How machine learning is helping brands? The rise of digital business models has created an urgent need for a consistent approach to personalized communications, and the best customer experience can only be created through a data-driven strategy.
In this interview, Steve Warren, CEO of Mapp Digital, explains how brands can get real-time insights to build smart customer journeys with the right technology.
How important is investing in marketing technology and digital transformation?
Steve Warren (SW): There are many marketing clouds that overpromise and under-deliver. Whether it’s complex connections to disparate platforms, expensive support, or even the inability to leverage the full capabilities of a massive solution, companies should strive to integrate their marketing technology and investments to enable true digital transformation. Customer data management, marketing analytics, data activation, personalization and automation from a single source at a competitive price are critical for all companies.
In my conversations with companies around the world, it has become clear that the requirements for successful and effective marketing have increased dramatically over the past year. And brands are demanding comprehensive marketing platforms that make a real impact. It’s more important than ever to implement a data-driven strategy to improve the customer experience. Successful brands engage with their customers regularly and purposefully, guided by solid data. Only in this way can brands improve ROI across all channels.
How do brands benefit from integrating their cross-channel marketing activities with marketing analytics?
CB: It’s about transforming data into actionable insights and turning those insights into actions. The real value of marketing analytics lies in its ability to provide deep insights. Companies can have endless amounts of data, but they need to be able to digest it and organize it in a way that allows them to implement actionable marketing activities.
Lack of understanding always equals lack of customer engagement. Brands must understand their customers and enable them to create meaningful interactions. This is only possible when marketing activities are driven by full-fledged, real-time marketing analytics.
How do innovative brands use their martech stack to create and fuel outstanding brand and customer experiences?
CB: We recently commissioned research from Forrester Consulting, which was a real eye-opener for me. To create exceptional brand journeys and customer experiences, it’s critical to use a powerful first-person data set to provide brands with a holistic view of their customers. Companies that have implemented artificial intelligence or machine learning tools have noted that they have become better at updating their strategy, better at understanding customer intent, and better at getting more complete information about their customers.
Surprisingly, we hear less about improving staff and talent. Only a quarter of the brands surveyed attribute their success in recent years to continuous learning and training. This proves that while hiring and developing skilled staff is important, using the right technology tools for insight-driven marketing offers the greatest potential for future growth.
What is your approach to creating an insight-driven consumer experience, and how does it help achieve brands’ goals today?
SW: The ‘Insight-led customer experiences’ approach emphasizes the importance of marketing intelligence and insights in the cross-channel marketing game. This approach puts insights at the core of technology, using data to generate insights that help create better customer experiences (i.e., data, insights, engagement). In a sense, it reverses the order of where and how customer analytics are used in traditional marketing clouds, where analytics are put at the end of the process to measure results (i.e., data, execution, analytics).
Brands are looking for marketing technologies that use trusted data as a means to increase engagement and improve the customer experience, providing true one-to-one personalization.
Can you identify any brands using this approach, and what results have they had?
CB: There are more than 3,000 companies worldwide that rely on Mapp, including well-known brands like Argos, Ella’s Kitchen, Francesca’s, Freesat, Homebase, PepsiCo, Vivienne Westwood and The Entertainer. Our clients are mostly medium to large retail, e-commerce and direct selling companies.
For example, The Entertainer wanted to modernize its customer marketing and rebuild its online strategy with a scalable marketing platform. The company achieved triple-digit percentage revenue growth from the email channel alone, converting 430,000 unique customers in three months and generating 300 million dynamic personalization impressions via email and online in four months.
What are brands missing out on if they don’t take this kind of analytics-driven approach?
CB: The commissioned research I mentioned earlier by Forrester Consulting was very clear in this regard. Brands need marketing analytics to develop an effective customer experience strategy. Our study shows that 88% of marketing decision makers agree that it is important to understand changing customer needs to improve the customer experience, but many brands do not act on that knowledge. Only a little more than half of companies plan to implement a marketing analytics solution this year.
However, we also learned that investment in analytics-driven marketing stacks is in full swing as companies seek to improve consumer insights. The brands surveyed ranked marketing analytics, customer data management and automation as major investments made over the past two years.
How important is centralized data management to improving brand performance?
CB: Improved performance depends on the ability to truly get to know customers. It’s time to move away from solutions based on intuition and traditional campaign thinking. Brands owe it to themselves to understand who their customers are and to implement an internal culture that leverages data. This is the only way to meet consumer expectations and deliver real value.
That’s why unified customer profiles are indispensable. They allow brands to get a 360-degree view of each individual customer by centralizing personal attributes, transactions and interactions in one place. This allows brands to make informed decisions based on real-time customer insights from all available data sources.
What are the marketing opportunities in the post-blockchain world?
CB: Over the past year, we’ve seen a massive acceleration in the development of online business models in marketing. The need for consistent online interactions with customers through a targeted strategy has made investments in customer data, marketing analytics, data activation, personalization and automation indispensable.
I’m also seeing an increased focus on marketing effectiveness because of incredibly limited budgets. The best way to meet this need for efficiency is with analytics data that can easily be used for marketing activities. Brands will benefit from a holistic understanding of the customer across all channels and will be able to optimize and evolve their own marketing strategy. At the same time, insights help avoid ineffective targeting and ensure that your budget is used effectively.
How can artificial intelligence help marketing achieve growth and become more successful?
NE: I see two main practical applications of artificial intelligence in marketing. The first application has to do with the data itself, as marketers face the problem of having too much data. AI can help keep track of all the data coming in and extract value from it. For example, AI-powered tools can notify marketers of anomalies in the data. Conversion rates on mobile devices are dropping significantly? You’ll know about it right away and can remedy the situation. Is a specific campaign bringing in new customers with an above-average order amount? Then it’s time to invest more money in it.
The second area of application is improving the customer experience with insights already extracted from the data. Brands can use this data to predict future customer behavior and answer questions such as: Do my customers read their emails in the morning or evening? Should I promote my best-selling products or personalize information based on previous interactions? These are just a few examples of how AI is helping marketers become better at their jobs.