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Customer Engagement Reaching New Customers Strategy

Convergent commerce: Going beyond omnichannel retail this shopping season

The holiday season is just around the corner, and that means Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the annual avalanche of gifts, deals, and shopping sprees is practically upon us. It’s that time of year when consumers embark on an epic quest to find the perfect presents and snag the best bargains. But for frenzied holiday shoppers, a poor shopping experience goes over about as well as coal in the stocking. 

While overall holiday spending is expected to stay relatively flat with last year, shoppers are expected to purchase fewer gifts to balance the effects of inflation. That means retailers are likely competing for fewer total purchases. At a time when cost consciousness is high and consumer loyalty is low, brands that can offer consumers a friction-free, customer-centric experience all tied up with a bow will be the winners this holiday shopping season. 

Let’s delve into the latest shopping trends, highlight some common shopping experience pitfalls, and provide valuable recommendations to ensure a seamless and enjoyable holiday shopping experience for your customers that puts your brand on the nice list.

Macro Trend: What is convergent commerce?

Shopping has become an increasingly multi-channel experience, blurring the lines between digital and physical shopping experiences. While data suggested that preference for online retail was waning heading into 2023, e-commerce is expected to be a major channel for holiday spending with over 60% of consumers planning to do at least 40% of their shopping in that channel. But with channels evolving and new channels emerging, channel preferences get increasingly difficult to predict. It also makes the notion of omni-channel retail where a seamless shopping experience across several channels a less desirable goal. 

Consumers are less interested in retailers creating curated multi-channel experiences and more interested in climbing into the driver’s seat themselves. Consumers want an anytime, anywhere commerce experience where they call the shots and execute their shopping activities—from browsing products on live streams to comparing prices across brand apps and AI-powered search, checking items in person for quality, ordering online to ship directly to gift recipients and everything between—wherever they want, whenever they want based on their changing preferences. That’s convergent commerce. It’s a shift from an experience that offers optionality (online vs. in-store) with parity, to frictionless fluidity. 

If that sounds like a tall order, that’s because it is. Shifting from either/or considerations for the retail channels you engage in to activating across multiple channels at once in an integrated and seamless way requires considerable thoughtfulness. Convergent commerce relies on a data-informed (and frequently validated) understanding of what your customers value and their shopping preferences, strong data quality management, and a commitment to breaking down silos across teams, technology stacks, decision-making processes, virtually every facet of your business.

But it’s also a tremendous opportunity to create a consumer experience that’s truly differentiated. Consumers aren’t looking for more of the same; they want experiences that are uniquely tailored to them. And for brands that embrace the concept of convergent commerce, a powerfully divergent experience that sets them apart from competitors can be the reward. 

Micro Trends: Delivering a better customer experience now

According to the National Retail Federation, this holiday shopping season is already underway with over 40% of consumers reporting they planned to begin their holiday shopping in October or earlier. That means today’s consumers can’t wait for your brand’s future convergent commerce strategies to take shape. And brands can’t let perfect be the enemy of progress when it comes to making this year’s shopping experience the best it can be. So what can brands do to better meet the needs of holiday shoppers right now? Reflecting on my own shopping experience, there may be more opportunities for quick wins than many retailers realize.

As both a holiday gift giver and receiver, my shopping considerations are the same as a lot of other holiday shoppers this season. Even though I regularly start my shopping before November, I’m always short on time. So convenience is key for me and online shopping is a great fit. I want to give gifts that feel personal and thoughtful, but with family all over the country, I’m concerned about the costs and potential delays of shipping. So like 55% of Americans who will buy at least one gift card this holiday season, experiential gifts in the form of gift cards, passes, tickets, etc. are high on my list. In what will be the dominant shopping channel (online) focusing on items that are subject to fewer inventory, stocking, and supply chain disruptions than a lot of other gift categories (gift cards), my shopping experiences have included a surprising amount of friction. So my gift to you is three ways you can ensure the holiday shopping experiences you’re serving up don’t leave consumers with a “bah humbug” feeling:

Consider the End-to-End Experience Gifting Experience

The actual purchase is only half the journey, but the gifting experience begins and ends outside the shopping cart. From the ability to effectively manage an influx of traffic from holiday browsers to ensuring gifts can easily be returned or exchanged, brands must consider the end-to-end experience to eliminate friction for both gift buyers and recipients. 

