Collapse Functional Silos with Customer Engagement Modeling

As Marketing Leaders, we are often charged with delivering consistent customer engagement across the many functions within our enterprise. Functional teams operate in silos and each function has their own view of the customer.   It can be quite a challenge for Marketing Leaders to influence these disparate functions without having direct control.  Building a Customer Engagement Model is an effective way to get functional teams collaborating and focused on delivering consistent customer engagement.

What is Customer Engagement Modeling?

A Customer Engagement Model is simply an action plan that spans every stage of the customer’s journey.  It describes the engagement strategies that can be deployed to better engage customers, ensure consistent brand value and guides the delivery of more personalized experiences for your customers.


How to Build Your Customer Engagement Model

Here are 5 ways Marketing Leaders can move from a function by function view of the customer to a company-wide customer engagement model that can be executed across the enterprise.

  1. Put the focus on your customers
    • Deploy a customer first strategy, and address issues from the customer point of view.
    • Create customer experience maps and leverage customer journey analytics.
    • Use customer surveys as well as social monitoring to keep informed about what is being said about your products, service and your company. Distribute these insights across functional teams.
  2. Collaborate Routinely
    • Many companies hold annual or semi-annual business planning events. Tap into these routine events and incorporate customer engagement model design and optimization.
    • Hold cross functional collaborative workshops to devise engagement strategies.
  3. Establish a Customer Engagement Cross Functional Team
    • Assign this team to work together to implement the customer engagement strategies as designed in your Customer Engagement Model.
    • Provide adequate decision-making power so that greater execution agility can be achieved.
  4. Think Total Cost of Customer Engagement
    • When investment is needed, look beyond just marketing. View customer engagement holistically and look across functions to effectively prioritize investments that impact customer experience.
    • Focus on eliminating investments that support outdated methods.
  5. Hire a Content Strategist
    • Adding value to the customer requires volumes of meaningful content. Centralizing content creation and distribution management can support consistency from the customer perspective– and create efficiencies from the functional team perspective.

Collaboration is The Key to Success

The marketing function is best suited to orchestrate customer engagement for the entire enterprise.  Putting the customer needs first and focusing on improving the customer experience gets everyone rowing in the same direction.  Of course, effective collaboration across the functional teams is the key.  Marketing must provide the strong leadership necessary to achieve function by function consistency in customer engagement.

For more ideas on creating a customer engagement model, download our e-book, Implementing Customer Engagement Across Multiple Touch Points.

About VeraCentra.  We’re a team of experts here to help you implement and execute the

How Artificial Intelligence Drives Better Customer Experience

The world is producing more data than ever before and it is only going to continue to grow. A recent Harvard Business Review article cites that by 2020 44 trillion gigabytes of data, will be produced every day. For context, 1 gigabyte holds the contents of enough books to cover a 30-foot-long shelf.

For marketers charged with delivering better customer experiences this means mountains of data to plough through to extract actionable insights from a plethora of customer interactions.  However, as the article explains, there is a solution to this challenge. Implementing a system that utilizes AI and machine learning can help uncover the insights needed to deliver the brand experiences our customers expect.

Artificial Intelligence to the Rescue

Provided smart systems are set up properly, AI can predict customer preferences and drive better, personalized experiences.  And, AI not only facilitates better customer experiences. By deploying the right Artificial Intelligence technology, your business can benefit from:

  • Saving time and money by automating routine processes and tasks
  • Increasing productivity and operational efficiencies
  • Making faster business decisions based on outputs from cognitive technologies
  • Mining vast amount of data to generate quality leads and grow your customer base
  • Achieving cost savings, by optimizing your business, your workforce, and your products
  • Increasing revenue by identifying and maximizing sales opportunities
  • Growing expertise by enabling analysis and offering intelligent advice and support

 

Technology Alone Will Not Produce Meaningful Results

Machine learning is fundamentally only a facilitator. It brings all the data together and presents it in such a way as to be usable. But the machines still need human input. It is your strategy for applying advanced personalization that will reap results. To illustrate this point, the article cites two meaningful examples — two different businesses, two different approaches. Both leveraging AI and machine learning technology to drive better customer experiences.

  • Sprint: Reduced customer churn rates by 10%, to an all-time historic low, by using Machine Learning and giving Customer Service the insights needed to have next best actions at their fingertips.
  • Royal Bank of Scotland: Used machine learning to help them move from a sales-driven culture to becoming a more trusted advisor than your typical bank. Through a new culture and technology strategy, the company pivoted and raised its Net Promoter Score by 18 points. Analytics helped the bank identify customers that need help and the bank calls them to give them financial advice.

To find out more about how AI drives better customer experience, download the Harvard Business Review article, AI Can Comb Through Your Data to Create More Compelling Customer Experiences, here.

About VeraCentra.  We’re a team of experts here to help you implement and execute the capabilities your company needs to make real personalized connections with your customers.

 

The Ins and Outs of Touchpoint Customer Journey Mapping

Mapping customer journeys by touchpoint has become a popular process for today’s marketers. Why? Because customer experience has become the most critical driver in securing conversions and new revenues, as well as ensuring retention and customer value growth. And, creating a visual map that illustrates the multiple ways your customers interact across each touchpoint is not only a fun activity, but also a productive one, as it reveals ways you can make the customer’s experience easier, more convenient, and more enjoyable.

5 Best Practice Methods to Creating Customer Journey Maps

There’s an easy way to distinguish and think about customer journey mapping.  This process will allow you to walk in your customer’s shoes and understand what it really feels like to be a customer of your company. Here are some best practice methods to guide you in creating a customer journey map.

  1. Make it a team activity. As the customer interacts across multiple touchpoints, create a team to include cross functional team members. Consider e-commerce, store associates, customer service, and fulfillment operations and other marketing team members who manage specific channels.
  2. Gather information from your customer. Send out surveys to best understand your customer’s goals, reasons for interacting, preferences for ways to communicate and why and how the customer interacts pre and post purchase.
  3. Keep the focus narrow. We all know one size does not fit all in today’s personalized customer landscape. The best way to narrow things down is by selecting a customer segment or persona. You can also narrow things by deciding on a single type of journey based on the customer’s mission. Are your customer’s exploring possibilities? Are they focused on use or customer support?  Are they on a path to purchase?
  4. Capture emotion and channel as well as the touchpoint. As your customer moves from interaction to interaction, purpose and emotion play an important part in the overall experience. A great way to understand emotion is to ask your customer in your surveys.
  5. Take action. When your map is created, analyze your findings. Can you identify the friction points? Are there customer interactions that are working well and should be expanded to create more opportunities?

