A great digital customer experience is not accidental

The digital customer experience should look nothing like this.

The digital customer experience should look nothing like this.

Providing a great digital customer experience is more and more important, and yet many brands seem not to care by providing less than stellar experiences over and over again. It's like déjà vu, a French term that means “already seen,” which is used to describe the sensation that you have already experienced something that is actually happening for the first time. Up to 70 percent of people report having experienced some form of déjà vu, and for me it seems to happen all the time - especially in my experience as a digital consumer.

I am a modern consumer guy who uses multiple channels to engage with brands of all sizes, which marketers frequently refer to as a “hyper-connected consumer.” And along the way, I leave bits of information behind via online searches, Twitter comments, online surveys, online purchases and live chats. The idea of using all that data to make improvements in marketing is not new, and yet I often have the strong sensation that I've been here and done that when engaging with a brand.

Sadly, I still get poor customer service from cable, media and wireless companies. Financial institutions send me irrelevant credit card and mortgage offers and retailers have insufficient product selection and inventory when I visit -- either online or in-store. It doesn't have to be like this, I promise.

Organizations can and should use all the channels and resources at their disposal to provide the hyper-connected consumer with a stellar experience regardless of channel. But how can they harness their marketing automation and digital experience initiatives accordingly to manage the digital customer journey?

There are three key areas organizations can focus on to ensure that great digital customer experiences are not accidental - collect digital data, use digital intelligence and analytics, and integrate the digital ecosystem. Here are the approaches I recommend in these three areas: Read More »

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Three ways that analytics fuel a digital business

We’ve heard a lot lately about digital transformation, the idea that businesses are evolving how they operate – moving from traditional channels towards all things digital through the use of mobile apps, in-store digital offers, and more digital communication in general. My own experience confirms this. I love mobile banking, I’ve been spotted “showrooming” at brick-and-mortar stores, and my apps manage everything from my remote control to my alarm system.

Analytics can fuel your business with no messy drilling or pumping.

Analytics can fuel your business with no messy drilling or pumping.

However, as we think about businesses of the future we must consider speed to decision. The faster a business reacts to a consumer, the more likely it will secure that consumer’s business.

But do you really need powerful data management and analytics to operate an efficient digital business? I say yes, in fact - that the better your data management and analytical processes, the better the results. So ask yourself this question: Does your organization have powerful enough analytics to fuel a digital business?

Let’s talk about the role analytics plays each step along the way.

  1. Finding the secrets the data hold. It’s no simple task. Just gathering the data from all parts of an organization is daunting; few firms have the infrastructure even for simple data sourcing. And then, once you’ve collected data across channels (web, email, call center, social) and departments (sales, service, support), you have to apply management and analytical techniques. Data management includes performing data quality, data integration, and data structuring exercises – an arduous but essential undertaking because in order to have good analytics, you need good data. But now comes analytics – the fun part – uncovering unexpected insights unique customer behaviors based on data. It's best to think of analytics in terms of four basic forms:
    • Descriptive analytics answers the question of what happened in the past.
    • Diagnostic analytics helps determine why something may have occurred.
    • Predictive analytics delves into what might happen in the future.
    • Prescriptive analytics – the realm of the most mature organizations – posits how to replicate an event to make it occur again.

    A true digital business needs to have at least descriptive and diagnostics analytics covered. And you must articulate a vision for performing predictive and prescriptive analytics if not already employing them. Read More »

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Television Upfronts explain the impact of content marketing

Showing a television and a viewer with a remote.Television is a great equalizer – everyone has one or surely knows what it is, making it easy to relate to. For instance, just about anyone could tell you their favorite program. In my case right now, it would have to be a tie between Scandal and Modern Family.

So as a devotee of those programs, my ears perked up when I heard a radio news story that specifically mentioned those shows, and as I listened it occurred to me what a compelling analogy the story made to my current focus at work on content marketing.