There have definitely been times in my own shopping experiences where a slow, laggy, friction-filled experience has driven me to abandon ship. In fact, this year I’ve begun using the app released by one of my favorite body care retailers. I’m a bargain hunter, but I’m not great about remembering to use my coupons before they expire. I was drawn into the app by the wallet and loyalty points features that keep track of both and give me anytime, anywhere access to them right from my phone. I could shop from the app, but I like to be able to “smell before I buy” when it comes to body products and using the “pick up in store” feature allows me to browse only the inventory I can actually test in the store. Unfortunately, the popup for selecting a store by zip code or my current location just spins. This has been the case up to the time of writing this post despite multiple app updates. So I’ve got two choices when faced with this friction: I can abandon the app and move to the website in hopes of a better experience or I can say “Scrooge it” and move onto something else. 

If you want to avoid turning gift givers and recipients into Grinches here are some tips for ensuring your delivering a gifting experience that sleighs from the first mile to the last:

  • Get your website traffic-ready: There’s nothing more frustrating than a website that takes forever to load. Consumers have zero patience during the holiday rush. A slow website will send them searching for alternatives so your website should be a well-oiled machine. Test its loading speed, ensure mobile-friendliness, and fix any broken links or errors. A smooth online journey will make customers stay and shop. 
  • Take deals directly to customers: Utilize customer data to provide personalized recommendations and offers. Making your customers feel special by proactively showing them that you understand their needs and preferences will help bring them to you.
  • Offer clear and flexible pickup and returns: With consumers moving between physical and digital channels across the customer journey, offering clarity around return policies and flexible pickup and return options will better allow you to meet customers in their channels of choice. Offer the option for customers to order online and pick up items in-store or return online purchases at your physical location for maximum convenience.
  • Have strong support standing by: The holiday season means long hours for your customer support team. Failing to respond promptly to inquiries or complaints can lead to disgruntled customers who won’t hesitate to share their grievances on social media. Implement chatbots, and set up a system for addressing inquiries and complaints promptly. Social media monitoring can help you spot and address issues early.

Make conversion dead simple

Optimizing high-value actions like purchases to the fullest extent means thinking beyond the point-of-purchase mechanics of your e-commerce platform to other experiential elements. Using language within the purchase experience that makes sense to consumers, providing the information consumers need to solidify buying decisions, making relevant payment options easy to use, and ensuring parity of experience across device types can make or break the buying experience. 

I was recently on the website for my favorite purveyor of chocolates with the goal of building a custom box of chocolates and I found myself getting tripped up at key points in the experience. After selecting the size and type of box I wanted to fill, it was time to select my candies. I specifically wanted dark chocolate and was surprised that there didn’t appear to be any search filters on the page; there was just a typical-looking search bar with “Search for flavors” as the hint text and a magnifying glass at the right edge of the box. I scrolled around the site to make sure the filters weren’t just oddly placed and after finding none, I begrudgingly opted to use the search. As I clicked into the box to search the word, “dark,” I discovered that what was designed to look like a typical search bar was actually a drop-down set of filters, which included a filter for dark chocolate. I proceeded to fill my box and initiated the checkout process and got all the way to the payment screen—the final conversion point—before realizing there was no option to select a store for pickup. At no point in the process did I have an option to choose a fulfillment option other than shipping (which also had a cost). Ultimately, I abandoned my cart after the experience left me with a bad taste in my mouth. 

Here are a few tips for ensuring your conversion experience is as sweet as a box of chocolates:

  • Simplify checkout processes: Your customers are looking for a seamless shopping experience, not a labyrinth of forms and confusing steps during checkout. So your checkout process should be as easy. Offer guest checkout options that prioritize speed and simplicity, enable auto-fill features, and provide multiple payment options. Simplify the process, and you’ll see a boost in completed purchases.
  • Avoid hidden fees and charges: Shoppers hate surprises, especially when it involves extra costs at checkout. Display all costs clearly and be upfront about shipping fees, taxes, and any other charges. A transparent pricing strategy builds trust and encourages purchases.
  • Reduce the pain of out-of-stock items: Nothing’s worse than finding the perfect gift only to discover it’s out of stock, so it’s critical to stay on top of your inventory. Ensure your inventory management software is equipped to prevent overselling, notify customers promptly if a product is out of stock, and suggest similar items to keep them engaged.

Consider people and process

Successful convergent commerce experiences require a seamless transition from one channel to the next. That means that the people and processes underpinning the in-store experience need to be equipped with the tools, training, policies, etc. needed to support customers who began their shopping journey in a digital channel (and vice versa). 

I was gifted a digital gift card to one of my favorite restaurants. Because I have three kids, I tend to opt for take-out and delivery more than in-restaurant dining, and I was looking forward to redeeming my gift card for dinner after a particularly hectic day. However, I discovered I wasn’t able to redeem the gift card on my favorite food delivery app or the restaurant’s website. I had to call in and have them run the gift card over the phone. And because the restaurant offers delivery through its app partners only, I was forced to place an order for pickup rather than delivery. The restaurant is in a very busy area, and having to drive, park, and go into the restaurant completely undercut the reason why I decided to order instead of cook. To make matters worse, the staff working seemed to be confused and inexperienced with the restaurant’s pick-up processes. As a result, I spent 20 minutes sitting at the bar waiting for them to sort it out before I could pick up the dinner I’d originally intended to have delivered. I really love their food, so the experience won’t keep me away entirely. But I can tell you their gift cards won’t appear on my wish list until they offer the ability to redeem them for delivery.

