Biweekly Bulletin: 5 Compelling Things You Should Know

Every other week, we share 5 timely and valuable articles from our favorite credible digital sources that will inspire and educate marketers like you.

Here’s what you should know.

  1. We’re one step closer to omnichannel: Facebook will now be able to track in-store purchases that were driven by digital ads.
  2. According to Google, 91% of smartphone users use mobile for inspiration while they’re in the middle of a task. Therefore, the best times to target them are when they’re shopping, watching TV, or doing research on another brand.
  3. Tech giant Microsoft is buying LinkedIn for over $26 billion. Microsoft is currently mainly focused on software, so inviting LinkedIn to the party will give the company a larger reach in terms of social networking services and professional content.
  4. Finally, brands have a way to make money through Snapchat. Screenshot commerce is entering the social media world. Brands on Snapchat are testing out a method in which followers can take a screenshot of an ephemeral image with a promo code.
  5. Mobile media consumption is expanding rapidly. The amount of time that people devote to using mobile internet will increase by nearly 27.7% this year, driving a 1.4% increase in overall media consumption, according to Zenith’s latest Media Consumption Forecast.

Want to learn more about how to take your digital marketing from now to next? Start the conversation with Michael Baer at 844.LC.IDEAS.

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter, for the latest in industry news, tips and inspiration. To start receiving updates from Laughlin Constable, subscribe here.

I Don’t Love Consumers. Or Users.

A consumption is an event, a one-time happening that is over shortly after it’s begun. There is little remnant of a consumption, and what is left over is disposed of as quickly as possible. A paramecium is a consumer. Users are a cold, heartless breed that manipulate others for their own good with little empathy or regard for long-term consequence.

And yet, in marketing, we often use these terms to refer to those among whom we are trying to make a connection. Consumers and users are a faceless mass – a generalized grouping where we often find ourselves striving to deliver against a least common denominator. As smart marketers, we never purposely dehumanize our target audiences. Until we do.

The quest to understand why people consume and optimize the way that they maneuver through an experience is noble and necessary. But we cannot take a chance on becoming enthralled with the process, and less with the individuals involved in that process. Referring to those individuals simply as consumers or users sets the wrong tone from the outset.

Here are a couple of challenges that I’ll offer to help remind us to keep humanity at the core of our effort:

  • First, no more use of faces borrowed from Google Image searches to make our persona depictions dazzling. These images register little more emotional empathy than the sample picture inside a frame purchased at Target. Rather, include original pictures of real people that we have taken ourselves. Individuals who have told us about their unique experiences and journeys. Our presentations might not look as polished, but they will most certainly be more insightful, inspiring, and human.
  • Secondly, let’s replace the “consumer” in consumer journey mapping with an actual human being. A real person who is in our target audience; one that we have met and spent some time getting to know. Imagine how much more interesting and impactful a channel strategy would be if we were constructing it for Anna Curtis, rather than a faceless, nameless, generic consumer
  • Finally, challenge your team to a meeting without “consumers” or “users.” Just like an off-color word or phrase at some workplaces might cost you $1 in a jar, let’s collect every time someone uses one of these dehumanizing words in a meeting. Then stretch the challenge to a full day, and the day to a week. Your teams will start thinking differently about who we’re trying to reach and how they can make those connections more resonant and meaningful (And then donate the proceeds to a good cause, like a Friday afternoon happy hour…).

Does changing what we call our target audiences matter? Clearly, that alone will not guarantee that we will create meaningful relationships. But starting with the right mindset about who we are talking to should improve the chances of keeping our focus on the wonderfully human person at the other end of the mouse, tablet or television set.

Want to learn more about how to take your user experience strategy from now to next? Start the conversation with Michael Baer at 844.LC.IDEAS.

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter, for the latest in industry news, tips and inspiration. To start receiving updates from Laughlin Constable, subscribe here.

Top 3 Takeaways from the PSFK 2016 Conference

The PSFK 2016 Conference, which was held in New York City in mid-May, featured speakers from both renowned and up-and-coming brands who presented innovative ideas for engaging today’s “always on” customers. Here are our key takeaways from the conference that are impacting the evolving state of marketing.

