How will customer buying decisions change in 2023?

13 min read by Lauren Boyton 29 Nov 2022

Discover how intelligent data and integrated customer experience strategies can help create meaningful customer interaction in the coming year.

The landscape around marketing is shifting again with one eye on the rising cost of living. How are buying decisions changing as we head into 2023? And how can CMOs adapt their strategies to deal with them? We caught up with our friends at Dotdigital and our in-house CRM expert Lauren Oliver to find out the best routes for brands to take.

What’s the full story behind your customer experience?

There’s a lot of talk at the moment about an impending recession and likely changes in customer behaviour and buying decisions. Are consumers’ priorities shifting with less disposable income? How are brands and CMOs responding to an anticipated downturn in revenue? And is every path or decision around purchasing measurable?

The answers to these questions will lie in actual real-life data – both actual and anecdotal. When you really dig into what your customers are doing on site or in-app, you’ll be able to note how long they are taking to purchase, how many visits it takes and the number of pages they click. You’ll see where the traffic is coming from, and the uplifts in sales after indirect ‘nudges’ from one channel or another. And you’ll be able to gauge changing preferences in types, quality and prices of different products or services across demographics.

All this information will obviously differ across various sectors and verticals, but what general shifts have we and our partners noticed recently that look set to continue over the next 6-12 months?

The trend right now: moving from acquire to nurture

As companies recognise the potential within their data, the biggest shift in the approach to marketing and optimising their revenue is a change in their relationship to their audience. Instead of being on a permanent mission to reach new people and acquire new customers, many are now paying closer attention to the ones they have, and ways they can improve their experience with the brand. And a key tool behind nurturing your audience is email marketing, and your CRM.

Dotdigital’s Frank Brooks says they are definitely seeing their clients reviewing their tech stack, doubling down on email and moving away from ad spend.

“Many customers are re-valuing the value of email. Taking into account the licence fee for a platform like Dotdigital, it’s the most cost-effective channel. From our own data and conversations with customers, the ROI on email spend could potentially be four or five times that from paid ads.”

Frank Brooks, Head of EMEA Marketing – Dotdigital

Double-down on your data

The success of email as an engagement tool lies in reviewing all the data you already have, and creating strategies around it. Both Frank and Lauren preach the virtues of analysis and segmenting according to specific customer behaviours.

Too many brands are still stuck in the rut of bulk blasting emails and not segmenting properly. And by this we mean looking beyond the basics of gender, age and location to metrics such as order size, product types, timing of purchase, number of visits, pages visited and more to truly open the door to personalising the messages you send to customers.

The good news is that you’ll have more data within a CRM platform like Dotdigital than you realise. The trick is to be proactive with your data – to build on it and with it. Lauren’s big tip is: “Layer customer data with behavioural data. A solid foundation of your CRM integrated with your ecommerce platform creates the basis to personalise and expand both your customer experience and your client base.”

Don’t rip up the rule book (yet)

Most of the trends we see working well at the moment do not require a complete overhaul of your approach to marketing. As we’ve outlined, the most effective course is simply a closer study of your own data. But what does that look like?

Is your brand authentic?

A key point with email and cross-channel messaging is the need to build an authentic connection. Today’s more conscientious consumers want to deal with brands that they identify with, that reflect their own personality and values. And, likewise, are the right people coming to your brand?

So, check the data. Is it aligned with what your brand stands for, as well as your business goals? Or is there a disconnect between your products or offers and what your kind of people are looking for? In this situation, ask yourself: How can email be my best friend, or the best friend of my platform? And then work backwards to create messages that will drive the reactions and results you want – to create loyalty, retention and revenue over time.

A CRM platform’s task is to ensure the client or seller does not have to work hard to get their message across. And that the end customer does not have to work hard to understand the purpose of the message. This makes it convenient both for the client and the end customer. Which brings us nicely onto…

Leverage the holy grail of convenience

An improved customer experience (and therefore a smoother path to sales) is all about convenience. And data will be your guide to making purchasing all the more relevant and convenient for your customers.

