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.
Engagement is the name of the game for modern marketers, and digital connectivity, data and technology are opening new doors to building customised experiences with prospects and customers.
During the IBM Amplify summit this week, several marketers from leading global brands including Yoox and Net-a-Porter Group, The Color Run and MetLife, took to the stage to share how they’re working to tailor and improve end-to-end customer experiences.
Yoox/Net-a-Porter: Content, innovation and flawless execution
Luxury online retailer, Yoox and Net-a-Porter Group, boasts of 2.5 million high-spending customers, 27 million unique site visitors globally each month, and delivers product in 180 countries. Its CIO, Alex Alexander, said the brand’s vision is to provide the best possible customer experience by personalising engagement in different ways.
He claimed this is achieved this through innovation, intelligent content, such as its Porter magazine, and flawless execution across channels.
“Our customers are mobile, international and want the products now,” he continued. “Imagine one customer in the UK who wanted to travel to New York and just before leaving gets invited to an event. They order something to wear online and collect it around the corner from the hotel the next day. That’s the type of personalisation that connects the digital world with physical world and provides unique engagement.
“We want to be anywhere our customers are and engage in any way they want to shop with us. Customers don’t distinguish between digital and physical stores, for them it’s a seamless experience.”
Alexander noted three things about his industry that are unique. The first is that customers treat luxury fashion as perishable items and want it immediately. They also need to be inspired by product and content. And they don’t base decisions on product specs, they’re driven by inspiration and design.
“Engagement for us is about interactions – we are not just a transaction – and it’s about social,” he said. “It’s about providing advocates for our brand and brand partners.”
Everything is about to become a lot more personal, Alexander predicted, which makes it vital to invest in customised communications. Key insights could include the fit, skin tone, where the customer lives and shops, how they want to interact, where they’re travelling to and the weather, he said.
“It’s about having a personal shopping assistant and concierge with you all the time covering trends, help and advice. That’s where industry is going,” he said.
The Color Run: Providing social capital
Kiley Newbold is VP of marketing for The Color Run, originators of the first-ever 5km paint throwing fun run and now owner of the largest 5km event series in the world across 50 countries.
“Customer experience is core to our DNA, and we know people crave great experiences,” Newbold said. “We’re about making 5km running more accessible and less competitive, and because of that we attract many first-time runners. It’s a pretty important experience for them because how they go through our event will determine how they experience other events they go to, so we take it very seriously. We want to have credible experience and connect with them on an emotional level.”
According to Newbold, brands are living in the age of experiential consumers who value experiences more than ownership. That makes these experiences vital to their personal identity as well as their social fabric, and that’s what the brand endeavours to tap into.
With every touchpoint, The Color Run strives to give consumers a reason to share and talk about its events, Newbold said.
“This gives them social capital from being attached to us as a brand,” he said. “Once you cross finish line, you’re part of our family. We have the challenge of operating at scale in so many cities and delivering a customised message, and we rely on a number of tools, including IBM Marketing Cloud, to do that.
“We want participants to feel they’re part of a broader global phenomenon plus be connected to their city and that we understand what’s going on there. Putting on events is very nuanced, and we strive to deliver timely messages on a personalised level.”
MetLife: Make interaction as easy as possible
Up until a few years ago, 150-year old insurance group, MetLife, looked at marketing and customers from the inside-out, said Jeff Pattison. Embarking on a customer centricity journey was about changing the way the company and its employees think about the customer, and how it uses marketing tools, communications and digital channels to better serve them.
“It was about giving choice to customers and making things as easy as possible,” he said.
An example was in MetLife’s annuity business, which was traditionally paper-based. With an older, less digitally savvy demographic, it was important to build digital capabilities then work with customers to adopt and promote these, Pattison said. To do this, the organisation took a two-step approach. The first was a traditional direct mail campaign, offering a gift card for making the switch to digital.
Secondly, Metlife found extra data matching and sources as it lacked email addresses for many of its customers in order to digitise the message. This work resulted in a 25-30 per cent increase in month-on-month annuity registrations, pushing up its paperless business to 40 per cent, Pattison said.
Another area of focus has been paying a bill. Metlife created the ability to pay without having to login into its website, an initiative targeted at customers not already registered online. Within four months, it saw 50 per cent utilisation, with 88 per cent of users unknown to its member system. This was followed up with a campaign promoting logging in to access full online experiences.
Based on these activities, Pattison had three recommendations for modern customer engagement:
- Think mobile end-to-end and create optimised experience
- Use tools traditionally employed by marketing to drive self-service and adoption. “It’s the same tools and techniques, but instead of selling things, you’re selling services and adoption,” he said.
- Make it easy for the customer. “We now think of things from the outside-in perspective,” Pattison said. “This will make them happier, make them a customer for longer and you’ll save money.”
- Nadia Cameron travelled to IBM Amplify as a guest of IBM.