1. Brands must create human-centric experiences.

In order to succeed in the evolving digital landscape, brands must find ways to make the experiences they create more human and personal. Some ways to do this include developing customer experience maps that help in thinking through how a customer interacts with a brand and how to improve their experience, and by performing user experience (UX) research and usability testing. Leveraging methods like these can help ensure we understand our very human customers, including their needs, attitudes, expectations and behaviors, so we can design customer-centric experiences that allow both our customers and brands to win.

Here are some examples of brands that are working to create human-centric experiences that improve our “connected life”:

  • Jibo, a social robot, exemplified the idea that as Artificial Intelligence (AI) personal assistants (think Siri, Alexa and Cortana) become a more ubiquitous part of our everyday lives, it is important to inject humanity into the interactions we have with them, by way of context and simulated empathy.
Jibo

Image source: www.jibo.com

  • In 2013, Gatorade was asked by the Brazilian National Soccer team to help them win the World Cup. The mission started as a way to optimize the performance of each player with personalized hydration, and has resulted in GatoradeGX, the company’s new data-centric personalized sports fueling platform. The platform is intended to seamlessly tie together innovations in packaging and personal data tracking to allow athletes of all kinds to easily personalize their fuel to achieve maximum performance.

2. Retailers must help customers connect to things they care about.

To survive in an increasingly digital world, retailers must create a broader brand mission that is bigger than the products or services they offer; one that people want to connect to. By helping customers more easily connect to the things that matter to them, such as healthier eating or better sleep, brands can earn not only a loyal following, but also a passionate base of brand advocates.

The conference featured retailers that are disrupting traditional retail models and finding ways to build strong, loyal communities around their brands. Here are a couple examples:

  • Sweetgreen is a growing fast-casual, salad restaurant chain with a mission to “inspire healthier communities.” One way the company does this is by locally sourcing its food and offering seasonally-changing menus. Another is by finding creative ways to build a community around healthier eating, such as holding an annual music and food festival, aptly named Sweetlife. In a world where our phones allow us to have almost anything delivered to us instantly, Sweetgreen has made a conscious decision not to offer delivery, but instead created an app for placing pick-up orders, to encourage customers to come into the store location to experience the brand, while still providing convenience.
  • Casper is a brand built around the idea of bridging the gap between the science and realities of sleep by reframing what we expect from a mattress, as well as the experience of buying a mattress. The company has differentiated itself through a refreshing, no pressure showroom experience, a 100-night trail with free return pick-up, and building a community around sleep by producing content about the science of better sleep. By reimagining the entire experience around sleep and buying a mattress, Casper is driving new excitement within a seemingly stagnant category.

3. Brands must tell the right stories in the right ways to engage customers.

Brand storytelling is more important than ever for engaging customers. However, evolving channels and customer expectations present new challenges and opportunities for telling these stories. Brands must find ways to tell the right stories to the right audiences at the right time. Some ways to accomplish this include performing primary customer research and leveraging user data to inform the types of messages that will resonate with a brand’s audience, as well as the places and times when they are most receptive to these messages.

Here are some examples of brands that recognize the the importance of storytelling in building a strong, desirable brand:

  • As part of Microsoft’s effort over the last several years to shift its business model, including a dedication to new product innovations, in 2015 the company launched a new mission statement to “empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more.” Microsoft’s Chief Storyteller, Steve Clayton, explained how his team works to change the perception of Microsoft through stories, such as how the company brought Wi-Fi access to a village in Kenya, and the positive impact it has had on the community. The emphasis on storytelling also lead to the launch of the “Microsoft Stories” content site.
  • When drone racing first came on the scene, it was dubbed “the sport of the future.” However, The Drone Racing League quickly realized that high expectations for the sport were based on unrealistic scenarios from movies, such as pod-racing in Star Wars: Episode I, and that disappointment in the reality of the sport could mean a quick life and death. By embracing expectations and carefully crafting the right story around how drone racing is executed, The Drone Racing League has succeeded in maintaining excitement and drawing a growing fan base.

All in all, the PSFK 2016 Conference offered a lot of inspiration for how brands and marketers can innovate today to create more human-centric experiences, help connect their customers to the things that matter to them, and craft more engaging stories. It also emphasized that in order to transform, we must rethink established ideas and concepts and constantly look at them from different perspectives.

5 Ways to Maximize Your Media Budget at Any Level

The marketing world seems to be getting more challenging and competitive by the day. And the complexity of the business and media landscape has made budgets at every level feel pressurized and stretched thin. Because of this, every marketer knows they must make every marketing dollar count – whether the budget is in the thousands or the millions, the main goal is to deliver disproportionate return on your investment. Here are some key approaches and tips we employ to do just that.

