Nielsen’s 2021 Annual Marketing Report, Era of Adaptation: Future-forward strategies for brands of all sizes, emphasizes that adaptation is key to businesses maintaining and increasing growth over the next year. After the year we've all had, it makes sense that adaptability is top-of-mind — but it's also easier said than done.
Much of Nielsen's findings reflect the changes many marketers (across all verticals) had to make during the pandemic — valuable lessons that will drive future marketing decisions and overall growth strategies. In this article, we’ll break down some of the most interesting findings and identify key marketing tactics you should be using this year.
Improve acquisition by predicting customer conversions
Customer acquisition is top of mind for marketers, listed in the report as their #1 marketing priority for 2021. While we often harp on the equal importance of customer retention, there’s good reason for this focus on acquisition. With more and more consumers getting vaccinated and the economy opening up, acquiring new customers is going to be crucial to the growth spike businesses are relying on to make up for a year of lost profits.
The key to acquiring customers most efficiently is reaching the right audiences. This is no secret, but it’s also no small feat. With many advertising platforms functioning as black boxes, brands have historically had a hard time gaining deep insights into their audiences and transparency about who exactly is included in their ad sets.
What’s more, brands trying to reach lookalike audiences that reflect their existing customers may be basing their audience criteria on assumptions, rather than data. It’s not uncommon for brands to know very little about the real-world lives of their customers, having access only to basic information like name, home address, email, and perhaps some other surface level personal data. When segmenting audiences or generating lookalikes, brands often overlook qualified leads because they don’t match what marketers assume they’re looking for in new audiences.
This dearth of data is a barrier to successful, efficient acquisition strategies. One way to overcome it is to leverage custom audiences — generated using a plethora of first-party and third-party consumer data — alongside predictive analytics.
Faraday employs machine learning and vast amounts of permissioned consumer data to create custom audiences for our clients based on the specific behavioral outcomes they wish to see (e.g. lead generation or conversion). These audiences let brands expand their reach with a better understanding of exactly who they’re targeting. Tapping into this way of generating and deploying audiences is going to be vital this year, especially as tracking cookies go away.
Improve retention by predicting customer engagement
Looking again at fig. 1 above, customer retention comes in at third place in the ranking of marketers’ priorities this year. In their report, Nielsen notes, “The 22% variance in respect to customer retention is interesting, particularly because larger companies should be well versed in knowing the cost of customer acquisition vs. retention.” Acquiring new customers is much more expensive than retaining existing ones, but retention somehow falls to the wayside as businesses focus on other growth tactics.
Sustainable growth greatly depends upon driving customer loyalty and enthusiasm, but failing to make customer engagement a priority is all too common, and investing in the tech that makes growing loyalty possible is even rarer. It’s not enough anymore to just fall back on email campaigns (the majority of which are filtered out by email providers) and cookie retargeting and call your retention strategy set.
Customer lifetime value predictions give brands an important edge when engaging customers, especially in their discounting strategies. That information can even help marketers identify leads who have the potential to become high-LTV customers, thereby enhancing both acquisition and retention campaigns in one fell swoop.
Additionally, leveraging predictive analytics that contribute to product recommendations can increase engagement if customers see that a brand is curating product offerings to them specifically, rather than mass marketing products that may not be relevant.
Develop an omnichannel strategy to better connect with your audience
It’s no secret that a healthy marketing mix entails reaching audiences across multiple platforms, as maximizing marketing touchpoints increases lead and customer engagement. With people staying home because of the pandemic, marketers should be reaching consumers on the digital channels consumers are already spending more time on.
But rather than creating lookalikes on each channel, marketers with a good eye for a strong omnichannel strategy should be looking to reach the same audiences on different channels. This means leveraging portable custom audiences that can be pushed to any marketing platform — even those offline, like direct mail.
According to Neilsen’s report (see fig. 2), marketers are putting an emphasis on social media, which includes a broad network of platforms, each often with their own audience generation capabilities. Forgoing these for custom audiences can not only optimize brands’ ability to get in front of their target audiences, but also can create an easier path to conversion.
It would have been interesting to see Nielsen break down the social media category into specific platforms, such as Facebook, TikTok, Pinterest, and Snapchat, as brands operating on social media are increasingly likely to diversify away from Facebook to include other popular platforms. Insight into this budget reallocation could be telling around 2021 social media trends.
In addition to social media usage being up among at-home consumers, video streaming platforms have seen an extra boost in viewers over the past year, and marketers are clearly paying attention to that, with roughly 65% of brands planning to increase spending on online and mobile video ads. This is another great example of brands meeting their customers where they are.
Invest in martech to improve consumer predictions
Gaining deeper customer insight, reaching better audiences, and improving campaign performance are all reliant on the technology that brands have in their marketing stacks. And looking at fig. 3 above, it’s clear that an increased investment in martech solutions is something marketers at businesses of all sizes are thinking about this year. Commitment to rounding out a marketing stack — particularly with data-driven, predictive capabilities — will prove to be absolutely crucial to stay relevant and competitive as the economy opens back up.