Here are a couple of tips for keeping customers from going from joyed to annoyed as they transition between digital and physical experiences:  

  • Drive brand consistency across touchpoints: Your online and in-store experiences should feel like two sides of the same joyful holiday coin. That means these experiences should feel connected in every way. Avoid creating functional silos between in-store and online experiences when it comes to ease of purchase; redemption of gift cards, coupons, and promotions; and returns and ensure where differences do exist—like offering a broader range of product options online or running online and in-store exclusive promotions—they feel purposed and beneficial to your customers. 
  • Prepare your in-store team: Train your in-store staff to be knowledgeable about your online offerings and promotions. They should be ready to assist customers in placing online orders, redeeming digital gift cards, and answering product-related queries.

In the world of holiday gifting, experience is everything. Shoppers are looking for convenience, transparency, and joy during their quest for the perfect gifts. And gift recipients are looking for ease and flexibility when it comes to redeeming, exchanging, returning, and using gifts. By staying ahead of the latest trends, addressing common pitfalls, and implementing our recommendations, your business can ensure a memorable holiday shopping experience for your customers. Even if achieving truly convergent commerce is still a future destination on your roadmap, implementing these strategies will help you deliver a cohesive shopping experience that supports customers as they transition between online and in-store shopping. This flexibility not only meets the evolving demands of today’s consumers, but also positions your brand as one that truly values creating a differentiated experience that puts customers at the center. No matter where your brand is in your convergent commerce journey, we can help you ensure each step along the way creates value for your customers and your business.  

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Customer Engagement Reaching New Customers Strategy Value Realization

Driven by values: The new persona playbook

Target audience research and persona profiles have become a standard part of the marketing toolkit. Despite the changes I’ve experienced in my 20 years as a marketer as new technologies have emerged, channels have evolved, and customer expectations have become more demanding, the importance of persona profiles has been one of the few constants. A rich persona can be hugely beneficial in driving and informing how we engage with prospective customers, certainly through marketing efforts, but more broadly as well. 

Despite the rapid rate of change that has shaped the marketing landscape, how we approach persona profiles hasn’t changed all that much. I’ve seen personas with different levels of depth and layouts, but they’re generally pretty similar at their core. Most of the time, they include a combination of what your audience looks like, with details like their age, income, job title, and marital status. The more creative ones even include fictitious names and pictures. And the rest is some combination of consumer behaviors, statements, pain points, and information gathered from a fairly small number of representatives of your audience, often through interviews. 

But there’s one big problem with the traditional approach to personas. Nearly all the information they include has very little to do with what you care about most: WHY your customers buy and HOW to get prospective customers to do the same. The good news is we believe we have a better approach. In this post, I’ll share a method for audience research and persona development that taps into a huge repository of existing data to deliver insights on the values that drive your customers’ decisions.

Why Values Matter for Driving Consumer Behavior

Roy E. Disney, nephew of Walt Disney and longtime senior executive for the Walt Disney Company, put the power of values into the most succinct statement I’ve seen yet: “When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.” He understood that, just like our customers, we make decisions every day, not based on our demographics or our past behaviors, but on our values. And brands can tap into that power. If you know which values your best customers share, the values that motivate the buying behaviors you’re trying to inspire in prospective customers, you have the power to know what to do and say to get existing customers to say yes more often and to drive new customers to purchase.

The Disconnect between Values and Demographics

As it turns out, our values have little to do with our demographics. Our demographics might be part of the reason we don’t take a particular action. For example, odds are if I don’t have children, I’m not searching for pediatricians or childcare options. Being childless, which is part of my demographics, is the reason for my inaction. But for people who share the demographic condition of parents, that common characteristic only determines that searching for and selecting a pediatrician or a childcare option is a choice they’re likely to make. The demographic condition of being a parent has nothing to do with which choice they make and why. If it did, all parents would make the same choices. But of course, they don’t. They make different choices based on what they value. That’s why using demographics alone to connect with and influence your audience doesn’t really work. 

I think the values gap that exists within a traditional demographic and psychographic approach to audience research and persona profile development is something that most marketers recognize intuitively. But there haven’t been a lot of better options for uncovering the nuances of what an audience values in a scalable way. That is, until I listened to episode 331 of the Digital Marketing Podcast, The Death of Demographics, An Interview With David Allison. In it, David Allison talked about his book, The Death of Demographics, and the research data behind it that spawned the first big data tool that makes a scalable, data-driven approach to values-centric audience research and persona creation possible. 

