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Are Your Marketing Analytics Holding You Back?

In today’s big data world, analytics tools are supposed to help marketers decipher the trail of digital interaction data that their customers leave behind at every touch point, transforming these digital footprints into customer insights that marketers can act on in real-time to improve campaign performance.  However, as the volume, velocity and variety of relevant customer data continues to increase, it’s becoming clear that traditional business intelligence (BI) systems aren’t meeting the analytic needs of modern marketers.

Big Data  

Do you find yourself looking to your IT department for help at every stage in the analytic process, from extracting customer data to integrating and analyzing it? If so, that’s a red flag.  Do you ever find yourself importing data from your BI and analytics software into a spreadsheet to analyze it? If so, that’s another red flag.  Chances are your current tools lack the intuitive user interface, flexibility and agility that is required to understand and respond to your customers needs in real-time.

Traditional data warehouses and analytic systems that many marketers are using today use a set of pre-defined customer attributes to paint the state of the customer at a particular point in time.  These systems are not structured to be updated frequently, let alone accommodate customer data changes in real-time.  These legacy analytic applications become outdated as soon as there is a change in the way the customer data needs to be analyzed, which now happens regularly. In our new digital reality, where customers’ states change continuously, marketers need an analytics platform that empowers them – without help from the IT department -- to analyze customer data based on any relevant attribute and ask new questions of their data to gain deeper insights.

These are just a few of the ways that traditional analytics tools are holding marketers back from the ability to better understand and respond to customers’ needs in real-time. If you want to find out more about the challenges that traditional BI systems pose, and the new analytics platforms that are enabling marketer to take on today’s constantly connected consumer in this big data era, download our Success Guide 10 Warning Signs You Need Better Marketing Analytics.  

Are you currently facing any challenges with your existing marketing analytics system? What is your company doing to leverage the deluge of digital interaction data that your customers are leaving behind? Let us know in the comments below.

Posted by: Syed Mahmood at 10:32 AM
Categories: marketing analytics, big data, data, analytics

Is There A Future for Digital Marketing Within Wearables?

Here's an article I wrote for MediaPost:

Keep your eyes peeled, kids, a new screen is coming to town.  While a bit down the road, 2015 may be the year that wearable technology marks a commanding presence, with products like Nike FuelBand, Google Glass and Samsung Galaxy Gear paving the way for more development within the wearables market.  And given the much-rumored Apple iWatch, it seems that all the big dogs are looking to capitalize on this technology.
 
How Do Wearables Work?
 
Quite simply, wearables are sensor devices that are worn on the body.  In many cases the wearable is incorporated into the very fabric of one’s life – a computer in constant communication with its owner, an extension of the wearer’s own body.  Many wearables operate using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, which is a way to wirelessly transfer data between computing devices. RFID tags are already used in several ways, such as animal microchips and toll road EZ passes, and “human” wearables are being used in specialized cases right now, such as in surgical rooms so that doctors don’t have to take their eyes off the operating table to view things like blood pressure and temperature readings.

Where there’s a screen, the digital marketer will come. Early use cases for consumer wearables include fitness tracking, mobile payments and service scheduling. Consider entering a shopping complex – with the wave of your hand, you can book an appointment at the spa, reserve a table at the restaurant, buy a pair of jeans at the store and purchase movie tickets and popcorn for later.
 
Marketing responsively. Oh, the possibilities! Wearables will offer marketers previously unattainable insight into the user’s past and current behavior. Retailers may know what stores the consumer previously shopped at, and which aisles the consumer is browsing in their own stores.  Armed with this data, marketers can predict what products the consumer is likely looking for – serving up product recommendations and offering a way to pay on the spot. Has someone been out shopping for the past three hours? Send them a coffee promotion to drive traffic into your coffee shop! The possibilities are endless.
 
Choosing the right vehicle. While wearables can be considered another screen to design for, it’s unlikely that people will effectively consume lots of information on such a small screen. But because wearables typically sync with apps, brands can push timely app, SMS or email content to the individual.  By avoiding the wearable, a brand can enact present-tense marketing without invading someone’s “personal space.”
 
Extending the experience socially. Marketers in certain industries can use their wearables to drive deeper engagement with their brand and extend the voice of their customer across channels.  Take the Basis sleep tracker, which on its website encourages users to share "war stories online to create a support system and foster a healthy sense of competition.”
These devices and their related apps could potentially store previously unknown details about a person – anything from medical conditions to driving patterns to daily routines. Will brands effectively leverage this data to target users with relevant offers, content and information? Is there an ethical debate? Or do the positives of enhancing the consumer experience outweigh the negatives?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Posted by: Amanda Hinkle at 12:00 AM
Categories: digital marketing, wearables

Custom Email Marketing Reports: A Huge Step Toward Better Results

Here's an article I wrote for ClickZ:

The challenge for email marketers has always been to send the most effective message at the most effective time to the right group of people.