The news was about the Television Upfronts (“Upfronts”) which have been happening this past week in New York. Upfronts are when television networks showcase the programming they have planned for the next season to advertisers with the goal of getting them to reserve time for their commercial messages.

As I listened to the news, it occurred to me how TV programs and the way advertising is selected to air during the shows is similar to the value that content-driven approaches add to marketing. So using these two programs, let's take a closer look at how they illustrate the impact of content marketing.

Modern Family
From the title, it should be no surprise that this show likely attracts a wide range of viewers with children since it features an extended family made up of many types of families - blended families, same-sex families, December-May families, adoptive families and so on. That profile explains why air time during Modern Family would be more valuable to businesses that want to communicate with families, such as theme park operators, game and toy makers, household product distributors, multi-passenger vehicle makers, and the like.

Scandal
In the case of Scandal, you might expect the show to attract female audiences and professionals of both sexes because the main character, Olivia Pope, is a powerful lawyer in Washington, DC that stays busy with her team of “gladiators” fixing problems (“scandals”) in the ecosystem around the American President. She has a Princeton + Georgetown pedigree and happens to have an intimate relationship with the President, making her quite powerful. Based on that description, this program would be prized for ads by high-performance auto manufacturers, upscale clothing and footwear retailers, designer brands, wine makers, and the like.

The common denominator between these two shows is that their story-lines (i.e. their content) are what attract their respective audiences, so in other words:

The content is what creates the value. Read More »

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How analytics serves up a great customer experience

Things haven’t changed as much as you’d think. Some 14 years ago, as a young whippersnapper in customer analytics PR, my interviews often centered on tearing down silos and building a 360-degree customer view. Still do. But while we mulled over the mechanics of understanding the customer through analytics, we didn’t talk much about the customer’s viewpoint.

Strive for excellence with analytics.

Strive for excellence with analytics.

At the most recent SAS Global Forum conference, it was all about customer experience. No matter the industry, or whether the topic was digital marketing, data visualization or price optimization, presenters were all looking to analytics to elevate the customer experience.

Let me give a couple for instances:

Chico’s FAS uses analytics to think like the customer.
In fact, the company’s new CMO consolidated its entire marketing department into one unified group. By eliminating silos (yes, that’s still important), they’re focusing the lens on the customer, regardless of channel. New segmentation models use data from every channel. The result: consistent messaging across all touch points. At every point in the customer journey, Chico’s uses analytics to examine how its campaigns affect customers and manage the level of contact by looking at customer engagement across all channels.

The Orlando Magic is set on personalizing fan experience while respecting their privacy. At first, the deluge of fan data seemed like a windfall – or maybe too much of a good thing. Read More »

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What can the geeks learn from the artists?

Person Visualising Data

While data can be beautiful, beauty can also be quantified.

The unstoppable rise of the data scientist in marketing has transformed the industry. Previously seen as creative, intangible and emotional, marketing has gone under the knife of measurement and awoken in a strange new binary world.

But before we consign creativity to the work of algorithms and witticisms to machine generators, it’s clear that the ‘magic’ of marketing still has a role alongside the data analysis.

In my last blog post, I explored what creatives learn from statisticians and now it’s time to turn the tables and see what the left-side of the brain can absorb from the right.

1. Marketing is all about people
Sometimes we need to see through the numbers to the people behind. It can be easy to lose yourself in the process of perfecting a model, an algorithm or a prediction, but we always need to come back to the people behind the numbers. If we forget this, then it becomes easy to stray in to creating marketing monsters: campaigns that are ill considered have the potential to become unethical or downright creepy.

2. Imagery is an important part of communication
No matter how clever the analysis, when it is poorly presented it is difficult for others to understand. The human mind has evolved to respond to visual stimulus and if you want your work taken seriously, you will need to find ways to help others understand it. The best way to do that is visually.

This may be achieved using one of the many charts and graphs that we have access to, but it could easily be equally something more creative. And when you plan to use graphics and images, think carefully about colour, proportion and ordering, and how these can help you communicate your findings.

