One of the oldest and still most influential drivers of local commerce is word of mouth. Though that’s sustained at a high level, the delivery vessel for local chatter has evolved. Social channels like Facebook and Yelp now shape the reputations of brick-and-mortar businesses, not to mention the kingmaker authority of Google.
This month, we will delve into the latest trends and insights driving reputation management, taking Word of Mouth as our theme.
In the year of the California Consumer Privacy Act, the data privacy movement is ascendant, and marketers are likely more aware of consumer concerns about tracking than ever before. But a fresh survey of 993 Internet users from audience intelligence firm DISQO suggests that marketers will need to continue navigating the trade-off between providing consumers the only type of ads they widely welcome — personalized ones matched to their interests — and transparently requesting consent for the kinds of tracking that make personalized ads possible.
Influencer marketing is working its way into the toolboxes of major corporations, and I’m not just talking about Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg’s meme squad. Household brands including McDonald’s, Walmart, and Anheuser-Busch have turned to Linqia to test the practice.
One vertical that has been able to integrate voice into customer service in a meaningful way is retail. National retailers like Best Buy, Walmart, and REI Co-op have created skills or teamed up with technology providers to connect with customers through voice-controlled assistants. Some retailers are accepting orders via voice, and others are doling out product information and reviews. What the most successful of these companies have in common is a defined strategy and plans to measure ROI.
It’s important that companies can see who their customers are and what transactions are associated with each customer via voice assistants. This sort of knowledge is necessary for brands to make the channel a valuable part of an overarching loyalty strategy.
Given that voice is currently owned by just a few select companies, it’s important for brands to figure out how they will leverage voice differently from company to company or device to device. Will retail brands keep the same strategy with Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, or will they find unique ways to take advantage of these platforms across differences?
The trend of moving customer experience beyond the screen has been dubbed “conversational customer care.” It’s still unclear just how many channels are included under this umbrella or how the future of conversational customer care will look. Brands that are dealing with demanding customers can’t afford to sit back and wait for this to play out. Screen-free customer experiences could be the future. They could be just a single touchpoint in the broader context of customer experience strategy. Or, they could just be a passing fad.
But the chances that voice-first customer experiences are a fad seem to be shrinking.
Restaurant chains like Wingstop, Domino’s, Panera, and Round Table have created their own skills to make it easier for people to place orders through voice assistants like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home. But before voice ordering can truly disrupt the restaurant industry, restaurants have to find ways to reduce the friction and eliminate the kinds of errors that lead to the wrong orders being delivered.
Here’s how some of the country’s top restaurant chains are overcoming the challenges associated with voice ordering and developing more frictionless customer experiences.
Ninety-three percent of companies that rely on subscribers say retaining existing customers is as or more important than acquiring them, and 96% say they are losing subscribers for reasons they should be able to ameliorate. That makes pooling industry resources and determining means of improvement urgent, and that is the precise subject of a new report by Brightback, a customer retention software firm.
Marketers surveyed showed an especially keen interest in understanding how they can integrate location data with other kinds of information. Asked how they deploy location data, 27% said it’s a “key component of a broader strategy to map the customer journey online and offline.” Twenty-six percent, the second-largest segment, said they were interested in learning how to marshal location data in conjunction with other data to achieve more advanced goals than their current practices allow.
Conversational AI is a broad term used to describe technologies that automate conversations and personalize customer experiences. With the right systems in place, brands are able to understand, process, and actually respond to voice inputs in a natural way. While voice assistants, chatbots, and messaging services like WhatsApp, Kik, and Facebook Messenger can all be harnessed in a conversational AI strategy, virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri are the most popular tools adopted by brand marketers today.
Fueled by the growth of mobile and set to rocket even further north in coming years thanks to voice, unbranded searches like “burgers near me” or “Thai food” are growing as fast as 113% year over year, according to a fresh study by multi-location marketing firm MomentFeed. Unbranded search grew about 30% from 2016 to ’17 and 56% the following year before doubling pace in 2018-19, suggesting the slope of this trend’s adoption could get even steeper in coming years.
The data shows that Valentine’s Day marks a major uptick in app usage across verticals. Compared to an average February day last year, on Valentine’s Day, entertainment app usage was up 24%, food and drink apps 20%, and social 16%. Consumers also spent an unusual amount of time on transport (7%) and gaming (6%) apps.
Within the hospitality industry, a growing number of hotels are using voice technology to improve personalization with experiences like virtual concierges. Virtual concierges use voice technology to personalize a guest’s stay by offering experiences based on past behavior. For example, virtual concierges can adjust thermostats or place room service orders based on a traveler’s previous preferences. When hotels and other hospitality brands take action based on the insights gathered about guests through their loyalty programs, they improve the overall guest experience.
But brands in a number of industries are exploring loyalty use cases for voice.
Digital marketing journalists touted the pivot to video so incessantly that mention of it after a certain point sparked obligatory mea culpas. Redundant as the proclamations may have proved, fresh data from mobile ad firm AdColony suggests those who heralded video as the future of digital advertising have been vindicated.
Spending on wearables is predicted to hit $52 billion this year, according to forecasts from the research firm Gartner, and spending on smartwatches specifically is expected to increase by 24%. Smartwatches represent the merging of physical and virtual worlds, and they provide marketers with a direct line for reaching consumers.
Here are five examples of how tech-savvy brands can put smartwatches to work and develop better strategies to take full advantage of the new opportunities that exist for reaching consumers through these wearable devices.
If the California Bureau of Cannabis Control’s proposed regulations are passed, state-licensed cannabis businesses will be required to display unique QR code certificates in their store windows. They would need to have their QR codes handy when transporting cannabis as well. In the long term, lawmakers are hoping the regulation will help consumers avoid purchasing cannabis from unlicensed vendors. In the short term, though, the proposed regulation is forcing dispensaries and other cannabis businesses to search for ways to create compliant QR codes for their stores.
Retailers scored best on average on listings, suggesting that management is succeeding at getting multi-location stores to optimize the fundamentals of their online presence. The poorest average category score, rankings, indicates brands are failing to pop up when consumers search for unbranded items. At a time when consumers are increasingly searching for items “near me” instead of brand-name stores where they could find those items, businesses stand to gain if they invest in non-brand-specific keywords.
Consumer touchpoints continue to fragment and atomize, disrupting conventional approaches to media and tech. Drivers of this trend include devices from smart speakers to cars. Accordingly, as we roll into February, the Street Fight editorial team is thinking outside the box — that is, beyond the rectangles that frame our typical screen interfaces.
We will provide deep coverage of emerging technologies including voice search, visual search, augmented reality, and 5G. How are tech providers innovating with these modalities? How are users adopting them? And how are local marketers tackling the opportunity?