DMA Customer Engagement Manchester

I was lucky enough to be invited to sit on the panel once Tim Bond Head of PR and Insight at the DMA went through the highlights of the latest research, ‘’How to win trust and loyalty: The marketers view’’.( A copy can be downloaded here)

Chris Pearce CEO of TMW Unlimited, picked up on the notion on actually how it is even more important for brands to be consistent in front of potential customers to at the very least allow them to stand out amongst the choice now available to us, courtesy of Amazon and the like.

What struck me when the topic of choice came up was actually just how important is choice to consumers? I actually don't think that is an easy question to answer. We all say we love choice. But not if that choice is overwhelming or non sensical? Have you gone down the cereal aisle of a supermarket recently? Well I went down a small Sainsburys aisle yesterday and I counted 225 ! Still that’s nothing in comparison to this shot from a snack aisle in a Korean supermarket


In a physical environment it becomes overwhelming. Amazon can deliver an ‘infinite aisle’, but then has to rely on AI to help you make selections. Retailers such as Aldi and Lidl have succeeded partly because consumers are not overwhelmed with choice. An average supermarket has 35000 different products but on average consumers buy approx 300 different ones (Of course the issue is that we all buy a different combination of 300)

The same applies with comms. I think that it is part of the brands obligations to present the consumer with the right channels for the right point in the engagement journey, whether that be email for useful content, videos for tech help, websites for baking recipes. We can't always rely on allowing the customer to know what they want. I'll have a faster horse please Mr. Ford!

As Chris highlighted, acquisition and retention are very different things. And yes they do they require different strategies but can they legitimately both be served by ‘engagement’?

I'm a firm believer that engagement can be used for both. O2 used their gurus as a free to all engagement programme that allowed existing customers to get the most from their phones, but also provided a strong reason for potential customers to pick the brand because of the expertise and help they shared. I'm often surprised about how infrequently brands don't use the content they already create for retention engagement to serve their acquisition teams better. I remember the resource and budget out into a clients weekly newsletter that went to several million sport customers that was the most successful engagement program they had but that they refused to use as an acquisition tool.

Another area that struck me was the high percentage of brands that didn't have some form of loyalty program. In their defence there are probably a couple to reasons why.

Firstly, it's actually difficult to understand how customers want to be rewarded for their loyalty. Ok, so ask someone if they want a discount or a freebie and I'm pretty sure they will say they want it. But not all and aren’t you at risk of getting out discounted by a competitor? We can't treat a customer base as a homogeneous set (take my word for it 'homogeneous' is easier to write than say when sat in front of an audience. Thanks for helping me out Chris). Last year I worked with a global sports brand whose products were sold to the masses via their wholesale partners where often price was a strong motivator. But for a very small but influential cohort of fans, their reward for loyalty was actually being the first to know about a particular 'drop' of a new sneaker. It was good of Javinder Singh from Go Inspire to pick up on that and his 'sneakerhead' experience. Actually he then pointed to me an interesting article that you could argue goes in the opposite direction. Exclusive sneakers by lottery!

I think recognition is an often under used loyalty tactic. There’s a beautiful hotel in Kings Cross I often stay at and I noticed one day on the reception desk a sheet of paper with a list of guests and their expected check in times. Alongside the more frequent guests were photos of them enabling the reception team to recognise them and greet them . Nice touch. So why should we so uptight about facial recognition making it easier for that to happen? There’s a great ‘candy’ store in the US doing just that. Intel has been installing entrance-facing cameras at Lolli & Pops stores and providing the store assistants with tablets that are synced with a camera so when loyalty members enter the store they can be offered recommendations based on their previous purchases.

And second, without having established exactly what the loyalty program is meant to deliver, once set up it can be difficult to prove its value. I once inherited a loyalty scheme for a cruise brand where ‘loyal’ cruisers were rewarded with quite lavish gifts. The problem was in trying to understand if a leather bound shoe cleaning kit actually had any bearing on the second cruise which might occur 3 years later!

