There was a tweet by pro surfer/comedian Trevor Moore on New Year’s Eve this year that made Warren Billington, managing director Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia, Signal, laugh.
It also caused a wry smile though, because Moore’s last thirteen words of his tweet totally nailed the challenges that marketers face to deliver advertising messages to the always on, multiple-device driven, hyper connected, fickle (and yes quick to be offended) consumer.
Remake Back To The Future 2 where there are no flying cars but people stare at their phones all the time + get offended at everything. #2015
— Trevor Moore (@itrevormoore) January 1, 2015
Today’s customers, the much written about Millennials, make purchase decision in a totally different way than previous generations (emphasised by the analysis of this year’s Super Bowl), have significantly reduced brand loyalty, a complex and rarely linear path to purchase; and expectations of brand interaction that is personal and appropriate to them. Put simply, there are many more options for marketers to engage with their consumers but if we screw it up, they are unlikely to be forgiving or come back for second go. There are innumerable studies about this, but for the general gist of it there is a good article in The New York Times published in August last year which is worth a read (if only to learn that there is a trade publication out there called BedTimes Magazine).
Most CMO’s worth their salt will know all about Millennials (maybe not about bed magazines though). They will also already know that they need to find a way to unlock the power of their customer data across all their customer touch points including desktop, mobile, email, search, point-of-sale and whatever might come next (Beacons and everything in the catch all bucket of ‘Internet of Things”). What is less clear for marketers is how to join the masses of fragmented data properly; and by properly I mean connecting both online and offline data.
In late January, the U.S the IAB and research house Winterberry Group (which was sponsored by several companies including my own) issued a report called Marketing Data Technology: Cutting Through the Complexity, which confirms what I hear from marketers almost every day.
Brands have made significant investments in a variety of sophisticated technologies to support the collection, management and deployment of their customer engagement data. Yet the holy grail of understanding the customer journey across devices and channels remains stubbornly out of reach.
While you can read the details of the survey here, the key takeaway is that the average marketer uses more than a dozen distinct toolsets and almost one in ten marketers works with a whopping 31 or more. These tools for analytics, attribution, ad-serving, retargeting, mobile and email marketing, social media and other marketing functions are reliant on a constant feed of consumer data. But the technologies lack interoperability, saddling marketers with the difficult and thorny challenge of how to connect and fuel them with a high-volume, high-velocity stream of up-to-the-minute, cross-channel data.
No wonder so many companies are not yet ready to provide the relevant, real-time experiences that “people stare at their phones” consumers want.
In the quest to get the Holy Grail, marketers are pretty much split down the middle in terms of whether they create a marketing “stack” – either using suite or cloud solutions purported to be integrated through a single interface; or multiple, independent, best-of-breed options meant to be interconnected after the fact. While marketers fear making the wrong decision in building their stack, lest they be left in the dust by competitors, they also worry about being too slow to leverage the latest technologies that might prove to be the ones that could help them win the cross-channel race.
But the stark truth is that no matter what road you go down in terms of your marketing stack, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Even a fully-integrated suite may not remain that way for long, with such a fast pace of supplier consolidation and the constant emergence of new tools.
In our new world platforms will come and go. Google Glass has recently gone south before we even reached the advertising opportunities, but will surely be replaced by something akin and taken to the next level, while Facebook acquired virtual reality player Oculus last year for more than their gaming potential. So for marketers the key will be to ensure that ALL of your customer data is able to work together in real-time and with flexibility and scale to make the marketing decisions that affect your bottom line.
To get there, companies should focus on three areas/actions:
Create a data strategy. Catalogue the most relevant types of data you have, relative to your marketing goals. Map out how your existing technological investments can be leveraged across desktop, mobile, CRM, email and other offline channels. Finally, let the bigger picture of how customers interact with your brand across touchpoints help establish your strategy.
Prioritise integration. Integration capability should trump even features and functionality. Most vendors are on a par for these, but the key to future proofing is how they connect to legacy systems, current systems and future systems.
Banish silos. Hopefully you already know this but it’s worth repeating for clarity.
In our world, as Moore so aptly described where “people stare at their phones all the time + get offended at everything”, it’s incumbent on marketing professionals to make sure that not only do they strive to get a single view of the customer, but more importantly that they act upon this single view in real time.
When that’s achieved the opportunities for real marketing engagement is unmatched. Imagine for example a world where if a customer has a negative brand experience in a call centre or online and then walk into a high street outlet their concerns are addressed and recompense is made. Now that’s the sort of Back to the Future I’d like to see (though perhaps with a DeLorean thrown in for a good measure).