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Direct marketers are shifting from response to engagement as they seek to build connections with consumers through social media interactions and other customized, direct-to-consumer tactics.

The shift to engagement is largely the result of digital disruption in the consumer’s path to purchase, which has complicated the traditional channels of distribution by empowering consumers to make purchases at any time, from anywhere, and on any device. In addition, emerging technologies have created an infinite series of inter-channel connections, giving the consumer nearly unlimited mobility and easy access to an endless stream of competing products. More and more, driving conversion relies on a brand’s ability to be in the right place, at the right time, and on the right screen based on their target audience.

Big Data has become a mainstay of one-to-one marketing, and for good reason. Two-way engagement is the focal point of always-on commerce, but the customer is in more control of the conversation today than ever before, so the onus is on marketers to create relevant and meaningful engagement. Knowing what will be meaningful is a matter of understanding your customer and his journey. Taking a data-driven approach to consumer profiling, targeting, and engagement is key to building meaningful experiences and providing relevant opportunities for the value exchange.

Mapping the customer’s journey offers rich insight into the flow of marketing touch points, but it is critical to design the right experiential elements of that journey. Factors ranging from product packaging to call center customer service can greatly influence an individual customer’s journey, so it’s important to treat every point of contact with the same level of importance.

Making engagement the goal of your one-to-one marketing strategy can be an effective tactic to regain some control over the customer’s journey, but be careful not to go overboard in your attempts to structure the path to purchase. It is crucial to test and retest constantly in order to understand changing consumer behavior. Consumer empowerment is one part of the new paradigm that you’re not going to break, and embracing two-way engagement means giving your customers just enough leeway to design their own journey.