Interview: How marketing in the moment matters for mobile

In my ongoing quest to connect people's business problems with sources of technology solutions, my work on the TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series puts me in contact with some interesting people behind those solutions. Recently, I caught up with John Balla from SAS and got his insights on how marketing automation relates to mobile customers.

His recent role as a panel moderator and sponsor at the DMA's Marketing Analytics Conference in Chicago put him on my radar screen for the fascinating intersection of mobile with analytics, marketing automation and big data platforms. Here are a few of the highlights from our conversation:

TechnologyAdvice: The session you presented at the Marketing Analytics Conference covered mobile engagement and the differentiating role of analytics. Can you give us some highlights from that presentation?

John Balla at the Marketing Analytics Conference.

John Balla at the Marketing Analytics Conference.

John: When you think about mobile in particular, it's such a powerful platform. It's social, it’s search, and it's basic communications like email, text and phone. So mobile is really something that’s affecting the work of marketers in multiple ways. In the past year, I sponsored two studies on what’s happening in marketing with mobile customers that gave me the chance to zero in on the opportunities for marketers with mobile.

  • The first is a study with the CMO Council that we called “Getting in Sync with the Mobile Customer.” It took a pulse on the enterprise view of what's happening with mobile and their customers, and how marketing departments in these organizations are changing to meet the challenge of mobile.
  • The second study was conducted with Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, where Professor Terri Albert and a group of marketing research graduate students looked at how consumers engage with brands and organizations.

Together, the two studies gave me a chance to see the proverbial “two sides to the coin” and draw some important conclusions about mobile engagement, look at where the linkages are and what some of the trends are that were raised in one project and validated in the other. What we found is that mobile is both a challenge and opportunity in important ways. And while best practices aren’t fully-baked quite yet, mobile is still very much an open field for marketers to establish their market and engage in ways that would give them a competitive edge.

TA: What trends in mobile engagement and analytics can give companies a competitive edge when using marketing automation software? Read More »

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Five factors driving the modern web experience

When was the last time you looked at your own company’s website? I mean, REALLY looked at it? And by that I mean, looked at it from the eyes of someone that knows nothing about your company. Try to do that every so often – it will give you an idea of how your customer engages with your brand.

Scott Calderwood, Senior Manager of Digital Marketing

Scott Calderwood

Now try doing it on a tablet or smartphone. Surf around – try to access content as your customer might: whitepapers, blog posts, demos, videos, etc. Is it a good experience?

Good or bad - no matter what the experience, it should be your concern because your website is a big part of your customers’ web experience. And it’s not a once-and-done endeavor because our customers’ and their expectations are ever-changing, so we need to take steps to evolve the web experience to keep up with our customers.

Here at SAS, my colleague, Scott Calderwood, heads up the team at SAS that focuses on the web experience, and he opened my eyes to the things that he and his team keep in mind as they evolve the SAS website. Knowing the reasons behind recent website changes gives me a new perspective on marketing more holistically that inspired me to write this blog post. In particular, he has a handy-dandy list of five drivers of the modern web experience that I’m happy to share below:

  1. The mobile customer

Google identifies mobile-friendly pages, such as this SAS one for Big Data and moves them up in organic search.Today’s websites have to be mobile-enabled, and the reason is simple: web usage on mobile devices now exceeds traditional PC usage. And wouldn’t it be nice if it were really that simple, but it's not. It’s also a multi-device world, so different screen sizes and operating systems need to be factored into how you manage the web experience when you think about mobile.

Enter Responsive Design – it’s how you ensure pages render as needed independent of device. It’s a key way to have your website fit all known user experiences, and it’s also an important way to stay relevant for search, because it’s preferred by Google. Google now tags sites as “mobile friendly,” and those results rise to the top of organic results as shown in that screen-shot to the left.

It’s likely the same for your company, but that whole “mobile-friendly” designation is important for us because 15% of our web traffic is now mobile (compared to 1% just 4 years ago), and 66% of that traffic comes from organic search (mostly from Google). Read More »

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Five thoughts to keep your digital marketing strategy on track

We need a social strategy! No a digital strategy! Wait, what about mobile? Email isn’t dead, is it?

