Real-time customer experiences are an elusive yet coveted goal for all organizations. As competition intensifies in every single industry, organizations want to ensure they are providing customers with unforgettable results. Satisfactory is no longer enough. Not if you want your customers to come back. Forrester Principal Analyst Rusty Warner’s research [...]
In today’s digital age, products have become increasingly commoditised, requiring organisations to shift their focus towards ensuring the customer experience becomes their biggest differentiator.
Previously, the customer experience journey was a string of static, one-dimensional encounters. But now, thanks to big data and the resulting innovations it can provide, customer experiences can be a seamless exchange over different channels between people and the organisations with which they choose to do business.
Personalise the process
Successful brands have recognised this trend and are moving away from mass marketing. Instead, they are looking to create a personal, emotional connection with consumers. At the heart of this approach is using data to understand what drives the customer and what doesn’t through holistic customer intelligence. However, delivering a data-driven customer experience doesn’t happen overnight – it requires a mix of activities and competencies, from data integration to technology implementations to training and rethinking processes.
What is becoming clear is demand from the always-on consumer for more personal and relevant communications. Brands need to serve up the right offers at the right time via the right channel. This could be an offer for a product that is highly targeted and appears straightaway on a smartphone screen, without the need for endless scrolling to find a more suitable item.
Driven by data
There is more than meets the customer’s eye when it comes to today’s customer experience journey. It requires a combination of individualised insights and connected interactions, as well as an agile approach, to have meaningful communications with customers on whichever channel they happen to be on.
But it’s not enough to be doing the same things via new channels which continue to pop up as technology develops. Building an effective customer journey requires new ways of exploring customer trends and preferences.
A smarter way of responding to these factors is data-driven customer experience. For example, 357 executives from large organisations were surveyed by SAS and Forbes Insights and found that in order to deliver superior customer experiences, they are beginning to rely on data analytics to better understand customer trends and preferences. For three in 10 enterprises, this approach is already delivering a shift in elevating customer experiences. The benefits are wide-ranging – not only can businesses better target and optimise for specific customers, but it also enables them to deliver consistent context across all its channels of engagement. Across its business, it can enhance revenue generation and enable cost reductions, as well as improve process efficiencies and enable increased business agility.
Smashing the siloes
To achieve this data-driven experience, our research uncovered that there needs to be greater alignment across the organisation of people, processes and technology. While organisations may think this involves only sales and marketing teams, there are also other key players behind customer experience, such as information technology, purchasing and production.
The people behind the processes across the business need to be empowered with training, insights and inspiration for both managers and employees. Getting an entire business to operate in terms of data requires a change in thinking – it isn’t just about machines and systems. The success of a data-driven customer experience relies on the interaction of people who build and manage these systems and their ability to help design key business processes.
The key is that every organisation now has significant stores of data on its customers, but much of it may still be “dark data”—meaning data that is stored and managed but never used. Organisational siloes reinforce this inaccessibility, as data remains within a department or functional area.
Businesses therefore need to break down the siloes and embark on a voyage of discovery, find these hidden assets and bring them together. Deep within data resources and assets may be valuable data lying undiscovered. Recent research by SAS in association with the Economist Intelligence Unit revealed more than half of UK companies are probably only leveraging about half of their available data. Starting the search at CRM, ERP, sales, supply chain or inventory systems is recommended, but other, non-traditional sources could be gold mines as well.
Every industry can have its own unique set of key customer touchpoints and interactions - data formulations that work for one may not be suitable for another. Hospitals could focus on waiting room or emergency care experiences, while e-commerce companies would need specific methods to analyse online check-out processes.
Where are you now?
Regardless of industry, data-driven customer experience is taking a driver’s seat in steering today’s hyper-competitive global economy. It takes a carefully balanced combination of factors to deliver superior relationships with customers, who are now demanding a hyper-personalised service. All the technology is available to make this a reality – it’s now just a matter of adoption.
