In this session, we’re talking about what AMA calls Big Problem #5: Dealing with an omnichannel world. Over the next 30 minutes we’ll do our best to cover six things:
Definition of omnichannel, a bit about its roots & how it’s helping evolve the discipline of contextual marketing
How the explosion of digital channels has wiped out virtually any excuse we have not to listen to customers
I’ll share a few real-life examples of how brands are executing omnichannel listening strategies
5 things we can do yet this year to become better listeners
3 questions for us to consider as we evolve our omnichannel and contextual marketing plans
If there’s time, I thought it would be fun to hear from some of you as to how you are currently listening your customers or how you plan to in the near future.
So, obviously omnichannel is nothing new. In fact, marketers have been talking about the concepts of omnichannel for more than a decade. I dug into this a bit and found omnichannel was first known as Customer Centricity, and it’s something at least one historian credits to Best Buy.
In 2003, Best Buy was getting beat badly by Walmart. They knew they would never be able to compete on costs. So, their leadership said, instead of focusing on price, we need to be where Walmart will never go.
And that “where” was online. But it was also in-store. Their concept was to put the customer at the center of everything, to allow them to dictate their own path to purchase. Sounds pretty contemporary, right? But this almost 15 years ago.
And yet, omnichannel continues to be a relatively new problem for us as marketers. One of the way we can tell… we’re still not square on how to punctate it.
Remember we had the same issues with email, ecommerce and WiFi. Because I work in PR, the Associated Press Stylebook is my grammar and punctuation bible. So I checked with them, but even they have not decided. I’m kind of a less-is-more gal, so personally, I like one word, no punctuation, no cute capitalization.
So, now that we’ve got the punctuation issue out of the way, let’s work on the definition. Here again, everyone has their own special take on exactly what omnichannel means. As I researched all the different perspectives, I found quite a few I liked. But not one that really did it for me.
So here’s a mashup of a couple definitions that I think does a good job…
“An omnichannel approach puts the customer, not marketing channels, at the center of its strategy and extends beyond a single brand’s universe”
What I like about this mash-up is a couple things:
Multichannel vs. Omnichannel First, it acknowledges a difference between omnichannel and multichannel. That’s important if we want to have any good chance of convincing our bosses and clients (and ourselves) that omnichannel indeed is a different way of thinking. Of course we know there are multiple channels for promoting our message and connecting with customers, but omnichannel goes way beyond multichannel. It puts the customer’s needs, not the channel, at the forefront of the strategy.
Considers the Context The second thing I like about this mashed-up definition is it recognizes that our customers are also the customers of hundreds of other businesses, service providers and non-profits. The experience we give them does not live in a bubble. Think about lunch today. As you were eating, you were also perhaps meeting someone new at your table, or listening to the presentation… maybe getting a text from your spouse telling you your in-laws are making a surprise stop into town, so now you’ve got to think about dinner plans. So Prairie Meadows hospitality folks, when they’re thinking about providing you with a great lunch experience, they have to think through all the other messages and distractions you’ll be confronting with while eating. When we understand and acknowledge that our brand is just one of manhy, we can start to think about how our marketing messages coincide with the other messages, the other experiences, our customers and prospects are having. In other words, we are considering “context.”
While omnichannel as a concept may not be new, so many of the channels available to us are. In the past 5 years alone, we’ve seen an explosion in the number of communication channels,
…most of which are digital. Think chat bots and messaging apps, voice search, beacons, sensors.
And the cool thing about channels powered by digital technology is they typically allow for two-way communication. Even cooler is the fact users don’t really even have to talk for us to listen. Data on their behavior alone speaks volumes.
So while we have been focused on how to push messages out through multiple channels, now we can shift our mindset to how we can pull insights in through those digital channels to better understand our customers. Think of it as omnichannel listening.
A couple of Columbia business school professors actually studied listening. Their research was focused on interpersonal relationships, but I think it absolutely applies to marketing. They found…
…“…people disclose information more readily and effectively to those who listen well.”
Not terribly surprising right, but they studied the why behind this, and what they found was two-fold…
…First, people (and I would submit brands) that listen well have a leg up on those who don’t because they understand the context of their message. That makes it easier to tailor their attempts at persuasion to what will help the listener understand or get excited about their idea.
Second, the researchers found listening improves relationships. They said when people feel ‘‘listened to’’ by what they call “agents of influence,” their liking, commitment and trust increases. The result is an expansion of that great listener’s influence.
And yet, 7 in 10 B2B buyers report never being asked for feedback on the sales experience. Isn’t that interesting?