For example, you can send emails triggered by behaviours on site, or according to time since the last purchase. You can highlight what they have bought before, offer other products that fit with their preferences and encourage them onto the next stage. A new development is also AMP – interactive emails that enable purchasing within the email itself, making it even more convenient for the customer.

Hand-in-hand with this you can also gamify emails to make them more engaging for customers by switching out templates and subject lines. Customers are becoming over-familiar with marketing, so you shouldn’t trust the status quo. Try to reinvent when and where you can so you stay different and interesting.

“Testing and optimisation are key. Taking a cross-channel approach to your messaging across SMS, paid ads and direct mail, as well as emails, will all help you to nurture your existing clients and build relevant audiences. And pay attention to how the onward journey looks like from the email. How can it be more convenient, and less work?”

Lauren Oliver, Head of Customer Experience, StrategiQ

Build experiences to reflect a longer buying decision

Customers – especially younger consumers – are engaging with brands differently than in previous years. Many are making more purposeful decisions, rather than simply going on lowest price, and buying from businesses that reflect their values. They’re won over by brands that tell a good story and practice what they preach.

This, coupled with a squeeze on personal spending, means buying decisions are taking a little longer. Consumers are moving away from single-use purchases, and thinking about longevity, necessity and less waste, as well as the cost.

Again, to address this you will need to look at your data to see the patterns and preferences. You can profile customers against people with similar habits and interests, and send messages accordingly. With time and thought, and perhaps some use of A.I., you can set up a range of emails that will deliver messages when they are relevant, and do so automatically – leaving you to focus more on product development and brand building.

Email isn’t going away

While there have been changes in attitudes to email in recent years as the marketing and retail landscape has changed, email still remains by far the most effective marketing tool available to both the B2B and B2C worlds.

However, the pressure is on for brands to show the value exchange for the customer, so they feel comfortable with giving away their email address. But the investment in terms of time, thought and talent to create the right messages will be worth it when you are able to obtain email addresses earlier in the buying journey to develop and launch communications pre-purchase.

Gen Z might make buying decisions on different channels – such as TikTok, Instagram and via influencers – but email isn’t going anywhere. It just needs to be used better as people become more precious with their data.

How can a CMO manage this new approach?

Learning new ways to exploit your customer base can take time. Some people may baulk at the idea of upskilling, while many more will embrace diving into the potential of data and segmentation. The truth is, in order to meet customers where they are, you’ll have no choice.

But it doesn’t have to be a hard slog. Current CRM platforms are now deliberately designed to be easy to use, without a labyrinth of functions and processes to wade through. Frank Brooks talks about Dotdigital as having “Nasa technology with a Fisher Price interface.” The platform is not time consuming to use, and the investment will give tangible returns.

The difference between Dotdigital and other CRM platforms is in their support for businesses. They understand that their own fortunes are tied to that of their clients, so they’ve established a customer success team and offer one-to-one personal support. As well as advising clients on their needs according to their business goals, customers can also use Dotdigital to upskill. One of the simplest things you can do to get better at email and data is to use the training on offer from your provider.

Conclusion: make the most of the data you have

Brands that don’t shy away from marketing in tough times will ultimately come out stronger. And being clever in the current climate means streamlining through automation while being able to take people on a journey.

As our expert Lauren says: “It’s all about taking people on that journey through your business and the buying process, and seeing where and how they make decisions. Noting their behaviour around a purchase, what language supports that behaviour and then sending messages according to this.”

If you’re not putting all your data onto a platform like Dotdigital, then you are not going to get the most out of it. A two-week trial will open your eyes, but to really see what’s possible from a secure and certified product that is hungry for data, you need to go all-in. And luckily, their in-house onboarding and success team will make the process efficient and straightforward.

Use data to influence buying decisions

Want advice on your own approach to your customer base and how to adapt your messaging in line with your data to drive better ROI? Speak to our specialists.

The longer you wait, the further you’ll be behind the curve when the recession really hits.

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