The book is the product of a massive global research study known as the Valuegraphics Project (more on that in a minute) that finds that when it comes to values, humans agree about 8% of the time as a baseline. When you group by any demographic cohort—age, gender, income, marital status, you name it—that agreement only increases by 2.5%. So building a marketing campaign around what you think “Gen Z” or “working moms” or “retirees” care about is going to be only slightly more effective than throwing the spaghetti at the wall and deploying your campaign to anyone and everyone. Because while the year you were born, whether you have kids, and your employment status may influence decisions you will or won’t make, they don’t have anything to do with the “why” behind them.

So what will be more effective? The answer is valuegraphics.

The Valuegraphics Project

The Valuegraphics Project is a global mapping of core human values, the drivers behind all our decision making. Through nearly a million surveys deployed in 152 languages in 180 countries across the world evaluating 436 values-related metrics, 56 core human values emerged. And 15 statistical clusters of agreement around subsets of those values, which the architects of this project call “archetypes,” emerged from that research data. Those 15 archetypes can be used as the basis for valuegraphic personas, each representing an audience that is demographically diverse, but highly aligned on values.

So building a marketing campaign around what you think “Gen Z” or “working moms” or “retirees” care about is going to be only slightly more effective than throwing the spaghetti at the wall and deploying your campaign to anyone and everyone.

This focus on values doesn’t mean demographics and psychographics don’t have a place—they do. They can be practical and effective ways to limit your audience based on functional barriers to making the decisions you want them to make. But demographics and psychographics won’t help you understand what actually drives those decisions. You need valuegraphics for that. That audience data triad of demographics, psychographics, and valuegraphics all come together with your audience engagement strategy in the Value Thinking process.

A Venn Diagram showing Values Thinking. Values Thinking is a process for identifying the underlying values that motivate your target audience so you can build an engagement strategy around those values.
Values Thinking is a process for identifying the underlying values that motivate your target audience so you can build an engagement strategy around those values.

Valuegraphics in Action

Chart showing Value Graphics in Action: The U.S. vs the world.
Value Graphics in Action: The U.S. vs the world.

So how do you go about putting valuegraphics to work to better understand and engage your audience? It starts with understanding the valuegraphics profile for your target regions and then surveying your target audience to illuminate their dominant and least dominant valuegraphic archetypes. 

Regional Valuegraphic Profiles

One of the outputs of the Valuegraphics Project is a set of region-specific profiles that tell you the top values for each region. Looking at the regional valuegraphics profile for the US, we know that belonging, family, relationships, personal growth, and health and wellbeing make up the top 5 values for the region. Looking at the top 5 values for the US compared to the rest of the world, we see that family and relationships are valued similarly. But there’s significant divergence between the US and the rest of the world when it comes to belonging and health and wellbeing. 

If you’re targeting a US-based audience, that’s already much more useful than any demographic or psychographic data when it comes to not just getting in front of, but influencing your audience to take a particular action. No matter what else you say, if you can connect your product or service to the values of belonging and health and wellbeing, your efforts will be much more effective at striking a chord than they would be with demographic and psychographic data alone.

Valuegraphic Archetypes

Value Graphics in Action. This chart shows "The Adventurer" archetype.
Value Graphics in Action: Adventurer Archetype.

With the valuegraphic profile for your target region, you’re ready to uncover the most and least dominant valuegraphic archetypes of your audience. Let’s say you’ve surveyed members of your audience and determined that the dominant valuegraphic archetype among them is the Adventurer. This is the 7th most common archetype globally representing 10% of the population. So you’re already getting much more narrow than the regional profile. When you get down to archetypes and the values they contain, you’re tapping into a currency that not only drives human behavior, but drives it in remarkably similar ways for those who share these values. 

Comparing the regional valuegraphic profile of the US with this specific archetype, two points of meaningful distinction in the top 5 values are immediately apparent. Experiences aren’t in the top values for the region at all, so focusing on this value will be uniquely resonant to this group. Personal growth is in the top 5 values for the region, but it’s ranked much higher for this particular archetype. Tapping into these values will create an engagement strategy that’s uniquely relevant for this specific audience. So in this example, we’ve deployed a valuegraphic survey to the kinds of customers we want to find more of. And in analyzing that data, we uncovered the Adventurer as the dominant archetype. How do we get from here to a values-driven persona that marketing and other teams within our business can sink their teeth into? 

