Gartner’s 2014 CEO survey found that digital marketing is the top priority for CEOs of technology-aware businesses and the focal point for investment over the next five years. But is marketing really ready?
Investment in technology is undoubtedly bringing new opportunities for marketing to do things differently. But if there is real benefit in these investments, how marketing uses this new capability will be critical – will it be incremental or is this the opportunity to turn the marketing function by 90°?
It is up to marketers to step away from the day-to-day challenges and think about how they want to engage with connected customers in the future. How are you going to use this increased investment to differentiate your customer experience?
Connectivity: Transforming Relationships With Customers
Connected customers are demanding more than one-off interactions with the organisations that serve them. Many of the leading UK media companies have recognised this and have programmes underway to ‘transform their relationship with customers’. This involves moving from managing individual interactions to developing an ongoing dialogue with customers about the things that matter to them.
The connected world allows organisations not only to connect with their customers, but also to help the organisation’s customers (both business and consumer) to connect with each other. We have already seen this with the rise of recommendations in retail, where the “ratings” of products have connected both the retailer to their consumers, and connected consumers with each other. B2B organisations are starting to develop a similar model, connecting their consumer customers to the organisation’s business customers or partners, in order to put themselves at the centre of this network and increase value to all their parties. This “B2B2C” model is starting to be seen both in media and also the banking industries. A very different connection model is developing as a result, which is changing the role of the traditional B2B organisation.
In order to progress these relationships and optimise the customer lifecycle, marketers need to understand what customers want and, most importantly, what they value. Priority needs to be given to detailed understanding and analysis of the data you hold on your customers, together with the increasing emergence of open data and initiatives such as the UK Government’s midata. The focus of marketing is changing. After all, effective relationships drive loyalty, build communities and cultivate influencers.
Engagement: The Personalised Experience
To connect with customers, marketers have to use this new customer insight to engage effectively in a personalised, relevant and highly contextual way. We are seeing marketing shift from broadcasting messages to target customers, to using data and insight to have an on-going dialogue with individuals, where brands remember the last interactions and build on them appropriately.
Indeed, when we are running the ‘art of the possible’ workshops with clients, personalisation always seems to be a top theme. This is perhaps most apparent in the media industry where the proliferation of content means it is even more important to understand an individual’s preferences and what they want right now, to help them to navigate the ever-growing volume of available content.
The ability to test and learn and adapt in very short timescales allows marketers to readily understand how to transform their relationships with customers. The new technologies allow organisations to respond in this agile way.
Technology And Data: Enablers Or Leaders
New technology and data is not just enabling organisations to engage with customers across their owned channels, but also to extend this personalised, one-to-one relationship across earned and paid media channels. A marketer can drive placement of banner ads for a particular individual, timed to coincide with the delivery of email offers.
Interestingly, it’s the technology that appears to be leading the change here, rather than the aspirations of marketers to integrate conversations across these channels and deliver a leading customer experience. Marketers are asking “do I need a data management platform?” rather than “how can I use my customer data to have a consistent conversation with my customers across paid, owned and earned channels?” and “how can I use insight about my most valuable customers to improve the effectiveness of my acquisition strategy?”.
Marketers need to be driving this change and should not only think about a combined strategy that engages customers in an ongoing relationship throughout the lifecycle, but also about the data implications. Those organisations that have tightly aligned the interests of both the CMO and the CIO will be best placed to drive customer experience excellence and set the standards for connected customer relationships.
There are privacy considerations for the way the data is used across channels, as the classification of first and third party data is blurring, and the rules differ globally. Data privacy is playing catch up with the technology, but marketers need to navigate this and do the right thing for their customers. If the customer data and communications are managed in an open and transparent way, there is an opportunity to gain first-mover advantage. Done well, we are seeing this data-driven approach to marketing deliver real value to both the customer and the business, demonstrated through increased levels of engagement, customer value and customer satisfaction.
Customers Expect More
The CMO and CIO need to work together to realise the benefits of investments in digital marketing. Marketers need to think about how they want to engage differently in the future and make sure the capabilities support their vision. It is not enough to just do what you do today but a little better – customers expect more.
Customers are comparing your experience to their interactions with leading retailers, media and technology companies. If you can’t keep up, you risk losing customers through an irrelevant experience. Investing in technology is arguably the easy part. Leveraging new insights and technologies to truly transform the way you engage with the connected customer is marketing’s big challenge.