1. Don’t just target. Pinpoint.

Every marketer wants to reach –  and persuade – the largest group of consumers they can. But casting a wide net can be the wrong approach. First, it generates a superficial and homogenized view of your consumer (“Age 18+,” anyone?). Second, it’s hard to do an effective job of reaching such broad swaths of consumers. Instead, we recommend identifying more richly defined target groups inside that comprehensive segment.

One way to do this is to identify traits that span beyond demographics such as age and gender. Hone in on a target audience with a specific frame of mind or interest. This demographic is easier to reach, more interesting to create content for, and far more likely to convert. Even better is if you can really “own” this target vs. who your competition is targeting. For example, for a food brand that mainly targets men, instead of simply targeting the broad “bros” that our competitors focused on, we identified our consumer as craft-beer enthusiasts. This elevated the media plan above generic, resulting in a more precise match between content and context and a number of extremely effective brand integrations we might otherwise never have found.

2. Set the right goal posts.

Almost all marketers and media companies measure their media performance in some way. However, it is key to not just use basic or customary measures. Understand how success looks for you and use the most relevant and specific metrics to track it. Key performance indicators (KPIs) should not be a laundry list, but instead clearly linked to brand objectives. At LC, we use the Consumer Decision Journey (CDJ) model to set KPIs at each phase that correlate to that phase’s main objectives. This ensures that all media performance is measured against its ability to convert the target into loyal, profitable customers.

3. Maximize your owned channels.

Far too often, media companies only consider the brand’s paid audiences. But most should consider their owned channels first. What are some ways to do this? Leverage your website by making sure it’s easy to navigate and clearly defines who you are, what you do, has quality content and is optimized for search. Consider and plan how to use your social platforms to maximize your efforts. Look for ways to leverage your loyal customers to share the message to their friends and family. Consider an email marketing program against your customer relationship management (CRM) system or other database list. In conjunction with paid media, owned channels can turbocharge your efforts.

4. Invest in paid search.

Think paid search is only for e-commerce brands? Think again. Paid search is an opportune way to ensure current campaigns are working to their fullest and are properly optimized. Paid search reaches people at the precise time of interest and need when they are actively searching for your brand, service or category. This means you can be there with the right message at the right time. And if you aren’t, your competitors are sure to be instead.

5. Don’t get too thin. Or too thick.

In today’s fragmented and complex media ecosystem, it can be tantalizing to want to try many different tactics and media types. When planning your media strategy, make sure you are expanding out into new vehicles and platforms judiciously. Concentrate on channels that allow you to be targeted while reaching prospects at an impactful frequency. Don’t rely on just one channel to achieve your objectives — the media landscape is not consumed like this. As far as adding new media and tactics, try testing and experimenting to see what’s working before rolling out and committing bigger dollars. Finally, make sure your message is consistent across all your channels and that all channels align with how your target is engaging with various media on a daily basis.

At the end of the day, media is not just about “spots and dots.” Without the right strategy in place, much of your budget can be under-leveraged to misunderstandings about your target, what channels are best for your audience or how to measure your efforts. This is why it’s important to work with a team that takes the time to understand your brand, your consumer, the media context, and the interaction of those three. Only in this way can you make sure you’re getting the best bang for your marketing buck.

Want to learn more about how to take your media planning from now to next? Start the conversation with Michael Baer at 844.LC.IDEAS.

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter, for the latest in industry news, tips and inspiration. To start receiving updates from Laughlin Constable, subscribe here.

We Love (And Watch) TV. A Lot.

The 2016 Broadcast TV Upfront presentations – the annual advertising industry event at which broadcast networks, such as ABC, CBS, CW, FOX and NBC, present their fall season plans to media buyers and marketers – took place in May 2016. The presentations set the stage for the industry’s Upfront media buying, where a significant portion of the upcoming season’s broadcast inventory is purchased.

Despite growth in alternate viewing options, TV continues to be a mainstay for network success, especially as an immediate mass reach vehicle – positive testament for those who still believe in the merits of advertising on this medium. Every year, the industry and pundits forecast “the death of broadcast TV” and the anachronism of the Upfront, yet each year it continues as ever.

