Technology to Enhance Customer Experience Major Leaps on The Horizon: Are You Ready?

The thing about marketing is, it’s always changing.

And another big shift in technology to enhance

customer experience is evolving.

Have you ever seen the Minority Report?  The movie was set in 2054 and had a scene where John Anderson (Tom Cruise) ended up walking through a futuristic mall.  As he snaked his way through the crowded walkways, retinal scan technology (and other bio-metric scans) immediately served up relevant & “in your face” advertisements suggesting John should go have a Guinness in order to help him calm down (as he was excited and hurried).  He then enters The Gap.  More retinal scans instantly identify him as John Anderson and a visual version of Siri greets him, asks about how happy he is with his past purchase, and recommends a pair of shorts that would complement the purchase.

Ideas that were once thought radical and implausible are now knocking on the door of tomorrow, not 2054 (Spielberg was a bit conservative in his outlook on technology advancement).   Facial recognition, biometric tracking, virtual reality, machine learning are all capabilities that will change everyday life as we know it, if they haven’t already.

All these technological advancements support a specific function or experience aimed at enhancing life (virtual reality), making things easier (machine learning or artificial intelligence), faster and better.

Together, or in combination, these capabilities are drastically evolving the way in which we as humans interact with the world around us.

From a marketing standpoint, the way that brands can leverage technology to interact, connect and engage with consumers (just like in the Minority Report) is now at their fingertips. There are no boundaries or limits that are set when it comes to using technology to enhance Customer Experience.

The game is set.  Customer Experience is the new competitive battlefield.  And, now it’s a race to see which organizations will come out on top.  According to Boston Consulting Group, there is major financial justification to investing in getting Customer Experience right.  BCG states that over the next five years or so, 800 billion in wallet share will shift to the top 15% of organizations that can capture consumer loyalty by changing the “Customer Experience Game.”

For organizations looking to up their Customer Experience Game, a common starting point is to map the customer journey. Identify your customer touchpoints and the pains they experience as they interact with your company. Identify areas where you can use technology to enhance customer experience, prioritize, implement, measure and continuously improve.

Want to learn more?  Harvard Business Review recently published Marketing in the Age of Alexa, which outlines near-term changes HBR expects AI platforms to bring about as well as the implications they hold for marketing strategy.

You can access the article 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 Impact of Personalization on Your Business

Personalizing the customer experience is becoming more than an effective way to compete.

It’s evolved to become a business imperative.  Why?  Because our customers have come to expect it.  And because those organizations that are investing in the capabilities to deliver great customer experiences are reporting superior performance and growth.  The personalization impact is becoming more and more clear.

The fact that customers will pay a premium price for a great experience is real.

The PwC Future of Customer Experience Survey (2017/18)  sites 73% of all people point to customer experience as an important factor in their purchasing decisions.  Further, 43% of all consumers would pay more for greater convenience; 42% would pay more for a friendly welcoming experience.  Among US customers, a remarkable 65% find a positive experience with a brand to be more influential than great advertising!

Those companies that are embracing the power of personalization by making the necessary investments are seeing significant returns on their investments.  Here again, the impact of personalization is real.  In April 2018, Forrester Consulting performed a study to evaluate the Business Impact of Investing in Experience.  The study revealed that companies delivering personalized experiences are outperforming organizations that don’t deliver personalization.  Improvements are realized across the suite of metrics spanning the entire customer lifecycle.  For example, the Forrester study sites that companies that deliver personalization are realizing 1.6x higher growth in new website visitors and 1.9x higher year over year growth in customer retention over companies that do not.

Not convinced?  Consider this.  The PwC survey also sites that 32% off all customers would stop doing business with the brand they loved after one bad experience.  Unfortunately, you don’t really have many chances to get personalization right.

Bottom line focus on what really matters to your customers and apply improvements to their experiences across all touchpoints.  As the study demonstrates, when customers feel appreciated, you gain measurable business improvements.

For a complete “how to” guide, download

How to Implement Personalization 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.

