Marketing bloggers write a lot about the best ways to attract customers. Some of the most popular buzz phrases include “craft compelling brand stories,” “creating high-quality content,” and “give people memorable experiences.” We all know what these phrases mean, but what does effective marketing look like in real life? What are valuable brand-consumer interactions really made of?
Months ago I became fascinated with Warby Parker, a company that sells prescription glasses and sunglasses online, and last weekend I finally got around to ordering a pair of lenses. I received the above email a few days later. The brand immediately got points for using my first name, but the email goes above mere typical personalization methods.
- It’s written by a real person in a personable, casual style. It’s starkly different from the automated “ORDER RECEIVED” or “ORDER SHIPPED” emails slapped with the tragically impersonal and cold “do not reply” message I usually receive after purchasing something online.
- It gives me a brief yet informative update on the status of my order.
- It lets me know who to contact should I have any questions.
- It’s friendly, helpful, courteous, and gracious all at the same time.
The email added a welcome and much-appreciated personal touch to the whole purchasing process.
Starbucks is in the business of coffee, and coffee preferences are subjective. What is objective, on the other hand, is good service. An employee writing “have a nice day” took seconds, but I remembered it enough to incorporate it into a blog post. I also remembered it enough to tell other people about it (behold, the power of word-of-mouth marketing at work). Like the email from Warby Parker, it’s an unexpected, much-appreciated personal touch.
The Science Behind
There’s something to be said for memorable, personalized experiences. There’s more to be said for marketing strategies that can generate money. What’s the connection between the two? What’s the proof the above actions have value outside of the warm, fuzzy feelings they engender?
I found a good deal of research that speaks to the power of personalization; here’s the most recent and compelling.
- Emails that use people’s first names have higher click-through rates.
- In a study of 650 multi-channel marketing campaigns, personalized campaigns consistently and overwhelmingly beat out static campaigns in generating a high response rate from recipients. (Source: HubSpot)
There’s also an interesting study (summed up by Greg Ciotti on KISSmetrics) on personalization that gives some insights into consumer psychology. The study focused on restaurant tipping and involved waiters who offered mints to diners after presenting them with the check. In the control group, waiters did not offer mints to customers. In the first test group, waiters included mints with the check but did not mention the mints to customers; this group saw a 3.3% increase in tips. In the second group, the waiter brought the same amount of mints, but mentioned the mints and brought them out by hand; this group witnessed a 14% increase in tips. In the last experimental group, waiters brought out mints and then returned moments later to give the customers another mint, letting them know they brought out more in case anyone wanted another; this group saw a 23% increase in tip amount.
The researchers concluded that two components were key to the increase in tips: follow-up and perceived personalization. It wasn’t the mints that people cared about; rather, it was the experience they produced. Here’s where follow-up emails and the like fit in.
The Peak-End Rule
The message penned on my Starbucks food wrapper speaks to a psychological concept called the peak-end rule. According to this concept, we judge experiences based almost entirely on two things: how they were at their peak and how they ended. We actually tend to disregard the net pleasantness or unpleasantness of the experience. Since I took my food, read the message, and went on my way, my Starbucks experience ended on a positive note. The handwritten message was one small part of my overall experience, which was actually quite ordinary. But when I recall the experience, the positive note on which it ended is what I’ll remember. This may play out (in my case it already has) through word-of-mouth marketing. And as we all know, peer recommendations are trusted above all other forms of advertising.
I learned about surprise reciprocity thanks to Copyblogger, and what it involves is giving people unexpected, positive experiences.
Psychologist Norbert Schwarz conducted a study in which he occasionally placed a dime on a copy machine for the next person to use the machine to find. Later, he interviewed everyone who used the copy machine about their lives. People who found the ten cents were happier and more satisfied, and they wanted to change less of their lives than those who didn’t find the ten cents. Can a measly dime really make that much of a difference in people’s lives? No. It’s not the money that affects people; it’s the unexpected, positive experience that can temporarily put people in a good mood.
Another study asked people leaving a grocery store to rate their satisfaction with their home televisions. People who received a free sample of food at the store minutes before being asked rated their satisfaction higher than those who didn’t receive a sample.
In the overall scheme of things, the message penned on my Starbucks wrapper is an incredibly small detail. But did it temporarily boost my mood? Absolutely. And I’ll remember that when I think about visiting Starbucks again.
So kudos to Warby Parker and Starbucks for proving valuable brand-consumer interactions exist in the flesh, outside of frequently visited marketing blogs and outside of buzz phrases.