3. Engage the heart as well as the head
You need to be able to tell stories – the data will not speak for itself. For thousands of years humans have used stories to pass wisdom among themselves. The role of stories is to help us understand complex situations, which then helps us make decisions confidently. And the stories we can tell are often held closely inside our numbers.

If we want our data to really make a difference, then being able to create a narrative that is concrete, empathetic and engaging will pay dividends. Taking decisions based on anecdotes may be foolish, but using anecdotes to illustrate data and drive a decision is a smarter approach than simply running a model and expecting the "data to speak for itself."

We validated this idea of finding improvements in marketing by leveraging both sides of the brain recently in research titled, ‘What Kind of Marketer Are You’? Take a moment to read it and gain more insights into how quantitatively- and qualitatively-oriented marketers can both up their game by borrowing from each others' playbooks.

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More advice for marketers from moms

Mom and her 2 children in a Scottish phone booth.

Mom always makes room for the kids.

Once again Mother’s Day has arrived and we all should take a moment to honor our moms.

To that end, I’d like to reprise a post from two years ago, Happy Mother’s Day: advice for marketers from moms, and add some more motherly advice to guide us in marketing. Many thanks to my colleagues who contributed their pearls of wisdom for this post!

Play well with others and share your stuff
My colleague Joanne Butzier submitted this advice from her mother, which she thinks is particularly applicable to social media marketing. Being a team player is key and the more we work together and share content, the more our message gets out to our prospects and customers. I believe sharing “our stuff” is a critical component of marketing and should be incorporated into our overall marketing strategy.

Don't get married before you are 25 years old, have traveled to Europe with your girlfriends and have lived on your own.
This one is from my team-mate Beth Kasson, who added that her mom Elaine Haubold would explain that you have the rest of your life to be married, but you need to learn to pay your own bills and take care of yourself. As for Europe, she said " traveling after you are married and have kids is never the same as traveling with your girlfriends."

I think the value of this one in terms of our data-driven world is to know the value of perspective and experience for valuable context when your data is incomplete or shows conflicting conclusions. This is particularly useful with big data when using visual analytics for early conclusions and setting direction that informs deeper analysis. Read More »

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Predicting customer preference evolution in retail

Not so long ago, I started my retail/merchandising career in the juniors division at the corporate office of a retailer. It was so exciting to be in a place where I could wear the clothes that I worked with, and I was sure that picking out cute clothes all day was what I was meant to do! SAS Analytics helps retailers get merchandising right.

Then about a year later, I moved to the "missy" sportswear division, which I thought would be great, too, because cute clothes are easy to pick out in any area, right? Well - I thought wrong. You see, this company was based in Florida, where the missy area for retailers is long on conservative and short on trendy.

My first red flag was raised during my first “Hit or Miss” meeting, where the merchants display their top-selling items (hits) and their slow movers (misses). As you might have guessed, the very first hit was very far from a hit in my book. I just could not imagine 3,200 or so ladies actually choosing to wear a bedazzled hot pink shirt with flamingoes and seagulls swallowing up the fabric!

SAS analytics helps retailers with merchandising.Sadly, one of the "miss" items was a very cute peasant top that I could see wearing myself. Suddenly I got a sickening metallic taste in my mouth as I realized how bad a fit I was for missy sportswear in Florida.

Merchandising is not as easy as one initially thinks because it involves selecting merchandise for different arrays of individuals who may not all have the same taste as you. So how do we go about figuring out what to buy? This is an age old question…

There’s competitive shopping, but relying on that always puts you behind the trend. The largest tactic for conquering this question has been analyzing what sold in the past. Many merchants try to bring items back in the next season that had mediocre performance the previous season but only to then find that they are this seasons dogs.

The customer is constantly changing and evolving. Do you buy items that you already have? No, of course not. So then how do you determine what the customer will want? That is the magical question to merchandising. Read More »

Anticipation: the heart of agile, digital marketing

Think back to the best restaurant experience you’ve ever had - what made it memorable? Location, quality and ambience all matter, but for me, the truly great experiences have always been where the service was exceptional.

