Addressing The Impossible-to-Please, Entitled Consumer Through Email

A recent MediaPost article by Selligent’s Chief Marketing Officer Nick Worth, “Entitled Consumers Need Your Empathy,” argues that empathy is critical in marketing to meet the needs of consumers who are nearly impossible to please: “Marketers should focus on the consumers whose expectations they can meet, bringing their empathetic understanding of those individuals to bear.” Unfortunately, email marketers tend to be forced into following rigorous calendars based solely on revenue projections, and send minimal communications based on what a consumer actually wants or needs from a brand.

It’s time to pivot. Here are a few ways you can demonstrate empathy for your entitled customers and stop sending myopic emails.

Understand your customer’s context. Is she traveling, stranded in a major snowstorm, or did she just make a purchase from your site?  Such information can tell you a lot about what your customer does or does not need to hear about next.



If she’s traveling, she certainly doesn’t need to receive an email about an in-store sale taking place hundreds of miles away. If she’s in a snowstorm, she’s probably not ready to hear about swimwear— maybe a clearance sale on coats. If she just made a purchase, stop promoting the products she now owns. The sheer number of possibilities is overwhelming.

It helps, though, to have clarity on common scenarios your customer faces and to map a customer journey that considers and addresses in-the-moment needs.

Think differently about your content. Email content is still largely focused on sales and brand-focused product messaging.  Simple tweaks like addressing the payoff instead of the product can go a long way toward connecting with consumers and relating to their lives.

I like the approach REI has long taken: the company doesn’t promote products, but the activity you can enjoy by owning those products. For example, instead of promoting snowboarding or ski gear, they help their customers “Plan a Perfect Powder Play Date.” This addresses what really motivates REI customers to purchase products: the promise of fun in the outdoors.

Another way content can be more empathetic is to include utility value. For example, many airline boarding pass emails link to “Add to Passbook” right from the email. Maps should show the address in HTML text, so that it is hyperlinked and opens GPS the moment it is tapped on a mobile device. If you send coupons via email, make sure they are scannable right from the phone instead of making customers print them. Simple things like this tell your customers that you respect them enough to value their time and make their lives easier.

Give recipients control, and really listen to them. Do your customers have control over the communications they receive from your brand? It’s important to allow your customers to modify subscription preferences and to contribute information to a profile. It’s equally important to “listen” to what your customers are telling you with their behaviors and the data exhaust they leave behind with each interaction with your brand.  

Brands that show more customer empathy will better differentiate from the masses of myopic brands that continue to ignore what their customers are telling them, loud and clear, through their behaviors.

What are some ways you’ve modified your email program to become more empathetic to your customers? Tell me in the comments.

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