Each year, more alternatives are offered – the NewFronts, the marketplace for digital video and the Addressable TV Upfront. But despite modest growth, none have knocked down the reigning champ, broadcast TV. Crickets could be heard on last year’s “Addressable TV” Upfront, as platforms have found it more difficult to pull off than expected. Addressable TV would have allowed advertisers to selectively segment TV audiences and offer up different ads groups within a common program.

Downward Digital

Each year, over the past decade, there has seemed to be an elephant in the room regarding digital solutions, cross platform and mobile viewing, on demand and cord-cutting – but the networks continue to trot out their new shows with fanfare and talk about their massive viewership. This year was no different, as only NBCUniversal and CW served up digital solutions. Perhaps this “broadcast or bust” mindset is right, as the release of a new study from Accenture Strategy, analyzing marketing spend and ROI over three years, found that Digital can’t match the long-term ROI benefits of advertising on linear TV and its supported platforms. The study suggests that multiplatform TV advertising has had a halo effect on digital, with an average of 18 percent ROI incorrectly credited to short-form video (digital includes paid search, digital display and short-form video under 10 minutes) – insinuating that any success digital video has had is in fact due to TV (!).

Did We Say We Love TV?

All in all, TV networks are continuing to take a fairly safe, reliable approach to programming, with attention to the tried and true. To us, this seems short-sighted and analogous to music publishers’ continued refusal to address a digital solution – until they had to. This seems to present an opportunity for new, more cutting-edge programming that makes the digital experience more front-and-center, not just a value-add. We can imagine all kinds of exciting mobile, non-linear, interactive offerings, but alas, we have to continue to wait.

Stacking rights, or a network’s ability to stream a seasons’ worth of episodes on all of its platforms (think Netflix), as opposed to just the most recent five episodes, has also been a hot topic. Most networks agree that viewers love being able to catch up on a show in succession, informally known as “binge watching.” Stacking allows them to do this with ease, not to mention, increasing network and series loyalty.

Why is this important for consumers? Today’s TV viewers have more opportunities to enjoy TV content than they ever have before. Viewers can watch their favorite shows on multiple screens, in any location or while on the go, and interact with fellow fans in real-time on various social media networks.

Why is this important for brands? TV ensures that consumers become aware of new products, services, ideas and other noteworthy concepts. It reinforces the position of existing brands and reassures consumers about the choices they make every day.

That being said, TV still rules and successful series still wear the crown. TV’s long-lasting prominence in society has deep roots. TV is a medium that triggers imagination, improves the world, nurtures curiosity, encourages education and unites millions of viewers with mutual interests. It also demonstrates that one need look no further for proof of the ROI benefits of TV advertising, because people continue to watch TV. A lot.

Activating the Healthcare Consumer Decision Journey

The average consumer now owns 4 devices and consumes 60 hours of digital content per week. And for healthcare marketers spending upwards of $1.5 billion per year on advertising (Hospital and Health Networks Magazine, April 2015), not understanding what, when and where consumers are in the consumer decision journey (CDJ) means much of that budget may be going to waste.

CDJ_1

Today’s marketing reality

Here’s what today’s healthcare marketer is facing: An explosion of messages. A transformation of channels. A disruptive fragmentation of audiences. And a consumer-driven market place where choice, access and information are a given, in real-time, 24/7.
Today’s marketers use the CDJ as a tool to address these new realities. To be nimbler, deliver more relevant messaging at precise moments and drive consistency across the journey – ultimately engendering greater loyalty and brand advocacy. It also presents important opportunities for healthcare brands:

• Starting relationships before there’s a need.
• Staying in the consideration set as their search goes on.
• Branding a memorable and shareable experience.
• Leveraging loyalty in a consumer driven world is the key to long-term success.

At each stage of the journey, different channels reach consumers, different messages engage them and different metrics measure marketing performance. Together, these insights form a solid framework that reflects your customer’s journey and show how best to reach them and provide a high-quality, consistent experience at every touchpoint.

To expand upon this, we looked at three different healthcare decision journeys and the channels (or platforms) that best match each journey. This will help demonstrate how channels vary based on the consumer and the nature of the decision—a woman choosing maternity services will have a different journey than a Parkinson’s patient’s care partner.