How Lowes Improvement Stores Grew Revenues with Customer Journey Mapping

Here’s a great case in point. Lowes Home Improvement stores narrowed the focus by understanding the customers’ experience as they remodel their kitchen.  What Lowes found was that the kitchen remodeler began their journey by purchasing “How to Guides” in store and on the website.  After a series of multiple interactions in store and online, Lowes developed a clear picture of the path remodelers took to ultimately purchase cabinets, counter tops, appliances, flooring, etc. By removing pain points and obstacles in the customer path, Lowes successfully grew revenues across their kitchen product category.

Touchpoint customer journey mapping is not as daunting as some would make it out to be. It is a creative and fluid process. The important thing is to start. So, start with the information you have and change and/or add to the maps as more information becomes available or more interactions happen.

To find out more about how to implement touchpoint customer journey mapping, download our eBook, How to Implement Personalization at Scale Across all Customer Touchpoints.

About VeraCentra.  We’re a team of experts here to help you implement and execute the capabilities your company needs to make real personalized connections with your customers.

Customer Experience Marketing Strategy: 5 Easy Ways to Add Personalization

The traditional marketing approach to campaign strategy isn’t as effective as it used to be. Many marketing programs still push products based on business need. The timing of campaigns continues to be calendar or event-driven. And marketing communications are still strategized, designed and executed in single channel silos.

Yet, customer expectations keep getting higher and the need for personalized customer experiences more urgent. So, sticking with generic, repetitive, and irrelevant campaigns, messaging, or offers is only going to make customers walk, increasing the risk of decreased revenue. In this environment, changing the way you market is not an option, it’s a mandate. But, how do you decide which strategic actions are the most urgent to move your organization toward personalizing your customer experience marketing strategy and keeping your customers happy?

5 Ways to Personalize Your Customer Experience Marketing Strategy Right Now.

1. Flip your marketing approach from product first to customer first. Research by McKinsey states that conveying a relevant message is up to 50 times more likely to trigger a purchase than a low impact recommendation.

2.  Centralized data fuels modern marketing techniques. Integrate the fragmented data created by channel specific technologies like: email tools, e-commerce engines, social media, and POS systems to achieve a 360º customer view. This holistic customer profile record captures all data, for a single customer, from across channels and systems, aggregates that data to understand what’s important to customers, and applies those customer insights to deliver personalized and engaging customer experiences.

3.  Add context to the mix by understanding your customer’s situation and perspective. The more you know about your customer’s needs and wants, the more personalized your messages will be. There is a much higher probability that a personalized message will capture your customer’s attention … increasing your marketing response and engagement levels.

4.  Deliver your messages and offers in real-time, at the exact moment your customer is there to receive it. Adding this capability to your tool set allows you to align your messaging to the customer’s interaction cadence, versus a calendar or event. Used effectively, real time creates a big wow response, sending customers a message that says, “Hey we know you!”

5.  Track customers across the entirety of their journey irrespective of channel or device. Cross channel is different from multi- channel. Multi-channel is a silo-channel approach — meaning strategy and execution happens in individual channels. Cross channel embraces the whole customer journey. Cross-channel orchestration enables you to design and execute marketing messages that match the customer’s path. When you can match the customer’s path, you increase the likelihood your customer will engage and respond.

To find out more about how to personalize your customer experience marketing strategy, download our eBook, How to Apply Context, Cross Channel, and Real-Time to Your Marketing Programs.

 

About VeraCentra:  VeraCentra provides easy-access Customer Data Hubs. We represent best of breed Cross Channel Engagement Platforms (so marketers get the right fit) and offer the Marketing and Data Services that guarantee speed to value and quick win ROI from technology investments. We deliver these solutions with an unmatched wholehearted approach bringing personalized support, care, and service to every client. That’s why many of our client relationships span more than a decade.

MarTech Trends: What’s Hot? What’s Not?

Advanced personalization marketing demands investment in key martech categories if you want to stay ahead of, or at least on pace with, your competitors and most importantly your customers.

But, with over 5000 marketing technologies and hundreds of categories to choose from, it is difficult to cull through which martech trends are important to take note of and which should be dismissed.

The fundamental question we need to ask ourselves before investing is; “Which technologies offer the most business value in an ever-changing customer experience landscape?”

 

What’s Hot? 5 MarTech Categories to Consider Seriously

Customer expectations continue to soar and unfortunately the technologies they use are often far ahead of the technologies accessed by our marketers. So, it should not be surprising that the technologies on the “what’s hot” list are those that help marketers deliver a seamless brand experience to customers irrespective of channel or device.

  1. To serve the right content to the right customer at the right time you need a content marketing platform.
  2. Cross-channel marketing demands that all execution channels work together to provide a unified experience for the customer. To achieve this, you will need a cross channel campaign management system.
  3. Identity resolution is one of the issues at the forefront for many marketers. To understand who your customer is and what they want, you need to be able to identify them irrespective of the channel or device they use. Cross-channel identity resolution technologies allow you to create a single record for each individual customer.
  4. As we move towards personalization on an individual customer basis the volume of data marketers need at their finger-tips increases exponentially. Customer data platforms are designed to manage all types of data in a systematic manner.
  5. An analytic engine, driven by artificial intelligence, creates a system that delivers the next best offer or action at the right time and coordinated across channels. These analytic engines take into account current conditions and a wide view of that customer’s behavior, history, and preferences – AKA highly sensitive contextual marketing.

 

What’s not? Categories to Walk Away From

  1. A world of hyper-personalization has no place for campaign management tools related to batch and blast.
  2. Customers see channels and devices as interchangeable – without borders. Data management systems that continue to silo data by channel or device should be a thing of the past.
  3. Cross-channel attribution is predominantly used for digital channels. Relying solely on cross-channel attribution does not give marketers the whole picture. Moving forward unified marketing measurement is the way to go.

