Technology for marketing expo

01 October 2016

Across 28/29th September the RIKA team were at London's Olympia for the joint Technology for Marketing (TfM) and eCommerce Expo 2016 events. We wanted to get a reading on the main objectives of the modern marketer for the coming 12-24 months. We also wanted to spend time talking to the myriad technology vendors to see how they were responding to these objectives.

This meant an intense two days of seminars, networking and in-depth conversations with attendees, speakers and vendors, whose diverse job titles included Evangelist, Director of Customer Experience and Director of Human Technology. Phew!

In the build-up to the event, UBM, the event organisers, reached out to RIKA to prepare a series of articles on the topics of customer experience and personalisation. And indeed, the overarching theme of the event was "Who owns the customer experience".

Read our article Four steps to an integrated and personalised customer experience

Our partners at IBM opened the event, with Deon Newman, Chief Marketing Officer speaking about a bright future for marketers (human beings, apparently) where cognitive computing and artificial intelligence will augment their efforts to improve their brands, their products and their customer experiences.

As marketers, we have an enormous amount of data but we are only touching about 20% of what’s available. Cognitive computing is a new way to look at solving this problem.

Cognitive can help build businesses, improve client experiences, reveal insights within our organisation and in society. It can help us find new ways to serve client needs, understand and segment them better.

It is clear that AI will soon be a key part of the technology armoury for many organisations. It’s already making its way into the customer service function with assistants (chatbots) that understand context to better help answer your questions. As with a lot of technology, however, there’s confusion about the definition and actual implementation of AI and a lot of technology vendors proclaim the inclusion of AI into their solutions, perhaps disingenuously. Beware of ‘vapourware’. IBM’s Watson is, however, the real-deal and is leading the charge through a large number of open interfaces that allow for cognitive and machine-learning capabilities to be woven into many platforms and services.

Technology for Marketing 2016 in pictures

Key takeaways from the event

Despite the plethora of tools and continued spend on Social Media Marketing for lead generation and sales, results are poor.

A few keynotes touched on the fact that there is too much emphasis on social media channels with the aim of reaching customers and selling to them. Instead, experts argue, in 2017 we should position social media as a facilitator for better customer service and not for better sales.

The best performing method for driving new business acquisition is still the trusty old e-mail.

With 78% of customer sales attributed to e-mail campaigns, it comes as no surprise that email marketing was a hot topic at TfM. A strong trend towards strategy, marketing automation and personalisation of this communication channel was very evident and the queues for seminars on getting the most from CRM and Marketing Automation platforms were longer than most others.

People are looking for practical tips and advice from peers not vendors.

Real-world experiences, as told (warts and all) by brands, are still the most keenly sought after tickets, as could be seen by the packed lecture theatres. For us too, hearing a leading brand’s struggles and triumphs were so much more persuasive of a technology’s merits than any vendor-led session could hope to deliver.

“Data is the fuel of your future, but…”

Stated without any hyperbole, the volume of data being generated, as well as our ability to process and interpret it, is increasing exponentially. This presents an amazing opportunity for brands to understand their customers with a fidelity previously unseen and deliver new levels of customer experience excellence. But this also demands that our data is collected with full consent and transparency about its use and diligence in its secure keeping. The ‘value exchange’ between consumer and brand is one of the fundamentals of modern marketing; the basic transaction of swapping rich data for better customer experiences. With so much emphasis on data; data that powers marketing and business decisions, data that improves customer service, data that tailors the choices we are presented with, marketers risk becoming as dependent on data as the population currently is on oil. Lose the trust of the consumer with carelessness or crass misuse and the resultant withholding of data will render the technology impotent.

There are already warning signs, no doubt exacerbated by the stream of recently-revealed and high-profile security breaches at LinkedIn, Yahoo and Sage (to name but a few). In a recent study by Deloitte, 55% of consumers surveyed stated they do not want to give their data, to anyone. Nada.

The widely sought but largely elusive Single Customer View can’t and won’t become ubiquitous unless the trust between consumer and brand, along with the value exchange, reach new levels of excellence too. 2018’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) might just be the very thing that enables this.

We should stop writing content for the sake of content.

It takes strategy and 12-18 months to build a useful audience with content. If you need results quickly, try something else, said Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute.

The overwhelming availability of channels and tools is leading to tactical rather than strategic initiatives.

The constant proliferation of marketing technology and approaches to ‘digital’ has led to an increase in anxiety amongst marketers, who should be focusing on getting the basics right, instead of chasing the ‘new shiny objects’.

The rise and rise of the Chief Customer Officer

With the Marketing Technology industry’s focus on the Customer Experience (CX), you might be excused for thinking that the Marketing Department has the responsibility for the customers’ experience of a brand. Indeed it could be argued that the definition of marketing (“...the process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably") supports this view.

Whilst it is true that the Marketing Department probably has the best grasp of what a brand’s audience is and what they want, the reality is that CX is a product of the entire organisation.

Sales, Marketing, R&D, PR, Operations, IT, Customer Service and Finance functions all have a fundamental effect on a customer’s experience over the course of their relationship with a brand. So it is essential that CX initiatives are grounded in cross-functional collaboration and shared objectives. And this is at the very core of why we are seeing the rise of a relatively new role in the C-Suite; the Chief Customer Officer (CCO). The CCO’s remit is (or should be) to lead the charge in breaking down organisational, departmental and technical silos, turning isolated pools of data into data lakes and driving through digital transformation. It’s a big role currently being implemented in some big organisations, but it shouldn’t be limited to the big league, and the role scales well down to SMEs too. An advocate for the customer at the very heart of your business seems obvious now, doesn’t it share

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