CDJ_2

Expecting Mothers Expect the Best

Get on your consumer’s short list (awareness) by generating visibility via appropriately targeted TV ads, print, radio, targeted online campaigns, presence at a millennial event (millennials are more likely to digitally share their experiences) and content on pre-pregnancy health websites. When she is ready to consider her options, she will start researching and comparing your offerings to others (evaluation), so be sure to give her all the information she needs: show up in her search results (SEO, consider buying relevant search ads), create high-quality content (e.g. virtual birthing center tours) and be active on all her favorite social platforms. Next, support an exceptional birthing experience by providing information new moms are hungry for (experience), possibly through video content for in-room broadcast or Youtube, or care packages with items tailored to her interests. Finally, make it easy for her to share her experience with other new moms (advocacy) by using social media to engage her, or by “adopting” a mommy blogger to incentivize specific maternity patients to share their positive experiences with their own loyal audience.

CDJ_3

Connecting with Ortho Patients

Be the name he thinks of when considering bone and joint issues, whether they’re his own, his friends’ or others’ (awareness). Get on his radar using TV, outdoor, radio, and targeted online advertising. For example, be at his recreational sports events—whether through sponsorship or authentic word of mouth testimonials from his friends. Next, create expert content on bone and joint health—whether on your brand’s website or a third party site. Then, when early symptoms trigger the start of his long decision process, lower the barriers for getting more information (evaluation) through search results and additional content on symptoms and new procedures. Next, leverage the extended patient care experience to deliver a branded impression of great care (experience) through collateral and online support information. And finally, give him opportunities to be proud of and share his recovery (advocacy) by capturing and sharing stories through unique written and/or video content.

CDJ_4

Serious Health Issues Inspire Need for Trust

For those seeking care for Parkinson’s Disease, marketers need to build confidence and trust in the hospital’s overall expertise and experience with older adults (awareness). This is often through print and radio advertising, maintaining a presence at elder health events and creating content on elder health and wellness sites. When symptoms prompt questions, encourage early consultation and provide different opportunities for your consumer to become more informed about options (evaluation) via search results, in-depth program content or a symptom checker. Optimize the potential of a lifetime care relationship with your patient and his family (experience). This could be done through collateral and support materials on disease management and new advancements. Finally, encourage family members to share their experience and help others in the same situation (advocacy) by providing them with opportunities to bond with others—reunions, workshops, etc.

Healthcare marketers have traditionally concentrated on the awareness and evaluation stages of the consumer decision journey. But today, online engagement and “experience sharing” provide opportunities to connect with consumers more deeply. As healthcare marketers, we can engage, delight and inspire consumers throughout their journey, and really, their whole lives.

Interested in more tips to take your marketing from now to next? Start the conversation with Michael Baer at 844.LC.IDEAS.

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter, for the latest in industry news, tips and inspiration. To start receiving updates from Laughlin Constable, subscribe here.

Sources: Internet Trends 2015 (KPCB)​

One (Smart) Ring to Rule Them All

When modern wearable technology first hit the scene a few years ago, it was primarily focused on connected devices with health-tracking functions, such as counting calories and steps or monitoring sleep patterns. While Fitbit and Garmin demonstrate the potential in wearables with their streamlined tracking capabilities and mobile apps, the devices look more suited for the gym or on the running path than in consumers’ everyday lives.

Today, a new line of devices is emerging, offering features that extend far beyond health and fitness. They appear to be authentic fashion accessories and jewelry, made of precious gemstones and metals instead of clunky plastic or rubber bands. This “smart jewelry” is a new way to combine the benefits of fitness trackers and smartphones with everyday, noninvasive accessories that work with your lifestyle instead of occupying space in it.

For an example of a leading-edge company doing the “smart jewelry” thing right, look no further than Ringly. This NYC-based startup sells digitally-connected rings and bracelets that connect to the wearer’s phone via Bluetooth, then notifies them of alerts and messages from a supported mobile app. The wearer is informed of these notifications by configuring customizable colored LED lighting and various vibration patterns. For example, three vibrations and a yellow light can indicate a social media notification, two vibrations with a pink light can indicate a text message, one vibration and a blue light can indicate an email, and so on. Further customizations include setting up notifications for only a small network of people or connecting to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Uber, Slack, or even health and fitness apps like Fitbit.

The idea behind Ringly is simple: the wearer can carry on with what they are doing and know, at a glance, if she needs to pick up her phone. A concept that was on the forefront of a trend you’ve more than likely seen plenty of by now—the defunct Google Glass, the Apple Watch and the Motorola 360, to name a few. These digital devices are crafted to revolve around consumers lives instead of the other way around. And it’s just the beginning. Consumers are exhausted by hectic schedules, endless emails and 24/7 connections, and are becoming better informed on the ways technology can wreak havoc on their health. These factors create a perfect storm for doing away with invasive, bulky technology in favor of technology that empowers, not impedes, real life interactions.