To find out more about how to implement the latest martech tools, download our latest eBook, How to Implement Personalization Across all Customer Touchpoints.

 

About VeraCentra:  VeraCentra provides easy-access Customer Data Hubs. We represent best of breed Cross Channel Engagement Platforms (so marketers get the right fit) and offer the Marketing and Data Services that guarantee speed to value and quick win ROI from technology investments. We deliver these solutions with an unmatched wholehearted approach bringing personalized support, care, and service to every client. That’s why many of our client relationships span more than a decade.

The CIO and CMO Relationship for a Customer First Strategy

A customer first strategy, focused on advancing personalization tactics, is necessary to retain and build the lifetime value of today’s demanding customer. But most companies are not able to enact such a strategy. Why? Partly because the CIO and CMO relationship has not been reimagined to deliver the transformational change needed for a customer first lens.

What’s at Stake? $800 Billion!

The Boston Consulting Group states that advanced personalization represents an estimated $800 billion market share. Leaders who jump on this opportunity early by executing individualized and unified experiences, will lock in customers and reap the benefits.

What’s the CIO Role in Capturing this Opportunity?

CIOs and CMOs face many threats and opportunities as technology continually resets customers’ expectations and redefines how brands need to differentiate themselves. CIOs across all industries are beginning to realize that traditional IT approaches aren’t agile enough or fast enough to address the increasing speed of innovation.  Marketing needs to interact with customers in real-time if they are to meet the customers’ rising expectations.

The bottom line is that advancing personalization tactics demand a transformational change in the technologies, systems, and processes needed to win, serve, and retain customers. This means CIO’s must shift from traditional approaches of incremental technology and processes improvements that support business outcomes to a new approach that enables customer centric strategies, first, and business outcomes second.

CMOs and CIOs Must Create an Integrated Approach, Together

The CMO and CIO relationship is critical in creating an integrated approach that drives personalized customer engagement based on 4 key factors: A customer first strategy, insights derived from data and analytics, advanced technology tools, and different ways of working. The CIO and CMO relationship must be one of working together to create a structure that can deliver:

  • Engaging digital customer experiences that drive growth: Technology’s role in improving customer experiences, differentiating products and services, and building partner ecosystems requires continuous engagement from the CMO and CIO to enable their teams to keep up with consumer demands.
  • The supporting insights that drive the creative development of differentiated customer experiences: Real-time decisioning requires in-line analytics that access all customer data and provide context regarding the customer’s progress in their buying journey and enable marketing to react with the customer interaction, as it happens.
  • Implementation of operational agility enabling marketing and customer facing functions to move quickly and WOW customers: The faster you execute, the more quickly you win customers over. The goal is to provide a transparent multichannel experience that is simple enough for all customer facing functions to use with ease and speed.

To find out more about the criticality of the CMO and CIO relationship in creating a customer first organization, download The Harvard Business Review’s article, How Marketers Can Personalize at Scale, compliments of VeraCentra.

About VeraCentra: Marketers everywhere want to use data to implement more modern customer engagement strategies. But there can be many obstacles standing in the way of success. That’s where we come in. VeraCentra provides easy-access Customer Data Hubs. We represent best of breed Cross Channel Engagement Platforms (so marketers get the right fit) and offer the Marketing and Data Services that guarantee speed to value and quick win ROI from technology investments. We deliver these solutions with an unmatched wholehearted approach bringing personalized support, care, and service to every client. That’s why many of our client relationships span more than a decade.

5 Ways to Advance Your Personalization Strategy

Advancing your personalization strategy takes a shift in mindset and process to that of customer first. Yet, in most marketing organizations, there is not yet an in-depth skillset around developing a customer first strategy. And, marketing continues to be brand/product first, trigger, event or promo focused, and channels remain in silos.  How can marketing leaders implement the transformation needed to switch from current strategies and tactics to new and better ways to personalize customer engagement?

 

Developing a New Playbook to Advance Personalization

You don’t have to look too far to find evidence that advancing your personalization strategy is good for business. A Forrester Research Study states the case quite succinctly. Advanced personalization increases average order values 1.9x, customer retention 1.7x, and customer lifetime value 1.6x.

However, achieving these kinds of results is not a straightforward matter. It requires an organizational transformation to break down the silos and re-tool everyone’s mindset from focusing on business outcomes first, and direct programs to achieve those outcomes, to a customer first focus with outcomes to follow.

In other words, a new integrated approach that spans the organization is needed — a new playbook. A playbook that, ultimately, allows the organization to fully realize a unified customer experience.

 

Collaboration — The Advanced Way of Working

Developing a new playbook works best when there is collaboration across the organization (with marketing taking the lead). One of the best ways to encourage people to be open to new ideas, ways of working, and mindsets is by getting everyone involved. A great place to start is with a series of workshops that allows your team to have ownership of the deliverables — working toward making the customer experience more unified and tailored.

 

5 Workshop Topics

Here are five topics to get you started on the road to developing a new playbook with your team:

  • Create customer experience map and identify pain points. Work as a team to create and execute ways to remove those pain points
  • Perform customer journey analysis and identify opportunities to make the journey easier for the customer
  • Identify stops in the work flow on the path to purchase and develop new experiences that pave the way.
  • Take current programs and elevate them to simplify and make more convenient for the customer.
  • Create new programs focused giving the customer what they need and want, when they want it with tailored real-time interactions.

Advancing your personalization strategy is not an option. Leading brands are demonstrating to their customers that they care for them as individuals and their customers are responding with their loyalty.

To find out more about how to implement advanced personalization at scale across the organization, download our latest eBook, How to Implement Personalization Across all Customer Touchpoints.

 

About VeraCentra: Marketers everywhere want to use data to implement more modern customer engagement strategies. But there can be many obstacles standing in the way of success. That’s where we come in. VeraCentra provides easy-access Customer Data Hubs. We represent best of breed Cross Channel Engagement Platforms (so marketers get the right fit) and offer the Marketing and Data Services that guarantee speed to value and quick win ROI from technology investments. We deliver these solutions with an unmatched wholehearted approach bringing personalized support, care, and service to every client. That’s why many of our client relationships span more than a decade.