Fine dining 95 floors above street level in Chicago.

Fine dining 95 floors above street level in Chicago.

In a small handful of cases, it was as if the servers anticipated my needs and delivered what I wanted almost magically at the exact right time – a small glass of extra ice for my drink, or the new salt shaker when my vigorous shaking seemed to be fruitless.

These have almost always happened for me in “fine dining” establishments, where such anticipation is almost expected. When it’s happened in “regular” places where it might be unexpected, such service is a pleasant surprise, but wherever it happens, it’s always a good feeling to be treated as if they really know you, isn’t it?

These types of customer experiences where your needs are anticipated are now possible in a wider variety of businesses and situations because economic activity takes place more and more in the digital realm. And more and more of the buying process is online and digital engagement is data-driven. In the digital realm, opportunities abound where analytics can drive marketing that is agile, meaning the ability to have the right message/offer at the right time in the right place for the right people. Read More »

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What can the creatives learn from the statisticians?

Clever words, beautiful imagery and exciting creativity have long been marketing’s domain. But an alternative view of the world has emerged and is creating a divide.

Art and science blend naturally in nature.With the rise of big data, relentless objectivity and the unceasing quest for measurement we must welcome the data scientist. Surely all true marketers now weep for the light that has gone out of their world?

A battle of the brains – right versus left, emotional versus analytical, creatives versus statisticians – is apparently underway. But is this really the case? The division between the ‘rightists’ and the ‘leftists’ is an invention of the early 20th century. Our forefathers would not recognise it. From Leonardo da Vinci (engineer/artist) to Florence Nightingale (nurse/statistician), history is replete with individuals whom we would now refer to as polymaths. For these individuals our so-called divide would be considered ridiculous.

With the rise of data and analytics in marketing and the evolution of digital marketing we need to throw away this new dogma and embrace our other side to become more effective, more complete marketers. In the name of bridging this gap, this blog post, and my next, will outline what creatives can learn from statisticians (or ‘statos’), and vice versa.

Three things creatives can learn from statos:

  1. Numbers are beautiful
    Ever heard of the golden ratio? The ancient Greeks believed that beauty is absolute, and is defined by a mathematical formula.Despite being nearly 3,000 years old, this ratio is still used by painters and photographers when determining the composition of a picture. It is also prevalent in nature, describing the proportions and structure of objects as diverse as the human face and the structure of a nautilus shell. Read More »
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Using analytics to delight customers at Scotiabank

In every industry, there’s one perennial challenge - how do you consistently delight your customers? How do you show them that you instantly know who they are, no matter when or where they interact with you? How do you turn them from lukewarm acquaintances to passionate brand evangelists?

Scotiabank has asked itself those questions at least 21 million times – once for each of the customers it needs to know well. As Canada’s leading bank and a large presence in many other parts of the world, Scotiabank decided a couple of years ago to transform itself from a transactional bank to one that is relationship-oriented.

Tom Morris, Scotiabank

Tom Morris, Scotiabank

Tim Morris, Vice President of Customer Interaction Management at Scotiabank, presented at SAS Global Forum Executive Conference on how they use analytics to delight customers.

The first step was to connect and enhance the bank’s channels so Scotiabank’s customers don’t have to tell their story two, three or four times before they get what they need. (We all know how that feels, right?) After building the connections, the bank had to make the information available to its front-line reps so they could see all customer interactions in a single portal. Having a single hub is what ensures that the right conversation happens at the right time, a definite first step to delight customers.

After that foundational work was done, it was time to rethink the bank’s lead strategies to develop “next best activities” that would take Scotiabank from a product focus to a customer focus. The goal is to always have it be about:

One Customer, One Bank.

In other words, every arm of the bank needs to be talking to each other, and hearing each other. Read More »

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