For companies, brands and agencies, this trend represents three things:

  1. Reminder: Keep a solid strategy in place and push out quality content. It’s never been more important to craft solid, authentic messages that consumers want to go out of their way to engage with and share. Wearable devices, including smart jewelry and accessories, are now at the heart of just about every discussion related to the Internet of Things, and the full range of new capabilities ubiquitous connectivity can bring.
  2. Warning: The digital space is not confined to one lap-bound screen. Much like TV advertising, companies need to adapt to where the consumer is going. And in this case, they are going outside, interacting more with friends and putting down their phones in favor of real life interactions. How can you meet them at their favorite bar, restaurant or theatre without an invasive iPhone ad and provide real value at the right moment?
  3. Opportunity: With new devices come new ways to interact with your community and surroundings. What can you build that would effectively work on the devices, like Ringly, that consumers are gravitating toward? Could the unique placement of an Apple Watch help or hinder your company? In what ways? Wearable technology is being adopted by brands across the spectrum, from healthcare to education to retail to to consumer goods. However, the smartest, most innovative brands don’t just jump on the tech bandwagon without a plan; they consider gaps in the marketplace and strategically fill those gaps to profitably fulfill their targets’ needs.

It is without a doubt that wearables will evolve exponentially over the next few years, and that they will need to be a more integrated element in the Internet of Things in order to provide the wide range of features people are lusting after.

Essentially, never underestimate the power of the perfect accessory.

Marketing to Mom in the Digital Age

The experience of motherhood is shared by women across time, borders and languages. Despite massive shifts in culture and technology, modern moms have many of the same questions and challenges as their mothers and grandmothers. However, the resources moms use to manage the complexities of parenthood have changed considerably over generations. Moms still seek advice from a broad range of sources, but today, they’re often turning to the internet to do so. The ways in which today’s moms prioritize and balance the roles of self, Mom, wife, coworker, sister, friend and daughter may differ, but one thing is evident – digital tools can help make her life a little easier. The challenge for brands today is to cut through the noise and provide value when the volume of information available to moms is overwhelming.

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, Laughlin Constable has provided ways to reach and resonate with Mom in the digital age.

Be there for her whenever she needs you: Make it mobile.

Mom’s smartphone very well may be considered her savior. Handy mobile apps can help her communicate with family, find nearby locations, snag deals, search for products and recipes and simply save time and energy. Moms are constantly switching between screens, so your content should be moving with them. According a January 2016 study conducted by Facebook IQ, parents over-index on social mobile usage – globally, they spend 1.3X more time on Facebook mobile than people without children. With this, it’s imperative for brands to create a seamless multi-screen digital experience for Mom. However, it is also important for brands to avoid overwhelming her even more with irrelevant, unwelcome content at every conceivable turn.

Show her what to do: Use video effectively.

More and more, moms are turning to YouTube for answers to their everyday questions. According to a September 2015 study conducted by Google, TNS and Ipsos, 83 percent of moms search for answers to their questions online. Of those, three in five turn to online video in particular. Today’s new moms spend an average of 8.3 hours daily consuming media – about an hour more per day than Gen X moms – with most of that extra time spent streaming video. This presents brands with a great opportunity: to provide valuable content when moms are looking for support, information or ideas. Of the moms surveyed who view YouTube videos, 81 percent watch how-to content. In fact, moms are significantly more likely to watch how-to content than the average viewer.

Respect her time: Be as brief as possible.

Moms appreciate value and efficiency. Especially with an overflowing plate, it’s crucial for brands to give Mom the information she needs upfront without forcing her to dig through clutter. Access to information can be a double-edged sword – on one hand, it’s great for her to have the brain trust of the internet at her fingertips, but all that information and all those opinions can leave her feeling confused. Nurture quick wins with Mom by serving up concise, crystal clear content that simplifies complexities in a relevant way.

Meet her with an empathetic voice: Motherhood means vulnerability.

