The Surprising Truth about Transforming the Customer Experience with Digital

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Are your employees doing the right thing? Are your teams empowered to make the right decision for your customers? At the Constellation  Research Connected Enterprise conference, moderator, Esteban Kolsky, Board of Advisor, Constellation Research, grilled a panel of customer experience innovators on just how “digital” was transforming the customer experience.

The panel included:

  • Dan Steinman, Chief Customer Officer, Gainsight
  • George Wright, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Thunderhead
  • Howard Tarnoff, Senior Vice President, Ceridian
  • Dave Pennington, Principal, Business Strategy, Microsoft.

It’s a great, short video with a few surprises. Some of my favourite quotes:

  • There’s no such thing as a sales process – there’s only a buying experience
  • It’s time for marketing to shut up
  • What’s the next disruptive thing? It’s engagement
  • The days of the check-in call are over
  • It’s not all about the data
  • Engagement doesn’t mean offer management

The Surprising Truth

But the most interesting thing to me was the focus on culture. We see it over and over again – and it is the most difficult challenge for organisations. While you can buy technology, you can’t buy the hearts, minds and engaged focus of your employees.

And while they may have all the customer data ever needed, without the right focus, support and attitude, you still won’t get the sale.

Need to harmonise your approach? Or bring technology and people together? We can help.

#Digitalks: Digital Disruption – how to thrive through change

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Each quarter, Firebrand host a lunch time seminar for the Sydney marketing community. This quarter, hosted by Adobe, I presented on the topic of digital disruption – and how marketers and innovators can apply the principles of the lean startup to transform their businesses.

We covered the three things you’ll need to pay attention to in order to build your business:

  • Marketing innovation: How to think and act like a marketing-led startup to innovate your way to profitability
  • Metrics: The key metrics that give you insight, focus, and control
  • Momentum: How focused action yields data and drives outcomes

You can:

 

Disrupting Retail: Three myths about digital and in-store shopping

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A couple of weeks back I had the opportunity to speak at the DiG Festival about the future of retail. The panel hosted by retail guru, Nancy Georges evolved very quickly away from a simple notion of retail to one augmented by digital technology, mobile connectivity and dominated by a focus on customer experience.

And while great strides have been made overseas in recent years, it seems that Australian retailers are only now starting to properly grapple with the challenges and opportunities afforded by digital. For many categories, this has left gaping holes in the retail experience, affording startups and more agile small players to enter and dominate parts of the Australian retail landscape. Just think of the way:

  • Zara swept into the country, catching Myer and David Jones completely off guard
  • Shoes of Prey have outflanked and reinvigorated the custom women’s footwear space
  • ASOS out-compete local retailers with reliable online shopping and speedy fulfilment

In many ways, this is symptomatic of a larger shift in consumer behaviour. We are now using our mobile phones and digital devices to fulfil our consumptive impulses, and Australian retailers have been caught with their pants down, having stubbornly under-invested in technology, innovation and customer experience for decades.

There is, however, an increasing body of evidence that retailers can rely upon to bust the entrenched, old-skool thinking that seems to dominate the boards and executive ranks of Australian retail. And this latest research from Google is a great starting point. Busting three myths about digital and its relationship to in-store purchase, the report shows:

Myth 1: Search results only send consumers to eCommerce sites

The research shows that far from creating a barrier to in-store shopping, quality search results can drive in-store traffic. However, this clearly means that retailers have to be actively managing and updating their web presence and product catalogues.

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Myth 2: Retailers lose the attention of in-store customers once they turn to their smartphones

With 42% of in-store shoppers searching for information online while in the store, an up-to-date website with integrated recommendation could deliver powerful cross-selling opportunities.

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Myth 3: Online research has relegated in-store experience to the transaction

In reality, consumers have higher customer experience expectations than ever before. For example, 85% of shoppers say they’d be more likely to shop in places that offer personalised coupons and exclusive offers in-store.

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You can download the full report here. But it is time for retailers to go beyond reading and to step out of the shadows of the Twentieth Century. It’s time to embrace the opportunities that come with disruptive technology and business models. Not to do so will open yet more doors to disruptive competitors – and no business can afford that.

Disrupting the Music Industry – Vodafone and Spotify buddy-up

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Today’s announcement making Spotify Premium available to Vodafone mobile subscribers amps up the pressure on the music and media industries with more disruption on the horizon.

They say that the number one reason that startups fail is due to distribution. It’s not a poorly designed product, or an inexperienced team or even bad customer experience. The challenge, as it is for any new business, is reaching a market.

Now, it used to be that we knew where to find music – on radio stations, at record bars and on Countdown. As a kid, I’d go and see Mrs Fry at Sandy’s Music in Dee Why (and yes, it is still there). With her son, Nigel, they were the go-to people when it came to new music – from the most interesting punk coming out of the UK through to the emerging Birthday Party more locally, they had their finger on the pulse. They could steer you through both country and western, knew the difference between Boy George and Marilyn and would even keep an autographed single behind the counter for you.