So what these researchers are saying is that if we listen, we come away with…
1. a better grip on context, 2. a deeper relationship with customers 3. stronger influence
Isn’t this exactly what we are all after as marketers? Omnichannel listening through digital channels can get us there.
And when we listen through data collection and analysis, often, that listening is completely invisible to the customer and asks almost nothing of them.
And that’s awesome if you adhere to the Iceberg Theory. Is anyone familiar with the iceberg theory as it relates to customer experience? So it says…
…If you’re doing customer experience right, the bulk of your effort is invisible to customers.
Besides expanding our influence, stealthily listening to customer through data gives us the opportunity to change how people perceive marketing communication. When we deliver exactly what someone needs at exactly the right time and in exactly the right context, marketing ceases to be intrusive. It becomes something people actually look forward to, something that surprises and delights them…
Those little micro-moments of joy often come from “contextual marketing.” Now I know for a lot of people that terminology brings to mind pushing online ads to someone based on their keyword search. But thanks to the omnichannel world in which we live, contextual marketing is going way beyond that.
Let me show you sort of what I mean…
Incredible? I love it. If someone offered to transport me into that apartment right now, I’d be down. But then again, I’m kind of a weirdo about technology. Back when I had more disposable income, I always had to be the first one to have the latest gadget. I still have my first mp3 player and my first digital camera, which weighed about 20 lbs. I should have brought it. That would have been fun show and tell.
Anyway, that video was put together by a company called Glassview. If you have time, check them out. They’re doing some really cool stuff with digital advertising and video, but it’s their philosophy that I think is so cool. They believe it’s entirely possible to transform marketing into something of real value. In their words…
“Our technology… takes the interruption out of advertising and integrates it into a contextually relevant experience for the user. The result? A better experience for consumers… and a better Internet.”
Don’t you like that?
So we have all these startups out there, like Glassview, that are deploying Internet of Things technology to help marketers achieve omnichannel listening. The end game is to help brands give their customers these outstanding and memorable micro-moments. And they’re able to do it because we are all just giving away massive quantities of data at a a ridiculous rate of speed.
Check this out for some of the numbers…
Crazy isn’t it? And that video was produced almost a year ago, so you can bet those numbers have soared even higher since. It’s sort of mind blowing to think how many times a day we are virtually handing over the keys to what makes us tick.
How many of you have one of these in your house?
Anyway, let me tell you about my Amazon Echo experience. So you all know how these things work, right? You engage it by saying, “Alexa,” (or whatever else you want to set as your “Wake Word”). She then starts listening and then sets about turning on your lights, playing your music or adding something to your shopping list.
Okay, so my husband and I are having a conversation with our middle son, Quincy…
This is him.
We’re attempting to talk some sense into this kid, specific to socks. He’s under the impression they all need to be $18 Nike Elites.
So after a bit of convincing, he says, “Ok, they don’t have to be Elites, but they have to be Nike.” My husband goes, “Great, I can go to Walmart right now and get you a pack of 10 Nike socks for 5 bucks.”
Just then, Alexa’s little blue ring starts to glow…
and she pipes up, “I did not see Nike socks on your shopping list, so I have added them.” And we’re all like, “What the heck?”
Remember, she is not supposed to be listening until you say her name, and no one said Alexa. So although it was a bit spooky, it was the most stunningly awesome moment of my life. Ok, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but I could see a life of luxurious convenience powered by my sister wife robot Alexa.
And you know what else?
It totally solidified for me that the future of marketing is incredible.
Now I definitely can’t prove it (believe me, I’ve done my research to try and find out why this happened that day). But my theory is that we were accidentally enrolled in some sort of beta test. I’m picturing a trial of of brand or product names as “Wake Words” for Amazon’s partners.
As some of these household brands look to improve their omnichannel and contextual marketing strategies, they are seeking the most intimate access to their customers, and Amazon I’ll betcha, is working to get them there.
So that’s a bit about what’s coming down the road. What’s happening right now. I want to show you a few real-life, right-now examples of brands that are executing omnichannel listening strategies.
Alien Vault is a B2B security company that provides week-long live training online to its customers each time it sells them a product. To measure the training experience, they had been relying on surveys, asking things like how satisfied customers were and if they were likely to recommend them to a colleague. Although the responses were good, everyone had really nice, positive things to say in their surveys, they wanted to be sure… so they dug into the data to see what else they could learn.
One thing they did was to look at log-in times and IP addresses, which gave them location, right? They then compared that data with customer profiles and discovered something pretty icky.
