The year 2018 delivered a few bombshells to the digital marketing industry, particularly when it comes to customer engagement. The enactment of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU, followed closely by the ratification of the California Consumer Privacy Act, introduced strict safeguards for marketing to consumers. Further limiting access, increasing amounts of online purchase behavior data are now owned by e-commerce monopolies. And as Facebook’s fall from grace continues, brands are having a tough time staying connected to their audiences.

Are we experiencing a digital customer engagement crisis?

While the industry is cautious to push the panic button just yet, there are telltale signs: According to some industry experts, GDPR single-handedly annihilated up to 60 percent of email marketing contact lists. As it gets harder to reach consumers, “increasing engagement” has emerged as the number one priority named by 59 percent of North American marketing professionals in a recent survey.

Now that marketing opt-in needs to be earned for each customer, brands are reshuffling their engagement strategies. As a result, marketers are (re)discovering analog tools to connect with consumers in real life (“IRL”). When used correctly, these time-honored tools not only hold the keys to memorable customer experiences but also solve the looming engagement crisis – especially when executed through omnichannel marketing platforms.

Here are some of the analog marketing tools that are keeping digital marketers connected to their audiences:

In-store brand activations

E-commerce is the future – but brands sparkle in real-life retail environments. Successful labels in the sneakers and streetwear industry are growing cult followings by releasing limited edition product ‘drops’ exclusively in physical stores. Retailers from all segments are using in-store events and activations to build brand recognition and product awareness. And consumers are loving it: 75 percent of 2018 holiday gift shoppers purchased products in-store for a chance to “see products in person.”

Savvy retail brands – including many Selligent clients – are also connecting their brick-and-mortar storefronts to customer intelligence stored in universal consumer profiles for double wins: First, by serving on-taste product recommendations and second, by updating profiles with information from store visits and offline purchases. And during store visits, raffles and giveaways prove powerful in collecting demographic data and opt-ins.

Events and concerts

Everybody loves a free concert or sports event, even if they need to fork over some private data to get on the list. For years, soft drink companies such as Red Bull and Mountain Dew have been running their own concert and sports festival tours to stoke their consumers and engrain their logos into the public consciousness. Asked in an Opus survey about their motivation for using events, 64 percent of global brand marketers listed “raise brand awareness,” followed by “drive sales revenues” (62 percent) and “educate customers” (60 percent).

Real world events also provide the perfect backdrop for user-generated content (UGC). Brands let guests – or invited influencers (see Hot Trend) – spread the excitement over social media. It’s exactly how musicians such as Kanye West now reach hundreds of millions of social touch points by staging album ‘listening parties’ for VIP fans. Bridging the gap between real life and digital marketing, Selligent client BMW of North America uses consumer profiles to identify high-propensity leads and invite them to exclusive events that have since doubled their attendance rates.

Hot trend: Boosting events with influencers

Offline events magically transform real-life happenings into viral digital content by the sheer power of social media influencers. Savvy brands curate their list of influencer guests with as much care as their event line-ups. Standout examples include fashion brand Revolve with its annual #Revolvefestival that has become an overnight darling of the fashion scene thanks to high-profile influencers.

Surveys among UK and US marketers reflect this trend: 43 percent planned to spend more budgets on influencer marketing in 2018 than in the year before. In terms of channels, visual content is king – so Instagram is the preferred influencer marketing platform for 36 percent of cosmetic, fashion, and luxury marketers in Europe right now. But be careful: Some so-called influencers bolster their follower counts with bots, so choose wisely.

Direct mail

You’ve read correctly, good old snail mail is making a major comeback. Whether it’s upscale print media (think Restoration Hardware catalog), or personalized coupons and product messages, a tangible print product in the right hands can make all the difference. Then again, this is not yesterday’s junk mail blasted into random households: Behind the scenes, mailing lists are carefully narrowed down via omnichannel marketing platforms to target the right consumers according to location, education, household income, purchase history, and other attributes.

Industry insiders confirm the potential of snail mail when it is combined with laser-focused targeting. In a 2018 StreetFight survey, 29 percent of US local marketers rated direct mail to be as effective as company pages on social media. Direct mail is also how Selligent client Audi in Belgium invited high-potential candidates to test drive their latest car model – with engine-roaring results.

Classes and workshops

Every marketer knows the old proverb: Teach someone how to fish, and they will remember your brand forever. At a time when stationary retail is having trouble attracting footfall into storefronts, classes and workshops are proving tremendously powerful real-world marketing tools. U.S. grocery chain Whole Foods has garnered tremendous response with Healthy Eating Workshops, while iconic shoe brand Toms invites customers to decorate their shoes during in-store events. And anyone who’s tried booking one of Apple’s photo walks or artist sessions knows – these real-life events fill up quickly!

Hot trend: Instagram-able scenes

The recent hype around gourmet cupcakes is not just a matter of amazing flavor. These sweet treats are also perfect Instagram fodder! Recent years saw the rise of entire real-life store concepts – like The Museum of Ice Cream – built around Instagram-perfect fantasy worlds.

Whether it’s photo opportunities with brand mascots, early hands-on tests with upcoming products, or selfie-friendly photo backdrops, brands are following the formula ‘Build it, and they will snap.’ When setting up real-life events, “shareworthy experiences/environments” are now a priority for 45 percent of brand marketers in North America. When it comes to harnessing the power of real-life events, it’s ‘Photo, or it didn’t happen!’

Looking for more winning ways to engage consumers in 2019? Make sure to download our free eBook The 2019 Mobile Marketing Guide.

The 2019 Mobile Marketing Guide

When it comes to mobile strategy, marketers have to stay ahead of the curve.

Read More +

Inspiration in Your Inbox!

Sign up for your monthly dose of thought leadership.
You can unsubscribe in each newsletter at any time.


See our platform in action

book a demo