Nigel and Jenny were the central node in a local music marketing network. And each week, they inspired their customers with stories of new music, artists and breakthrough video clips. Their knowledge and passion was extensive and their enthusiasm was contagious. Each person would leave the shop knowing just a little bit more about the music they were about to listen to. In effect, they were creating and cultivating advocates – people who would influence their friends and family through music.

But the shift to digital has transformed this kind of relationship. Our music discovery is no longer curated in the same way by the programming directors, radio hosts or record bar owners. It’s at the mercy of algorithms, networks and big data stores. And it feels like it … but I digress.

Most importantly, we are playing under new rules of distribution. Music needs to find its audience – and increasingly, that audience exists at the end of a data stream. The device that transforms that stream into music is a phone. And this places mobile phone networks in a powerful position.

With the ink now drying on the Vodafone + Spotify partnership, Voda customers will have access to the Spotify Premium package as part of their plan – that’s $11.99 a month in value. And while the deals are not yet up on the website, I’d expect you can chat with customer service about it.

But this is not the end of the line for the music industry. Nor is it for the media industry. After all, disruption also breeds opportunity – and the very thing that made Sandy’s Record Bar popular is still the thing that we crave. And for all the technology under the sun, we haven’t been able to replicate that yet.

Audience Disruption and Lessons from the Music Business – How to cultivate and amplify a fragmented audience

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It doesn’t take a genius to know that the days of mass marketing are over. But it is taking some time for us to disentangle ourselves from old ways of thinking. Gone are the days when you could produce an ad and blast it out to the compliant masses who would watch, absorb and then automaton-like file out of their homes to purchase our products direct from retailers next day. These days, advertising is a much more complicated business. It’s complicated by technology, social media and the proliferation of channels. But above all, it’s complicated by our audiences – the people who, at the end of the day, buy the products we pitch them. Because people choose the channels and the media that they are interested in, we need new tools to reach, engage and inspire them.

And by new tools, I don’t necessarily just mean technology. I also mean strategy. Products. Processes. We need staff who are interested in the needs and aspirations of others. How do we do this? How do we make it happen? These are some of the things that we are work with clients on at Disruptor’s Handbook.

The thing is, “disruption” doesn’t necessarily have to be a problem. In fact, it can be a catalyst to innovation. This is also something that we work on – reframing disruption to help organisations capitalise on the opportunities that come from disruption. A great way of understanding this opportunity comes from this fantastic presentation from Michael Goldstein.

In this presentation on cultivating and amplifying audiences, Michael talks about the way that we discover, experience and enjoy music. He suggests that we are moving away from “taste dictatorships” and are rejoicing in “genre discovery”. This is a trend that music streaming platforms like Spotify and Pandora are leveraging. But platforms like Boiler Room cultivate a different style of engagement and audience. Beginning as a single live streamed event, Boiler Room has evolved into a live music platform and has now hosted events in over 50 countries and produces around 100 new videos a month. Their eagle-eye focus on both emerging talent and audience engagement has seen enviable growth for the platform along with a growing community.

Does this mean the end of radio stations? Or labels?

Not at all. The long tail takes quite some time to snap the back of the incumbent. But without the benefits of aggregation, we will see further fragmentation of audiences and budgets. While this is a problem for the “Music Industry” (capital M, capital I), it just signals a rockier road ahead. It also signals disruption and opportunity. And it also means we need to work harder – to spot talent and cultivate communities. And we need to delight audiences too. After all, it’s the “music business” – and there’s money in opportunity.

Synthalitics – setting a new benchmark for customer engagement

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Have you noticed recently that your web browsing experience is becoming narrower, more confined and focused? What about those pesky ads that follow you from one website to another? Do they annoy or help you? It seems that all it takes is one visit to a retail website, and next thing you know, that retailer’s ads are stuck to your computer screen, appearing in every available ad spot across the web.

If this sounds like you – then you’re not alone. You’re actually part of the newly emerging real time web that combines big data and analytics to track and target you in search of that all-consuming sales conversion.

Businesses are putting their data to work

There has been significant progress in the world of analytics in recent times. The masses of data that has been collected for decades is now, thanks to the meshing of powerful, purpose built hardware and software, available to business decision makers at the touch of a screen or click of a mouse. This on-premise information is a rich source of vitality data that – with the appropriate mapping and analysis, can reveal hidden truths about our customers, their lives, lifestyles and even their futures.

Meanwhile, customers are themselves, increasingly self-tagging, self-identifying and self-analyzing their daily activities, weekly routines and personal aspirations. This information, in turn, is floating around the web, being stored, collated and cross-referenced to improve the effectiveness of our communal and personal web experiences. From the captcha codes that Google uses to improve its OCR book scanning to the social media check-ins that Facebook and ad networks use to micro-target and re-target advertising, the potential for augmenting a business’ on-premise data with publicly available “big data” is revolutionary.

The emergence of synthalitics will change marketing

“Synthalitics” is the combining of public data with business data, cross-pollinated with customer’s business and credit history, matched with their real time social and location-based information – and made available for a business rules engine at point of interaction. It may sound far-fetched, but it already available in a crude form that will improve as software and hardware improve. Just look to real time bidding advertising networks and ad re-targeting.