Advanced Personalization Techniques–Making Things Easier for Your Customer

The concept of personalization is commonplace in marketing organizations. But, personalization techniques are evolving rapidly from a tactical to a strategic approach based on making things easier for an individual customer. Leading brands have evolved their personalization strategies to meet individual customer’s demands for intimacy. If you are not following suit your customers will notice and you risk losing market share.

How Are Personalization Techniques Advancing?

The personalization tactics of today vs the new and more advanced personalization strategies are as different as night and day. Most marketing organizations are using personalization tactics that focus on relevancy — event triggers, segments or personas — and are constructing messages and offers based on what others have done in the past – for example, people who bought this also bought this.

Advanced personalization strategies focus on the individual customer experience – making things easier for the customer — and are based on predictive analytics and insights. Advanced personalization techniques deliver an experience that uses customer data and understanding to frame, guide, extend, and enhance interactions based on an individual’s history, preferences, context, and intent. ​Its aim is to improve a customer’s experience by make things easier for them – for example, I buy a dress and the brand makes a recommendation for a dress shoes, a bag, and a jacket that will complete the outfit. Or, you upload a picture of yourself so you can try different shades of lipstick before you buy. Both actions help the customer.

 

 

What is Best for the Individual Customer A Customer Centric Approach

Customers have realized that one of the big advantages of technology is that it helps them quickly take care of what they deem to be mundane tasks. This allows them to move on to spending their time doing the things they want to do and enjoying experiences that make them happy and enrich their lives.

Advanced personalization is a customer-centric strategy, not a traditional product centric approach. It demands organizations to flip their mindset, processes, and outlook to be “people first.” It is all about what is best for the individual customer and is based on understanding their behavior, preferences, wants and needs. It uses machine learning to help marketers, and others in the organization who have touchpoints with the customer, create unique experiences based on customer context and intent. It is not based on what everyone else has done in the past.

To find out more about how to implement advanced personalization at scale across the organization, download our latest eBook, How to Implement Personalization Across all Customer Touchpoints.

About VeraCentra: Marketers everywhere want to use data to implement more modern customer engagement strategies. But there can be many obstacles standing in the way of success. That’s where we come in. VeraCentra provides easy-access Customer Data Hubs. We represent best of breed Cross Channel Engagement Platforms (so marketers get the right fit) and offer the Marketing and Data Services that guarantee speed to value and quick win ROI from technology investments. We deliver these solutions with an unmatched wholehearted approach bringing personalized support, care, and service to every client. That’s why many of our client relationships span more than a decade.

Implementing Personalization at Scale to Deliver ROI – 4 Key Capabilities

In today’s Engagement Economy, it is imperative for brands to take their personalization efforts to the next level or risk alienating customers with “old school” personalization strategies that continue to prioritize volume rather than value. But implementing advanced personalization at scale requires transformational change which can be risky. And risk demands a well thought out ROI.

A More Advanced Personalization Strategy is Good for Business

A Forrester Research Study states, advanced personalization increases average order values 1.9x, customer retention 1.7x, and customer lifetime value 1.6x.  And a Harvard Business Review Article states that advanced personalization strategies “can deliver five to eight times the ROI on marketing spend and can lift sales by 10% or more.” With so much to gain, advanced personalization strategies are worth the risk, with tremendous upside for companies that do it right.

Advanced Personalization Goes Beyond Marketing

Advanced personalization demands an organizational shift to a set of objectives focused on a person first, customer centric strategy. This is the strategy that will achieve positive and long term ROI and business results. To be successful, advanced personalization at scale is not limited to marketing, but should include, customer service, sales, and any other function that interacts with the customer. In other words, it demands an integrated approach across all customer touch points in the organization. The intent is to deliver individualized customer engagement through personalized experiences that meet customers’ need. And today, customers are demanding this. In fact, 79% of buyers only consider brands that understand and care about them (Wunderman) and 70% of buying experiences are based on how customers feel they’re being understood (McKinsey).

An Integrated Approach is Necessary

To achieve the results needed to deliver on customer expectations for individualized personalization, an integrated approach is necessary. But, where do you start? Let marketing take the lead to build out the capabilities needed for precise engagement and expand across the organization from there.

Advanced Personalization at Scale Requires 4 Key Capabilities

  1. Develop a Customer First Strategy by looking at the world through your customer lens. Not only their buying behavior but also their interests, preferences and intent. This requires an in depth understanding of each customer, so you can identify any pain points, solve them and provide a personalized experience based on:
    • Simplifying their options to help them reach their goals
    • Bringing relevant facts to them that help them make decisions
    • Providing relevant suggestions based on their needs, not what others have done in the past.
    • Providing support by tapping into their emotions and showing customers you care.

 

  1. Build Data and Analytic Capabilities: Data is the foundation for advanced personalization. You need to be able to:
    • Collect customer data from across your organization, including both internal and external data, e.g. customer service, merchandising, store operations, web, social, devices, apps… and create a customer data repository
    • Create a 360º view for each customer, including: demographics, online behavior, app behavior, email interactions, social media activity and offline channel interactions.
    • Use predictive analytics to give customers what they want and need: simplify their decision making by offering up the right product combinations, advise them with product recommendations, that show you care.

 

  1. Advance your Technology: Create a platform for real time customer engagement by investing in the right technology. Advanced personalization requires advanced customer management capability, a platform to support streaming data collection, inline analytics, and the ability to orchestrate communications and interactions across multiple touch points.

 

  1. Different Ways of Working: The final capability is perhaps the most difficult as it can come with organizational cultural challenges. It is the capability of being able to deliver on advanced personalization as a collaborative venture. While marketers must lead the way, there are many constituents who need to buy in (CIO, CFO, CEO…), many players who need to be willing to play (marketing, merchandising, customer service, store operations, technology team…), and many find they need to bring in outside experts to coach or pitch hit (agency, consultants, data integrators.)

As stated upfront, advanced personalization at scale is worth the work, process, investment, and time it will take for the organization to adjust to a new customer perspective, strategy, and systems. The leaders delivering advanced personalization at scale are achieving ROI. And not moving in this direction will leave your company at risk, alienating customers who expect a hyper-personalized experience

To find out more about how to implement advanced personalization at scale across the organization, download our latest eBook, How to Implement Personalization Across all Customer Touchpoints.