Every mom has different fears, dreams, beliefs and values, but they share a mutual understanding that parenting is not all sunshine and roses. Brands that understand and acknowledge the challenges of parenthood and speak to moms with a compassionate voice, no matter the category or platform, resonate best with moms. With Medela, Laughlin Constable built a content strategy that includes motivational, inspirational content in addition to educational blogs and tips for new moms. Rather than glossing over the challenges of early parenthood, Medela has created a social community based in part on support and encouragement.

Empower her to help herself: Self-care is crucial.

Mom has to take care of herself before she can take care of others, but her personal needs are often pushed to the bottom of a never-ending to-do list. Savvy brands help her feel more confident, cared for and capable by offering self-care solutions, time-saving tips and real-time resources.

As with any other audience, it’s important to remember that moms lead rich, complex lives and their identities extend far beyond just being a parent. Honor and recognize moms’ reality and allow opportunities for her to put on her oxygen mask first. After all, there’s no work more important than the work of a parent. Brands that are aligned to help support that vital work can and should meet moms where they are to make a unique connection with consumers.

Oh, and be sure to call your mom this Sunday.

Lydia Eichner & Ceara Milligan

Small Brands, Big Opportunity: Snapchat As a Customer Service Platform

The days of automated customer service calls are quickly being replaced by inventive, highly customized social customer service experiences. This shift indicates a pivot in consumer expectations: users expect their customer service questions to not only be answered promptly on social media, but also in a unique and personal way.

Thus, the new kid on the block, Snapchat has emerged as an interactive tool for immediate, personalized customer service that is unlike any other social channel. Recently, the channel unveiled a suite of new functionality that makes it easier than ever for brands to connect with their users in a personal and dynamic way. The Snapchat 2.0 update gives users the ability to make short-form video and audio notes, live voice and video calls, and add over 200 new stickers to their text chats.

This Snapchat update has been especially helpful to smaller brands, who have quickly implemented customer service practices on the app. They’re working to build relationships with their audience and connect with them through prompt responses, personalized messages and face-to-face communication.

The retail brand Everlane uses Snapchat to take their personalized customer service to the next level. Followers are encouraged to ask questions about their orders, the products and Everlane’s philanthropic practices. Through the app, Everlane’s dedicated Snapchat team addresses customers’ fashion advice, merchandise questions and quality concerns. This approach has created a unique, ultra-personalized relationship between the brand and its loyal customers.

Another early adopter of customer service through Snapchat is tech accessory company iOgrapher. This small business is able to maintain the customer influx of questions with timely, personalized video responses that effectively answer the customers’ questions and product concerns.

Snapchat offers a huge opportunity for brands to service their customers in a unique and unexpected way, but before a brand makes the jump over to Snapchat customer service, they must consider the following:

MAINTAIN YOUR CRM TRACKING

Before using Snapchat as a customer service tool, ensure you have a plan to track and manage your CRM activities. Think about how Snapchat integrates into your existing CRM tracking and management process and ensure that process evolves to accommodate customer service on Snapchat. Think about the resources you’ll need to ensure your responses are prompt and thorough.

CONSIDER YOUR AUDIENCE

Snapchat customer service is a natural move for a brand who has already established a following on Snapchat, has a target that skews toward a millennial audience, and offers a product or service that is easily serviced via social media.

PERSONALIZE THE MESSAGE

Snapchat users are a part of the “Now Generation” and want personalized content when it’s convenient for them. Snapchat makes digital face-to-face communication fun, easy and efficient. It allows users to transition from describing a problem through text to presenting the problem in a photo or video, which results in a personalized, quick solution. So, make sure your team is prepared to translate customer service best practices into short-form video, illustrations and concise text.

START SMALL, SCALE SLOWLY

As the Snapchat platform grows, the customer service requests are likely to grow along with it. Brands need to consider tone, processes and solutions before exploring the customer service experience. Consider launching a Q&A on Snapchat surrounding a specific topic to gauge your community’s response to 1-to-1 communication on the channel. For example, a brand could launch a Q&A surrounding a new product launch as a way to field new user questions and gather learnings for a broader Snapchat customer service launch.

LISTEN AND LEARN

Snapchat is a two-way communication tool that’s rich with insights throughout the social channel. Analyzing the feedback, learning from it and making improvements will result in stronger customer relations as well as increased loyalty. So, consider using common questions to inform future content and snap stories.

PROMOTE ACROSS CHANNELS

Once you’re prepared to launch Snapchat customer service, cross-promote it other social channels, being clear about what type of questions and responses you’ll accommodate on the channel.

