Companies often talk about how digital transformation is empowering them to listen to customers so they focus better on their needs. But how many do? And if they do, how many truly act on those findings?
In Amsterdam, Philips has set up what could be described as a digital command centre that may look to the casual observer like a NASA mission control room. Dozens of screens are watched by a 40-strong cross-departmental team drawn from the global brand’s marketing, ecommerce, CRM, communications, and IT departments. Importantly, there is a direct link and regular briefing updates with the brand’s sales teams and, even more crucially, its product development department.
The data on the screen streams what is happening in Philips’ marketing efforts across the globe. Campaigns are monitored for success, so the lessons can be passed on, but, perhaps more interestingly, there is a very attentive ear tuned in to its social media activity because it is here that it can pick up on trends and unmet demand.
Women Talked, Philips Listened
Proof of the point comes with a recent move to offer a new customer journey to women looking to remove unwanted hair. As global head of digital marketing and media, Blake Cahill heads up the company’s digital command centre in Amsterdam. He and his team were asked to evaluate sales of Philips’ Lumea range, a light-based technology used to stop unwanted hair growing back again, without the need for a razor.
“It’s a great product, and women who have it were loving using it, the only potential block to sales was that it costs around £300,” Cahill said. “So that’s a sizeable outlay for anyone. Even if the reviews are great, which they are, you’re still going to wonder whether it’s right for you. So we worked with the sales guys to listen in to what people were saying about the product and what the obstacles to purchase were.”
The solution was to come up with a leasing option where consumers have minimal upfront risk and pay a regular fee for using it. It’s worked really well.
Test Bed For Trends
Tuning in to what customers are telling you over social, in forums, and in responses to your content marketing programme is crucial for finding out what they and other prospects are saying about your products and services. That is a given. But it’s also proving very useful for picking up on trends that new products could explore and, in Philips’ case, how those prototype products can be tested, such as a new type of male grooming product that has proven highly successful.
“One of the challenges, and opportunities, in male grooming is that beards are most definitely fashionable,” Cahill said. “What we were picking up on was a trend, particularly around men aged mid-20s to mid-30s to not shave every day, but to also not go the full hog and grow a beard. There was clearly a market developing between men clean-shaving every day and those grooming a beard. The answer for us was the OneBlade.”
The OneBlade comes with trimming combs that can groom a beard as well as, crucially, offer a shave that leaves a variable length of stubble behind.
“We knew we needed to test it, so we came up with a potential customer and called him ‘Ryan,’ a mid-20s to mid-30s man who likes to maintain a certain amount of stubble,” Cahill explained. “We micro-targeted a group of ‘Ryans’ to build a focus group for trying out the product. They were then great at becoming evangelists for it, which, in turn, gave us the data we needed to find people just like our own Ryans to advertise the new product to on social media, and beyond. It’s been a massive success.”
Easing The Customer Journey
Cahill claimed they were able to do this because not only does the digital command centre keep a close eye on social conversations consumers are having with its brands around the world, it is fanatical about understanding their journeys. In fact, the digital command centre has massive walls filled with white boards where teams sketch out the customer journey for its various products and how they vary from one market to another.
“Knowing the customer journeys for each of our products in each of our markets not only helps us devise smoother journeys, it’s great for finding where the influencers are,” Cahill said. “If you’re working in different markets with multiple products, where you look to find people like ‘Ryan’ will be very different in an EU country from, say, South Korea, and they’re likely to buy on different channels, either on the high street or through e-commerce. It helps you understand how many touch points each product purchaser has and where you can make the journey as smooth as possible.”
Marketing Leads, But Doesn’t Own, Transformation
Cahill believes that the crucial lesson that can be learnt from the digital command centre is that tapping in to which digital marketing messages and channels are working, and which are not, really is just the start. This beginning involves making sure that there is a consistent message and tone around the world, and that if a campaign or tactic is working well, other markets are informed. The same applies if it is not, and a campaign needs to be altered or paused.
The big takeaway for other companies is that this knowledge can also lead transformation across an organisation, but only when a multidisciplinary approach is taken. It should naturally be led by marketing, Cahill suggested, but it has to be inclusive. It cannot, in his opinion, be a job title that resides within a digital marketing team that rarely reaches out.
“Marketing has a great opportunity to lead transformation and to help companies better understand their customers in the various markets they operate in,” he said. “We’ve found the key is to be cross-departmental, and, in particular, we’re always liaising with sales and the product development guys to feed back what the market is telling us and what opportunities there are out there.”
This strategy ranges from helping to creating new products or models, such as the Lumea or the OneBlade, to just the everyday note that people want to see more products in rose gold.
As digital tools change the way every department works within an organisation, from product development to operations and sales to marketing, Cahill’s advice is that this is a golden opportunity. With marketing having the best view of the customer, it is marketers, more than anyone else, who can turn their voice into actionable insights that open up opportunities for devising new products and customer journeys.