On the heels of last month’s Adobe Summit, I attended ARKE Summit, where many of the themes echoed the previous event. ARKE Systems, a leading martech agency headquartered in Atlanta, was co-founded by Chris Spears, who serves as the company’s chief marketing technology officer. (Disclosure: I’m an ARKE board member.)
Spears opened ARKE Summit with comments about brand experience. “Customer experience is a major part of the story; the idea of being an experience business expands upon CX and implies an overall brand experience,” he told attendees. “For the theme of this event, we see brand experience as a set of journeys or experiences ... The transformation isn’t in this brand experience/journey theme, but in the explosion of channels and platforms that power them.”
To be sure, companies that invest in building relevant customer experience outperform their peers, said Margaret Wise, ARKE’s VP of strategy, who also took the stage. But, she went on to say, “Companies are facing unfair expectations from consumers who are judging all of their B2C and B2B experiences on the basis of leading firms that have invested millions of dollars in strategy, technology, and data. Nonetheless, companies have to address not only customer satisfaction, but customer effort--ease of the cognitive, time, physical and emotional efforts associated with the experience.”
As CMOs and the C-suite ask themselves tough questions to figure out how to become an experience business, I believe this is where design thinking comes into play: where you have empathy for your customers and then strategically build your martech stack of legacy and new technologies around that.
During her presentation, Wise pinpointed some of the trends ARKE is seeing in its work with clients. Among them:
- You must have the fundamentals in place and key data points integrated.
- Personalization is your ticket just to play in the game.
- Content needs to be orchestrated to be appropriate and relevant to the journey stage and channel.
- CX leaders are progressing from moment marketing to mindset marketing, leveraging external factors such as time, device, and third-party information to infer frame of mind.
One of ARKE’s clients is USAA, which provides FSI products and services to members of the military and their families. Patrick Kelly, AVP of emerging technologies, spoke about how USAA has differentiated itself by relentlessly focusing on the customer experience.
“Most of us expect an app to load in under three seconds, or we will abandon the app or the brand. End result? Shorter attention spans and more choices decrease our ability to maintain situational awareness,” he said. “Bottom line: In this era of future shock, we have to be terribly relevant and efficient in how we communicate with our members across all of our channels. As the number of choices in the market increases, the tolerance for bad experiences decreases.”
Kelly cited personalization as a key differentiator in experiences, though “it is not enough to create perfect personalized experiences,” he said. “We need to connect with other data sets like Google and other devices.”
He pointed to three trends, all influenced by Millennials, that are top-of-mind at USAA:
- Conversational UI
- Fully personalized experiences
- Embedded experiences
Finally, transitioning to become an experience business is an undertaking that requires cooperation among an entire enterprise. It is classic change management and represents an ongoing journey. Ashish Bisaria, SVP of North American operations at Fleetcor, recommended storytelling.
“From my experience, to help a company across all functions start true transformation and for it to be commercially successful, it is very helpful to use storytelling to help set the stage and then keep everyone updated and engaged all along the journey,” he said. “Use storytelling to help inspire where you are headed and why people should join you.”
To be a successful change leader, Bisaria mentioned the following “key ingredients”:
- Use a lot of active listening
- Understand the dominant culture
- Get the backing of CEO and board; coach up
- Respect the incumbent
- Clear view on where value lies
- Establish a rhythm for metabolic change; experiential learning
- Manage uncertainty and fear
- Be a single source of truth
- Expect speed bumps along the way