 About VeraCentra: Marketers everywhere want to use data to implement more modern customer engagement strategies. But there can be many obstacles standing in the way of success. That’s where we come in. VeraCentra provides easy-access Customer Data Hubs. We represent best of breed Cross Channel Engagement Platforms (so marketers get the right fit) and offer the Marketing and Data Services that guarantee speed to value and quick win ROI from technology investments. We deliver these solutions with an unmatched wholehearted approach bringing personalized support, care, and service to every client. That’s why many of our client relationships span more than a decade.

Personalization Marketing Trends You Can’t Afford to Ignore

Last week at the CRMC I facilitated a workshop on the future of personalization. Joining me were my colleagues Adam Roberts and Andrea Shaikin, Former Director of Marketing, Loyalty and Innovation – STAPLES Canada. The intent of the workshop was to give attendees the capabilities to up their customer personalization game. The workshop started by defining and categorizing the personalization we have been working with and the type of personalized experiences needed now to satisfy customers’ expectations.

We wanted to share the key personalization marketing trends that are driving brands to move beyond what is rapidly becoming viewed as “old-school” personalization strategies to take their customer personalization efforts to the next level.

Defining Personalization 2.0

As customers continue to raise the bar in terms of the personalized experiences they expect from brands, the personalization strategies now in place are just not going to cut it.

Advanced personalization strategies involve creating a customer experience that uses customer data and understanding to frame, guide, extend, and enhance interactions based on that individual customer’s history, preferences, context, and intent.

With personalization 2.0, segmentation is replaced with individualization, near-time with real-time, and channel optimization with organizational unification around the idea of a customer first mind-set.

In Practice Personalization 2.0 is a Dramatic Shift

Personalization 2.0 requires a shift in our organizational focus (with marketing taking the lead) from product and price to a customer lens and from a channel viewpoint to that of customer touchpoints – thus extending the definition of the customer experience to include, for example, customer service and sales. And from a strategy and execution perspective it shifts how we use data, create content, think about our channels, how much we know about our individual customers, and the context from which we operate.

Some companies have already made the shift, L’Oréal’s Style My Hair app, where you can upload a picture of yourself and see what you look like with different hair colors and Nike’s custom color wheel, where you can customer design the colors of your sneakers, are two good examples of personalization at an individual customer level.

Not planning for the shift leaves your brand at risk of alienating customers and losing market share. Risks few of us can afford.

To find out more about how to create 360º customer profiles and implement them across the enterprise, download our latest eBook, How to Implement Personalization Across all Customer Touchpoints.

 About VeraCentra: Marketers everywhere want to use data to implement more modern customer engagement strategies. But there can be many obstacles standing in the way of success. That’s where we come in. VeraCentra provides easy-access Customer Data Hubs. We represent best of breed Cross Channel Engagement Platforms (so marketers get the right fit) and offer the Marketing and Data Services that guarantee speed to value and quick win ROI from technology investments. We deliver these solutions with an unmatched wholehearted approach bringing personalized support, care, and service to every client. That’s why many of our client relationships span more than a decade.

 

Make 360º Customer Profiles A Reality

Creating 360º customer profiles are vitally important if we are to deliver the personalized customer experiences our customers expect and demand. Yet, creating 360º customer profiles can seem elusive and hard to achieve.  But they are worth the effort. Not only because 360º customer profiles are a tangible tool that benefits marketing, but also because they can benefit the whole enterprise.  Here’s how you can take customer profiles from concept to tangible reality.

How to Create a Customer Profile                                  

A 360º customer profile is simply a collection of all your customer data stored in one place and then made available in a visual format, similar to a dashboard.  Since each customer interacts with your company in different ways, each profile will be unique.  Here is a 5-step process:

STEP 1: To start, think about what you want to know and understand about your customers.  Make a list.  This list could contain demographics as well as how your customers interact across various devices and channels.

STEP 2: Once you define your wish list, go back through your list, and identify where data may reside. You may need to identify which organizational function first (such as customer service) then drill down to the specific application. It’s a good idea to prioritize your list. Depending on your technology team’s bandwidth, you may need to phase in data over time.

Don’t overlook your customers as a potential source for data collection.  For example, you may ask some questions about intent during a web interaction to narrow search efforts. You will receive more data, and the customer will get a better user experience.

STEP 3: Work with your technology team to determine how data will be extracted from the source applications and fed into your central data repository. Work toward making the extraction process as real time as possible.

STEP 4: You will need a method to match up customer records to achieve that one single view of the customer. Map your data to the right people by customer name, IDs, or other uniquely identifiable parameters. Advanced matching algorithms can go deeper to determine more matches based on several parameters.  For example, you can match a nick name with a full name or even unknown customers to a known customer record.

Remember that data cleansing is key to leveraging your data.  If your data is in a messy state, you’ll want to run cleansing routines.

STEP 5:  The last step in the processes is determining how to visualize your 360º customer profiles.  There are many data visualization tools you can use for this purpose.

Now the fun begins. Analyze each customer’s shopping habits, purchase behaviors, and responses to different types of messages and offers.  Identify channel preference, analyze the customer journey, identify pain points, the list goes on.  With this deep understanding of your customers, you are ready to engage in more meaningful ways.

Share the Knowledge

Now that your 360º profiles are in place, be sure to make them accessible to the whole enterprise; customer service, in-store sales associates, online sales representatives, product development, and so on.

Only then can you deliver a real-time personalized experience and maximum ROI, loyalty, and lifetime value.

To find out more about how to create 360º customer profiles and implement them across the enterprise, download our latest eBook, How to Implement Personalization Across all Customer Touchpoints.

About VeraCentra: Marketers everywhere want to use data to implement more modern customer engagement strategies. But there can be many obstacles standing in the way of success. That’s where we come in. VeraCentra provides easy-access Customer Data Hubs. We represent best of breed Cross Channel Engagement Platforms (so marketers get the right fit) and offer the Marketing and Data Services that guarantee speed to value and quick win ROI from technology investments. We deliver these solutions with an unmatched wholehearted approach bringing personalized support, care, and service to every client. That’s why many of our client relationships span more than a decade.

