Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Consumer Journey, Stupid

What is the most fundamental issue facing marketing?

Borrowing the line that became the central theme in the 1992 presidential campaign there is an emerging focus on the consumer journey as the foundation of marketing.  Two recent articles provide good bookends to the evolution of the story.

First, Brian Solis talks about the imminent shift from social to digital engagement.   Toward the end he makes the point...
The digital lifestyle is just a way of life now and businesses that don’t think beyond social or traditional will miss the greater opportunity to lead desirable customer journeys, experiences and outcomes.
Second, McKinsey & Co. writes about the coming era of 'on-demand marketing.'
Across the entire consumer decision journey, every touch is a brand experience, and those touches just keep multiplying in number.
Both articles offer some prescriptive steps that a company can take, but they share a common thread - think differently and from the outside in.   A very difficult prescription for firms rooted in independent P&Ls, autonomous decision making and the inevitable silos that result.  

While clearly directionally correct, there is still room for more than just a pure digital look at the path to purchase.  Browsing a magazine or reading a flyer is just as important to the decision making process as price shopping.

Someone in the organization needs to be not only the 'voice of the customer' but the travel agent as well...

Monday, April 29, 2013

10 Requirements for Data-Driven Marketing

What requirements should you provide IT?

In the continuation of a series (the first one is here) on the thinking behind developing an architecture for a marketing services firm, this one focuses on the implications around data.  

Too often systems are designed around things and technology with data relegated to the plumbing layer or bottom of the stack.   However, in data-driven marketing there are at least 10 requirements that should drive the architecture.
  1. Bake-in performance management from the outset to deliver ROI metrics
  2. Calculate the impact of each interaction on decisions (conversion)
  3. Allow new channels, technologies, and businesses to be plugged in (and out)
  4. Rationalize campaign management across all forms of marketing in order to optimize spend across them
  5. Support seamless segmentation across PII and anonymous domains
  6. Support all stages of consumer journey (shopper/marketing)
  7. Develop a content typology that allows for creative optimization
  8. Design for a consumer dominated commerce process; demote channels to low importance
  9. Combine site-side, advertising and direct-to-consumer business models
  10. Provide unfettered and unfiltered access to the most granular data possible
I'm sure there are some variations, but these ten should give the architecture team enough to think about.  And if they aren't looking at the world thru a data lens, then they're not helping the business.

Federated Marketing

How do you architect a solution in the face of complexity?

One of the most memorable ads I've seen is for Kohler when a couple meets an obviously successful architect and puts a faucet on the desk and says "Design around this."    Designing a marketing environment for a company with a lot of different business units presents the need to find that faucet - the central idea around which all else revolves.

To me, that idea is the 'segment' - a group of consumers with whom we'd like to communicate.   A segment can be large, as in 'women 18-49' for lifestyle magazines, or a size of one, as in a CEO looking for information on manufacturing facilities.

Reaching the same audience from several different points of view ( the story of the 7 blind men and the elephant comes to mind) requires not only coordination across the various styles of marketing governance involved - editorial calendars, media buys, and campaign management to name just three - but the sharing of appropriate information.

Things that should be shared:
  • Knowledge about the segment - who are they, what have they done, what do they respond to?  Managing segments across the enterprise should be the first objective.
  • Any available context about current or previous interactions; this requires establishing a set of  standards about what we mean about common terms like location.
  • A common view of content as a set of assets that are tagged in such a way that we can begin to analyze how it works (which in turn means linking it to sales data).
It begins to look like this...a federated collection of business units sitting between the external world of Audience & Context and the internal service world of Content & Information.

And unlike the Kohler ad, I've purposely left technology examples off of this picture, I find that they tend to a) predefine an architecture or at least a biased point of view and b) confuse the business stakeholders with terms they don't really need to know like SSAS and SSRS.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Customer Experience Milestones

When did common tools first appear on the scene?

Peppers and Rogers recently shared 'milestones in modern customer experience'

It starts with the telephone and winds up with the digital wallet.  The inventions can be broadly classed into a several of groups.
  • Those that focus on a company's reach, or market  - catalogs, contact centers and green stamps. 
  • Efficiency tools that found new uses - QR codes, Point of Sale, online check in and IVR.
  • Disruptive technology that created altogether new markets - personal computer, smartphone and iPad.
  • New concepts that changed how we communicate - wiki, Facebook, and to some degree Amazon.
No one has the crystal ball as to what will come next but some thoughts.

These are either tools or destinations -- what happens if we make information part of the experience itself?

These are content or information repositories - what happens if could infer intent from context?

Interesting times....

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Google Glass Specs and Marketing

What will it mean to be able to see digitally?

We are clearly getting closer to Geordi of Star Trek fame and becoming a cyborg as Amber Case suggests.  Google just released the specs of Google Glass, even my lap top doesn't compete.
25" HD screen from 8'
5 MP photos, 720p Video
WiFi and Bluetooth (but not 3g)
12 GB of memory

And this puts the concept of omni-channel retail on a new trajectory.   It is now an imperative that marketing ensures that the consumer experience is coordinated and there is no chance for cognitive dissonance.    Just imagine encountering a disjointed set of data or campaigns as you walk down the street.

This also requires a shift in thinking about the role of marketing communication.   Traditional advertising is about identifying where it might be appropriate to place a message (demo media buys anyone?).   These glasses suggest that context - both intent and ambient - are much more important to the decision as to what content to make available.

A whole new mental model needs to emerge.      

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Vertical, Horizontal and Singularity

How do we build out the consumer experience?

A discussion worth having is around how to best put the parts together to support marketing.    The traditional parts can be thought of in either vertical or horizontal integration.   In vertical integration companies leverage best of breed tools for each key functional area within the marketing portfolio to maximize a specific interaction.   In the horizontal approach, a platform is aligned with the journey to provide a better chance of improving the experience across interactions.

Like black & white, yin & yang, and Abbott & Costello there is clearly no one perfect answer to which is better.   A lot depends on the brand experience promised and the value proposition offered to consumers - as well as how they want to interact with us.  Not to mention the technical chops of the IT team.  

The case for vertical, or specific functional solutions, rests on the argument that a single interaction must be as effective as possible. This could be email, mobile, web experience, or browsing the Internet.   The challenge then becomes in cross-channel integration.  And it has been said, if you cross 'best of breed' you might end up with a mongrel.

The case for horizontal, or platform solution, rests on the argument that the shopping journey covers so many different options that we need to be efficient as possible across them.  The challenge here is to ensure that each interaction is coordinated and leverages what has come before. 

There is a new player:  Like a black hole, the omni-channel retail model actually concentrates the vertical and horizontal points of view into a singularity.   We need to do both in order to provide the best possible experience anywhere consumers choose to grace us with their attention.