Why the Buzz About Context?

Relevance. If it’s starting to sound cliché, don’t let it. Being a marketer and a customer, you know that relevance is a powerful marketing asset. It’s often what makes communications, content, offers, and products click with customers.

These days, what often makes relevance so, well, relevant, is context. Merriam-Webster defines context as “the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs.” Knowing the context of a customer’s interaction and then responding based on that insight is the underpinning of contextual marketing. Is a customer watching TV pausing to respond to an ad she saw during a commercial break via her tablet? Deducing that connection through data allows for highly relevant, contextual marketing at that moment of truth. Or, say that customer is in-store on a smartphone—taking a contextual approach to marketing would likely dictate that she’ll get a message based on such criteria as device type, location, time of day, and past purchases.

Contextual marketing today entails using a customer’s real-time data (often in combination with other data sources) to deliver content, a message, or an offer in the context of the moment. It isn’t a new strategy, but various technologies—especially mobile tools—are making it a reality for an increasing number of marketers who understand this powerful twist on personalization. As such, its growing popularity among marketers is predictable.

Popular among marketers and customers

Customers, not surprisingly, appreciate the relevance that contextual marketing delivers. This applies to B2B and B2C customers alike. For example, 67% of business executives say that content that provides timely or unique information has a meaningful impact on their perception of a brand, according to recent research from The Economist Group Content Solutions and communications firm Peppercomm.

As for B2C customers, marketing solutions provider Webtrends found that

  • 81% of consumers respond positively when content is tailored to their needs
  • 84% can’t stand brand spam
  • 60% of recipients who say they never open email admit that they would if the subject line was personalized
  • 82% who sometimes open brand email say they would if the subject line was personalized

One impactful outcome of contextual marketing is customer engagement. As Janine Ingala, BMW of North America’s CRM Marketing Manager, says in “Marketing Accelerates Customer Engagement in its Drive for Loyalty,” “Customers’ loyalty to a brand depends on their emotional connection with the brand.” The relevance of contextual marketing shows that the brand using customers’ data is at least trying to understand and speak to them about what matters in that moment.

Indeed, relevance—especially when based on context—shows empathy and helps to create stronger customer connections. “Put yourself in other people’s shoes,” James Kugler, director, global digital marketing at Sigma-Aldrich,” says in “Under 40 and Overly Ambitious.” “It helps you understand customers and connect the dots.”

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