For most of the past two decades, the limiting factor in this optimization was technology. It was simply too difficult to create content, segment lists, send messages at key times, and report on the numerous variations that resulted. The tools have, of course, progressed over that time, but the marketer's vision exceeded the tool's capability - until about four years ago.

That's changing. Today's leading email service providers allow more personalization and reporting capabilities than an email marketing team could possibly exhaust.

For example, most leading email service providers (ESPs) have a method of sending triggered emails based on lifecycle events on an ongoing basis that can accommodate thousands if not tens of thousands of content variations.

Traditional email marketing teams and reporting methods cannot handle this level of complexity - and they shouldn't try to. Eighty percent of the benefit to be gained from such personalization can be achieved with 20 percent of the effort.

So, the challenge for today's email marketer is not how much can my software handle, but rather how much can my team handle and what efforts will result in the maximum return?

In other words, I believe email marketers know what types of changes will drive better performance, but they don't know which segments to focus on and apply those changes to.

The answer to that question comes (in part) from the skilled application of custom reporting. Knowing where to apply your efforts requires you to know where the opportunities lie.

I believe that email marketers have been able to get away with generic, high-level reporting for a long time for a few reasons:

  1. The set of things that can be directly measured from an email are limited: delivery, opens, clicks, complaints, unsubscribes, and forwards. These interactions are easily measured, so it's easy to focus on them.
  2. Email performs better in return on investment (ROI) terms when compared to other channels. This could be because an email is usually given full attribution of any conversion it generates, or it could be because emails actually perform better - it's tough to tell for sure. Because it performs better, however, email marketers haven't traditionally been challenged to create better reports.
  3. Email marketers don't have the skills to report at a more detailed level, historically due to the limitations mentioned above. As a result, the custom report simply wouldn't get made, or the email marketer would rely on a separate team (business intelligence, analytics) to manage the process.

The problem with traditional reports is that it is difficult - if not impossible - to identify opportunities with a report that has only email metrics, is based on single sends, or templates and is unsegmented.

Here is an extremely simple framework to build and use a custom report that will help identify opportunities in your current programs:

1. Identify the Question to Be Answered
What additional information would help you identify a specific segment that is being underserved or a trend that is hidden in the aggregate? Would it help to know how previous purchasers respond compared to those who have not purchased yet? How about whether the people that joined in December were more likely to convert from email than those who joined in January?

Traditional email marketing reports fail to be helpful, I believe, because they don't answer any specific question.

One thing to remember: Your experience with your company will help guide you to a question that helps, but you may not get something valuable the first time. That's fine. Keep trying until you do find something interesting.

2. Build a Report That Answers the Question or a Similar Question
Be quick. Leverage the new reporting capabilities available to you. Learn how to use them.

If you can't answer the question you're asking because you don't have the skill level, find someone who does, or increase your skill. As an email marketer, you'll need to be able to use these kinds of reports regularly.

If you can't answer the questions because of the technology, answer a similar question. For example, say you're question is "Do men convert more often than women leading up to Valentine's Day?" but you don't have access to conversion data. Instead, find out which segment has more clicks, and use that as a substitute, albeit a poor one (it's better than nothing). Also, follow up and find out what needs to happen to get conversion data.

3. Implement a Change, Test It, and Iterate
Don't just report. Once you've identified an opportunity, act on it. Create a test to show whether the change improves performance.

Don't let history, mindset, and lack of skills prevent your team from finding those hidden email marketing wins. Start building custom reports that answer better questions and drive results.

The challenge for email marketers has always been to send the most effective message at the most effective time to the right group of people.

For most of the past two decades, the limiting factor in this optimization was technology. It was simply too difficult to create content, segment lists, send messages at key times, and report on the numerous variations that resulted. The tools have, of course, progressed over that time, but the marketer's vision exceeded the tool's capability - until about four years ago.

That's changing. Today's leading email service providers allow more personalization and reporting capabilities than an email marketing team could possibly exhaust.

For example, most leading email service providers (ESPs) have a method of sending triggered emails based on lifecycle events on an ongoing basis that can accommodate thousands if not tens of thousands of content variations.

Traditional email marketing teams and reporting methods cannot handle this level of complexity - and they shouldn't try to. Eighty percent of the benefit to be gained from such personalization can be achieved with 20 percent of the effort.

So, the challenge for today's email marketer is not how much can my software handle, but rather how much can my team handle and what efforts will result in the maximum return?