If you’re unsure of where to start, check out this report on how Data Elevates the Customer Experience. You can find out where you stand by reading the survey and comparing results against other organisations that took part. You can also glean new ideas from your peers about how to transform the customer experience.
How customer intelligence can win hearts and minds was published on Customer Intelligence.
In our fast changing, increasingly digital world, building a strong customer relationship is the lynchpin to building a great business. Digitally-savvy, hyper-connected customers are now harder to define, understand and please than ever before. Today’s enterprise must focus on the customer experience as never before--or risk being replaced or ignored.
A new report by Harvard Business Review Analytics Services, "Lessons from the Leading Edge of Customer Experience Management" spotlights how leaders in customer experience management are developing strategies, capabilities, processes, and metrics to gain competitive advantage and remain relevant.
One of the striking aspects--and there are many--of this report pertains to measuring customer experience efforts. Maximizing the customer experience ROI (52%) was cited as the top issue. Nearly half also reported that it's extremely challenging to tie customer experience investments to business outcomes. Leading-edge firms aren't immune from this issue, with a third in the same predicament.
That difference suggests that a higher incidence of tying customer experience to business outcomes sets the leading-edge firms apart. Still, a majority of leading-edge companies admit to having at least some difficulty tying their customer experience investments to business outcomes.
The traditional measure of customer experience success—customer satisfaction scores—are widely used in all companies. Yet a variety of other metrics deemed highly important by those that use them, such as customer effort and digital engagement scores aren't as prevalent.
The report showed that customer experience leaders use an array of metrics, often more effectively, to track customer experience management progress, including measures such as customer lifetime value, indirect traffic, social media sentiment, and upsell rates.
Three categories of customer experience measurement
To tie customer experience investments to business outcomes, consider this multi-layered approach to guide your customer experience measurement:
Engagement metrics help marketers measure the specific actions-- transactional or non-transactional--that people take when interacting across customer touch points as well as their resulting impressions toward the brand. Are they attracted or disillusioned? Quantitative metrics include online interactions (visits, downloads, registrations, etc.) or at the interactions at physical location or store, number and frequency of visits, recency, customer migration metrics (from lower to higher tiers of customer value), and customer profile completion rates. Softer, qualitative metrics include satisfaction survey responses and sentiment in social mentions or contact center experiences.
Operations performance measures. This category assesses the efficiency of customer experience activities.
By tracking operational metrics, marketers can get a sense of the size, scale, and activity level of customer experience initiatives, and how those change over time. Marketing operations management can connect budgeted and actual spending with activities, tasks, resources and objectives related to your customer experience efforts. Operational metrics can include enrollment rates in loyalty programs or campaigns, offer response rates, issue resolution times, asset re-use, and the like.
Corporate business measures. This category assesses customer experience contribution to overall corporate value.
Corporate metrics incorporate available financial and market data to link customer engagement and operational performance and to the firm's top and bottom lines. Examples here include revenue, growth,margins, market and wallet share, and other productivity measure. Tying everything together, these metrics are often the ones that matter most to the executive team.
Considering the overarching objectives for their businesses, marketers must choose appropriate measures that map to those goals directly or indirectly. For example, if the corporate imperative is to increase customer retention, then marketers should examine the correlation between online engagement and length of relationship or status level to renewal revenue.
Three tips to remember
Here are reminders as you embark on the customer experience measurement journey.
Approach customer experience measurement based on an integrated data set. Data integration is the very foundation of demand generation measurement. In the report, one customer experience director is hiring more analysts, working more closely with finance, integrating more databases, and trying to determine the real business value of a satisfied customer.
Connect the dots between branding, demand generation, and customer experience. Many companies have separate departments and marketing budgets. One focused on branding, one on lead generation, another on customer loyalty and so on. Ensuring that the business (not just marketing) takes ownership of the entire customer experience--from a customer's perspective-- is vital to gauging success. One survey respondent says it this way, "It’s quite a challenge. Everyone has always measured themselves by progress against sales goals, and customer experience can seem like another initiative. We had to make it clear that it’s not another initiative. It’s part of what we do. We achieve our sales goals via solid customer experience."