Building a Better Customer Profile: Valuegraphic Personas

We’ve taken this process one step further to create personas based on the valuegraphic profiles we’ve built around specific audiences. One of the first things that makes these personas stand out from the traditional fare is what they don’t include. What you won’t see in this kind of persona are the demographic elements you typically see (a picture, fake name, age, and bio). That’s by design because they generally have nothing to do with the action we want to compel. And including them can imply that they do. Best case scenario, it’s not helpful. Worst case scenario, it can cause us to arbitrarily limit our audience and cut us off from engaging with values-aligned prospective customers.

Here’s what you will find in one of our valuegraphic personas:

  • The valuegraphic archetype(s) represented and a brief description of it, including contextual statements from people who share the archetype(s)
  • Statistics on how common this persona is in your region and their degree of values alignment
  • Highlights of the most and least dominant values, which serve as driver and detractor values respectively
  • A list of qualities and characteristics that are virtually certain (in that they’re true for 90%+) and highly likely (75-89%) to be shared by people who represent the persona and implications for your brand

The information in the first three bullets helps us start to get inside the minds of this persona. But the last bullet contains the gold nuggets that have actionable impact on marketing and beyond. The certainties and likelihoods for valuegraphic personas cover broad and sometimes unexpected ground, from unique perspectives on values to common behaviors and preferences related to travel, mobility, money management, leisure, the list goes on. And they can inspire insights that can influence everything from product and service innovation to content and creative, targeting, affinity and partnership marketing, and more. And these insights aren’t the product of a handful of qualitative interviews; they’re the product of a massive global research study that included analyses on massive quantities of research data at a level of statistical rigor that would exceed the requirements of most major universities. 

Beyond B2C: The Value of Valuegraphics for B2B Brands

It’s easy to see how a valuegraphics-based approach to target audience research and persona profile development applies to B2C companies. But the applicability to B2B companies might not seem as obvious because in these scenarios, we tend to adopt an institutional view of our buyers. In reality, purchase decisions for businesses are still made by human beings (and in most cases, multiple human beings). That means that not only is the concept of connecting with the values of your buyers still very much in play, one could argue that the impact is compounded given that purchase decisions are made by multiple decision makers. So if you’re engaging in a way that’s not aligned to your target audience’s values, you’re going to hit the same snags over and over again with multiple decision makers. 

In the context of the traditional approach to target audience research for B2B companies, it would be typical to develop buyer persona profiles for the different stakeholders who play a role in making purchase decisions and develop distinct persona-specific value propositions for those different decision makers. In the context of valuegraphics, the same logic holds. Illuminating the values that drive decision making for your cadre of B2B buyers will make you more successful in aligning to those values and compelling the desired action.

Evolving Your Approach to Understanding and Driving Consumer Behavior

With the execution of the Valuegraphics Project, we now have a way to leverage a much bigger body of data in the art and science of developing persona profiles. As marketers and growth drivers for our businesses, that gives us the ability to develop a deeper understanding of our audience at scale and parlay that understanding into action both within and beyond our marketing strategies to align better, resonate more, and compel action more effectively. As the world around us grows increasingly privacy-sensitive and the data at our disposal to drive reach with our audiences becomes more limited and nuanced, the brands who know their audiences best will have the greatest advantage. 

If you’re ready to evolve your approach to target audience research and harness the power of valuegraphics data to drive your market engagement strategies, I highly recommend checking out David Allison’s book, The Death of Demographics. Or better yet, give us a call for the CliffsNotes and our playbook for putting it into action.

Categories
Reaching New Customers Strategy

Swift Moves: What marketers can learn from Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce

The suspected budding relationship between Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce has become a major media moment. Whether you’re team “ Tayvis” or “Swelce” (or you remain unaffiliated), it’s almost impossible to escape the very real effects this speculated pairing is having on pop culture, whether romance is real or not. But what does this celebrity romance have to do with marketing? Well, hang on to your Eras tour T-shirts, because there’s more to this story than meets the eye.

Let’s explore how the “shipping” of Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce by both music and football fans alike has sparked newfound engagement within the NFL community and the lessons marketers and growth leaders can draw from this phenomenon. …Are you ready for it?

Electric Touch: The high-voltage power of unexpected partnerships

When marketing strategies get a little stale and your standard playbook starts gathering dust, a creative and unexpected partnership can be an effective way to shake it off. This is an approach Swift has deployed herself in collaborations with unlikely artists like Kendrick Lamar in “Bad Blood.” The media attention on Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s apparent joining of forces is a great reminder that successful marketing often involves unexpected partnerships and the value of being open to collaboration opportunities outside of our comfort zones. 

The media attention on Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s apparent joining of forces is a great reminder that successful marketing often involves unexpected partnerships and the value of being open to collaboration opportunities outside of our comfort zones. 