In other words, I believe email marketers know what types of changes will drive better performance, but they don't know which segments to focus on and apply those changes to.

The answer to that question comes (in part) from the skilled application of custom reporting. Knowing where to apply your efforts requires you to know where the opportunities lie.

I believe that email marketers have been able to get away with generic, high-level reporting for a long time for a few reasons:
The set of things that can be directly measured from an email are limited: delivery, opens, clicks, complaints, unsubscribes, and forwards. These interactions are easily measured, so it's easy to focus on them.
Email performs better in return on investment (ROI) terms when compared to other channels. This could be because an email is usually given full attribution of any conversion it generates, or it could be because emails actually perform better - it's tough to tell for sure. Because it performs better, however, email marketers haven't traditionally been challenged to create better reports.
Email marketers don't have the skills to report at a more detailed level, historically due to the limitations mentioned above. As a result, the custom report simply wouldn't get made, or the email marketer would rely on a separate team (business intelligence, analytics) to manage the process.
The problem with traditional reports is that it is difficult - if not impossible - to identify opportunities with a report that has only email metrics, is based on single sends, or templates and is unsegmented.
 
Here is an extremely simple framework to build and use a custom report that will help identify opportunities in your current programs:
 
1. Identify the Question to Be Answered
What additional information would help you identify a specific segment that is being underserved or a trend that is hidden in the aggregate? Would it help to know how previous purchasers respond compared to those who have not purchased yet? How about whether the people that joined in December were more likely to convert from email than those who joined in January?
 
Traditional email marketing reports fail to be helpful, I believe, because they don't answer any specific question.
 
One thing to remember: Your experience with your company will help guide you to a question that helps, but you may not get something valuable the first time. That's fine. Keep trying until you do find something interesting.
 
2. Build a Report That Answers the Question or a Similar Question
Be quick. Leverage the new reporting capabilities available to you. Learn how to use them.
 
If you can't answer the question you're asking because you don't have the skill level, find someone who does, or increase your skill. As an email marketer, you'll need to be able to use these kinds of reports regularly.
 
If you can't answer the questions because of the technology, answer a similar question. For example, say you're question is "Do men convert more often than women leading up to Valentine's Day?" but you don't have access to conversion data. Instead, find out which segment has more clicks, and use that as a substitute, albeit a poor one (it's better than nothing). Also, follow up and find out what needs to happen to get conversion data.
 
3. Implement a Change, Test It, and Iterate
Don't just report. Once you've identified an opportunity, act on it. Create a test to show whether the change improves performance.
 
Don't let history, mindset, and lack of skills prevent your team from finding those hidden email marketing wins. Start building custom reports that answer better questions and drive results.

Posted by: Justin Williams at 12:00 AM
Categories: email, email marketing reports, results

Why Your Cross-Channel Marketing Needs to Live in the Present…Tense

Here's an article I wrote for ClickZ:

Consumers live in the now. They have constantly changing needs and they expect instant gratification regardless of the engagement channel. If you're not aware of your customers' present-tense context, here's what you're missing:

1. Reaching your customer at the moment they are most inclined to take action, on the channel they are using at that moment.

Imagine a consumer who has previously purchased from you - you know the what, where, and how of their purchase. You also know how they prefer to engage with your brand, whether it's online, in-store, via mobile app, or even through your social sites. This answers the "where" should I engage them part of the contextual equation. Now, you have to understand the "what," or the purpose of their engagement, which can always be identified (or at a minimum, inferred) by their behavior. Were they browsing certain products or information, comparing features, functionality, or pricing, or reviewing terms of service or support information? Each of these behaviors answers or indicates the "what" or their goal. The key here is the where and what are dynamic, sometimes changing moment by moment. You need to respond to your customer's present tense context in the here and now, in real-time before it changes.

2. Providing them with additional information that syncs with who they are and what motivates them.

Who are you messaging? Are they a returning customer or potential new one? What do you know?
What does their profile tell you? Just because the police aren't allowed to do it doesn't mean we can't and shouldn't. Customers expect us to know what they want and need.

A current profile tells who you are engaging with and what they want. Figure out who they are, what makes them tick, what their pain points are, what problems they need solved, what they've tried but hasn't worked, what they value, how they spend, how and where they purchase, what will motivate the desired action.

If you understand "who" they are and "what" will motivate them to take action, this insight will drive the right messaging and create an action-based experience. If you truly listen to your customers, they'll listen back and thank you by taking the desired action.