Focus first on effectiveness, then on efficiency metrics. Effectiveness is answering the question: “Are we doing the right things?” While efficiency is answering: “Are we doing that thing well?” First measure if your omni-channel efforts are effective in driving the desired interactions, involvement, intimacy and influence for your brand. Then look at efficiency metrics by evaluating costs of customer acquisition methods, buying and placement of media content, digital asset use, etc.
The best customer experience measures are not only manifested in delighted customers but also in a cheery financial story. The more companies tie customer experience investments to business outcomes, the more organizations will fully appreciate and see value in customer experience investments.
To learn more, download the full report "Lessons from the Leading Edge of Customer Experience Management" and let me know what you think.
Over the course of the last several years, our marketing team has been on a mission to find business value from data using analytics. In my role, I focus on demand generation via online channels, both inbound and outbound. As our web footprint has grown, so has our data and its irrevocable bond with digital marketing. As digital marketers, big data analytics is our best friend because we receive big data - both structured and unstructured - from web activities across dozens of touchpoints. We certainly recognize the potential of the data, so it is imperative that we turn this digital data into business value.
There are a few important ways we use the big data analytics to enhance our digital marketing.
Digital Marketing and Big Data Analytics
- Search: We are able to collect and utilize behavior from our largest traffic source. Using SAS solutions, we combine above median usage metrics – recency, depth, duration, high value content – with other online conversions to identify a customer acquisition opportunity or trigger alerts for our current customer marketing efforts. This is a big deal for us. I still wish we had keywords – I criticized Google for restricting them here a little while back – but what we have is working for us.
- Lead Nurturing: Big data analytics is a boon for lead nurturing. Not only does it enhance what we have been doing for a while now , but it gives us capabilities we did not have before. For example: By enhancing outbound nurture emails with web behavior and topics of interest, you become more proficient with your targeting. Can you tell if I am interested in ‘digital marketing' or ‘big data analytics' by the download of one white paper or report? We have found that by adding metadata and URL data into the equation, we can pinpoint this much better. This approach works extremely well for both customer acquisition and customer marketing campaigns.
- Descriptive Analytics & eCommerce: I am still new to the eCommerce space, but there is some siginificant opportunity for big data analytics here. When you really try to improve customer experience across multiple customer touchpoints, using web analytics (we use SAS Adaptive Customer Experience) provides you descriptive examples of the customer journey. For example, it would have been guesswork to identify all of the ‘steps’ in a customer’s online purchase. Instead we used data mining techniques to pull together web behavior, offline activity and data from chat/inbound inquiries to tell stories about what customers needed and wanted from this experience. This provides insights for - among other things - UI design, content requirements, offer management and conversion strategy.
I tried to visualize it here, but it doesn’t do true justice to the rigor that went into the customer journey exercise.
Digital Marketing and Big Data Analytics Resources
Big data analytics will continue to force marketers to modify and develop their skillsets. There are a handful of really smart people online that are talking about this. Scott Brinker is one and I encourage you to follow his Chief Marketing Technologist blog. I should also mention a number of informational resources that SAS has researched, developed and continues to invest in:
- SAS blogs:
- Big Data Analytics overview
- Digital Marketing overview
- Big Data overview
Do you have any 'big data analytics' stories that have helped you become better digital marketers?
Recently, I attended a symposuim hosted by the Calvin Institute with my wife. Some of the many sessions I attended focused on how to create an awesome worship experince. By hearing many of the different musicians perform live, I noticed how the art and science of music enhanced the message. Music brought the message to life in the worship experience. Different types of music changed the message and moved each listener to a different experience. Being a musician along with my wife, music has a deep and moving meaning for me in the worship experience.
