One-to-one customer roadmap vital to brand relevance, says industry expert

Teradata Marketing Applications industry commentator, John Timmerman, says CMOs face a political and technology balancing act to get to the real-time customer engagement needed to be relevant with modern consumers

Marketers who aren’t striving to identify consumers down to a ratio of one, or who haven’t yet embraced technology as the enabler to real-time engagement, will find it impossible to be relevant to the modern consumer.

That’s the view of Teradata Marketing Applications global industry evangelist, John Timmerman, who caught up with CMO to discuss how to achieve real-time, omni-channel engagement, as well as the core attributes and cultural best practices CMOs need to foster to make it happen.

According to Timmerman, two elements are contributing to the need for real-time, omni-channel interaction with customers: Changing customer buyer and research behaviours thanks to digital and mobile connectivity; and the maturity of technology and technology adoption.

“There has been a major shift in the way customers engage with brands… one way of looking at what we are doing as a marketplace is democratising it [engagement]. The market is maturing and moving and it’s not about decisions you made in the past, it’s about how you respond as an organisation and brand,” he said.

“Omni-channel, real-time marketing is about how best to interact with customers and if you don’t know who you are engaging with, it’s impossible to be relevant in that conversation. As a marketer, I should be doing everything I can to identify the person I am engaging with, then personalise in order to increase my degree of interaction in real time.”

Timmerman has been with Teradata for 25 years, starting in its financial services vertical before working on connecting back-end data with customer touchpoints. His current role was created about 12 months ago and has a specific focus on real-time engagement through best practices, business priorities and technology.

Timmerman clarified ‘real-time’ as ‘right-time’ marketing. “It’s in the customer’s time and at the point where customers interact with you and how you respond to that opportunity,” he said.

The first step towards this vision is to better understand who you’re talking in terms of channels (paid, earned or owned), Timmerman said. This requires having the right technology capabilities.

“If CMOs are embracing of technology, it will enable them to drive and change customer engagement in the enterprise,” he claimed.

One of the technical complications Timmerman agreed most CMOs face in achieving one-to-one engagement is their organisation’s legacy and siloed systems and structures. A related issue is that those responsible for technology decisions can be reluctant to change, making it hard to achieve the single view of customer necessary for real-time, omni-channel engagement.

“People can be protective about decisions on technology and stick with platforms longer as a result,” Timmerman commented. “Embedding technology to transition away from [current practices], or integrating with other core systems, is a step towards omni-channel marketing in real time.”

Key to overcoming these hurdles is putting together a roadmap in order to get pieces of business to work together in the name of the customer, Timmerman said.

“It’s about driving functional capability into the organisation,” he continued.

“All of this fits into how to create the roadmap that doesn’t diminish someone’s potential position. It’s a balancing act for the CMO – there is a lot of politics and positioning to address, [not just technology].”

To get there, CMOs need to adopt a “transitional” rather than “traditional” mindset around customer engagement, Timmerman said. This makes spearheading organisational cultural change core to the modern marketing leadership role.

“Being a change agent is the pillar - technology merely represents the tools and means to an end,” he said. “But you need to look at things from a capability point of view and… you have to figure out how to solve the problem before you get to the technology you choose, implement and solution.”

4 steps to real-time customer engagement

Timmerman outlined real-time customer engagement success through four “essential truths”: Detect, determine, decide and deliver.

The first step, detect, is about knowing your customer and obtaining that single view of data in order to understand channel preferences, positioning and a customer’s engagement preferences. “This allows you to better engage on the customer’s terms,” he said.

“Ideally, you want to get to a segment of one, but it doesn’t always happen that way. Who am I talking to – that’s a real-time discussion.”

As an example of a brand that has managed this, Timmerman highlighted Procter and Gamble’s ‘1 Consumer Place’. This online environment allows consumers to interact with its brands while helping the FMCG company better understand who buys its products and why via direct customer input. To do this, P&G created a global database of 3.5 billion customer records including details on customer behaviour, he said.

Timmerman’s second truth, determine, is about articulating what the customer journey looks like and who and where customers are at in terms of engaging with your brand.

“If you don’t align to the journey the customer is on, someone else will,” Timmerman warned. “You have to determine that journey – who, where that customer is engaging with the brand - then deliver specific messages that resonate with consumers.”

This requires a series of repeatable, engagement models that evolve with that customer, he added.

The third truth, decide, is about actioning at that point of engagement.

“For every customer, there may be 200 different offers of messages to deliver at any one point in time. If you can’t determine which one to send, you can’t expect the customer to do that for you,” Timmerman said.

“You have to have the right sorts of mechanisms in place – a real-time decisioning, rule-based, self-learning algorithm to do the real-time offer management. This allows you to do message filtering in real-time. No human can do brand marketing at speed of light.”

Timmerman’s fourth truth, delivered, is about execution. “If you can’t get that message then delivered, you’ll never be relevant to the customer,” he said. This in turn adds another layer of complexity to the modern marketing set-up, he admitted.

Helpful tools include website designs that are responsive to messages being delivered, as well as things like loyalty apps and mobile push messaging. Timmerman also saw beacon technology as an emerging asset in delivering the right message the right time.

“Otherwise, steps one, two and three don’t amount to a hill of beans,” he added.

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