Their overseas customers were having to wake at 3 a.m. and take their 7-hour live course! And if that wasn’t bad enough, they were chasing that training with a full day of work. And it wasn’t just their international clients who had to work after the exhausting day of training. What they discovered by listening to the data was that most people who attended their 5-day online training course were the sole security practitioner in their organizations, so they couldn’t miss a week of work. Obviously, this was not a great experience – and yet it wasn’t a problem the customer was readily reporting.
So today, AlienVault is allowing customers to take their lives courses over two weeks (first two days in the first week, last three days the next).
They’re listening to attendees of its festival through the use of beacons and smartphones. At the 2016 show, they wanted to use these channels to improve festival goers access to water. When they passed by a free hydration station, they got a message asking if they needed to fill up their water bottles. I’m sure one day not too far off, this strategy will be enhanced by sensors embedded in free water bottles handed out at the door. Then the content of the message changes, right? Now that they have a stronger grip on the context because of that real-time sensor data, their message moves from “Is your water bottle empty?” to “We noticed you’re getting low on water. Here’s the closest station.”
Interestingly, that’s just a small example of how this music festival, which is something like 15 years old, has listened to its community. Based on data they gathered from Napster (remember Napster) and early iPod users, they learned the way people were listening to music was changing. They weren’t necessarily just country, just pop or just rock fans. Increasingly, more consumers liked music from all kinds of genres, so they changed the whole direction of the festival to where it’s now less format-driven, bringing together all kinds of different artists and entertainers.
Chris Rock opened for Metallica one year. William Hung was there the same year as Bob Dylan.
Actually the music industry’s application of listening through data is really pretty cool – it’s an entire presentation on its own. The way they are using artificial intelligence like IBM’s Watson to actually produce music is incredible…
…They’re called “cognitive songs.” Have you all heard this one?
[let song play for a few seconds]
That was written by Alex Da Kid, but in partnership with Watson. The robot analyzed five years of cultural and linguistic data from social posts and blogs. It also analyzed the lyrics of the top 100 songs from each of those five years.
How many of you have a FitBit or fitness band? (I’m not giving those out, sorry). Listening to customers through wearables channel is really becoming an increasingly popular way to understand the context of a customer’s moment. And we’re not just talking about fitness bands. I mean there are smart shoes, smart socks. There’s even a smart bra. The gal in the Glassview video probably has four of them.
The cool part about Under Armour’s listening strategies is that they’re pulling data from all kinds of apps on all kinds of devices – and not just for its own benefit. They use it to create a dashboard report for the user via their own branded app UA Record. Anyway, it pulls data from all kinds of places to show you how things are looking with your activity, sleep, nutrition and fitness all in one place. And it’s going to get even cooler because they, too, are working with good old Watson. By applying artificial intelligence to the data they collect, they are soon going to be offering “cognitive coaching.” So if the app noticed you aren’t sleeping all that well and that your nutrition has changed, it will be able to make real-time suggestions on what to eat for a better night’s rest. It’s not difficult to imagine a day when Whole Foods is going to want a piece of that action.
By listening to customers through data, they are bringing a super cool experience to the customer without asking a thing of them. (Unless you have an issue with privacy – and there again, that’s a whole other presentation).
With each of these examples you can see pretty clearly the opportunities for brands to collaborate with one another for truly effective contextual marketing – marketing that makes improves people’s lives through awesome micro-moment experiences. Going back to our definition of the omnichannel approach, you can see Under Amour has realized its brand is just one of hundreds inside its customers’ universe. And to create the ultimate experience, they have no choice but to integrate them.
So I think we’re going to see a lot more collaboration as brands begin to value the context of their customer’s experience, not to mention the data other brands can bring to the party.
Think back to the first video. How many different brands working together might it take to give that runner an opportunity to buy a new shoe right there in that moment. You’ve got the sensor maker, the smartwatch company, the shoe company, probably a retailer or distributor, and likely a biometrics firm authenticating her as the buyer… and then the payment networks working with her bank to authorize the funds needed to buy that new shoe.
Talk about an #epiccollab.
So far we’ve talked about some pretty far-reaching strategies from some pretty big brands…
…But, there are ways those of us with fewer resources can look there for inspiration to start evolving our own strategies, albeit in a much smaller way…
So here are just five ideas for things we might try yet this year.
First, sit down with our teams and explore what are called the five pillars of contextual marketing. They are geolocation, time, device, language, performance.
Now, of course there are literally thousands of different data points that fall inside each of these pillars but these are the core five.