During the questions Anthony McLaughlan from Swinton Insurance Group (nice to see you again Ant) kindly highlighted the influence of Amazon in all of this. Anthony rightly pointed out that undoubtedly, as shown in the research, that the functionality and ease with which you can shop with Amazon is disrupting us all. So, I can guess we can see Amazon as a challenge and a benchmark. While we might not beat Amazon in the e-commerce space ( or indeed as Tim Bond mentioned AliBaba, ebay or Rakuten ) we can certainly work with them but also refocus the experience we give customers who want to engage with us . The like of Nike have started to develop intelligent stores where loyal customers are recognised using GPS and smartphones as they come into the store, and in the background AI highlights their recent purchases and online browsing to suggest products and even have the right pair in the right size available to try on. The shop is also intelligent enough to understand what is trending locally and will change the stock holding and retail activations to suit! I don’t believe the research when it tells me that consumers don’t want face to face interaction. A proportion do, and relish the recognition they get!

Talking of recognition, thanks for the round of applause at the end and LinkedIn requests.

Thinking out loud - CX and AI

So far AI has usually been viewed by marketing as an opportunity to sell more by tailoring communications and selling messages. This is undoubtedly true but its role in improving customer service and the customer journey is often overlooked

Gartner suggests that 81% of businesses will compete primarily on customer experience in the next 2 years.
Using AI to personalize the experience will be a massive plus for brands in many if not all industry sectors.
And by personalisation I don't just mean the content but also understanding what are the best channels the consumer wants to be communicated through and best ways they want to buy from the brand. Do they want to pre-order a meal via a chat bot.? Can the traditional checkout be replaced via facial recognition and intelligent baskets?

Improvements behind the scenes are already taking place with essentially warehouses owned by Amazon and Ocado being operated using robots. this can become customer facing with restaurants using robots such as in the Henn na restaurant in Japan's Huis Ten Bosch theme park . Although I’m not convinced by the scary check-in staff at the hotel

Photo via The Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images

Photo via The Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images

Webinar Takeaways: Why Did the Customer Cross the Road?

In recent years, the retail industry has experienced a significant shake-up. With the emergence of big-brand online retailers, brick-and-mortar shops are in stiff competition with these digital giants. Last year I joined a webinar with Adoreboard’s CEO Chris Johnston wherein we discussed customer experience in the age of Amazon. If you happened to miss our live broadcast of the webinar, you can access the recorded version here. Here a few key takeaways.

The rise of digitally-influenced shopping, and its resulting impact on consumer expectations, has changed the game and raised the bar for brands looking to gain market share in an increasingly competitive space. Research has shown that what customers really value is ‘the experience’. 86% of shoppers will pay more for a better customer experience. Yet only 1% of customers feel that brands and businesses consistently meet their expectations (Source: Forbes).

We live in a time where retailers must realise that customers are in control, but they’re a very complex mix of ad avoiders and brand advocates. It is not impossible to imagine that, by 2020, customer experience will take over price and product as the key brand differentiator (Source: Walker). So how can retailers keep up with, and capitalise on, today’s retail revolution? How can they meet and exceed their customers’ expectations?

We’ve identified four key trends that are shaping the future of retail:

1: The Hyper Relevant Retailer

The modern customer is hyper-connected, hyper-empowered and wants hyper-convenience. Brands must deliver what customers desire: value, efficiency and engagement, both online and offline. The rise of online reviews, and individuals having the ability to interact with brands and retailers on social sites, has given customers the power to compare prices and get the best deal out there.

Customers want to buy at the greatest possible convenience and lowest possible price. In addition to this is the emergence of the ‘experience economy’; customers increasingly prioritise experiences, and seek memorable interactions that engage them in a rewarding way.

2: Bricks .vs. Clicks

The Importance of the ‘omni-channel’. It’s important to note here that its not necessarily Bricks or Clicks. Even retailers who started online often end up with brick versions of their marketplace. 78% of customers like shops that start online and then develop into physical stores (Source: Retail Dive). Digital and in-store experience are seen less and less as mutually exclusive experiences. Often they complement each other.

Omni-channel shopping is the new norm. Blurring the lines between online and in-store; brands are successfully linking on and offline behaviour to create a seamless customer experience, which should be the ultimate ambition for brands.

