The power of customer voice shapes new rules of relevance

Why did you decide to see the last movie you watched? Was it because of some glorious review or perhaps a friend’s suggestion? Long before the social portals and constant banter on Twitter, people have valued the opinions of others. Today, this behavior is highly measureable.

For example, a Forrester/JupiterResearch study found that 47% of US adults online value consumer reviews more than retailer-provided product information. This shouldn’t be surprising. Why? Because, in a Forrester 2008 Social Technographics study, 69% of North American adults identified themselves as social spectators, up from 48% in 2007. The social technographics influence ladder shows rises in every segment — creators, critics, collectors, spectators and joiners. The inactive social segment is the only one shrinking. Clearly the voice of the customer can be heard, shared and measured.

However, rather than sounding a death knell for e-mail, social relies on it. Without an e-mail address there is no Twitter, Facebook or online banking account. E-mail continues to garner attention and trust. For example, 77% of North American adults tell Forrester that they most trust e-mail from people that they know, followed by 66% who state that they trust in consumer reviews and ratings. As marketers we must harness the power of e-mail, the customer’s voice and measure and act upon it.

My recent research, The ROI of Email Relevance 2009, finds that those e-mail marketers who use social segmentation strategies including the use of product review content in their e-mail communications can generate roughly five times more revenue compared with marketers who don’t. While the notion of social influence is not new, these measurable and actionable social tactics embody the new rules of relevance.

Personalization is an entry cost to driving relevance. The table stakes have moved to humanizing messages with the voice of your customers, personas and segments. Provide your subscribers an easy ability to share your content, contribute to your content and then measure and react to audience’s desire to do so. E-mail is here to stay, but it is up to you to take the next step to leverage the power of social communication and its measurable influence into your messaging strategy.

David Daniels is VP, principal analyst at Forrester Research. Reach him at [email protected]

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