How Risky are Customer Engagement Platform Implementations?

New marketing technologies are appearing on the market constantly and CMOs are under pressure to stay competitive and make sure their organization is making the right decision when choosing and transitioning to new customer engagement platform technology. With any new technology, there is risk and anxiety as implementation looms large, especially when the technology requires not only a different mindset, but also a different organizational structure.

Customer Engagement Platforms Demand Thinking and Acting Differently

To succeed in meeting consumers’ needs, marketers are rushing to unify touchpoints, reduce complexity, and increase agility and have high expectations of any new marketing technology they decide to invest in and deploy. The new Customer Engagement Platforms require us to think and act differently in our marketing. Campaigns, targeting, customer segmentation, transactions, and other traditional principles are being replaced with, engagements, customer personalization, and real-time interactions.

Don’t Underestimate the Challenges of Implementation

There are risks marketers face when investing and deploying new and sophisticated Customer Engagement Platforms – many underestimate the data integration process which can be more challenging and time consuming than anticipated.

Additionally, few organizations are equipped to handle customer engagement platform deployment and management in-house. Even firms with a strong IT capability may struggle to incorporate the new technologies.

Failure to acquire sufficient knowledge about marketing technology will lead
to delayed implementation at best, and at worst could result in a deployment that fails to meet internal and customer expectations. If the right expertise is not used the complexities often require sacrifices of capabilities and oftentimes it’s a major capability marketers have depended on to deliver an ROI.

Solutions to Decrease Implementation Risks

Marketing must understand the requirements of their technologies and, assess their internal bandwidth for implementation. A couple of solutions to decrease the risk and implementation challenges are:

  1. Create a new marketing playbook that aligns to your new capabilities as the new capabilities are implemented. Execute your playbook to get fast traction.
  2. Get outside expertise to support implementation and platform migrations. Outside expertise can help you have a higher chance of keeping on budget and on schedule, and have a higher probability of success.

Not managing the risk is not an option. The investment, your customers, and your ability to retain the brand’s competitive advantage all depend on your marketing department’s delivery of consistent, contextually relevant experiences, in real-time, across the customer journey, regardless of device or channel.

To find out more ways to decrease the risks and challenges of implementing customer engagement platforms and other new marketing technologies, download our latest eBook, , How to Implement Personalization Across all Customer Touchpoints.

 About VeraCentra: Marketers everywhere want to use data to implement more modern customer engagement strategies. But there can be many obstacles standing in the way of success. That’s where we come in. VeraCentra provides easy-access Customer Data Hubs. We represent best of breed Cross Channel Engagement Platforms (so marketers get the right fit) and offer the Marketing and Data Services that guarantee speed to value and quick win ROI from technology investments. We deliver these solutions with an unmatched wholehearted approach bringing personalized support, care, and service to every client. That’s why many of our client relationships span more than a decade.

 

 

Why You Need a Good Customer Personalization Strategy

Personalization is a top priority for most marketers, today. Yet most attempts don’t reach the potential of driving behavioral change, goodwill, and business results. Pivoting to a good personalization strategy is a hard, but necessary, shift in today’s competitive environment. It requires an organizational mindset change from communication relevancy to customer first communication. And, a strategy that maps the customer’s journey and identifies addressable pain points to improve customers’ experiences. All of which requires cross functional collaboration, customer, research, and data analysis.

Each Customer is Distinct

Many marketers think they are delivering a personalized experience to their customers. But many customers think otherwise. Customers are exposed to new, contextually relevant experiences, every day, and this raises their expectations and demands for this level of engagement from every brand they interact with. Companies that are succeeding in personalization, at scale, have made the mind-set shift from seeing customers as data records to seeing individual people with needs, interests, and distinct behavioral patterns. They recognize that customers not brands determine if an experience is personalized. Their mind-set shift has allowed them to create a good personalization strategy based on the specific expectations of their brand’s customers and scale from there – allowing them to avoid under or over investing in technology.

A Good Personalization Strategy Can’t Be Piecemeal

A good personalization strategy needs to cover all channels and devices, and each interaction. Customers don’t distinguish between channels and don’t expect the brands to do so either. A recent Forrester whitepaper stated that while 75% of digital pros are personalizing their content on their site, only 55% personalize promotions, 49% personalize product recommendations, and even fewer still personalize reminders and alerts, mobile app content, or screen layout. And Forrester goes on to say that, “Missing from this picture entirely is how personalization happens in the store and across other touchpoints.”

Rethinking your Personalization Strategy

It is becoming very clear that rethinking your organization’s personalization strategy is the single most important thing you can do if you are to successfully attract and retain customers, at scale.   What makes a good personalization strategy?  Here are 5 things to consider:

  1. Pivot from a product first to a customer first mind-set.
  2. Align your personalization efforts to business objectives and outcomes.
  3. Determine the technology your company needs to get to scale.
  4. Identify the level of personalization required — mapping to what your customers expect.
  5. Unify your channels for a seamless customer experience.

For more information on how to build and execute a good personalization strategy, download our eBook, How to Implement Personalization Across all Customer Touchpoints.

 About VeraCentra: Marketers everywhere want to use data to implement more modern customer engagement strategies. But there can be many obstacles standing in the way of success. That’s where we come in. VeraCentra provides easy-access Customer Data Hubs. We represent best of breed Cross Channel Engagement Platforms (so marketers get the right fit) and offer the Marketing and Data Services that guarantee speed to value and quick win ROI from technology investments. We deliver these solutions with an unmatched wholehearted approach bringing personalized support, care, and service to every client. That’s why many of our client relationships span more than a decade.

Pros and Cons of Marketing Cloud Solutions

To succeed in meeting consumers’ needs and wants, marketers need to unify touch-points, reduce complexity, and increase agility. But, as we well know, the multitude of technology options now available makes choosing which technologies are best for your organizations needs more complex.

Most recently, marketing cloud solutions have been getting a lot of attention and are being positioned (by some) as the turn-key solution to many of marketing’s technology challenges. But are they? Marketing cloud solution users cite they continue to have challenges in such areas as: integration with legacy systems, end-to-end coverage, and integrating the right data, services, and support.