3: Tech is Transforming the Retail Journey

Technology is transforming our daily lives and customers are now far more empowered to seek out product information. In short, customers want the future. Now. Technology is disrupting the customer journey and improving the buying experience in an exciting way.

By 2020, 40% of all commerce transactions will be enabled by cognitive/AI personal shoppers and conversational commerce (Source: IDC). The merging of the physical and digital worlds is truly irresistible in today’s retail landscape. Brands must exploit all forms of digital disruption for their benefit. They must focus on the experience and position technology as the path to get there.

4: The Right Metrics

Achieving a true customer-centric experience requires metrics that track customer behaviour in a way that is credible (can be trusted to base decisions on), reliable (can be applied across customer journey life cycles and multiple touch points), accurate (representative of the entire customer base), precise (specific enough to provide insight and make business decisions) and actionable (provides an insight into what can be done to encourage customers to return).

Data is everywhere. Customers are constantly creating insights online with every purchase or interaction. According to Harvard Business Review, by 2020 it’s estimated that we’ll produce 44 zettabytes every day. That’s equal to 44 trillion gigabytes. Data should always be about creating value for the customer. Learn from them to create a better experience for them.

In a world where customers have fundamentally rewritten the retail rules, modern day shoppers have the power to buy anywhere, anytime, on any device. Now more than ever, relationships must be built on the customer’s terms. Here are 3 key takeaways that we think are practical steps for any retailer to take in rethinking the customer experience:

1. Optimise Customer Emotion

Insight shows the opportunity to focus emotional responses as a way to differentiate means focusing on what matters to them most, and the target emotions you want to create.

2. Captivate Customers

Increasingly, customers want to be entertained and inspired. So brands need to align with the new emotional needs of customers moving from transactional environments to retail theatres. Whilst physical stores provide a natural environment to create an immersive experience, blending this with digital experiences can continue the positive experience at a different or later stage of the customer journey.

3. Reduce Customer Effort

Insight shows that customers want to reduce the effort of their customer journey – the time it takes to return an item or to speak to someone about customer service. Brands that reduce customer effort will win.

Regardless of the headlines, retail is not dead. In fact, here lies the punchline: the physical store could be the most powerful and measurable media channel available to a brand. It acts as the hub of customer experiences. In-store remains an important channel for acquiring new customers; they serve as showrooms that drive customers online, whilst also working as fulfilment points for e-commerce operations.

From online to real-world interactions, all experiences need to be seamless and cohesive. Successful customer experience is about finding what’s valuable for the customer, and putting forward strategies that put their evolving needs at the heart of the decision-making process.

First posted here

Thinking out loud - Relevance, personalisation, tailored?

Some random, un-edited thoughts I found the other day when asked by a Marketing Director whether we should be talking about Relevance or Personalisation

OK so relevance and personalisation or tailored are much used terms in terms in the industry so I think we need to use something a little different and perhaps lends itself to our core offerings.

I quite like the term unique experiences in particular as it plays to our content and experiences pillar but also that the delivery of unique is achieved through data

Of course one angle we could play with is the idea of using our three pillars and data to understand and widen windows of relevance .

Relevance is important of course but I would argue that targeting or personalising customers based on who they are is less important than than targeting them at moments when they are ready to do something

The fact that I am just about to take out home insurance is more important than if I am a 35 year old male living in Newcastle. If I am existing policy holder then you could argue that the window of relevance in terms of me renewing that policy gets bigger as we get closer to the point of renewal. We can use data to understand when the best time to is to start explicitly talking about renewing the policy ( our business rules might tell us that this starts 30 days before the renewal date). But that fact that they might have had an unsuccessful claim in the last 12 months might require a slightly different approach)

A mobile phone customer might very well have a 12 month contract with you but does the fact that after 4 months their call volumes drop significantly suggest that the time to have a conversation with them about their contract has been brought forward?

A TV and broadband customer who is just 15 days into a 24 month contract already has an outstanding customer service issue and has been their account to search how to cancel a contract might mean that the courtesy call planned for day 28 might need to be brought forward.

Of course we can talk about upsides as well. The TV and broadband customer seems to be watching a lot of sport..does a conversation about HD become relevant?