While the generated media attention  is great for driving cross-audience awareness for Swift’s and Kelce’s respective personal brands, is there a more substantial quantitative impact behind the hype? Absolutely. Consider this: the NFL, a sports giant with massive brand awareness and a highly engaged core audience, is experiencing increased engagement from Taylor Swift fans because of her connection to Travis Kelce. In fact, the Chiefs vs. Bears game where a cheering Swift first caught the attention of viewers and sportscasters was the most watched game of the week with nearly 25 million viewers, including a 63% increase in female viewers aged 18 to 49, according to Roku. This unexpected alliance demonstrates that sometimes, the most fruitful partnerships come when you’re willing to break the ice and think outside the box.

Emotional Connection: How soulful and authentic storytelling hits different

When it comes to authentic storytelling and connecting with people on an emotional level, Taylor Swift could teach a master class. She’s poured her heart and soul into her music, sharing her life’s ups and downs through songs like “Love Story” and “All Too Well.” Her lyrics and melodies tap into the human experience, making listeners feel like she’s singing about their lives and her uncanny ability to connect with her fans on an emotional level has turned them into a community of loyal followers.

In marketing, it’s crucial to tell your brand’s story authentically. Customers connect with brands that share their values and experiences. Marketers can create emotional connections with their audience through storytelling, relatable content, or simply empathizing with their customers’ needs. Finding that end game of emotional engagement can make all the difference, so don’t be afraid to share your journey and be as fearless as Taylor when it comes to opening up to your audience.

Staying Relevant: ‘Tis the damn season for a reinvention

In marketing, adaptability is key. Both Taylor Swift and the NFL have showcased remarkable adaptability in reaching and engaging their expanding fan bases in the face of an ever-evolving digital landscape. From her country beginnings in Tim McGraw to her pop reinvention in 1989 and her indie-folk venture in folklore, one thing Taylor Swift is known for is her ability to adapt and evolve with the times. She’s consistently changed her style, not just to stay relevant to an evolving audience base but to reflect the evolution of her own identity as an artist and brand. She seamlessly transitioned from country to pop, experimenting with indie-folk, and all the while, leveraging digital platforms to release surprise albums and engage directly with her fans on social media. The result has been a resounding and quantifiable success.

For its part, the NFL has recognized and responded to the shifting media consumption habits of younger generations and embraced digital platforms to livestream games, share highlight reels, and interact with fans in real-time on social media. Travis Kelce specifically has showcased a remarkable ability to engage effectively with a digital-native audience, elevating his status as both a sports personality and a brand. Kelce’s active presence on platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok allows him to share behind-the-scenes glimpses of his life, showcase his unique personality, and connect with fans beyond the football field. And New Heights podcast with brother and Philadelphia Eagles center, Jason Kelce, has become a dynamic platform where the Kelce brothers engage with their fans on various topics, including sports, lifestyle, and personal experiences. By leveraging the podcasting medium, they’ve created a space for candid conversations, special guest appearances, and authentic storytelling, further solidifying their status as relatable sports figures in the eyes of their fans. The podcast serves as a prime example of how athletes can use modern digital channels to connect with their audience on a deeper level and bridged the gap between traditional sports and the digital age, appealing not only to sports enthusiasts but also to a younger, tech-savvy audience.

By adapting to the digital era and staying attuned to their fan bases’ preferences, Taylor Swift, Travis Kelce, and the NFL as a whole have proven that flexibility, digital prowess, and a willingness to reinvent are essential for sustained success in an ever-evolving digital marketing and entertainment landscape. And you must be ready to pivot and reinvent your strategies to keep up and you can’t be afraid to begin again when necessary.

Crossing Boundaries: Challenging the borders of audience and pop culture

Travis Kelce’s fanbase in the NFL is predominantly sports-oriented. Taylor Swift’s is music-focused. It might be easy to assume that those audiences are mutually exclusive, but they’re not. In fact, Tallwave Product Manager, Anna McKee, sits squarely in both camps. “I’ve been a Chiefs fan my entire life, and I’ve been a Taylor Swift fan since her career first launched. I’ve seen 5 Taylor Swift concerts—two at Arrowhead—and have owned Chiefs season tickets for the last 5 years. I’m right at the center of the Taylor and Travis Venn diagram.” Anna was at the fabled Chiefs vs. Bears game and experienced the phenomenon of this pairing firsthand and then had the experience of watching it from afar catching the Chiefs vs. Jets game a week later. “It was wild how clear the effect was between the two games but in totally different ways. Without the benefit of a TV broadcast to provide a birds’ eye view while I was physically at the Chiefs/Bears game, the conversation was about Taylor the entire time. Whether it was a question out loud or a text or a tweet, everyone wanted to know why she was there, who she was with, and whether it was a PR stunt. Regardless of the speculation, the general consensus with the women I was with was that we didn’t care, we were just excited she was there! Watching the Chiefs/Jets game a week later on TV, the broadcast kept cutting to her, which made it even more real and, in some ways, more exciting.”