What you’re looking for here as you explore these are what real-time or near real-time data is going to be most informative to your omnichannel listening strategies.
Let’s say you’re a marketer with the North American Blueberry Council, for instance…
…and you’re looking to drive more traffic to your members’ picking fields.
Geolocation will be a hugely important factor, especially when combined with date and time data that will allow you to market to nearby people during peak picking season.
What about during the off-season?
Let’s say you want to drive them to the Blueberry Council’s food blog.
Studying the time and performance data of your existing blog traffic is going to be hugely important to attracting others like them. Let’s say, for instance, the same person comes back to the same recipe five times in 24 hours. Chances are, they’re getting ready to make that dish. Keep listening – maybe you have to stimulate the influx of data in order to do that. Maybe perform test a follow-up communication that asks them how the recipe worked.
Maybe a well-timed email asks them to add a picture of the dish to their SnapChat story. Maybe doing so gets them a discount code to a local grocer’s online delivery service (collaboration!).
Second, find the low-hanging fruit in your data trees.
Really sophisticated data analytics and artificial intelligence is still pretty new to be affordable for most of us. One day that’s going to change. But for now, look for the customer intelligence you already have or can get from inexpensive sources. Think email campaigns, Google search trends, customer surveys, social media advertising.
For instance, there’s a free tool called BananaTag that works right within your email client, like Gmail or Outlook. It reports on opens and clicks, but also gives you device and location details.
There are plenty of others. On your handout, there’s a pointer to a list of 9 of the best email tracking software tools, if you’re interested.
But don’t forget about the internal data that may already be there. What customer intelligence already exists within your customer service or product development areas. What about your partners, dealers or brokers? Getting back to our Blueberry Council example, just imagine the treasure trove of data an association like that must have, especially when you consider they may be able to tap the data warehouses of each of their growers.
So number three, prepare your contacts list to become “smart.”
A great contacts list is the foundation of successful contextual marketing campaign. It segments customers and prospects by where they are at in their lifecycle, which should coincide to your sales cycle. A “smart” contacts list goes one step farther whereby the “smart” represents the use of technology that automatically moves contacts from one lifecycle stage to the next based on rules that you set.
Essentially, you are setting yourself up to push the right content to the right people at the right time and in the right context. Hubspot sort of “owns” the smart contacts list concept. But if you aren’t a Hubspot user, there’s still potential to work with this concept. MailChimp, for instance, let’s customers tell you where they are at in their lifecycle, opting in for only the content that’s relevant to them.
And so why is that important? Because…
Personalized communication delivers 6X higher transaction rates.
I ordered 12 sticks of Natural Ice lip balm for my husband for Christmas. He’s a big fan, as are the rest of us (the kids and I are always stealing it from him), so I thought he deserved his very own stock pile. Well, based on the pop up I got immediately after the purchase, I imagine Natural Ice is working off a ‘smart’ contact list strategy. It actually asked me if I wanted to set up an automatic delivery of Natural Ice to my house once a month. So cool. So, I imagine I moved out of the “warm prospects” segment into their “psychotic super fan” segment. The data told them a story about me, they listened, and they responded in real-time with something a psychotic super fan might like.
Okay, so number four… go back to your customer personas and see how you might evolve them for a better contextual marketing strategy.
Many of us have been through the exercise of developing customer personas. AMA Iowa did it several years ago to better understand each of you and your motivations. But in this “Age of Context,” we may have to dig deeper into those personas.
Ask, Do our customers have split persona-alities?
People often assume different personas based on the context of their moment. For example, when a woman is travelling to Florida with her husband and kids, she’s in Family Mode. When she’s travelling there for the World of Concrete show, for example, (It’s a real thing, folks. I have the t-shirt), she’s in Professional Mode. She’s the same person, but her needs are different. There’s a great article by Beaconstac that talks about this idea more detail. It’s on the handout.
It becomes even more complicated for B2B marketers. When you’re selling to a firm, there really isn’t one customer with one persona. Quite often in B2B scenarios, there are groups of people inside a business all working together to decide whether they want to buy from us. So we have to understand the split-persona-alities of multiple people – those will use the product, those who have to budget for the product, and then the chief decision maker.
One of the clients of my PR business is constantly telling her people to fail forward. She’s a big proponent of the idea that failing is better than not trying at all, and in fact, it’s really the only way to learn. So try out a few campaigns. Measure them. Try again soon after.
This is really the only way to truly uncover data limitations, too. Things like people who open your email through a VPN, for example. You may not truly be able to rely on true geolocation data in those circumstances.
