​How these 3 brands are using data to meet consumer demands

Lighthouse, Smile Train and Arizona State University share their views on using data to improve marketing and communications

Consumers are demanding better, more personalised experiences, and make no distinction between profits, non-profits and educational institutions when it comes to these expectations.

This was the message at a session at Salesforce Connections on how three marketers go about meeting consumer demands. And it's data providing the means to achieving any success. 

President and CEO of Smile Train, Susannah Schaefer, CMO of Arizona State University, Dan Dillon, and co-founder and CEO of Lighthouse, Naveen Rajdev, discussed consumer demands in the digital age, in a session moderated by Salesforce chief digital evangelist, Vala Afshar. 

Afshar started with the four key takeaways from Salesforce’s recent State of the Connected Customer research. The first is extraordinary experiences raise the bar for customer expectations, while the second is new expectations shift the digital transformation playbook. Thirdly, trust is more important than ever - but elusive, and lastly, corporate values sway purchasing decisions. 

Salesforce found 84 per cent of people said customer experience (CX) is as important as the product or service provided, a near 10 per cent jump in just three years. In addition, three in four expect companies to use technology to improve service. One in two also believe companies need to do a better job of gaining trust.

In Australia, the newly released research shows two-thirds of customers expect connected experiences, but 60 per cent still generally feel like they are communicating with separate departments, rather than one company. In addition, 77 per cent believe trust in companies matters more than it did a year ago, and 65 per cent have stopped buying from companies that did something distrustful.

“If trust is not your north star, you’ll have a hard time competing,” Afshar said.

Building off data

Panellists agreed marketing to support these ambitions must be built on data and analytics. Dillon said his university undertakes a brand tracker annual survey, with data supplying insights into the perception of the brand. 

“Marketing has no control over price or product, so our job is to generate affinity. Data informs this, and helps us understand the impact of our marketing,” he said, adding it is utilising Marketing Cloud as a platform to communicate targeted and personalised messaging

Schaefer said Smile Train must both raise awareness and acquire donors, and this is all built on data analytics. 

“We just moved to Salesforce, we were running a dinosaur platform prior to that. It was a big migration; we have over one million names in our files. Now, we are starting to use it to see the donor journey, and how we can grow with them over time,”  he said.

Schaefer said communications are now personalised by necessity, there is no more pray and spray. 

“Technology is at our core and we have taken that into fundraising. We bring donors onto file via direct mail and advertising, and engage once they are on that file using technology, and data drives it. It’s connection and community, and we stay focused on that,” she said.

Rajdev, who heads a company worth around $9 billion based on a raft of acquisitions, said marketing and sales were previously driven by word-of-mouth, and things had stopped working. 

“Business is shifting dramatically. Now, we are using data analytics to start thinking about not only our customers now, but our customers two years from now. It’s been a big shift," he told attendees. "Now, we read weaker signals and non-obvious trends.”

Of course, data in isolation isn't going to cut it. Afshar said when it comes to data, AI is the refinery, and it’s the insights that matter. What's more, if customer interactions aren’t bi-directional, they aren’t interactions. He also said innovative companies are able to answer the questions customers should be asking. 

Dillon said effective marketing starts with a brand platform and deciding what it is you want to stand for, while Rajdev added data is history, it has already happened. 

“Data gives you next best action, or the likelihood of buying. What we are building is causal marketing; it’s a different, probabilistic model," he said. "We work the traditional model backwards using AI, to try and work out what a journey would look like for a person buying something we want to sell. It’s reverse marketing.” 

Dillon said the ambition is to ensure a message is authentically received now and in the future. Getting to this point involves copious amounts of testing, he said. "We undertake testing, pre testing, post testing, and predictive testing," he said.

“We’ve tested over 600 different messages, and tested creative, to ensure it is all having the desired effect. Data informs our decisions and data tells us if it is working or not."

The non-profit industry is highly competitive, Schaefer continued, so Smile has to be adaptable. Data is one way of being able to pivot in a different direction.

"This is the challenge non-profits face now. Once we attain a donor, we need to retain them, and that how data helps," he said. "Analytics in marketing help decide where investments need to be made. It takes a dollar to raise a dollar, so you have to be smart about it by listening to donors and supporters and what they want, why they want to help.” 

As a final note, Rajdev said brands the world where the good thing and the right things is also the right business thing. This makes trust and transparency vital.

"Make every element of data and make it as transparent as possible,” he advised. 

Vanessa Mitchell travelled to Connections as a guest of Salesforce. 

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia.

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