Listening to many of the religious experts and musicians throughout the two day symposuim, I started to put on my marketing hat and had an epiphany! I started to correlate how the worship experience ties directly to creating a customer experience. Let me illustrate what parts were striking simliar to both types of experiences.
Invitation- The invitation is targeted to a audience that is compelled to participate. Both audiences are targeted to the experience via word, print, digital or website and sometimes divine invitation.
- Message- The message is strong to satisfy the content promised by the invitation. Both messages appeal to the audience with strong supporting statements. Music tends to highten the senses compelling you to action just like choosing the right marketing channel compels the customer to take action.
- Sending- The sending is the call to action after the experience. Both experiences send you on your journey charged based upon the message.
Just like the symposium marked me with an experience of a lifetime, we all have customer experiences that make an impact on us. One such customer experience comes to mind is the experience I had with a major clothing retailer. They presented at a user group meeting I attended and these practical approaches resonated with me. The retailer stressed how to:
- Identify where marketers can specifically affect the customer experience online;
- Understand marketing attribution and customer behavior within complex cross channel situations;
- Apply best practices for combining digital and offline data for a complete view of the customer.
Now, go out and be ready for your next life experience wherever it takes you.
If you would like to read more about the retailer mentioned above, check out this white paper titled "Digital Marketing Drives the Omni-channel Experience". Click here if you would like more information on creating an awesome customer journey.
I have the good privilege to work with colleagues that represent all the best qualities of data-driven marketers. Jenn Chase and Matt Fulk lead our Marketing Services team, which has collaborated with me and my peers in dramatically improving our marketing results by using our own Customer Intelligence solutions.
This "drinking our own champagne" story has garnered attention outside of SAS, and one such article was published on December 11, 2013 on the Plotting Success Blog by Software Advice.
The post was part of their series highlighting how software vendors use their own systems internally, and in this case focusing on how SAS uses SAS Customer Intelligence to increase marketing response rates 3 ways:
- Locate and remove conversion barriers.
- Create high-performing outbound email lists.
- Improve lead scoring to determine sales readiness.
The screen-shot below is part of Software Advice's original post, which has a great deal more detail. Check it out for an in-depth view of how SAS® Customer Experience Analytics has helped make lead nurturing more intelligent and easier to manage.
I hope you've found this account helpful to envision how your customers' behavior on your website can inform your strategy for engaging with them.
Please leave a comment to let us know what you think.
The issue of data privacy has gotten a lot of attention lately, thanks in part to revelations by Edward Snowden and his kiss-and-tell with the press about several top-secret United States and British government mass surveillance programs. It doesn't matter that this is not a new issue, nor that his revelations specifically detail government intelligence programs (not commercial) - they affect the public's perceptions about data gathering and use. For that reason alone, marketers should care about it.
As we've addressed extensively in this blog, big data and customer analytics are essential ingredients for marketing in the digital age. Most especially, they hold the potential for marketing to realize its rightful place in the enterprise for fostering a customer-centric strategy that drives every organization's ability to fulfill its mission to create value.
But individual consumers are not universally thrilled about the idea of people collecting their data and using it, and rightfully so. Not so long ago, the fall of the Berlin Wall shed light on the domestic surveillance programs that governments behind the iron curtain used to maintain control over its people - now publicly detailed in places like Budapest's House of Terror museum. Sadly, there are other places in the world where that kind of institutional malfeasance continues today as reminders of how bad it could be.
Lauded by some and derided by others, it was a unilateral development that addresses some of the threat that government regulation may ensue in response to mounting calls to restrict the ability to gather and use consumer data. Some of that public pressure comes from the annoyance factor of "junk mail" and telemarketers calling at inopportune times, partly addressed by DMAChoice, an online tool by the Direct Marketing Association that lets you opt-out of "junk mail."