3. Understanding your customers' buying stage and providing information to help them take the next step.

Decision and buying cycles are being compressed. The attention span of a customer has decreased dramatically, and any brand loyalty is being challenged by competitors offering the right information to provide ease of use and convenience. A successful company needs to reinforce the value it provides to its customers on a continuous basis and during all stages of any buying cycle - from research to comparison to trial and finally purchase.

In addition, the time between when a customer has a new desire and when they expect companies to meet that desire is also shrinking. If you don't react quickly enough, the customer will find someone who will. Have you ever been in the situation where there were so many options or you didn't have enough information to make a good decision? Sure, we all have, but what was the one thing that made you take action, or go in one direction vs. another? Typically, it comes back to ease of use and availability of information and convenience to take that next step.

Most marketers understand the value of collecting customer data, but they also realize the challenges of leveraging this knowledge to create intelligent, proactive pathways back to the customer. Applying a present-tense marketing strategy addresses consumers' high expectations, including the immediacy of information and service. However, it requires a real-time view of the contextual data to understand the when, where and what to provide in response to the customer's need. Recognizing and tracking patterns within data helps businesses sift through layers of seemingly unrelated data for meaningful context, where they can anticipate, rather than simply react to, customer needs.

Your customers are living in the present tense. Your marketing must meet them there.

Posted by: Katrina Conn at 12:00 AM
Categories: cross_channel, marketing

A Tale of Cross-Channel Marketing Gone Wrong

Here's an article I wrote for iMedia Connection:

While recently making a retail purchase, I was asked by the sales associate to sign up for the company's "Thanks for Sharing" program -- an effort to raise millions of dollars for charity. After a $25 enrollment fee, you get 10 percent back on purchases through the end of the year. Sign me up! It's a win-win for the charities, the retailer, and my own pocketbook. Unfortunately, my ongoing experience with this program has left me feeling more confused than appreciated.  Let's start at the beginning.

In-store
My customer journey started off well. The sales associate said today's purchase counted toward the program, meaning I'd already earned back the $25 enrollment fee. Great! She encouraged me to track my rewards progress on future paper statements. A week later, I went back to the store, and the same associate couldn't find any record of my enrollment. I assured her that I had signed up just one week prior and went home to await my paper statement to verify.

Direct mail
I was looking forward to seeing all the rewards rack up on my paper statement, but when it arrived in the mail, there were no rewards, nor any acknowledgment that I was enrolled. There was, however, an advertisement for the "Thanks for Sharing" program.  It dawned on me that maybe I wasn't enrolled after all.

Online
I logged into my online account hoping to find some answers, but there was no mention of this program. I needed to make a phone call.

Call center
After being forced to listen to 13 different phone tree options, I finally got through to an agent who informed me that I was indeed enrolled in the program. However, the large purchase that had inspired me to join in the first place wasn't eligible because the sales associate had signed me up before the program officially began. What? Given that it's a charitable cause, I didn't have the desire to debate the issue.

Email
To satisfy my curiosity, I looked at my inbox to see what emails may have come from the retailer.  I was surprised that the only two emails from the past 30 days were:

• Thanks for your recent payment
• Your statement is ready to view online

No "Thanks for Enrolling" email acknowledging that I had joined the program or promotions of any kind. I was beginning to feel un-thanked for sharing.

The moral of the story

It takes a certain level of planning and sophistication to successfully orchestrate a marketing campaign across multiple channels. While some marketing snafus can be humorous, others can send the consumer reeling.

Because today's consumers have a "get it now" and "get it right " mentality, marketers need to provide both. As such, we need unprecedented visibility and access to relevant data about consumers and the context in which they are shopping. So what do marketers need to gain the insight and contextual understanding required to enable the creation of sophisticated cross-channel customer experiences?

Marketers need a powerful and nimble system of record
A technology infrastructure that will support an integrated approach to marketing strategy, development, delivery, and measurement -- across the marketing mix -- is necessary. Carefully assess your current capabilities and develop a plan for investment in marketing technologies that will ensure you're in a position to leverage customer data in real time across multiple platforms and devices.

Marketers need to get collaborative
Organizations need to be more collaborative in how they plan and optimize campaigns. They must bring together individuals from different business units, such as IT, product development, and marketing. These groups need to work together in new ways to collectively understand consumer decision journeys and design experiences that will meet consumer demands.

Marketers need to design interactions that enhance the customer journey
Understand how customers interact with your brand and look for opportunities to enhance the experience across their journey by leveraging data and context for real-time response and dialogue.

A sophisticated marketing program can drive significant ROI. Because it is not feasible to manually act in the moment a consumer is making a decision, marketers need automated campaigns that are skillfully orchestrated across channels. Skillfully is the key word here -- we need the right technologies, people, and processes in place to meet the consumer's present tense demand for marketing.

