Leading brands understand that it is not just your digital strategy that matters; implementation is key to successful customer engagement. Central to that implementation is the right marketing middleware…
In Interbrands most recent Best Global Brands Report the top risers in brand value were Apple +43%, Facebook +54%, Amazon +29% and Adobe +17%. The report highlights that these companies have three things in common:
User Centricity is part of their DNA:
A deep understanding of how people live, work and interact is embedded in their products, services and brand messages.
Expanding around a core product or service:
The burgeoning brand value is tied to a specific type of growth – one that starts with a strong central offer and builds products or services around that.”
Create a holistic brand experience:
Brands climbing up the value chain are those creating experiences that reinforce the brand in multiple contexts. .. But even heritage brands are investing in out-of store experiences and emotion driven campaigns that invite customers to engage with brands.
Figure 1: Brand ranking comparison 2009-2015 (Source Interbrand)
Many brands face the challenge of ever increasing price competition driven by the web and run the risk of being commoditized and thus losing their brand value over time. This might not be as dramatic as it was for Nokia which in 2009 was ranked as number 5 with 45 billion brand value and is no longer on the list in 2015. But the changes of brand values are significant if you compare the risers with those that lose brand value even in a single year.
Increasing or even keeping your brand value in a digital world is a quite different task to what it was in the past:
“Brands across all categories are not only adopting innovative technologies, but also embracing holistic change in order to become stronger, faster and more agile.”
Pada Norambuena, Chief Content Officer, Interbrand
The challenge for most companies is not to formulate a strategy with the customer at the centre or understanding the success factors of those companies that succeeded in creating brand value. The majority of brands struggle with the complexity of implementation and aligning the various departments operating in vertical silos. Figure 2 depicts the four phases of the customer engagement lifecycle a company needs to master to create user centricity and a holistic brand experience in a digital world.
Figure 2: Customer Engagement Lifecycle
Even seemingly simple tasks like identifying a customer turn out to be complex and difficult in real life implementations. And some brands are not equipped for this challenge at all as they traditionally have been selling through 3rd party channels and only engaged in broadcast advertisement. But even for those more directly engaged in digital channels this remains a formidable task as customers use multiple devices or household members use the same device, people increasingly use ad blockers or browser that do not allow 3rd party cookies.
Some companies have even given up nurturing their customer data as a strategic company asset surrendering to the market dominance of Google and Facebook or even outsourcing customer data to data management platforms or marketing clouds.
But even if customers are identified the next step of activating the right data every time a consumer interacts with a brand remains a huge challenge. Those micro moments however are critical because in each, people judge a brand as a whole and Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon have fundamentally retrained the expectations of consumers. People measure those micro moments by how much they add to their lives and how little it disrupts them in what they do. Many companies however are not able to activate customer data even if it is available in different data silos in their organization or they have limited knowledge about needs, attitudes and motivations of their customers.
If the data can be made available at the relevant touchpoints companies still need to be able to tailor their messages or offerings to the consumer´s context. Clearly only those companies that have created an ecosystem of products and services around their core product and service and have designed their creatives to be segment specific (creative programmatic) can take full advantage of smart data activation.
To complete the customer engagement lifecycle information about the customer´s engagement or non-engagement needs to be fed back to the brand in order to improve the experience in the next micro moment. This is absolutely crucial as engagement typically only grows over time and customers are willing to identify themselves and reveal more information in an interaction if they have gained trust and experienced that those micro moments make their lives easier or more enjoyable. Even the industry beacons at times struggle with this:
I have not met a person who has not received a purchase recommendation at a time he was most unlikely to buy that product, because he just bought a similar one and the company missed that feedback information.
Additionally, more operational challenges like understanding impression fraud, viewability and customer action taken on paid media are often at best partially solved.
To make matters even more complicated consumers all over the world get more concerned with what type of data is collected and how it is used (see figure 3). And when you look at how carelessly well known brands like Verizon have dealt with data privacy in the past you are not surprised.
Figure 3: Data Privacy concerns (Source: Mary Meeker, Internet Trends 2016)
The only viable way to deal with those concerns in my view is to be honest and transparent with the consumer and enable granular opt-ins, easy opt-out letting the consumer stay in control of his data and being very clear what his benefits are for sharing his data with your brand. In addition, it is very important to apply the highest data security standards for customer data that is entrusted to a brand, recognizing the increase in data breaches (see figure 4) and the unwanted exposure this could create.
Figure 4: Data Breaches (Source: Mary Meeker, Internet Trends 2016)
Figure 5 summarizes the four key capabilities that need to be in place to successfully manage the customer engagement lifecycle in a digital world.
Figure 5: Four key enablers for managing the customer engagement lifecycle
These capabilities are especially important as fragmentation is the core issue in the marketing ecosystem.
“Marketers and publishers struggle with the complexity caused by the myriad of point solutions”
Terry Kawaja, Founder and CEO LUMA, 2016
Marketing middleware can help marketers and IT organizations to provide those capabilities and to connect the heterogeneous landscape to a connected multi-platform approach.
In order to create brand value the implementation of marketing middleware needs to go hand in hand with a clear customer engagement strategy (see figure 6) that
- centers around engaging with customers throughout the whole customer journey at all touchpoints based on an ecosystem/platform approach,
- builds first party customer data as a strategic company asset,
- draws customers to own media first and at all interactions and,
- augments this approach with paid media and 2nd and 3rd party customer data to ensure proper reach and depth.
Figure 6: Customer engagement strategy in a digital world
Having a clear vision and strategy helps align the different parts of the organization. The good news however is that implementations can be stepwise and iterative in order to gain experience and build momentum for execution. And the first pilot projects can be attractive in itself providing ROI on its own by optimizing digital media spend through reduced paid media wastage and improved conversion rates.