I love what Acxiom and the DMA are doing, but they are just two of many such organizations. Will the others follow suit? There's no telling, but I certainly hope so. And it's not so much the threat of regulation to worry about, but it's losing the trust of our customers that should be the main concern - which is already a shaky proposition for many. My colleague, Jonathan Moran, shared his views on Acxiom's move in DM News this week, calling attention to the benefit of helping marketers be better, and he's certainly right about that.
But I think Moran is hinting at a broader - and more important issue - that marketers have an obligation to be better at what they do. Even beyond the publicly-available or self-reported data of the Acxiom database variety, the digital nature of today's world gives us the ability to gather and use behavioral data - the "actions speak louder than words" variety of data. The drawback is that behavioral data is where the danger to become creepy lies, but on the other hand it's where the potential lays waiting to deliver epic experiences. The path we choose (creepy or epic) is our decision and the time to make the choice is now. And we're kidding ourselves if we think we'll make the choice without the full knowledge, consent and involvement of our customers.
Let's show them they can trust us with their data. Stop spamming. Go beyond tip-toeing around opt-outs and make use of opt-ins. Give your customer good reasons to let you have and use their data. Paint a picture of how epic it will be for them. Want a good starting point? Download this whitepaper, How Vail Resorts Creates Epic Experiences with Customer Intelligence. I promise we won't abuse your data when you register for the paper, and yes, it's worth reading.
Marketing success in today's digital world requires a mix of art and science that involves both data-driven decision making and intuitive creativity to show how to improve your marketing. While marketing analytics have enabled the "scientific" side of marketing to evolve, it's also become apparent that creative thinkers working with the analytics are equally important.
For a great example of how that mix of powerful analytics and intuitive creativity can measurably improve your marketing, we need look no further than our own SAS Americas Marketing department. We've previously highlighted several ways that using marketing analytics have improved our marketing, and our latest example focuses on how we use SAS Adaptive Customer Experience analytics to interpret our customers' online behavior.
By doing that, we've been able to let our customers show us how to improve our marketing and realize the following results:
- Four-fold increase in average online response rates (2% to 4%).
- 6.6% incremental campaign lift through remarketing with tailored messaging.
- 52% reduction in customers caught in a navigation loop. (25% to 12%)
In the case of that last metric, my colleagues Julie Chalk and Craig Emerick were analyzing online customer behavior, which alerted them to a potential problem with the navigation layout of the SAS Visual Analytics pages. By looking at the data at a contact level, they noticed that about 25 percent of website visitors were visiting the same three pages over and over again.
That's obviously an issue and it prompted them to alter the page layout, after which the incidence dropped to 12 percent. In that case, their ability to spot and react quickly to the problem alleviated much user frustration and helped keep our audience engaged. And it's a great example of how their comfort with analytics (the science) made them attuned to an issue triggered by customer online behavior, and their marketing acumen (the art) equipped them to quickly address the issue very effectively. How awesome is that?
For more details about that great case study, click here. It's all part of a broader strategy here in SAS Americas Marketing to instill an analytical culture - something you may want to consider for your marketing organization. And something we can certainly help you with.
Let me know what you think!
How are you factoring devices into your marketing plan and approaches? As I think about what I am trying to accomplish and how that might change in the coming year, I find myself increasingly asking that question. Like all marketers today, I do my best to stay relevant to my audience while never forgetting that the audience decides what's relevant. An increasingly important next question is, how does my audience access my content? And the question of access, by necessity, means that devices need to be considered.
So what about those devices? For my current B2B work, that question usually begins with - computer or mobile? Of course it never remains that simple because from there, the two-pronged decision grows into a veritable tree of branches. For written content, do we create apps, PDFs or both? How about videos or podcasts? Smartphones or tablets? Android or iOS? The simplest answer, of course, comes from knowing what your customers do, but what if you don't have the resources to create both the app and the PDF and your market is 50-50 on that question?
And now we have things (appliances, cars) being developed to interact with the user through internet access - for a view of things to come on that front, read How the Internet of Things Changes Everything on HBR blogs. Telemetry for systems or devices has been around for a while, but providing wide access to consumers and making them iteractive is what's new and noteworthy.