 

 

Creating Data Driven Customer Experiences

Companies are catching on to the fact that delivering personalized customer experiences really does create competitive advantage.  And every marketer knows that the best customer experience strategies are driven by data. So smart marketers are collecting data at every touch point across the customer journey to better understand what customers want and need. And they use that data to create data driven customer experiences.

Customer Experience Is Everything

In today’s commoditized marketplace, people buy experiences not products.  In fact, according to Walker Info, by 2020, 86% of customers will consider experience as the most important factor before making a purchase.  The secret to achieving positive customer experiences is leveraging your data to make interactions easier for customers, and to use that data to personalize the customer experience.

Data Driven Customer Experiences Deliver Positive
Business Outcomes

Creating data driven customer experiences provides a real payoff.  According to Forrester Consulting, early leaders are seeing real results.  Year over year performance improvements include:

1.6 X Brand awareness

1.9 X Return on ad spend

1.6 X App downloads

1.9 X Average order value

1.7 X Customer retention rates

1.6 X Customer life time value

These significant lifts are driving superior revenue growth, as much as 15%. 

How Is Data Used To Deliver These Eye-opening Results?

Data enables personalization.  Marketers use data to develop segments and to tailor or personalize offers, content and timing.

Data clarifies customer journeys.  Customers no longer follow a linear path to purchase.  With multiple digital channels at their disposal, customers Google, compare, read reviews and ask for recommendations on social media before they make a purchase.  Data allows marketers to get a better understanding of customer journeys to create meaningful content at every step of the purchase process.

Data yields better ROI understanding.  Data provides the facts related to attributable outcomes for your marketing efforts.  Data helps marketers understand what’s working (and what’s not) so they can optimize and better manage their budgets.

Your Data Comes Alive With The Right Technology Stack

How can all this data be harnessed and leveraged to advance data driven customer experiences? Investment in the right technologies are needed to build the capabilities that deliver outstanding value to your company as well as your customers. Here’s a capability short list:

  • The ability to ingest all types of customer data, structured and unstructured, and attach it to a customer record for a 360 view of your customers.
  • In line analytics/machine learning to increase content relevancy during each customer interaction.
  • Real time orchestration to provide the ability to create journeys across multiple channels in a single workflow.

Looking for more inspiration?  Download How to Implement Personalization Across All Touchpoints.  This fast-read e-book will provide you with a framework for utilizing your data to develop your own data driven customer experience strategies.

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.

 

Seven Things Every Marketing Technology Stack Needs in 2019

As marketers, we need to be where our customers are. Where they go, we follow.  And that means managing a seemingly endless list of digital channels and managing the technology tools that support them.  Boston Consulting Group reports, “a medium sized B to C company uses an average of 19 tools in its marketing organization.”  We even came up with a special term to represent our collective group of technologies, the marketing technology stack, or martech for short.

Capabilities for Your Marketing Technology Stack 2019

In many organizations, plans and budgets for 2019 are well underway.  So, now is the time to consider how well your technology tools are working to allow you to build better relationships with your customers across multiple channels. The Marketing Technology Stack for 2019 should include integration of the tools to optimize efficiency and increase speed of message and content delivery.

To keep pace with changing customer behaviors, use this checklist to ensure your martech stack includes these advanced capabilities:

  • Can ingest all types of customer data
  • Provides a 360-degree customer view
  • Can deploy predictive analytic models run by AI/machine learning
  • Can monitor continuous customer feedback
  • Executes messages across channels using a single workflow
  • Provides for rapid test and learn methodology
  • Measures and tracks success

The ability to provide a differentiated, personalized customer experience means you must also have the agility to immediately respond to customers “in the moment” no matter which channel the customer uses to interact.  So, the most critical capability to embed in your marketing technology stack for 2019 is real-time capability.

Martech Stacks Are Customizable

Unlike broad Marketing Cloud Solutions, integrating the tools within your own martech stack allows you to more narrowly align your requirements with your strategy.  Overall, the ability to customize and integrate your technology tools within a stack, is a more cost-effective approach and prevents over investment in capabilities that you do not need.

