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: 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?
John: As I mentioned, the biggest problems and the biggest challenges are where the opportunities are. And what I'm seeing is that it's the immediacy aspect of mobile -- that need and desire for all to engage in real time -- is where the opportunity lies.
So let's look at a very well talked-about subtopic here: showrooming.
Showrooming is rooted in the idea that your customers are engaging with your brand online, offline and especially simultaneously. It happens while they're in your store, they’re using your WiFi and looking at your merchandise, but then they’re also looking at what other stores -- your competitors -- are offering. For retailers in particular, that's a big problem, however, it also creates opportunities.
If you're able to engage your customers with a real-time decision engine tied to your automation platform [while they’re in your store], you have an idea of what they want. You can engage them actively knowing what they’re looking at and possibly why, and you increase the chances of keeping that sale in-store or in-house via however you reached their mobile device.
And this is a classic big data issue - it’s mostly driven by customer data. The choice is yours to either respond to it as an opportunity, or see it as a challenge that needs to be managed.
TA: Right, and your competition, they're taking advantage of the opportunities. So it's not only that you're missing the opportunity, but you're falling behind.
John: Exactly. Then it's a business problem, not so much an IT problem. With mobile changing the way people behave, they really want to hear about what you have to say and what you might offer them when they happen to be looking for it at that moment. But it has to be on their terms - you can’t go around bothering them. It's like the whole idea of the “Do Not Call List,” right? When you have people getting annoyed by getting these phone calls during dinner, then they don't want to talk you about whatever you're selling because they’re busy with something more immediate and (to them) more important.
It's the same way with mobile. That's why having a robust, real-time decision engine tied to your automation platform is going to help you achieve that relevancy where you're not annoying. I think everybody is still trying to figure how to do that and not be creepy at the same time, though. But that [the creep factor]is going to be something everyone -- marketers, customers, society -- are going to have to get used to and come to terms with.
TA: With access to all this data, how can businesses find that balance in their marketing automation— of giving the customer relevant and meaningful information that they want — without being creepy about it?
John: It’s the whole idea of how to use big data in a way that's responsible. Using opt-ins, safeguarding data and respecting privacy are key. The relevancy factor is particularly important because it affects customers and it affects how they perceive you and engage with you. Big data is largely customer data. It's the transaction, it's the engagement and the bread crumbs left across your website. That's where the value is.
If you’re able to combine it, analyze it, and get the insights and the understanding, then it enables you to be more informed and more educated and appropriate in how you engage with your customer.
It all comes back to marketing automation because when it works well, that is to going to be the engine that controls your engagement with your customers. That's the beauty of analytics. It gives you the ability to combine all this data and use it meaningfully. It's going to give you the ability to drive the insights that make you more effective as a marketer.
To learn more about Marketing Automation Software, big data platforms and CRM, visit http://www.sas.com/customerjourney.
Listen to the entire show above in order to hear our full conversation, or click here to listen later. You can subscribe to the TA Expert Interview Series via Soundcloud, in order to get alerts about new episodes. You can also subscribe to just the Marketing Automation category.