So just give it a go. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
So as we are beginning to evolve our omnichannel and contextual marketing plans , keep a few things in mind…
How will I work with Henry Ford? There are some really smart people in business who don’t believe in listening to the customer. And that’s because they truly believe customers don’t really know what they want until they see it. These are the people we lovingly refer to as Henry Fords. Henry Ford famously said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” And he was probably right. But that thinking didn’t get him beyond invention to innovation. It’s probably why GM ultimately came along and stole so much of Ford’s market share. While Ford was busy pushing out what he “knew” his customer wanted, GM was pulling in feedback and making the kind of car people actually wanted.
The same thing happened to Blackberry.
They had it made. And then they didn’t. Apple, Samsung, Google, they along came along with strong apps, better operating systems, a sleeker look. And when they did, here’s what a Blackberry insider told the media: “We believed we knew better what customers needed than they did.”
Rumor has it they Blackberry may making something of a come back, though, with businesspeople, especially. And I believe that is a direct result of them listening to what’s important – and for that business segment today, what’s important is security. Blackberry appears to be touting security and encryption as a real feather in their cap.
You may have a Henry Ford or two in your organization, and that’s certainly okay. It will just make it more fun to be right. If you’re looking for tips on how to work with these types of individuals, there’s a blog post written by the Senior Customer Loyalty Manager at GE Healthcare. It’s on your handout.
How will I keep this thing going?
Customers are fickle. Technology is fast. Trends are here one day, gone the next. Look at Pokemon Go.
Consider you’re in this for the long haul…
So, how can we set ourselves up for long-term success? What are the components to your organization’s DNA that need to come forward to make sure your strategy sticks around?
Consider how you will make your listening strategy continuous? Set a plan for consistently monitoring feedback, evolving your data sources, and adjusting to it as you can?
Maybe not possible yet to do adjust in real-time, but that should be the goal.
Lastly, am I creeping people out? We definitely have to have our ear to the ground on the creep factor. I was super spooked by Alexa jumping into my conversation, but was I turned off enough to turn her off? Nope. In fact, I bought another one for my bathroom. (It’s where I do my best thinking)
Was I turned off by Walmart or Nike enough to stop buying from them. I wasn’t. And I’m probably not alone. Pew Research says many Americans are willing to share personal information… or permit surveillance…in return for getting something of perceived value. That’s not to say another individual would not be too creeped out to continue loving the brands they “catch” spying on them.
Nearly half (47%) of people surveyed by Pew said having their purchases tracked in exchange for discounts was perfectly acceptable. But a third said it wasn’t.
The key is understanding where that line is for your customer.
That woman in our first video… her biometrics-enabled mirror told her it looked like she needs to drink more water? That would not be for me. My mirror already tells me plenty of things I don’t want to hear.
If we’re honest about what the real problem is in dealing with an omnichannel world, we’ll admit our customer is way ahead of us…
Both consumers and biz decision makers expect contextual marketing. We are all increasingly demanding in-the-moment, personalized, relevant experiences… to the point it’s kind of a turn off when you don’t get them.
In fact, just the other day, I got this email…
It’s from my bank encouraging me to try Apple Pay and they’ll give me $15. I don’t have an iPhone. I probably won’t ever have one. I’m Android through and through. And of all the brands I chose to do business with, US Bank has no excuse for not know that. I’m on their app like 9 times a week. Now to me, that is low-hanging data fruit, and a brand with its resources and what I’m sure are enormous data stores, should not be making this kind of mistake.
Here again, though, someone else may have just deleted this email and moved on. I screenshot it and put it in a presentation. So the expectations for personalized communication, it’s going to be different for different people. But overtime, I expect, more consumers and business leaders will share more data with the brands who demonstrate they know how to listen to it.
And that’s how we’ll begin to solve Big Problem #5: Dealing with an the omnichannel world.
Ok, do we have time to hear from these guys?
Okay, well, thanks for including me in your Experience experience…
Here’s where you can find me… reach out, would love to connect with you, hear what you have going on at your organization…
BTW, today is sort of the debut for the new name and brand for my company, so it was really cool to be able to be here and show it off a bit… so thanks for being the first official audience for it!
Alexa, Add Contextual
TO MY TO-DO LIST. ”
DEALING WITH AN
B I G P R O B L E M # 5 :
1) Omnichannel / Contextual Marketing
2) The Omnichannel Imperative — Listen
3) Real Life Examples
4) 5 Tactics
5) 3 Questions
6) Your Turn!
O M N I C H A N N E L R O O T S :