As the call center representative said, "Thanks for calling and have a great night." (It was 10 in the morning.)

Posted by: Amanda Hinkle at 12:00 AM
Categories: marketing, cross-channel, cross channel

How Leading Marketers are Using New Analytics Tools to Harness Big Data

Oh brother, not another marketing needs big data webinar/blog post/conference session.

I understand and even sympathize if that’s your reaction. Like marketing cloud, big data feels like another buzzword that’s been overhyped by big vendors attempting to sell yet another big ticket item to the marketing department. When I was an analyst at Forrester Research, I frequently heard complaints like, “marketing has been dealing with big data forever” or “what we need is small data, not big data.”

Truth is, big data is one you need to pay attention to, for it pays dividends to both the bottom line and to customer experience.

StrongView recently commissioned Forrester Consulting to research marketing innovators: those who pushed to implement big data tools into the marketing technology stack. The study found significant increases in customer engagement, customer retention, and in upsell and cross-sell revenue. The study, which was conducted on behalf of StrongView, was published in December 2013.

I will discuss the results of Forrester’s Thought Leadership Paper, Marketing’s Big Leap Forward, during the free webinar listed below. All attendees will receive a free copy of the research findings.

WEBINAR
Title: “Take The Next Big Leap Forward: How To Use Technology And Analytics To Harness Big Data For Competitive Advantage.” 
Date: 
February 19, 2014
Time: 
2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT
Registration: www.strongview.com/bigleapweb 

Let me give you a quick summary of the research.

  • Marketer’s big struggle is the twin challenge of performance and experience.
    Forrester surveyed 155 US-based B2C marketers and sales leaders and also conducted additional in-depth interviews. Respondents name lifetime value, acquisition, retention and ROI as their key goals. At the same time, these respondents told us that one of the roadblocks to these goals is understanding and managing customer interactions across multiple channels and marketing technologies.
  • Big data innovations provide an effective means of resolving these challenges.
    Even if the bizarre sounding names — like Pig, Hive, Flume and Redshift — don’t float your boat, what they enable will. Unlike traditional database and data management tools, these applications can absorb and integrate enormous volumes of data without eating the entire marketing budget. Cheap, scalable databases with integrated analytics are the key to making sense of and acting on customer interactions.
  • Innovators and early adopters have an opportunity to press their advantage.
    Use the confusion surrounding these tools to best your competitors. Prioritizing big data in your future marketing tech stack enables you to: 1) create new interaction-based programs that guide customers through journeys and 2) incorporate advanced customer analytics at the point of maximum leverage. Let them scoff while you collect your reward.
  • The payoff of big data tech is in customer engagement, retention and revenue.
    By far, the innovators Forrester spoke with reported the most significant increases in customer engagement and retention. These increases in customers ready to hear about new products, services, deals and discounts also lead to improvements in cross-sell and upsell performance. Second to engagement, big data innovators reported increases in bottom line revenue from their investments.

If you feel the pressure to increase acquisition, lifetime value and return on investment, but you struggle with the challenge of understanding customers’ interactions with your brand, join me on February 19 for the free webinar: Take The Next Big Leap Forward. We’ll cover these innovations that enable marketers to accelerate acquisition, improve customer experience and drive ROI. We will also provide you with practical advice for getting started with your big data roadmap.

Posted by: Rob Brosnan at 1:07 PM
Categories: analytics, big data, data, marketing

Forrester Cites StrongView’s Competence in Messaging Across Digital Channels

Consumer expectations of brands are changing fast. They increasingly look to brands for relevance — not only in delivering relevant offers on products and services but also in helping them learn, use, and get more value out of the products and services they have. While much of marketers’ work still focuses on campaigns and offers, the big takeaway is that targeted messaging around the customer life-cycle is essential to retaining customers. You need to build rich customer relationships in order to beat the competition, and the customer life-cycle is an effective method of building a differentiated customer strategy.

Indeed, Forrester Research, Inc., in the December 2013 report entitled “The Rise Of The Customer Life-Cycle Marketing Systems,” recently highlighted StrongView’s focus on “present tense marketing.” 

According to the report, written by Analyst Cory Munchbach:

StrongView’s competence in messaging across digital channels, and its focus on what it calls “present tense marketing” emphasizes the importance of messaging in context in different phases of the life cycle to be relevant to customers.

What is Forrester’s customer life-cycle? According to the report, the customer life-cycle “represents the marketing actions taken from the point of view of customers as they move through the phases of discover, explore, buy, and engage." 