A couple of who bought one of our new build homes has a new baby . Does a conversation about a bigger home become relevant?

Relevancy is important, but recognising those windows of relevancy is crucial. Its data that allows us to do this

These windows shift in time, size and shape

Of course we could explore how a brand can make these windows does an insurance firm use data and content to be relevant to a customer in between policy renewals? How does a company installing boilers use data so they can investigate the relevancy of other services in between the lifetime of the boilers they sell?

Thinking out loud - Why aren’t we personalising more?

As marketers we have an abundance of statistics and research telling us that personalisation delivers in terms of customer expectations and ROI. The issue is that most marketers are faced with short term KPIs. It’s ultimately about this month’s sales figures and the quarterly board reports.

Justifying the ROI into personalisation (beyond just using a customers name) and automation is often difficult. Sales are relatively easy to measure (so we value that metric). The benefits of personalisation are of real value but often we find difficult to measure.

And of course, delivering the capabilities required takes time. Not every marketer walks into a job where the customer journey is mapped out, all of the data needed is in a single place and the technology needed is fully implemented. As a result it looks like a daunting prospect. Unless, a view is taken that we look at the road ahead but complete the journey in stages, building capability and stacking up the successes en-route. Perhaps looking at one channel at a time or one particular part of the customer journey.

Thinking out loud - Not just data

I think we need to stop putting one element of marketing as the lead. Yes, data has become much more prevalent in the marketing teams of today, but that doesn’t mean sidelining the brand and the product. Apple haven’t ditched producing amazing products because they have more data. KLM haven’t ditched what the brand stands for because they have more data. But they do use data to help deliver what their brand and products stand for

New Year’s resolutions for 2019 when it comes to data and technology

The beauty of my role in CRM and Data is that I get to help brands who have a genuine desire to simply do things better. As a consequence, I get to work and meet like-minded CRM and data focused individuals. They might work with organisations who are part of the tech ecosystem needed to support the brand’s objectives ; who share common interests on LinkedIn or who attend the DMA North Council on which I sit.

So I thought I would take the opportunity to ask some of them this simple question: ‘What should brands New Year’s resolutions be for 2019 when it comes to data and technology?’

April Mullen Director at Selligent Marketing Cloud

Their resolution should be ‘’ I will make cross-channel messages and journeys more effective’’

Artificial intelligence continues to be a trending topic for marketers. Although the industry is still in its AI infancy, 2019 will be a year where AI experimentation and application begins to take off.

What is AI going to make possible? Content optimization is an obvious area where AI can have an impact. Using machine learning, AI applications are able to make decisions on the types of offers and content shown to segments or even individuals. That’s just the beginning. Just as what’s contained within a message is dynamic, the journey will begin to develop a dynamic path based on an individual consumer’s needs. Journeys won’t be a mapped and static experience with linear pathing. The future of journeys using AI is analogous to building the sidewalk where the beaten down path has developed. Think of it as real-time optimization. It’s exciting to see the dream consumer experience that marketers have long desired to deliver finally becoming reality as a result of AI.

Tom Howes - Director, Enterprise Sales Persado

Conversion data through email campaigns, has shown at great lengths, the ineffectiveness and overexposure of poor performing 'urgent' language. The drop off is even worse in paid media.

Brands need to think twice before using “HURRY: THESE DIAMONDS ARE SELLING FAST!” and “Cold Feet? Buy these socks ASAP!” People in 2019 don’t want to be told to buy on a deadline — even if the creative is good and your text is in all caps. Be sure to test other emotions as well. 

And guess what.. AI can be used today to enable your marketing team to do this effectively with little effort

Scott Logie - Managing Director, REad Group Insight

Brands need to take note of the increase in self-service technologies in 2019. This technology allows businesses to run important services automatically and effectively

The first is the use of AI and machine learning, which will automate contact strategies and customer profiling; enabling businesses to ensure that they are targeting the right people. The technology will become less expensive and therefore more accessible, meaning more organistions will have the ability to use it, not just the big ones.

