it brings to them. Contact us to find out how you can achieve contextualization quickly and easily, and start seeing the results.

Case Study: Helping Peak Performance realize their potential


Following years of investment in traditional and in-store marketing to build a loyal customer base, Peak Performance was ready to implement a digital customer marketing strategy. To complement this new strategy and its highly successful chain of high street stores, Peak Performance also decided to build an ecommerce website, which would allow them to recommend products to customers online to boost sales and increase revenue.

The solution
Working with SmartFocus to implement a contextualized marketing solution and a website recommendation engine, Peak Performance ensured their customers received regular, engaging messages in an effective and proactive manner. SmartFocus worked closely with Peak Performance to ensure they had a solution that met both their marketing needs and the needs of their customers.

“SmartFocus enables us to drive revenue by engaging customers with personalized, real-time marketing. We’ve been using SmartFocus for over four years and we see them as the perfect partner.”​​
Anna Abrahamsson, CRM Manager, Peak Performance

Topic Contextualization

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