The Customer Life-Cycle Reveals New Methods To Beat The Competition
Capture
I believe that every firm needs to create strategies that address post-purchase consumer behavior. Here are some of my thoughts as to why:

  • Post-purchase life-cycle stages opens new relationship opportunities.
    Consumers are ever more willing to engage with brands outside of traditional branding or direct marketing actions. That willingness creates two strategic openings for brands. First, if you create and deliver content in those stages – education, usage, or community building – your customers will be more willing to listen to you when they are ready to buy or renew in the future. Second, each interaction will provide insights on who your customers are, humanizing them through revealing their interests and their affinities. Those rich insights are the foundation for future interaction strategies.
  • Authentic engagement following a purchase drives future purchases.
    Will dedicating budget and resources to helping customers better use your products help your bottom line? In the March 2013 report entitled “Fragmented Path-To-Purchase Demands Everywhere Marketing,” Forrester notes that “70% of consumers say that the experience they have using the brand/product or service influences their decision to continue using it.” Incorporating product or service usage into a life-cycle email program is a cost-effective and timely way to influence this critical customer stage.
  • Engagement enables you to surprise and delight customers.
    Purchase-stage messages drive the most conversions when they feature highly personalized offers. Yet a real customer relationship can’t thrive on offers alone. Customers who influence brand perceptions and purchases have expectations for surprising and engaging interactions. In the March report mentioned above, Forrester found that “45% of influencers care about … surprise interactions compared with only 22% of average adults.”


New Marketing Technologies Are Needed To Address The Customer Lifecycle

StrongView is well regarded for its ability to deliver personalized and relevant messages across channels and life-cycle stages. In the Forrester report, I found 3 critical aspects of the life-cycle systems, including capabilities to:

  • Absorb “diverse data inputs” into an underlying data store.
    StrongView’s Interaction Store provides marketers the ability to store unlimited customer interaction data; ingest and integrate real-time data; and deliver cross-channel insight quickly and cost-effectively.
  • Exceed traditional automation with cross-channel interaction management.
    In Forrester’s view, a customer life-cycle marketing system will be the platform for “data sharing and next-best actions … across outbound and inbound marketing.” Our platform enables marketers to manage both batch and interaction-based marketing automation across multiple digital channels.
  • Rapidly deliver value to both the marketer and the enterprise.
    Due to legacy investments, CMOs face barriers to adopting new approaches., As Ms. Munchbach writes in the Forrester report “Vendors that are committed to providing an integrated product will also need flexible progressive pricing structures that reflect the scope of the transition.” 

StrongView is deeply passionate about providing marketers with advanced and flexible technologies that create rich and profitable customer relationships. I joined StrongView because of its passion and its commitment to incorporating disruptive and web-scale technologies into the foundations of its platform. I’m pleased that my former colleagues at Forrester noted in the report StrongView’s focus on “present tense marketing,” emphasizing the importance of messaging in context in different phases of the life cycle.

Contact us today to experience StrongView’s customer life-cycle management capabilities.

Posted by: Rob Brosnan at 4:21 PM
Categories: LCM, lifecycle marketing, life-cycle marketing, customer lifecycle

If You're a Marketer Struggling With Big Data, Then Read This

The Times They Are a-Changin', but as marketers we are adept at dealing with change. After all, in an effort to keep up with shifting customer preferences and industry landscapes, we've been investing millions of dollars to implement CRM and marketing automation systems that let us collect, analyze and act upon customer data to better understand these changes and remain competitive. However, industry analysts warns us that the advent of big data is bringing a different kind of change -- one that requires new technologies to deal with it.  Can your old CRM systems and data warehouses handle the "bigness" of big data?  Are these past technology investments equipped to process the exponentially increasing volumes of customer data that most of us now have access to? Can these tools help you find the nuggets of insights that will empower you to deliver deeper customer insights, finer customer segments and stronger customer engagements? Or has big data changed the game enough that marketers now need new tools to help us all become more effective?

In my opinion, traditional marketing platforms and business intelligence tools won't cut it in the era of big data. The challenge lies in the underlying design of these systems. For example, CRM systems and data warehouses were originally built to store data that doesn’t change very frequently. Demographic information and purchase history are good examples of this type of data. However, in the era of big data, customer interactions -- think click-throughs, searches, likes on Facebook, etc. -- constitute the majority of our data volume. As you can imagine, this interaction data changes much, much more quickly than current systems can store or analyze it.