There Are No Perfect Solutions                                                          

The real answer is there are no perfect solutions when it comes determining the right mix of technology offerings. A Forrester Consulting Thought Leadership Paper, commissioned by Yes Lifecycle Marketing, states that, “With all the options available to them, marketers are put in the difficult position of deciding between depth and breadth in their technology solutions. On one hand, adopting a best-of-breed approach addresses specific needs exceptionally well but requires continuous integration. On the other hand, while a single suite (marketing cloud solution) suffers from inconsistent functionality depth, it’s billed as fully integrated.”

Factors Marketers Need to Consider Before Committing        

There are pros and cons to any technology solution and cloud-based marketing solutions are no exception.

Marketing Cloud Solutions — Pros:

  1. Considered more powerful, accessible and better-connected than on-premises software, updates can be deployed automatically.
  2. Cloud solutions can afford increased opportunities to deliver deployments at speed.
  3. Greater access to certain capabilities like analytics, data storage, and reporting.

Marketing Cloud Solutions — Cons:

  1. End to end coverage not a reality, which for many is a reason to consider a marketing cloud solution – the belief that they can reduce the number of vendors they deal with and cover all technology categories with one solution.
  2. Sometimes not robust enough to allow for the speed needed when responding in real-time to customer needs.
  3. Integration with legacy systems can be problematic

Best-of-Breed Alternative

Successful technology usage requires more than features and functionality. Marketing technology is complex. It requires effort to deploy and maintain and involves many stakeholders. While Integrated packages can appear attractive, marketers need to look at all options as each organizational case is different.

An alternative to Marketing Cloud Solutions are individual point solutions, or taking a best-of-breed approach, breaking down the three critical capabilities needed – data management, analytics, and orchestration — to decide what solutions work best, for example an engagement platform coupled with a data platform.

To be successful, marketing technology solutions need to be both comprehensive and increase agility. To find out more about how to determine the right technology mix for your organization and implement personalization at scale, download our latest eBook, How to Implement Personalization Across All Customer Touchpoints.

About VeraCentra: Marketers everywhere want to use data to implement more modern customer engagement strategies. But there can be many obstacles standing in the way of success. That’s where we come in. VeraCentra provides easy-access Customer Data Hubs. We represent best of breed Cross Channel Engagement Platforms (so marketers get the right fit) and offer the Marketing and Data Services that guarantee speed to value and quick win ROI from technology investments. We deliver these solutions with an unmatched wholehearted approach bringing personalized support, care, and service to every client. That’s why many of our client relationships span more than a decade.

Who Says a Real-Time Marketing Strategy is Marketing “On-The-Fly”?

Wikipedia describes a real-time marketing strategy as “marketing performed on-the-fly.” But we all know that just isn’t true. To do real-time marketing right, there is a good deal of planning that must take place, starting with a clear strategy and enough dynamic content prepared and at the ready to execute.

Real-Time Marketing Strategy Success Relies on Contextually Relevant Interactions

When you Google real-time marketing many articles and blogs focus on the brands who have successfully created a relevant campaign during a cultural event. Probably the best-known example being Oreo, “You Can Still Dunk in the Dark.” A message that was tweeted during the power outage at the Super Bowl.

And while these culturally relevant campaigns are certainly great examples, everyday real-time marketing is not a flashy campaign. It is the ability to interact with any customer with a relevant message or offer to move them along the journey to purchase, wherever and whenever the customer initiates contact with your brand.

To Deliver the Feeling of Spontaneity Everything Needs to be Aligned

The only way to deliver real-time, so it appears to be a spontaneous reaction to a customer touch point activity, is to have everything well planned and all needs aligned. For example, care needs to be taken not to deliver the wrong value proposition or offer to the wrong person. And beyond having an arsenal of content waiting in the wings, there are major technology requirements that need to be in place. Marketing needs access to sophisticated data and analytics to be able to develop the predictive models to make real-time a reality.

What it Takes for Marketing to be “Always On”

To start, you need a solid understanding of your customers.  What customers want from a transaction, what their buying preferences are, what their purchasing history includes, and what their value is to the brand.  This 360º view into your customers empowers you to create contextually relevant messages.

Next is in-line analytics to improve real-time decisions and apply advanced analytics, such as machine learning, to segment, target, and deliver personalized messages, such as next best product.  These analytic approaches deliver automation to your customer engagement strategy.  And enables much more individualized interactions — both in terms of contextual relevancy and in cadence that is more tightly aligned with real-time customer needs.

Then, add orchestration capability and an arsenal of content for the agility you need to design seamless workflows across channels and devices.  Armed with the

ability to present real- time next best action recommendations, you can guide your customers through the various phases of their customer journey.

To find out more about what it takes to be real-time ready, download our e-Book, Getting Started with Real-Time Customer Engagement, here.

About VeraCentra: Marketers everywhere want to use data to implement more modern customer engagement strategies. But there can be many obstacles standing in the way of success. That’s where we come in. VeraCentra provides easy-access Customer Data Hubs. We represent best of breed Cross Channel Engagement Platforms (so marketers get the right fit) and offer the Marketing and Data Services that guarantee speed to value and quick win ROI from technology investments. We deliver these solutions with an unmatched wholehearted approach bringing personalized support, care, and service to every client. That’s why many of our client relationships span more than a decade.

The Impact of IoT on Marketing

The Internet of Things, IoT, is a topic every marketer is talking about. But, what does it mean, and more specifically, what is the impact of IoT on marketing? IoT’s smart, connected devices provide marketers with a new suite of opportunities to listen and respond to the needs and wants of their audience, based on their behaviors. How? At its simplest, the IoT is the connection of all things to a network or the Internet and its impact can already be seen in cars, home appliances, wearables, and on store shelves, to name a few examples.

IoT Allows Customers to Tell You What They Want

Forget the days of trying to figure out what people want. IoT presents opportunities for real-time engagement where customers are telling you what they want, on a continuous basis.

And your audience is eager to improve their lives with these devices and provide marketers they trust with the information needed to do so. As Cole Shafer, the head of copy for HoneyPot, so aptly says in his recent article for Medium, “We don’t want to wait for a taxi. We want to hit a button and be in an Uber in 2 minutes. We don’t want to fuss with hotels. We want to instantly book an Airbnb. We don’t want to stand in line at the bank. We want to simply take a picture of our check and have it deposited. We want to save time on mundane tasks so we can spend more time doing the stuff we want to do.” And IoT devices do just that – take care of the mundane not only with the touch of a button, but with sound of your voice.