“I’ve been a Chiefs fan my entire life, and I’ve been a Taylor Swift fan since her career first launched. I’ve seen 5 Taylor Swift concerts—two at Arrowhead—and have owned Chiefs season tickets for the last 5 years. I’m right at the center of the Taylor and Travis Venn diagram.”

Anna McKee, Tallwave product manager

The steep spike in NFL engagement among women suggests that the apparent relationship has bridged these two seemingly disparate communities, creating a fusion of interests. And Anna’s experience and those like her who are long-time fans of both found another reason to engage more deeply. If there’s one lesson here for marketers, it’s the power of tapping into multiple affinities where possible.

Staying Social: Be a trendsetter, a star

The sudden surge of engagement within the NFL community due to Taylor Swift’s involvement demonstrates the importance of monitoring and staying on top of trends, particularly when it comes to social media. And on that front, Taylor Swift is a force of nature. For example, when it comes to social following on Instagram, Swift’s following outpaces the NFL’s by an order of magnitude. She’s got 273 million, over 9 times the NFL’s 28 million. And Swift’s social power is translating to real gains for both the NFL and Travis Kelce. 

While the NFL is still trying to find its footing on how to maximize its return on the Swift halo effect (posting references to Swift’s presence at the game and then subsequently removing them after receiving some backlash), there’s no question they’ve benefitted. As just one example, with the boon of content focused on Swift and Kelce as a pair, the NFL has seen record views on TikTok content. That halo effect has extended to Travis Kelce, too, helping him pick up 380k new Instagram followers and boosting his podcast into the top spot on Apple’s charts.  

The surface lesson for marketers here is straightforward: an active and engaging social media presence on platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok can help you connect with your audience, share your story, and foster a sense of community. This is particularly beneficial for driving engagement with your audience outside of high-intent moments, which can add up to real value over time as it helps cement your brand in the minds of your audience. But there’s a deeper takeaway about the art of timing. As the saying goes, “timing is everything,” and the Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce relationship proves this point. Their romance coincided with the NFL season and Swift’s record-breaking Eras tour, leading to a perfect storm of increased engagement. This isn’t the kind of thing that’s easy to anticipate, but marketers recognize the brand-building value of this kind of rare serendipitous moment. The NFL did, too. While every move they’ve made to capitalize on that moment hasn’t necessarily been pitch perfect, they didn’t let perfect execution be the enemy of perfect timing, which is a valuable lesson in itself.

End Game: Summing up 

In the ever-evolving marketing world, we can learn valuable lessons from unexpected sources, just like the budding relationship between Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce. Embrace unexpected partnerships, tell your brand’s story authentically, and leverage emotional connections to engage your audience, including in more casual interactions with your brand. Adaptability, engaging diverse audiences, and capitalizing on pop culture can open new doors for growth. And to complete your mastermind marketing strategy, don’t forget the role of social media, monitoring trends, and be ready to seize those rare and powerful serendipitous moments to propel your marketing efforts forward.

Whether you’re ready to see sparks fly between Taylor and Travis or you’ve got bad blood with this attention-grabbing romance, there’s something to be learned from this pop culture phenomenon. Let’s take these lessons to heart, just as we would with our favorite Taylor Swift songs, and create marketing strategies that create a lasting love affair with our audience.

Are you ready for it? We are. Let’s talk.

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Customer Engagement News Reaching New Customers Strategy

Stabilizing Your Facebook Advertising Strategy Post-iOS 14.5 Release

On Monday, April 26, Apple released iOS 14.5, the first version of the operating system to enforce Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) policies. ATT requires iOS users to opt in to share their unique Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), a randomly assigned user-specific identifier with app developers. This would, in turn, allow advertisers serving ads within those apps with the data needed to personalize ads and track performance across platforms, from view to click all the way through to conversion. In anticipation of this change and other privacy regulations, players across the digital advertising space have been responding with changes of their own. Most notably, Facebook has made significant changes to its conversion tracking and application settings.

A month after the iOS 14.5 release, opt-in rates for US-based users is sitting at 6% and Facebook advertisers are starting to feel the effects in the form of increased conversion costs, loss of attribution data, and new challenges to ad targeting and lookalike audience building. If you’re grappling with the impacts of the iOS 14.5 release and ATT enforcement on your Facebook ad campaigns, here are some key considerations and recommendations to help you navigate through the immediate challenges and set a course for a smoother road ahead.

Facebook users are a no less valuable audience to your marketing strategy now than they were before.