The velocity of big data refers to both the speed with which data flows into organizations and the speed with which it must be analyzed and communicated in order to extract value out of it. Most current marketing systems fall short on both fronts. As marketers, we have all been there when analytical applications (i.e. marketing reports and dashboards) became outdated as soon as the company started selling a new product or added a new sales territory, as these new attributes were not part of the system’s data model.  In our current era of digital interaction, customers expect that we as marketers understand their needs and respond in real-time (what we at StrongView call Present Tense Marketing), yet traditional marketing systems have not been designed for this level of quick response.  With most systems today, marketers require the services of a business analyst or IT staff to extract desired insights, which takes time and manpower, thereby creating latency.  Bottom line: these systems aren't made for the real-time insight-to-action customer conversation loops that marketers need to engage in today.   

The three Vs of big data -- volume, velocity and variety -- have changed the marketing game and the tools we need to win at it. If these challenges sound familiar and you want to find out more about modern big data marketing analytics platforms that can provide marketers with the capability to go from insight to action in real-time, check out our A Practical Guide to Modern Marketing Analytics: How Marketing Analytics Becomes the Next Competitive Weapon in Building stronger Customer Relationships.

Posted by: Syed Mahmood at 12:00 AM
Categories: PTM, present tense marketing, big data

Moving Beyond Basic Personalization to Real-Time Marketing

Here's an article I wrote for ClickZ:

The constantly connected consumers of today are extremely savvy, using all available channels and devices to research, review, compare prices and ultimately purchase products. Basic personalization (such as name and account personalization and dynamic interest or product content) no longer serves consumers' demand for deeper levels of real-time personalized information. Increasingly, these savvy consumers are taking their business to companies that provide more than basic personalization and automated lifecycle campaigns. Customers now prefer brands that deliver individualized experiences that match their needs in the present moment.

Differing definitions of real-time marketing abound, but essentially it means "just-in-time" or "on-the-fly" marketing that leverages the most appropriate communications to deliver a personalized customer experience, based on time, place, and the most recent understanding of individual customer intent. Real-time marketing is one component of Present Tense Marketing, which focuses on methods of understanding customers' current context in order to deliver personalized customer experiences at scale.

So how can a company move from basic personalization to real-time marketing? Here are three primary requirements to get started:

  1. Understanding Your Customer or Prospects - Who are they? What are they interested in?
  2. Collecting Real-Time Customer Interaction Data - What are they doing right now? Where are they located?
  3. Optimizing Individual Customer Experiences - What is their current intent? What do they need at the present moment?

 

When you get these three things right, you can engage your customers in highly relevant and tailored ways. Providing a value-adding service or offer at the right time in the right channel will increase engagement and create a much more individualized and positive customer experience.

1. Understanding Your Customers and Prospects

Who are they? What are they interested in? To fully understand your customer or prospects requires a collection of multiple data points that can include demographic, purchase history, customer service requests, lifecycle stage, browse and cross-channel engagement behavior data. Analysis of this information can help identify product and brand affinities, individual preferences, channel engagement behavior, and offer and price sensitivities.

From the consumer perspective, they want companies to help them easily find what they are looking for when they want it, and are much more likely to do business with you if you provide this information and make the experience about them. This may seem obvioius, but many brands fail to achieve this customer-centric focus.

For example, some consumers will pay full price to get the item they want today (i.e.: immediate gratification) while others will never buy a product on the first visit no matter how good the current offer is. Some consumers refuse to make a purchase without receiving free shipping, and some are focused on loyalty programs and earning points for every purchase they make.

A company's failure to recognize a customer profile and understand their shopping preferences can easily outweigh brand loyalty. If customers do not receive what they are looking for from one company, it is very easy to purchase the same or similar product or service from a competitive brand.

2. Collecting Real-Time Customer Interaction Data

As we all know, a customer's profile and context changes from moment to moment. In order to develop and manage deep and current customer profiles, you must have real-time data collection. Historical purchase, engagement and demographic data, are all very important, however they only provide a potential or predictive view, based on the past.

It's far more beneficial to understand what your customers are doing now, where they are located, and how they are engaging with your brand (which channels and devices) - all of this data allows the marketer to understand their customer's current context and update their profile which in turn enables them to engage customers with hyper-personalized communications that fit their needs in the present moment.

What are they doing? Are your customers clicking through on your latest email campaign, browsing a specific product category on your site, looking at ratings and reviews or asking for product or service feedback and recommendations from their friends on Facebook?

Where are they located? Do your customers frequent their local brick-and-mortar storefront near their home address, or do they often travel to other locations?

How are they engaging with your brand? Did your customer open your latest email, download your app, purchase in-store or call your service center? What type of device are they using (laptop, tablet, smart phone, kiosk)?

Certainly, real-time browse and click behavior, mobile app use, shopping cart activity, keyword searches, social media engagement, interaction with call centers and ratings and reviews all provide valuable information for determining the most relevant interactions. However, in order to respond to the customer's current need, you must also be able to combine this real-time engagement information with existing profile data to identify their current state.