IoT Solidifies the Need for a Customer First Lens

To take advantage of these new devices and the ever-growing customer expectations, you need to flip your marketing, and indeed your organization’s objectives to drive customer benefits first, then business outcomes. Marketers and organizations, need to look at the world through a customer first lens and provide customers with the experiences they want. And it pays off. Recently, Forrester provided the ROI with a reported 36% faster revenue-growth rates. Here are two examples of companies thinking with a customer first lens:

  1. Amazon GO, Amazon’s new retail concept which allows customers to scan their purchase and go, without having to check-out.
  2. L’Oreal’s recent purchase of leading beauty tech firm Modiface, which specializes in augmented and virtual reality tools. This acquisition has already resulted in the launch of an app for, L’Oreal Professional, called Style My Hair, which provides augmented-reality hair color tryouts.

IoT Turns Every Business into a Digital Business

If, as Forrester says, “Every business is now a digital business and needs to chase customers ever-growing expectations, not competition,” the goal is to collect, analyze, synthesis, and react, in real-time, to customer information and do so across multiple touch-points. And, with IoT comes a new flood of data. Data that directly affects the whole organization, not just marketing. As Deon Newman, Chief Marketing Officer for IBM’s Watson Internet of Things (IoT), told Fortune Magazine, in November 2017, “Data is the basis of competitive differentiation for every company. CMOs can play a leadership role in making IoT data how marketers understand customers and products. But their influence can extend so much further. Marketers can join forces with the heads of engineering, research and development, sales, and customer service to use IoT data to create more customer-centric products, offer new services, and find and sustain new differentiation.”\

Customers Happy to Hand Over Information

Customers want to improve their lives with the smart devices associated with IoT, and will provide marketers, they trust, with the information needed to do so, especially if it means they free up time to enjoy more of the types of experiences they seek. And, IoT devices do just that – take care of the “mundane” not only with the touch of a button, but with sound of your voice, or by predicting your needs – think smart fridges and Nest thermostats and home alarm systems.

How will your company make your customers’ lives easier? Figuring that out has tremendous upside as customers will reward those companies with their loyalty.

To find out the steps needed to take advantage of all the data from IoT, download our latest eBook, How to Implement Personalization Across All Customer Touchpoints.

About VeraCentra: Marketers everywhere want to use data to implement more modern customer engagement strategies. But there can be many obstacles standing in the way of success. That’s where we come in. VeraCentra provides easy-access Customer Data Hubs. We represent best of breed Cross Channel Engagement Platforms (so marketers get the right fit) and offer the Marketing and Data Services that guarantee speed to value and quick win ROI from technology investments. We deliver these solutions with an unmatched wholehearted approach bringing personalized support, care, and service to every client. That’s why many of our client relationships span more than a decade.

 

The Future is Now: Predictive Analytics Marketing

Personalizing, even individualizing, customer experiences with predictive analytics is now the de facto marketing strategy in the race to stay competitive. However, predictive analytics tools are becoming more sophisticated every day. Machine learning and AI are making the science of using data to predict customer behavior more accurate and far-reaching than ever before. A trend that is only going to continue, at an accelerated pace. Marketers who do not keep up with the advances in predictive analytics are going to have a difficult time playing catch up.

Decoding Customer Buying Behavior

Predictive analytics, aided by machine learning and AI, helps marketers anticipate the buying habits of consumers by decoding past and present buying habits, thus giving greater insight into the customer, their needs and wants, and the ability to project future behavior. For example, if the goal is to increase wallet share, decoding a customer’s current behavior and buying habits can put you in the position to serve up messages based on that behavior and through machine learning perfect those messages over time, to the point where the customer believes you are individualizing the messages – “time to buy more toilet paper?”

Creating A Test and Learn Engine

Predictive analytics coupled with machine learning creates a test and learn engine that requires a fundamental re-architecting of a company’s marketing analytics processes. The definition of predictive analytics is as follows, “The practice of extracting information from existing data sets to determine patterns and predict outcomes and trends.” The goal then is to create a learning ecosystem that connects insights to outcomes as part of a continuous, self-improving cycle. It requires a commitment to iteration, not an absolute success or failure mind-set.

Anytime you use the past to predict what is going to happen tomorrow or the next day, you need to adjust your success metrics. Learning is success. Continuous learning brings greater understanding and great understanding leads to more and more success, over time.

Successfully Using Predictive Analytics Requires Focused Thinking and Modeling  

The insights gained from the use of predictive analytics are only as good as the thinking and modeling that the analysis is based on. Like all data analysis this adage still holds – garbage in, garbage out.

Successful use of predictive analytics demands several actions from marketing.

  1. Be clear about your business objectives
  2. Determine your personalization strategy or approach
  3. Make a clear decision as to what it is you need to know about the customer
  4. Define your model by integrating data discovery and decision making.
    1. Data discovery is about sourcing and combining traditional and behavioral data to uncover meaningful insights about customers (such as their preferences, interests, and needs.)
    2. Automated decision makingis driven by the advanced analytics models that produce propensity scores for each customer or prospect. These scores define the probability of an individual responding to a specific offer or engaging with specific content.
  5. Content distribution is the final step.A good system will use customer and prospect scores to trigger personalized ads and landing pages, and to distribute specific content, offers, or experiences across channels.

To find out how to implement personalization at scale using predictive analytics download our latest eBook, How to Implement Personalization Across All Customer Touchpoints.

About VeraCentra: Marketers everywhere want to use data to implement more modern customer engagement strategies. But there can be many obstacles standing in the way of success. That’s where we come in. VeraCentra provides easy-access Customer Data Hubs. We represent best of breed Cross Channel Engagement Platforms (so marketers get the right fit) and offer the Marketing and Data Services that guarantee speed to value and quick win ROI from technology investments. We deliver these solutions with an unmatched wholehearted approach bringing personalized support, care, and service to every client. That’s why many of our client relationships span more than a decade.