Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.
Marketers looking to deliver exceptional customer experiences are increasingly turning to personalisation. But a new report has found most are still struggling to deliver, with less than three in 100 boasting the single customer view needed to turn discrete marketing activities into ongoing, targeted customer engagements.
According to the CMO Council’s Predicting Routes to Revenue report, only 5 per cent of marketers surveyed say they have mastered the ability to adapt and predict the customer journey and what actions will derive maximum value.
The study was based on insights from more than 150 senior marketing executives surveyed primarily across North America and Europe during the fourth quarter of 2015 and was conducted in partnership with business applications provider, Pegasystems.
“Marketers are struggling to personalise, absolutely,” said CMO Council senior vice-president of marketing, Liz Miller. “They’re not confident, not happy at all with where they are – not just with personalisation but the ability to maximise their revenue that they’re getting from every customer and every engagement. It even extends deeper, to not really being satisfied in their organisation’s ability to deliver on every brand promise.”
Misalignment on data resources a stumbling block
Key for marketers looking to leverage personalisation is redefining data’s value and primary role. The CMO Council report advised moving away from using data as a vehicle to calculate past performance metrics, into utilising it as a critical tool to uncover new, real-time insights about customer behaviour. This includes how customers react to different trends, news, offers, deals, product promises, promotional prompts, recommendations, social commentary and personalised messages.
While 23 per cent of marketers surveyed are able to develop predictive insights into broad customer trends, another 20 per cent said they are only able to predict the next best action and struggle to move beyond that first step.
Delivering on brand promises is another area lacking sophistication, with two-thirds of respondents revealing their success in this area was hit-or-miss. Fourteen per cent also admitted completely missing the mark, and only 16 per cent felt their organisations were actually delivering customer experiences that truly fulfilled their brand promises.
According to Miller, marketers have embraced the idea that they are champions for the customer and want to deliver really robust, content-rich data-driven – amazing ‘nirvana’ like experiences for their customers.
“But we’re finding time and time again that marketers are really struggling to get there,” she told CMO. “Instead, marketers apply limited personalised experiences, and that really ends up being no more than random acts of marketing. We’re creating these great marketing campaigns, that yes, might be leveraging data and be personalised, but at the end of the day, they’re still a single campaign and a single touch point.”
According to CMO Council, a key contributor to this lack of advancing analytics is a fundamental misalignment of data sources as marketers continue to struggle with aggregation, alignment and analysis of data across disparate sources. Forty-eight per cent indicated data is collected and analysed in their organisation, but remains separate and is not well aligned.
Meanwhile, only 3 per cent said current data sources are integrated and totally aligned, delivering the comprehensive 360-degree view of the customer needed to move away from discrete marketing activities and towards a holistic customer approach.
“Marketers have the right intentions, working to deliver rich, personalised and relevant engagements across an increasing number of channels, but there are still a number of roadblocks preventing us from maximising efforts in this area,” Miller said.
“Personalisation isn’t a question of using a customer’s name in an email subject line. Personalising the customer experience demands that we harness data collected across the organisation and immediately transform it into something that is both actionable and resonates with the customer and their preferences.
“If personalisation remains a way to add a few interesting indicators to a momentary campaign, we will fail in fully optimising the revenue potential of each individual customer.”
Breaking point: Omnichannel
One clear challenge the report revealed is the multitude of channels through which marketers can now listen to and engage with customers. According to Pegasystems CMO, Robert Tas, the sheer volume of customer data available to marketers today is both a blessing and a curse.
“Customer expectations rise when they reveal more about themselves, but most organisations aren’t equipped to reciprocate by providing a better, more personalised experience,” he said. “By deploying real-time analytics to turn this data into actionable insights, organisations can predict customer needs and quickly adjust as those needs change to provide superior experiences at every interaction.”
On a positive note, the report showed marketers do have a clear idea of what moves need to be made in the year ahead to make real strides in making personalisation a reality.
“Marketers are going through a very distinct evolution right now, where we are starting to redefine what personalisation means for us and more importantly, for our customers,” Miller continued. “Today, it’s not just about how we push messages to customers, but looking at what can we really do to add value to our customers’ lives.”
Other areas of priority were adding more personalised experiences based on customer data and expanding engagement channels to better meet customers where they want to engage. Better aligning frontline resources such as sales, service and in-store support to create exceptional experiences in any channel, and delivering real-time, relevant offers to optimise revenue were also outlined as priorities.
“The number one thing marketers need to do is step out of that marketing bubble,” Miller stressed. “For a very long time, marketers have defined data through channels that we control. You need to look outside of marketing and within the organisation for new pieces of information and insights that directly relate to the customer’s relationship with your brand.”