3. Optimizing the Individual Customer Experience

Many companies offer blanket discounts or promotions to everyone who has subscribed or previously made a purchase. Even if basic personalization is used in this messaging, it does not provide the individualized experience that today's consumers expect. Consumers want to feel as if they're being offered something unique, exclusive and directed at their specific desires.

What is their current intent? What do they need at the present moment? In order to determine the optimal customer experience, marketers must leverage a current customer profile combined with real-time interaction data (what, where and how that customer is engaging with the brand) to help determine need and intent, along with any external influences like weather, holidays or economic conditions that may impact the customer context. Bringing all of these factors to bear in marketing messaging can result in a truly individualized customer experience.

Real-time marketing is the ongoing cycle of engagement, data management, analytical insights and optimization - performed continuously and immediately. In other words, it's the streamlined management of data, transformed into actionable insight that is used to enhance your customer's experience.

Are you using your customer profile, real-time and external data to identify and delivery great customer experiences?

Posted by: Katrina Conn at 12:00 AM
Categories: real-time, real-time marketing, personalization, data

100 Years of Email Marketing Success with These 2 Timeless Tips

Here's an article I wrote for ClickZ:

‘Tis the season of marketing predictions. Now that 2013 is over, what will 2014 bring? Next year, once 2014 has passed, the question will become: what will 2015 bring?

While I respect the importance of looking ahead and thinking about what's next - and the natural tendency to do so around January 1st every year - too many marketers are still missing the strategies that are core to effective campaigns. These strategies will make email marketing effective not just in 2014, but for the imaginable future. Here are the two most important evergreen strategies that will stand the test of time.

1. Make Your Messages as Relevant as Possible

The more a message triggers the motivations a customer has at any moment, the more likely that customer is to take action. This was true when the first billboard was rented in 1867, it's true now, and it will be true in 2114.

Relevance means understanding:

  • Customer history
  • Customer profile information (age, geographic location, etc.)
  • Current customer needs
  • Current world context (weather, stock prices, etc.)

Being relevant means leveraging all of that information intelligently to present your goods or services and communicate how can they help that person in his or her specific situation at the moment.

Advances in technology allow us to be more relevant, but they don't force us to be. Marketers must still focus on driving relevance for new tools, channels or approaches to have any meaning.

Note: This doesn't necessarily mean you should make your email marketing messages as personalized as possible. It's possible to make your emails too personalized. For example, an email that says, "Hey, we noticed you came into the store or Oak Ave, looked at those 38 in waist dark wash jeans, then decided against them. Would a $5 coupon change your mind?" is much too personal, almost creepy.

Put another way, compare the two following scenarios:

Scenario A: Your significant other gives you a book for Christmas that you've had your eye on. He says, "I thought you might like this."

Scenario B: Your significant other gives you a book for Christmas that you've had your eye on. He says, "I went on your phone's browsing history and noticed you look at this book four different times over the past month. I thought you might like this."

No matter how desirable the result (the book), the presentation matters. Scenario B is too personalized.

2. Know Where to Reach Your Customers

In the 1950s, Brownie Wise was responsible for marketing a product to family women who, at the time, were primarily responsible for the home. Rather than simply placing the product in another shelf at another store, Wise knew that her customers' opinions were largely formed in the very homes they managed. So she came up with a new strategy, one that was largely responsible for the growth and long-term success of her company-Tupperware.

It's not enough to have relevant messages. A marketer must know which channels are the most influential for their customers. This was true in 1950, and it will be true in 2150.

These days, it seems like every year brings a new potential "channel" for marketers to leverage-Snapchat, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. Many marketers are attracted to the sheer newness of each new channel, throwing messaging in as quickly as possible. But it's not the newness that matters. What matters is your customers' use of the channel.

It's not the oldness that matters, either. With each new channel, a slurry of proclamations herald the death of this or that "old" channel. Email marketers are fond of poking fun at all those who have repeatedly proclaimed email as dead, but are we equally contemptuous when someone suggests that radio advertising or direct mail are dead?

While the percentage of total marketing spend has decreased in those channels, they remain. Why? Because, for some customers, that's still the place where they make up their minds. (A client recently revealed that their catalog sales are still their number one source of revenue. If you worked with this company, would you try to convince them not to mail catalogs, just because it's "old"?)

So enjoy the reviews of 2013. Enjoy the predictions of 2014. But then get back to the task of sending relevant messaging in the channels where your customers are influenced most.

Posted by: Justin Williams at 11:27 AM
Categories: email marketing, tips, email marketing success