The other key development in 2019 will be the use of Data-as-a-Service (DaaS), a technology that will give access to wider data sets for cleaning, profiling and data tagging. Under GDPR, there is an increased emphasis on the requirement to keep data held on customers clean and up-to-date.  DaaS enables data cleaning to be done automatically, in real-time, without staff having to manually process large data sets, enhancing productivity and data security. DaaS results in more intelligent and cost effective use of data.

Brands need to look at the use of open-source data for identifying geographic areas of focus. Some will even be able to use personal health data from fitness trackers, allowing insurance companies and other organisations to better understand target audiences, as well as to use and predict travel data to help decide on advertising locations.

Duncan Muir - Head of B2B CRM Enablement Standard Life

They should consider how to use their rich insights and data to ensure there’s recognition of the customers previous interactions to inform relevant and timely future interactions. Engaging with context is the way to build and grow relationships

Chris Johnston - CEO Adoreboard

Brands need to think customer touch-point rather than channel. Their first resolution should be to go the extra mile to discover all the customer touch-point with your brand. This will force them to test assumptions rather than assume the customer journey. In many cases that might mean having  to collect new data as they identify new gaps.

The  second resolution should look at the holistic view of customer rather than as data points. This might mean exploring emotional drivers of customers or getting out to speak with customers directly. They need to discover how  customers feel and why.

Business impact first. The final resolution is to communicate the business impact of data and not the data itself. This is should be a shift from actionable insight to decision ready insight. The insight  generated from the data should be connected to the business context. This will enable a move from what many experience as recommendation fatigue to empowering decision makers to actually prioritise the decisions they need to make. By connecting these decision ready insights through narratives rather than raw data they’ll create immense value for your firm in the year ahead.

Paul Meersman - Head of Marketing CDS

If brands should be making New Year’s Resolutions on how to use data in 2019 they should first look at how they intend to measure ROI. As companies invest in data analytics systems they need to prove how these systems are impacting their bottom line. Companies are also struggling with legacy systems. These two issues have to be tackled before they can use data to drive their business strategy so that data gives them a competitive edge

Thanks to everybody who contributed, it makes great reading

A clever blend of data is key to building loyalty

Whenever I go to York railway station and decide I want a coffee, I make the subconscious choice to go to Starbucks rather than any of the other outlets. Is this because I feel loyalty to Starbucks? No – it’s because I can get my espresso in a china cup rather than a paper one. At what point does a customer become loyal to a particular brand, anyway? Do they ever actually think: ‘I’m loyal to Brand X’? I’m not sure we have these conscious Road to Damascus moments. 
However, buying coffee is often dictated by availability – and being desperate enough to choose the lesser of many evils. More considered choices, such as supermarket, insurance provider or next car purchase, are much more likely to bring loyalty into the equation.

We often talk about ‘choice architectures’ during the decision-making process, in which defaults, frames and price anchors have a bearing on consumer choices. Ideally, brands want our decisions to be based on experiences we have had with that brand, product or service. The abundance of data now available to brands gives them the opportunity to influence, and hopefully enhance, the experience that customers have. As a result, they can have a positive influence when that customer comes to re-evaluate their needs.

Take car insurance. Aviva offers Drive, an app that monitors driving skills. Once the driver has completed 200 miles, they get an individual score out of 10 based on things such as cornering, braking and acceleration. Drivers who score 7.1 or more save an average of £170 on Aviva’s comprehensive car insurance. So this piece of IoT thinking (a mobile phone in my car) not only potentially makes me a safer driver but could also save me money. Forget the tricks of behavioural economics theory on the insurance quote page – I’m in.

What would prevent me from cancelling my gym membership? Personalised prompts from my gym to keep coming back if I start missing sessions are useful. So the fact that gyms like Pure Gym provide usage statistics like this means that they can use the data to understand my behaviour and react when that behaviour changes.

And if one of the reasons I don’t come in is because I hate when it’s too busy to use my favourite machines, why not let me know when it’s busy so I can plan my sessions accordingly?

