Most online preference centers are useless: DMCNY

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Ernan Roman
Ernan Roman

Most online preference centers are useless, said Ernan Roman, president of Ernan Roman Direct Marketing, during a Direct Marketing Club of New York (DMCNY) presentation on March 8. Brands shouldn't ask consumers if they want to be bothered via email or other contact methods, but should instead engage consumers to understand their wants and feelings.

Consumer-driven relationships and personalization of content have become competitive differentiators when it comes to customer choice, he said, during the event. 

Roman said “in today's world of online engagement, customers expect a lot from companies,” particularly when it comes to personalization and multichannel offerings.

“As a result of the social media economy, the consumer is now much more demanding,” he said. “What specific strategies do you all have in place that, to the consumer, is engaging them?”

As an example, Roman used the online t-shirt company Threadless. Threadless engages consumers to a high degree, using customer input about different designs to create new t-shirts, he said.

“This is a low-hanging fruit idea that there should be no particular difficulty implementing,” he said.

Roman said consumers who touch a company though multiple channels are far more likely to buy. “Multichannel customers spend two-three times more than single channel customers,” he said, quoting former Urban Outfitters CEO Glen Senk. “Consumers who engage with the company across three or more channels spend six times more.”

He also said marketers have moved from a culture where consumers had to opt out of promotions, whereas now, it makes more sense to ask them to opt-in.

“This is very, very big,” he said. “Opt-in is not passive. Opt-in is not permission. Opt-in says that you are consciously choosing to engage with me.”

“The takeaway is that people are willing to share astonishing amounts of information … especially if they trust the brand,” he said.

He cited eHarmony as “a perfect example” of earning consumer trust. Because people trust the brand, they're willing to answer 436 detailed questions, he explained. The possible outcome of meeting a soul mate, for most people, is worth the effort and data entry, he said.


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