These are the pesky ads that follow you from one website to another. The technology clearly works, but advertisers have yet to apply creativity and insight to the re-targeting process. Rather than playing the same ad over and over, ad networks and advertisers will need to become more nuanced in their efforts and connected in their digital storytelling before these feel anything other than intrusive. But this will happen. And what currently appears clunky will, in very short order, become common place – and if we (as consumers) are lucky, it may even become useful.

The growth in real time bidding (RTB) display advertising indicates that businesses are rapidly acclimatizing to this digital world. In the US, RTB spending was expected to hit $3.34 billion in 2013 representing a massive 73.9% growth over the previous year. By 2017, eMarketer suggests this figure will hit $8.69 billion. The automation of digital display will create a gulf between those brands that understand and can integrate digital formats into their strategy and those that can’t – and clearly, this will accelerate through 2017.

Synthalitics deliver one-to-one engagement at scale

However, RTB is just one part of the digital story. Marketers need tools that can absorb the vitality data, augment it with big data-like, location based, self reported data (available through smartphones and social check-ins) and corporate CRM data and synthesize it in such a way that it reveals new and potentially predictive patterns (see diagram below). This is about knowing who your buyers trust.

imageIncreasingly, sales and marketing teams will need to work through a central platform to be able to contextualize business critical information about a prospect’s digital behaviour, needs and expectations. Or if no central platform or suite of tools are available, the need for frictionless data and aggregation points will become vital. The gulf between digitally-enabled and analogue businesses will grow, with the former over-running and out-innovating the latter.

Businesses without a digital transformation agenda need to rapidly reassess their strategy and go to market models. In short order – synthalitics will transform marketing and sales as we know it. And it is synthalitics that will deliver on the promise of one-to-one engagement at scale.

The question for you and your brand is not whether you are READY, but whether you have even STARTED.

The Many Colours of Digital Disruption

Nielsen Social Media Report 2012

From almost any angle, businesses are under pressure. Connected customers are out-flanking business efforts to control the flow of goods and services and manage relationships in an increasingly connected economy. The global economy continues to struggle under the weight of misguided policies, sovereign debt and an entitled corporatocracy that aims to “maximize the status quo” . As Seth Godin points out, this industrial focus on our economy has a limited future:

Today’s industrialists define our economy, but they offer very little promise for tomorrow. They’ve long bought ads to polish their image, but mostly work to alter the culture in ways that will ensure they’ll get just a little bit more yield out of each of us.

But as Mary Meeker’s 2012 recap on the state of the internet suggests, disruption is the new normal. And when it comes to digital, disruption comes in many colours.

Five Impacts of Digital Media
Writing on the invention of the printing press, Elizabeth Eisenstein suggested there were five impacts that transformed society of the time. In 2012, we too can see these impacts playing out in our personal and professional lives (and all the spaces in-between):

  • Experts coming under pressure from new voices who are early adopters of new technology
  • New organisations emerging to deal with the social, cultural and political changes
  • There is a struggle to revise the social and legal norms — especially in relation to intellectual property
  • The concepts of identity and community are transformed
  • New forms of language come into being
  • Educators are pressured to prepare their students for the newly emerging world

Nielsen Social Media Report 2012 signals the end to the industrial age of marketing

Nielsen Social Media Attitudes

Showcasing each of these five impacts, the Nielsen Social Media Report for 2012 signals not only that “social media has come of age”, but that digital has truly arrived as a force that can no longer be ignored. Once, the staunchest defender of an analogue ratings system, Nielsen’s own transformation confirms that the industrial age of marketing is closing and that a new era has arrived.

Marketers are not only under pressure to respond to the mega trends outlined above – they must also address the five pillars of enterprise disruption which are playing havoc with business strategy and engagement tactics. These days marketers must consider:

  • A strategy of mobile only, not mobile first: Not only are mobile technologies different in form and shape. They are taking over our patterns of adoption and consumption. With mobile devices already outselling PCs in India and China, it is expected that this change will impact Australia, the US and Europe in 2014. With long lead times and a dearth of digital skills within organisations, marketers will need to move now to serve their connected consumers who prowl the digital landscape. And rather than thinking mobile first, marketers need to think mobile only
  • Social is mobile: Mobility is not only an issue for interruption – or even permission based marketing. It is an issue for social engagement platforms. App usage now accounts for more than a third of social networking time. There is still significant space for growth – and marketers will need to understand how this mobile+social dimension impacts the customer experience
  • Social TV is disrupting broadcast: While the focus is currently on Twitter as a social TV enablement platform, this is an area ripe for disruption. Just as publishers were slow to respond to digital and are now facing significant business model challenges, broadcast networks have also been slow to invest, experiment and learn from social technologies. This has opened the door to innovative startup who will continue to outpace the industrial age broadcasters
  • The buyer’s journey has changed forever: The marketing funnel as a concept is over 100 years old. In a digital world, its linear process is also a mark of the industrial marketing era. It’s time for marketers to re-cast the marketing funnel for consumer engagement.

Download the Nielsen report and let me know what you think. Will it change the way you plan and execute your marketing efforts in 2013?