Almost all marketing today is "digital."These are just a few of the comments I hear flying around all too frequently in meetings and executive workshops lately. Adopting a digital strategy is nothing short of daunting. It requires a lot of planning and there are many considerations to keep in mind. If you're in the majority of marketers today that are thinking about how to go digital more effectively, here are five key thoughts that you will want to keep in mind:

  1. Mind the Gap (and other potentially misleading notions)
    Are you ever lumped into a category in a way that just makes you bristle?  To know what I mean, you only need to think of one story you’ve heard that started with, “When I was your age..." or "Why do they <insert any demographic> seem to...” Social and economic determinants predominantly shape us, not just age, gender or the period in which we are born.
    The inherent value of analytics is that it can help you see diverse facets of your customer far beyond basic demographics ̶  often instantly. Using your data, you can build a more focused and deliberate picture of what they value and their preferences, reconstruct context and deepen your understanding of behaviors.
  2. Minimize Friction
    How many times have you found yourself closing a website or deleting an app because it frustrated you? Friction points are anything that can slow your sales or impede the customer experience. In other words, the stuff that distracts, stresses out or confuses your customers. Read More »
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Supercharge digital marketing with advanced analytics and business intelligence

Gartner just recently released two Magic Quadrant vendor assessment reports that have important implications for marketers:

  1. The first is the Advanced Analytics Platform Magic Quadrant where SAS is nicely positioned in the leader’s quadrant among 16 vendors due to both completeness of vision and ability to execute.
  2. The second is the Business Intelligence (BI) and Analytics Platforms Magic Quadrant where SAS competes with 23 other vendors and is solidly positioned in the leader’s quadrant as well, particularly from the vision perspective.

SAS is the leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Advanced Analytics and Business Intelligence.
Now you may be thinking to yourself that is all well and good, but I'm a marketer - why do I care?

Business Intelligence reporting
underpinned by Advanced Analytics
will supercharge your Marketing..

Much has been written about the art and the science of marketing. While the art of marketing focuses on hard to quantify factors such as content quality and visual elements, the science side involves processes that can be measured, reported and improved. Read More »

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Leading marketing excellence with analytics

In today’s world, leading your organization to faster, better decisions calls for skill, agility and resourcefulness. Increasingly, it also requires the use of analytics to meet changes in customer expectations brought about with social, mobile and the digitization of life.

The keynote panel at the Marketing Analytics Conference.The lunch keynote at the DMA's Marketing Analytics Conference featured insights and practices from executives that have led their respective organizations to embrace analytics. Adele Sweetwood, VP of Marketing at SAS Institute, moderated this panel that included:

  • Michael Parkerson, Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina
  • Emmett Cox, SVP of Customer and Business Intelligence at BBVA Compass Bank
  • Jeremy TerBush, VP of CRM and Customer Analytics at RCI/Wyndham Exchange

The Customer Journey

Adele kicked off the discussion with a short video about the customer journey and how it is increasingly influenced by new digital channels and technology. And that journey generates a wealth of information that helps marketers better understand and deliver excellence along that journey through the use of analytics. Read More »

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When crunch time calls for real-time responsiveness

Financial goals are best reached with long-term planning - be it savings plans, carefully arranged financing, or any and all forms of insurance coverage.  When it's part of a plan and all goes well, the results intended are the ones achieved. All very good, right?

A real crunch calls for a real-time response.

No time to dither. A real crunch calls for a real-time response.

But even the best laid plans at some point go awry. Or things simply happen ("it happens') - it's a part of life.

Those can be known as "crunch times," especially when the solution is a financially-driven one that calls for getting a short-term loan. That crunch time can be caused by an accident, a natural disaster, or even a great opportunity that can't be passed up, and in that moment the last thing the customer wants to hear is that you can't help them.

That's the scenario that plays out for most customers of Advance America, a leading provider of short-term loans for people in situations not normally served by banks or other traditional lenders. They can be payday loans, online loans, installment loans, title loans and more. The one critical common denominator to all those scenarios is that they call for real-time responses. So in order to keep their business viable, Advance America needed to find a way to respond effectively in real-time to their customers' crunch times.

In order to do that, Advance America uses analytically-driven real-time decisioning with the goal of being consistently fair, thorough, and most of all, fast. On any given day, they process approximately 20,000 decisions and average about 15-20 milliseconds per decision. They also process about 1,300 new customers each day, averaging about 3 seconds per decision in those cases. Read More »

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Analytics produces better foresight in retail

Retailers love to forecast a busy Black Friday.Black Friday might seem like a long time ago now, but the impact of this new phenomenon in the UK still ripples. Retailers such as Dixons Carphone embraced the shopping day and once the results were tallied, that turned out to be a good move. The retailer attributes the success to careful planning around promotions and supply chain in anticipation of Black Friday, which contrasts with press reports of other retailers not faring so well for the opposite reason - a lack of planning.