Evaluating and evolving your martech capabilities is critical to marketing success. Consumers are moving quickly, and companies must quickly follow to be competitive. According to the Harvard Business Review article How Marketers Can Personalize at Scale, “Marketing technology, automation and advanced analytic techniques have now reached the level where effective personalization at scale is possible.”  To keep pace, ensure your budget includes investment to advance the capabilities within your marketing technology stack in 2019.

For further reading, download the HBR article How Marketers Can Personalize at Scale.

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.

 

 

Real Strategies that Engage Customers in Real-time

Customer engagement can be defined as the depth of a relationship between your customer and your brand.  In our customer-centric marketplace, achieving loyalty is largely the result of frequent positive engagement.  And more positive engagement can be achieved with real-time customer interactions.  In fact, real-time customer engagement is a game changer, and mastering the ability to engage customers in real-time can determine competitive advantage now and into the future.

Since loyalty is achieved when customers are engaged, marketers must have a laser focus on every opportunity to engage customers as they interact across multiple touchpoints. To achieve higher levels of engagement, marketers must now develop new strategies and acquire new capabilities to create the competitive advantage real-time customer engagement provides.

Here are four strategy ideas to get you started, followed by the technical capabilities you need to operationalize your strategy.

Develop Strategies to Engage Customers in Real-time

Think about your customers current interactions with your brand.  Although I am a firm believer in creating an omni-channel experience, for this exercise you can begin with a narrow channel focus.  Analyze your app, website, social, email communications, etc. and identify “choke points” (interactions that keep your customer from taking the next step in his or her journey).   These “choke points” represent an ideal opportunity to develop a real-time personalized interaction that facilitates their engagement. Here are a few examples:

Simplify the steps your customers must take when they are making a purchase.  You can do this by narrowing options, so your customers can more easily buy.  

During a web visit, Keurig asks a series of questions about the visitor’s coffee habits, narrowing the flavor selections and options in real-time.      

 

Customer Experience

 

Demonstrate your brand cares and addresses emotional needs by finding ways to support your customer.

Sephora offers tips on how to properly apply foundation and recommends which products are right for a variety of skin tones.  Customers feel less frustrated and more confident about their choice.

 

 

Provide advice on what your customer should do next.  Make relevant suggestions based on customer’s history. 

In real-time, Eileen Fischer offers suggestions to complete an outfit.

 

Customer Experience

 

Offer information that may not be readily available to help your customers make decisions.

More than just an email reminder to customers that service is needed, Mr. Lube Canada, provides specifics about the customer auto, and maintenance history.

Customer Experience

 

Operationalize Real-time Customer Engagement with These Capabilities

Once you decide on your strategy, turn your attention to real-time predictive analytic capability. Predictive analytics will identify the right message to be served up at exactly the right time.  Embed your analytics directly into your workflow and leverage machine learning to optimize results.  Common analytics that enable real-time engagement include: product affinity, product recommendation, churn prediction and next best action as potential analytics to support your strategy. Most customer engagement platforms include machine learning capabilities, and some come equipped with built-in predictive models.

Most marketers know that customer data is critical to real-time engagement success. If you are operating from a traditional data base, it’s time to advance to a more robust Customer Data Platform (CDP).  CDP’s provide the capability to ingest all types of data, from any source, in any format. CDPs also accommodate streaming data as well as batch, can solve for customer identity conflicts, and provide advanced automated hygiene routines.  Since real-time customer interactions are dependent on data, tools with high quality data management capability are a requirement.

To find quick win strategies for real-time customer engagement, look at current programs and identify interaction choke points.  Create strategies to resolve customer choke points in real-time.  Then, acquire the right technical capabilities to operationalize your strategy. Real-time customer engagement is the new path to greater customer loyalty.

To learn more about ways you can better engage customers, download our e-book,  How to Kick Engagement Strategies into High Gear.

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.

 

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 capabilities your company needs to make real personalized connections with your customers.

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 VeraCentraWe’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.