An in-depth understanding of consumers sits at the heart of what we all need to do, but we know it’s not always easy to uncover insights that will unlock a true innovation opportunity.
We are living in an increasingly digital age where consumers have more power, and there are more marketing tools to address them than ever before. But according to senior manager of strategic consulting at Oracle Marketing Cloud, Christian Hyland, said marketers are torn between meeting customer demand and the challenge to deliver hard ROI quickly.
Speaking at Oracle’s Modern Marketing Tour in Sydney, Hyland said marketers are still struggling to deliver the best experience to consumers.
“That pressure is mounting and marketers are feeling the squeeze,” he said. “There’s little in what they’re being given, but they’re expecting to deliver more.”
Hyland said the key to becoming more customer-centric is to find innovative ways to use technology to improve customer experiences.
“The challenge we’ve got is that our machines don’t really understand humans, they don’t really get it,” he said. “So how do we, as marketers, try to pull those machines and data in such a way that we can shape, form and improve the experience our customers are having with our brand?”
According to Hyland, companies such as Nordstrom have proved successful by identifying the common denominator across all of their activities as the customer, and building a personalisation strategy to match.
“The company pushed its resources and thinking towards finding ways of improving the customer experience in every touch point across channels,” he said. “For instance, the company has stylists available in store for high-value customers. Nordstrom has also realised customers don’t like waiting in queues, and has provided things like mobile point-of-sale to speed up the queues.
“With all of these approaches, Nordstrom is using technology and marketing machines in a way that is reciprocal and creating a digital dialogue.”
Hyland recommended marketers identify their high-value customers and those who are contributing the most value to the business.
“That exercise then gives you not only the opportunity of nurturing and building those relationships, but also and importantly in a digital world, enables you to identify ideal customers,” he said.
Despite the need to nurture customer longevity, Hyland said research showed a staggering 82 per cent of companies are still struggling to create a meaningful dialogue with the consumer. In addition, a majority of customers don’t feel connected with brands, with 77 per cent saying they have no relationship with the brand, or that it’s either transactional, irrelevant, or the communication is too random.
“One of the root causes of this is that the marketing experience is broken, even when we’ve got more marketing tools and applications at our disposal than any other time in history,” Hyland commented.
“We have all these different point solutions in our business - software services, cloud-based applications and automation - but we have a disparate data ecosystem. In that disparate data ecosystem, we then have a new challenge: How can we hold that information together? How can we synthesise it and build it around our customers?”
Until we can create a single customer view, we can’t build effective digital dialogues, according to Hyland, and replicate the traditional experience when customers walk into a local store.
“Data all needs to be harmonised and brought together into something that is more useful,” he said. “Until we actually do that, we can’t realise the potential of all that customer data. Big data sounds very exciting and very sexy, but it’s really about putting it to practical use, and until we can do that, we can’t even begin to look at the opportunities around with data management platforms and other cross-channel orchestration tools.”
The vicious cycle marketers face is that as they’re relying more and more on fragmented systems, the pressure is still on to get faster ROI, Hyland said.
“How do you get faster ROI? You send more newsletters and emails. But that batch and blast approach only pushes customers further away. It doesn’t create a dialogue and it doesn’t create a relationship,” he said. “The cohesive customer experience is broken because the marketing experience is broken – there is no centralised view to coordinate, orchestrate and deliver.”
One major marketing inefficiency for Hyland was time wasted on ’data munching’, or pulling data out and synthesising it just to get unified picture of their customer.
“Up to 20 per cent of a marketing analyst’s time can go to data munching,” he claimed. “On a large scale across your entire business, this adds up. So there is a drag on marketing in terms of operational efficiency.”
Looking at future trends, one of the ongoing battles Hyland highlighted was the divide between marketing and technology teams within an organisation.
“All too often there is not enough high level collaboration between CMOs and CIOs,” he said. “In the last five years, with cloud based products and software, marketers have said let’s go it alone, let’s get this running and drive our ROI. But over time, we found yes we can do that, but it causes that need to pull all that data out and try to compile it all together.”
The companies that do well, Hyland said, are those that go through digital transformations and bring together marketers and technologies together at an operational level, in order to come up with robust solutions on which the organisation can rely on.
“CMOs want to deploy fast, and they want to drive that ROI, whereas you’re looking at what the CIOs want, and the whole organisational architecture in terms of stability and latency,” he said. “They want measurements and they want campaign optimisation. They want to see that this large-scale optimisation has dividends and is paying off for the organisation.”
Hyland warned a short-term pre-occupation with ROI without the right organisational alignment is not scalable. He suggested marketing orchestration is about reducing your cost and minimising budget spend, with a centralised view to effectively helping build the business space for ROI.
This, he said, will fundamentally give marketers an engine to drive revenue and increase customer demand.
“Too much of the time as marketers, we’re playing a percentage game,” Hyland added. “But there’s a lot we can do in order to unlock the know-how within our organisation and share that with the customer to improve their journey and experience.”
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