Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Harmony Murphy: Harnessing the power of curiosity in marketing

Harmony Murphy is GM Advertising UK at eBay and NDA’s monthly columnist

Curiosity is part of being human. In fact, it’s probably the reason you clicked on this article – and it’s what allows humans to be creative and innovative. We most certainly wouldn’t have got to the moon without it. And we’d be unlikely to have any great technology, like the internet, or smartphones.

Unfortunately, however – whether due to fear of the unknown, or perhaps a preference of sticking to tried and tested techniques – it’s all too common for marketers to leave curiosity at the office door (figuratively, of course, given the current circumstances). But for brands to truly stand out from today’s fierce competition, and help transform customers into lifetime brand advocates, they need to embrace their curious nature with both hands.

Remembering the real people behind the data

What does curious marketing involve? Put simply, we need to remember that our audiences are made up of unique, individual people – and shift our focus from “I need to acquire or retain customers” to “I want to build a strong relationship with this person.” 

To do this, we need to get under the skin of our customers – and better understand their behaviours and motivations. And the good news is that today, especially in the world of ecommerce marketing, we have highly sophisticated data and technology at our fingertips that allows us to paint an incredibly detailed picture of people’s shopping habits and preferences. This, in turn, can help marketers tailor and personalise their messages while being laser-focused with their targeting – reaching people at the optimal time with the most relevant content. 

This innovation means it’s an incredibly exciting time to work in the industry! But that doesn’t mean everyone is making the most of the opportunity at hand… Indeed, with so much data now available, its full potential remains largely untapped because marketers simply don’t have the skills or know-how to allow them to truly unlock its value. 

Asking the right questions

Customer data is gold dust, but in order to harness that curious mindset – and win over the hearts and minds of customers — marketers must ask more, and better, questions of their data, partners and technology. 

Digging into the details and interrogating data trends and opportunities will help marketers make more intelligent decisions. Whether they’re curious about why interest in blankets inexplicably peaked during a heatwave, or they’re intrigued about potential trends that could be sparked by upcoming sporting events, asking the right questions means marketers can spot and seize opportunities before their competitors and create influence over the entire sales funnel. 

Tapping into real-time trends

Because the triggers, and influences which spark consumer habits can change in the blink of an eye, it’s crucial for marketers to switch on their curious mindsets in real-time as well. 

For example, at eBay, if we notice a shift in shopping behaviour, this could indicate changes in financial circumstances, mindsets and priorities, long before official figures confirm so. It’s then up to curious marketers to identify these changes and dig deeper to understand the bigger picture. 

This was highlighted in our latest Christmas spend trends report which dug into consumer insights and shopper data to identify existing and emerging trends. Notably, we found that people will have different attitudes and approaches to festive shopping and celebration this year, depending on how their finances were impacted during the pandemic. Specifically, people with more disposable income are more likely to go all out this festive season and prioritise extravagant gifts or experiences. Meanwhile, those with less disposable income will be more family-oriented and focus on thrifty gifting.

Insights like these can be invaluable to marketers. By tapping into data insights and being curious about what makes customers tick, marketers can then hone their campaigns with messaging that resonates, and targeting that ensures relevancy, as well as open up completely new opportunities to reach customers that might be outside their core audience base. 

Cultivating a culture of curiosity

The final thought I’ll leave you with, is this: while curiosity on an individual level is great, at the end of the day it’s the responsibility of marketing leaders to cultivate a culture of curiosity – and equip teams across the board with the skills and knowledge they need to effectively probe, question and try new things.

Ultimately, we know that a curious marketing mindset and data go together like peas in a pod. So, when marketers are equipped and encouraged to truly understand the data at their fingertips, this can be transformed into meaningful insights. The result will be the creation of high-hitting campaigns that have people’s interests and needs at their core. And by harnessing feedback and pivoting in real-time, marketers can supercharge their impact on the bottom line.