Stabilizing Steps to Take Today

Secure Ownership of Your Facebook Accounts

Previously inherent capabilities to track movement between your website and Facebook will no longer be available and pixels previously put in place to support user targeting and conversion tracking will no longer be as effective. This is where ownership over your Facebook account and business website become critical. In the past, agencies have commonly created digital marketing accounts for clients – including Facebook Business Managers and ad accounts – under agency ownership. The benefits have been increased speed, reduced burden on clients who may not have resources available to manage account setup, and the benefit of agency history with the platforms, which eliminated spend thresholds and other speed bumps in the path of rapid execution and performance. The implications of iOS 14.5 have created the need to shift ownership from agency to business in order to reconnect some critical dots:

  • Your Facebook account and business website can’t effectively speak to each other until your website is claimed through your Facebook Business Manager account. This will allow cross-platform performance tracking and change how your web links appear on your Facebook page. This is also a requirement for configuring conversion events, which are used by Facebook’s machine learning to drive better targeting, optimization, and performance measurement.
  • The Facebook Conversions API can be put in place to enable tracking and optimizing for conversions outside of Facebook, like purchases made on your website or a Shopify account, among others. It can also mitigate the effects of losing access to 28-day click, 28-day view, and 7-day view attribution windows, which will no longer be supported. However, the API cannot be implemented when ownership of Facebook pages, Business Manager accounts and ad accounts are split between business and their partner agencies.

Keep a Customer-centric Focus

While the ability to track based on audience behaviors may be changing, the behaviors themselves are not. If you were finding success with Facebook users before iOS 14.5, resist the urge to move away from Facebook based purely on trackability. The known habits, behaviors, and preferences of your audience should always be the guiding force behind your marketing mix. Bottom line: Facebook users are a no less valuable audience to your marketing strategy now than they were before. What’s changed is the way users are tracked and attributed and how to interpret the value of that data.

Also read: Data Driven Insights Into the Evolving Customer Experience

Consolidate Campaigns and Conversion Events

With Facebook shortening attribution settings to 7-day click and 1-day view by default, fewer conversions are being tracked and more scale will be needed to move ads through the learning phase toward performance-driving optimization. The larger the number of campaigns, ad sets, and ads businesses are running, the fewer impressions served and conversions achieved, making it harder to hit an even higher bar for scale. Consolidating campaigns, ad sets, and ads as much as possible will create efficiencies during the ad learning phases, helping drive performance more quickly.

Additionally, advertisers will need to consolidate and prioritize the events being tracked within Facebook’s event manager. Domains are now limited to no more than 8 website conversion events. If your campaigns are being optimized for more than 8 conversion events across the same domain, you’ll need to narrow down to the 8 or fewer conversion events most critical to your marketing objectives and configure them in Facebook’s Aggregated Event Measurement tool. Once your 8 or fewer conversion events have been selected, they must be put in priority order with the most valuable action first and the least valuable action last. The priority of the events will come into play when and if a user takes multiple actions with the 7 day conversion window. For example, if a user adds a product to a cart (achieving one conversion event) and leaves the site without completing the purchase only to return the next day after being served a retargeting ad and completes the purchase at that point (achieving another conversion event with a higher priority), the purchase event will show in Facebook’s event manager and the add to cart event will not based on the priority set. Thinking through the conversion events that are most important and their order of importance will help ensure Facebook continues to be an effective lead- and revenue-driving channel despite the latest changes.

Expectations for performance are going to have to change.

Recalibrate Your Goals

Expectations for performance are going to have to change. CPAs and CPMs on Facebook are on the rise and the increase is likely to continue as advertisers grapple with the previously unknown impacts of iOS 14.5 and the corresponding ripples through Facebook. Those who can stay the course, test new approaches, and adapt how they think about, interpret, and apply data to optimize performance will continue to find long-term value in Facebook as part of their marketing mix. And as advertisers who can’t adapt pull back from the platform, those who remain may find themselves in a less competitive environment over time.

For many businesses, especially those with sales cycles that extend beyond Facebook’s pre-iOS 14.5 28-day attribution window, there were always gaps in the data. To help fill some of the gaps within Facebook’s reporting capabilities, ensure you are implementing best practices for tracking, like adding UTM parameters so that you can track ad and campaign performance and conversions within Google Analytics. In addition to a narrowed attribution window, reporting delays of up to three days will make short-run campaign optimization challenging and breakdowns based on age, gender, region, and placement for delivery and actions will no longer be available, necessitating a different approach to campaign optimization. Creating benchmarks based on the most reliable data points you have and adjusting your performance goals based on that data will help steer campaigns in the right direction. Similarly, stepping back from channel-level performance goals and focusing on incremental impact to business goals (i.e., how much incremental lift you’re seeing in sales, revenue, new customer acquisition, etc.) will help you evaluate the impact of your channel-level investments in a more meaningful and sustainable way.

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