The Belgian Post operator, bpost, has recently done extensive research on how brands can improve the relationship with their customers. The research identifies the behaviors that most effectively drive brand appreciation across different sectors. I caught up with Pierre Demarets, Head of Products and Solutions Development at bpost, who will be speaking at our annual community event in Berlin this year, together with Carlien Vanoverschelde, Products and Solutions Development Alchemist at bpost.

What triggered bpost to do the research?

We already knew a lot of businesses still send purely transactional pieces, like invoices, via the postal service. But we felt there was a relational communication gap. Relational communication is not only about acquiring customers and sending them invoices, but it should also be about what you can do to make them love you.

The first thing we wanted to do was get an idea of how the relationships between consumers and brands work, and where they’re situated on the love/hate spectrum.

We did extensive research among about 80 brands across the different sectors we service, to understand how good (or bad) the current relationship is, and how we could improve it.

Was there anything in the research that surprised you?

The gaps astounded us. There was a significant discrepancy between how a brand saw its relationship with its customers and how said consumers actually rated the relationship. Marketers naturally assumed consumers love the brand. After all, marketing knows them well, and speaks to them with relevant messages. They expected to be loved by consumers.

The results, however, were a little confronting, as consumers clearly indicated this was not the case. On certain occasions, the gap proved to be huge.

So, we asked consumers what they consider the best moments for brands to reach out to them. Say the brand wants to reward customers for their loyalty. This is an obvious one: everyone wants to be recognized and rewarded for their loyalty, but very few brands actually do this.

A customer's birthday, for example, is one of those key moments. It is the perfect occasion to send something to your customer to celebrate an important moment in their life, without trying to sell them anything extra. It's just about acknowledging the relationship with a little message stating: “Happy birthday, and thanks for being our customer.”

To visualize these gaps, we created the pulse score -comparable to a heart rate- as an indicator of the relationship's health.

Some of the research is publicly accessible. Is that correct?


That is correct. We did about 3000 interviews, focused on about 80 brands. We compiled the research into sector highlights, which are publicly available at https://pulsesurvey.be.

For 80 brands, we now know exactly how they could better target their customers, and when are the best times for their messages to have the greatest impact on the relationship. The results for these individual brands are confidential and will be solely used in our collaborative projects.

But any company in any of the sectors we researched could benefit from the sector highlights. Especially companies that strive to develop a direct relationship with consumers.

What does bpost offer brands looking to improve their relationship with customers?

Our salesperson acts as a consultant with brands. First, they assess the market situation and they share what the research shows about how much their customers love (or hate) the brand. Next, they reveal what consumers expect from a specific brand, and when they expect it. Finally, they work out a plan of action together.

You will be speaking at SPICY talks, our annual community event, in Berlin next week. Are you looking forward to it?

It's always cool to be able to share something as advanced as this initiative. We are looking forward to sharing some of the study results, especially the ones illustrating how printed in-home advertising is better at improving the relationship between a consumer and a brand at specific times.

To take this to the next level, we developed a solution that can be integrated with marketing automation platforms, automatically sending printed in-home advertising just as easily as sending an email. Brands will be able to integrate high-value personalized print communication into their marketing automation stack seamlessly.

The only thing the brand needs to do is tell us which templates they want to use. When they run their campaigns, everything happens automatically: we take care of the templating, printing and distribution. We'll even set up feedback loops to let them know if and when a piece was delivered, so they can move on to the next step in the marketing automation journey.

What will a SPICY talks visitor learn from seeing Carlien and yourself on stage?

It may be a little unexpected to see a postal operator giving a digital marketing presentation. The discipline of marketing is constantly evolving, and we have a responsibility of making people aware of the benefits of in-home advertising. We have a concrete data set that reveals some unexpected and valuable insights for brands, agencies and printers.

Carlien - the project manager for MAPPI (Marketing Automation Platform Print Integration) - will explain in more detail how we built the platform and why we wanted to offer a simple, all-in-one solution to our marketing automation customers. Our goal was to be completely agnostic when it comes to marketing platforms. So, we went with an API first approach, and we integrate with a brand's existing automation solutions.

We're looking forward to sharing our insights with the attendees in Berlin!

Marketing,

Product,

Guest Blog

Pierre Demarets

Oct 31, 2019

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