Data-derived signals regarding states and traits increasingly form the basis of how marketers strategise, execute and optimise campaigns, writes Aarti Bharadwaj.

The use of digital data to glean insights into consumer behaviour is not new to those in the world of media, advertising and marketing.

Historically, data-driven marketing approaches tended to be reactive, and not proactive, in nature. They typically entailed marketers observing a certain set of consumer behaviours, before being able to respond in a topical and contextual manner. Marketers were thus only able to respond to observed consumer wants and needs, instead of shaping behaviour.

To shape consumer behaviour, marketers need to understand why consumers behave the way they do and then create opportunities to interact with consumers as they go through various considerations in the consumer journey.

Understanding consumer ‘states’ and ‘traits’

To bring this to life, marketers need to understand the states and traits of their target audience.

A state is a temporary way of being that impacts an individual’s thinking, feeling and behaviour in a given period of time. A trait, on the other hand, is a long-term characteristic of an individual that is often shaped by demographic factors and which manifests in one’s beliefs and decision making – namely, the ‘why’ behind one’s behaviour.

Marketers traditionally think about the consumer journey in terms of a purchase funnel: a linear journey from awareness, to consideration and then purchase. However, with advancements in digital and mobile technology, the consumer journey has become as unique as an individual’s personality.

Nonetheless, consumers leave behind signals about their journeys through their interactions with others, which in turn, shape their purchase considerations. And with a large number of these exchanges occurring on social media, marketers are able to collect signals, engage in and respond to insights gleaned from those conversations.

An excellent example of a brand which has used signals from online consumer conversations to inform their strategy is Sport Chek in Canada during its Black Friday sales. The brand used listening tools to zero in on consumers’ pain points, matched them with desired Sport Chek products and pushed those offers to market in real time.

The combination of quantitative data, based on product demand, and qualitative data, based on social listening, allowed Sport Chek to craft relevant advertising that benefited both its consumers and bottom line. This strategy provided a better shopping experience to consumers during the hectic retail event while increasing sales – making it a win-win situation. 

Get into consumers’ consideration set early

With the rise of non-linear, unpredictable consumer journeys and the ever-increasing competition among businesses, brands and marketers need to get into consumers’ consideration set early and engage in a continuous manner with relevant messaging and experiences, between a purchase and the next. Two such notable success stories are KFC’s ‘Rainy Day Delivery’ in China and Clear Men ‘AI31 - Hijacking Live Games’ in Vietnam. 

In China, over 355 million people order food online, with 78% placing an order at least once a week. On rainy days, KFC’s online orders jump by 10% but its deliveries on such days are often marred by delays, leading to customer compensation and a decrease in profit margins.

To leverage this opportunity, KFC partnered with a weather app and used retargeting technology on its owned media, leading social platforms and dynamic out-of-home screens to promote its brand through a campaign that evolved in real time based on the weather. Additionally, to mitigate long wait times and late delivery compensation, KFC created a dedicated and simplified rainy day menu on its app that offered limited edition products.

KFC thus successfully built a product and service delivery model, and achieved media amplification by using signals to shape the way consumers interact with its brand.

Connected with young men through e-sports

In Vietnam, Clear Men dealt with the challenge of connecting with the new generation of men – an audience ambivalent about the shampoo brand they use, but who are keen gamers and consumers of e-sports content.

To solve the challenge of brand relevance, Clear Men moved from a supporting brand sponsorship role to deeper engagement with the gaming community, via a partnership with a mobile e-sports game that is hugely popular in the market.

The core idea was about creating an artificial intelligence algorithm that provided real-time predictions on who would win a match, but what made the campaign larger than life was the brand’s ability to engage with the gaming community – those watching the live games as well as those outside the livestream environment. In doing so, Clear Men saw huge success in driving engagement with live gamers and increased its e-commerce return on advertising spend.

Data-derived signals regarding states and traits increasingly form the basis of how marketers strategise, execute and optimise campaigns, as well as drive efficiency and return on marketing investment.

While that task is enabled for marketers on digital platforms by unsupervised algorithms and artificial intelligence, there is also a need for strategies to be anchored in predictive, and not just real-time, signals that speak to the behaviours, states and traits of consumers.