One of the biggest issues Telco companies have when considering churn is the impact of ‘bill shock’, when a customer is distraught at the size of their mobile phone or data usage bill. And yet, data can tell them in advance when a customer is likely to go over their minute or data limit. My bank warns me when I’m in danger of going overdrawn, therefore my Telco provider can easily do the same thing.
In a similar vein, my credit card provider reminds me when I haven’t looked at my online statement for a while. Yes, it shows a sense of corporate responsibility to make sure I keep an eye on my finances but it also makes sense from a business perspective. If I run into trouble financially, having a credit supplier that has an eye out for me means their card won’t go near the shredder.
This stuff isn’t rocket science, so why aren’t more brands doing it? For some older organisations, pulling together all of their various data can be a painful process, while some companies feel they need to have the perfect data set before getting the ball rolling (they don’t – just take some data offline and play with it). There is a (slightly controversial) theory that some marketers think they know best and are afraid that the data will tell them otherwise or even take their jobs away.
But really, it’s just about data making brands even better – by looking at some of the real influences on customer loyalty and tapping into the data available to shift the loyalty dial in their favour.

First published on Zone's site

Gamification is now the point when it comes to customer loyalty

The shop-ocalypse has arrived, and as the twin horsemen of Black Friday and Cyber Monday looming on the horizon, supermarket security guards and server-maintenance technicians alike were crossing themselves in fear.

And while retailers -  both of the bricks and mortar and e-commerce variety – are hopefully enjoying the benefits of the annual pre-Christmas shot in the arm (I say most as, of course, we know that Asda are giving this year a miss), a question that often gets forgotten by their marketers is: ‘What do we do with all these new customers?’. Wearing my CRM hat, all too often I see too little attempt to look beyond the sort of ‘stack ‘em high, sell ‘em low’ mentality that will prevail this weekend in terms of follow-up responses to first-time interactors. 

It’ll certainly be interesting to see if the increased embracing of a gamification approach to CRM – i.e the application of elements traditionally associated with gaming  ­– has an effect, and whether the marketing departments of any major retailers adopt that kind of approach specifically to post-Black Friday purchasers.

Even the most basic CRM model knows three things about customers post-purchase: who they are, what they bought and when they bought it. And this week the ‘when’ is crucial, because as it’s Black Friday marketers know they like a deal. That’s the kind of genuine, actionable intelligence that retailers need to exploit as they attempt to drive more value than occasional purchases of heavily discounted goods. It’s here where the gamification aspect of a sophisticated CRM approach kicks in.

Whereas the old temptation for marketers was to see these customers merely as prime fodder for end-of-line discounting sales and the like, a smart CRM approach will have identified the desired behaviours, and seek to encourage and reward them on an ongoing basis – as well as ensuring there is more than one route to success (and reward) for the customer.

By delivering genuinely meaningful rewards (such as free priority delivery or early access to new products) and increasing their scale (in line with greater, yet still attainable challenges), gamification can create an ongoing relationship that goes beyond the occasional interaction generated by specified discounting or the now increasingly dated accumulation of points approach.

Look at what Marks & Spencer has done with the recent launch of its Sparks loyalty scheme, which now has gamification at the heart of its structure. The retailer has identified frequency of spend, amount spent, advocacy (hopefully) via reviews and promotion of CSR credentials – via ‘Shwopping’ – as the behaviours it wants to influence.

Points in the form of ‘Sparks’ are given based on these behaviours and, by reaching key thresholds, the customer is rewarded with access to special events and priority notifications of sales etc. The scheme goes further by promising to tailor rewards based on a member’s interests.

It’s a similar story with ASOS, but because of the very nature of the brand’s audience the social aspect of ASOS rewards will do the bulk of the lifting to encourage engagement with the brand. Currently when users post an image of themselves on social channels using certain hashtags the content is used on the ASOS website.

Moving forward, those signed up to the loyalty scheme will be awarded points for posting on social channels and interacting with content thus recognising, promoting and rewarding an natural existing behaviour. 

In this age of big data, there’s no excuse not to use this kind of approach: one that both understands a customer’s existing behaviour and attempts to alter it through ongoing interaction. It’s certainly a far better way of winning a customer’s loyalty than straight discounting… after-all, a digitally empowered customer is a notoriously fickle one. 

Post first published in Marketing