Interested in more tips to take your marketing from now to next? Email Michael Baer or call 844.LC.IDEAS.

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3 Ways UX Research Can Save Your Site and Your Budget

 

What is the one thing you could do now—before you launch—to save your company time and money in the future? Invest in user experience (UX).

User experience can make or break a brand.

Four years from now, customer experience is predicted to be the one key brand differentiator—overtaking both price and product.* This means UX research has never been a more vital component of your process since its entire objective is to craft an experience that feels uniquely tailored to meet your customers’ needs, while eliminating any bugs or pitfalls and proving or disproving any gut assumptions.

Beyond eliminating issues, UX research can also identify your target audience, then track their journey through your digital environment—analyzing everything from behavior flows and completion rates to social, bounce rates and session timing. Essentially, UX is the one upfront investment you can make now that’s guaranteed to have a healthy return.

Unsure how UX plays into your process? Let’s explore 3 of the many tactics available.

 

ux interviewsIdea #1: Interviews

What’s the best way to understand your audience and their behaviors, values or goals? Ask them! By obtaining early user feedback or answers from real people and analyzing that data to create insights, you can uncover key information to grow any aspect of your business or create meaningful experiences for your customers. This helps you avoid any superfluous decisions, while being guided by the very user base you are trying to connect with. Now, you can’t just take what they say verbatim, (in the words of Henry Ford, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”), but it’s a good start to understanding a variety of things with real people.

One way to better define users and their needs is through the creation of personas. Personas are archetypes built specifically for your product to identify real users’ profiles, needs, wants and expectations in order to design best possible experiences for them. Without identifying the various characteristics of the user groups visiting your site, you cannot hope to design an experience that includes the key elements that each type of user needs. Instead, you will end up creating a website that doesn’t perform well for anyone. One easy step to understanding key characteristics is to ask users questions via a survey. It’s simple, cheap and an effective research method.

But, you never use one method of research in isolation…

 

ux testing imageIdea #2: Testing

Companies who test their sites early on can help uncover experience and functionality problems. This eliminates any interaction assumptions and helps dive deeper into satisfaction ratings and positive net promoter scores. For you, this means getting one step further toward a smooth, bug-free user experience that both the web (as a whole) and your customer base love. It also helps expose real-time user problems, while ensuring your current navigation is getting the job done right.

For example, we were in the development stages of redesigning a healthcare website with over 2,000 pages of content and multiple user personas to design an experience around. Multiple rounds of user testing was built into the design process to ensure what we were creating was useful, meaningful and aligned to user needs before the site was even launched. If you think user testing is expensive, it’s not. What’s expensive is designing a site that no one uses.

 

ux contextual studiesIdea #3: Contextual Studies

Contextual studies conducted in natural environments make it easy to observe and track natural user behaviors and patterns as opposed to conducting studies in labs, isolated from when, where and how the user interacts with your site. One study method we use effectively is the “diary study,” which provides detailed insight into the expectations, mindsets, moods and environments of your users, written by your users.

Picture this: a company that provides products for new mothers is looking to understand how their website could better help mothers in need to care for their baby or themselves. By performing a diary study where mothers would track when they needed help, how they sought help and what types of devices they used during that time in need, the company learned mobile was huge and mothers usually only have one arm to use their device because the other arm was holding their baby. Understanding the context behind their experience, UX was able to create a unique mobile experience that allowed mothers to seamlessly navigate a website and find the information they were seeking with just one hand. Performing this study in a lab would never yield the same results from the diary study. So if you know who your users are, you can pick the right research method to gain the correct data, which will help you better align your site, experience or service with user expectations, and avoid costly navigation or experience issues in the future.

 

The one goal of UX design and research is to better captivate, engage and emotionally connect with users when they are trying to achieve a goal—no matter the time, place or circumstances. By uncovering these otherwise invisible or unproven theories you are able to improve the performance of your site and the satisfaction of your customer base. And when your customer base feels supported and heard, and avoids any negative encounters (think: website crashes, loading issues, payment problems), they not only help you avoid any future costly repairs or tweaks, they become loyal fans and consumers.

Have questions as you help your brand navigate the UX waters? Call Michael Baer at 844.LC.IDEAS.

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter, for the latest in industry news, tips and inspiration. To start receiving updates from Laughlin Constable, subscribe here.

*Walker: “Customers 2020: The Future of B-To-B Customer Experience” (2013 Report)