Projections by Bosch Software Innovations point to 75% of the world's population having access to the internet by the year 2015. So will some 6 billion devices - so how does that impact your marketing?
Another indicator of the increasing relevance of devices came from Christopher Hosford, BtoB Magazine's East Coast Bureau Chief, reporting that paid search advertising on mobile devices is accelerating, up 30% year-over-year.
It doesn't matter that my company doesn't make things and I don't market them directly -
what matters is that devices are changing how my audience thinks and behaves.
I'd be remiss to ignore that development.
The proprietary nature of device operating systems - Apple in particular - means that when I think of devices, they seem like a new channel because if I develop content as an app it is distributed only through Apple. And to a certain extent that may be true, but I'm not sure it matters.
What matters is that I address the fact that some of my audience prefers to access content through the iTunes platform because they find it most often using their iPhone or iPad. At the same time - some of my audience prefers PDFs, and yet others prefer to see videos. How do I know who prefers what and if I can't do it all, how to prioritize it? That's where adaptive customer experience analytics are useful to let my customers' behavior tell me - I'll have more on that in an upcoming post, so stay tuned!
I have many more questions than answers on the question of devices. Candidly, I sometimes feel like the guy running on the platform to catch the train that's speeding up. But that doesn't stop me from running - or asking, where do devices fit in your marketing plan? So how about you?
Every once in a while I stop for a moment and consider how radically different marketing is today compared with just 3 years ago. Looking no further than my desk, it's quite amazing how my job has changed in just that short period of time. Previously, marketing seemed more an art than a science and it stood in contrast to IT, finance and operations - the enterprise functions that lived in a more structured and quantifiable reality than marketing.
Back then, the concept of strategic alignment across organizational lines usually seemed limited to the domain of the C-suite. And they still focus on it to be sure - but now strategic alignment is also a concern of marketing. Traditionally, consumer packaged goods was the leading industry where management engaged marketing in enterprise-wide alignment. It's not surprising considering the nature of the CPG business, and that focus on alignment became known as brand management. As Phil Kotler attests in this short video, good brand management rests squarely on the shoulders of stategic alignment - so the idea is not simply to communicate a brand promise, but to also fulfill that promise with well-orchestrated execution and delivery.
What has changed? Now that the world is increasingly lived online and the advent of social media has tipped the scales of business communications decidedly in favor of the consumer, customer centricity is simply not simply a concern for soap makers and cereal purveyors - it's essential for all businesses. As a result, brand management approaches that depend on internal alignment are key to marketing success across industries. And alignment increasingly entails marketing and IT, given the online nature of our digital world.
More than ever, great marketing is about spot-on execution that delivers what's promised
It follows then, that not only is it important to align across departments - but also to align within the marketing department through marketing operations management. It's no longer optional - marketing operations management is critical to planning and executing marketing that grows your business. And when you can integrate marketing operations management with marketing automation, adaptive customer experience management, social media analytics and marketing optimization, then you have your hands on all the major levers to engage your market and grow your business in ways that are structured and quantifiably effective.
Marketing operations management enables success because you’ll achieve greater consistency, efficiency and effectiveness by automating and integrating marketing processes and workflows. Key components of that include marketing strategy development and planning, asset creation, campaign execution, and post-campaign analysis and reporting.
With the right approach to marketing operations management, you can plan and develop marketing programs and workflows based on corporate initiatives and deliver confidently at a tactical level with consistent messaging, collateral and execution methods. If you add budgetary views to that operating model, you achieve fiscal control while enabling collaborative planning, allocation and program execution.
In a nutshell, that's how marketing operations management supports strategic alignment. For more details, you might be interested in downloading this whitepaper, Integrating Marketing Operations: How Marketers Can Align Their Strategy and Planning with Overarching Corporate Goals.
As always, thank you for following!