With all indications showing that Black Friday is in the UK to stay, it puts the pressure on for retailers to improve their planning. And considering the complexity of today's operating environment, effective planning means being able to balance multiple constraints and business goals simultaneously to consistently get the best result.

That process begins with better demand forecasting and builds from there into sensible decisions about how much of each product to have in stock and on the shelves.

The so-called ‘casualties’ of the UK’s Black Friday will need to be planning at a much more granular level. When it comes to the detail, it’s the unpredictability of the season that is proving a challenge. For example, Argos Chief Executive John Walden talks about being more strategic about what is put on sale - "balancing the things that make money versus the things that may not." Read More »

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Understanding loyalty dynamics amid non-stop promotions

‘These shoppers ain’t loyal’: The sentiment expressed in "Loyal," a song by American singer Chris Brown, struck a cord with me, particularly around consumer behaviour. Whilst Brown may be decrying the erosion of loyalty in a very different setting, it's not a stretch to imagine how his lyrics might ring true for many retailers. Consider how retailers try to lure shoppers via shiny promotions and special offers in face of a daunting reality - increasingly fickle shoppers are their big share of the market - as can be seen in this Infographic by MarketTrack showing that 80 per cent of shoppers are willing to switch brands or stores because of a promotion.

Customer experience matters most for loyalty.Some of my co-workers may object to my playing ‘Loyal’ on repeat as I write this blog, but I’m trying to make a bigger point. Shoppers, much like my erstwhile colleagues, are experiencing loyalty fatigue. And, I don’t blame them.

Customer loyalty programmes are now the norm. The wallets of shoppers are bursting with loyalty cards and their phones flashing with promotional apps, increasingly in real time. This information overload diminishes the value that these incentives once had. The loyalty wars, just like the supermarket bread wars, are leaving CMOs sweating.

Today, the power and safety of a committed relationship is even more sought after. We know from our own experiences that loyalty can be borne out of many things: habit, fear, love, and convenience. So, what is it that makes shoppers return, bring others with them or be prepared to enter into an interactive marketing experience? Read More »

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Three tips for rethinking your current customer relationship strategy

Scene: My living room. After a long day, nothing sounds better than an evening spent enjoying a beverage and scanning my favorite news magazine while nestled in a deep-backed chair. A few pages in, I notice oddly-specific advertisements with somewhat personal messages. Since when did news magazines start advertising wedding invitations? And why would they assume I’d want to see these ads in a news magazine?

Your customers' personal data is out there. How you use it (and protect it) is up to you.Let’s be real, your personal data is out there and it is not really a question of whether you can control it or get it back. And the subsequent fact is that we don’t get to choose the degree of intimacy we have with a company. As a vendor, you may want customer-vendor intimacy, but if I as a consumer don’t willingly share my data, you probably shouldn’t flaunt that you have it—not without a supporting purpose or process .

What else can you do? Here are three tips. You need at least one of the two to manage your customer relationships.

  1. (Re)Define relationship criteria

It seems natural to classify and categorize customer-vendor relationships according to what we think we know about our customers. What we can’t assume is that we classified this relationship based on the right criteria. Jill Avery of Harvard Business School, Susan Fournier of Boston University and John Wittenbraker of the market-research firm GfK,co-authored, “Unlock the Mysteries of Your Customer Relationshipsin which they found most companies lack relational intelligence. They felt companies didn’t understand the multi-faceted nature of their customers’ relationships based on the finding of 29 distinct types of relationships (both positive and negative) ranging from strangers to friends.

The key is figuring out what kind of relationship your customer wants to have with you. Read More »

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Why forecasting is the next frontier in retail

Many retailers do not engage in effective forecasting.Retailers are always trying to get closer to customers. But it’s not just about improving service to those customers – it’s about understand more about what products they are demanding so as to make better forecasting decisions around, for example, how much of a particular item is needed in stock.

As this video reminded me, knowing your customers really well means you can easily know what products they will want, when and how, perhaps better than they do. Today, that knowledge is gleaned from a complex assessment of lots of online and offline data which contributes to every single buying decision by your customers.

The online element means it’s not just about attracting customers into the store. Visiting New York for the annual retail conference NRF a few weeks ago, I thought about how the value of retail space has changed. Retail giants that have been there for years, as well as the new retailers on the block, are continuing to transform the experience in-store to stay ahead of customer demand. We are enticed in-store with Wi-Fi, coffee, beer, or live DJs. But this only gets a retailer so far if they cannot capture key data about customers coming in to their stores.

The main problem, however, is not one of getting hold of data; it’s being able to forecast using that data. Read More »

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