Customer journeys are not good enough, we need Customer context!

It’s a rainy day in Mumbai & my daughter is furiously multitasking to find fashionable rain coats. She is looking at customer reviews & social networking sites & is on Flipkart & Amazon too! All of them know she is from Mumbai, in some cases they have profile information from her registration data but none of them suggested she buy other stuff that she may need in the rains: Boots, umbrella!! Marketers need to understand the context in which consumers are & today there is enough data to give you insight on this. Retailers like Flipkart could have further used marketing campaigns across email, sms, in app, browser push to tell her more about expected weather in Mumbai over next 3 days & also providing her recommended brands to buy.

Consumers reach out to brands in many ways. India has 1.03 mobile connections & over 350 million internet users. Consumers connect with brands for a wide variety of reasons. Consumers want more information, improved service & better deals. And technology is making it easier for consumers to connect with brands. By 2020, the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse, so says Gartner. They also say that “New audio-centric technologies, such as Apple’s AirPods, Google Home and Amazon’s Echo, are turning “voice first” interactions into ubiquitous experiences. By eliminating the need to use your hands and eyes for browsing, vocal interactions extend the web experience to multiple activities such as driving, cooking, waking, socializing, exercising, operating machinery.

context marketing

Today’s omnichannel customers will end up using the retailer’s touchpoints, in all permutations & combinations. Not only will they use smartphone apps to compare prices or download a coupon, but they will also be users of in-store digital tools such as an interactive catalog, a price-checker, or a tablet. Consumers will buy online and pick-up in store, or buy in the store and get their purchases shipped. Some research done by HBR has shown that customers who used 4+ channels spent 9% more in the store, on average, when compared to those who used just one channel.

Always connected customers can’t be pigeonholed into linear journeys. These consumers automatically turn to their phones in search of information, whether they’re at the gym, commuting to work, or shopping for groceries. Google refers to these spontaneous instances of discovery as micro-moments.

But even while consumers are finding increasing number of ways of reaching brands, companies struggle to provide them a seamless experience as they use these myriad channels.

This is further complicated by the emergence of communication channels that rely on proprietary standards — like Apple’s iAd, Android’s open architecture, and Facebook’s platform.

Each channel tends to be used by it’s distinct customer segments-like customers in the older demographics who are using i pads or multi device using millennials & so messages need to be customised to appropriate customer journeys.

Banking customers often struggle to engage seamlessly with banks. Citibank saw that an important concern of customers was to stop any charges on their card after it was lost or stolen, the company introduced Citi Quick Lock that allows users to quickly lock their card from a mobile app while they look for it.

None of this can happen unless companies start to change structure & processes keeping the customer at the heart of the thinking.Overseeing all of a firm’s interactions with customers is someone in the role of chief experience officer, a relatively new position in the C-suite. Chief digital officers are also starting to have this top-level responsibility. Marketers need a structure within their teams that brings the customer journey up front & centre & connects it with context!

As all of your products and services generate more and more data, the resulting context gives you the opportunity to disrupt your competitors. Also today consumers are allowing marketers to know their location. Since 2014, the number of Internet searches using a “find the nearest” term has doubled. Customers are also beginning to see the value of revealing their location in physical environments. The number of connected devices is growing by 15% to 20% per annum and will reach approximately 30 billion in 2020.Many devices, such as mobile phones, cars, and wearables, constantly monitor their user’s location, so the volume of inbound, spatially related data has never been greater. So the ability to further drive relevance by using location context is becoming real! Marketer’s need to be conscious to not overdo this & risk looking “creepy” to consumers!

McCormick developed FlavorPrint, an algorithm representing the company’s flavors as a vector of 50 data points. FlavorPrint helps consumers decode the flavors they already love, and invites them to discover, share and bring new flavors into their homes. FlavorPrint site has a simple promise: Tell it what you like, what ingredients you have, and what cooking equipment you have, and it recommends recipes. Those recommendations become finely tuned to your context as you continue to interact with the site. McCormick’s now partners with retailers and food suppliers, as well as social media networks and third-party services like Foodily, to create more relevant customer experiences.

Over the next few years or so, we’re likely to see a radical integration of the consumer experience across physical and virtual environments. Mckinsey research says that by 2016, the web will influence more than half of all retail transactions, representing a potential sales opportunity of almost $2 trillion. All this will drive marketers towards using “consumer context” in all of their marketing engagements. Many industries have a large opportunity in looking to align their Marketing with the context in which consumers discover, buy & experience their products & services.

Forrester calls this Context based marketing:

“For all the activity you try to catalyze through campaigns, individuals more commonly interact with your brand outside of those campaigns. They may learn about your product or service prior to purchase. Then they’ll use your product, connect with others, and even organize activities around it. They spread word of mouth, positive or negative — and that, whether you
like or not, is your actual brand image.The context of all those interactions determines whether they will engage and, more importantly, transact with your brand again. Marketing’s job now is to identify and use context to create a repeatable cycle of interactions, drive deeper engagement, and learn more about the customer in the process. The more marketers can internalize and act upon what they learn, the easier it is to make future interactions that much more engaging”.

Many businesses will create data led marketing advantage as they build competency in storing , interpreting & taking action on these vast terabytes of context data. Contextual marketing will yield a new form of “owned data” that is generated from the interaction cycle. Smartphone owners pick up or glance at their mobile phones 150 to 200 times each day, spending on average over two hours a day accessing apps and websites. This leaves a huge data trail behind as well.To get the full customer portrait rather than just a series of snapshots, companies need a central data mart that combines all the contacts a customer has with a brand: basic consumer data plus information about transactions, browsing history, and customer-service interactions.

But to do this CMO’s will have to take charge & demand a level of technology hitherto not seen in the Marketing department.And yes, 2017 is the year when Gartner predicted that CMO’s will spend more on IT , than CIO’s!!

Airbnb & the art of analytics storytelling!

Analytics and data are transforming companies around the world. Yet one of the great difficulties with analytics is that it can be difficult to explain and understand; it is widely held that analytics specialists don’t communicate well with decision makers, and vice-versa. As a result, analytics adoption is still not easy within companies.

Analysts, at one end, are busy learning more specialised & deeply technical methods of analysing data & at the same time they are finding it difficult to get them “heard” within organisations. Influencing ultimate decision makers is similar to selling products or services to external customers.

Analysts need to understand that when they present ideas to decision makers, it is their responsibility to sell – not the decision maker’s responsibility to buy. Rudyard Kipling once wrote that if History was taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” In her persuasion & power of story video, Stanford University Professor of Marketing Jennifer L. Aaker explains that stories are meaningful when they are memorable, impactful and personal. Have a look at this wonderful story told by Jennifer.
http://bit.ly/1iqcvin

Stories are the best way to influence! But we don’t see them being used so often. Analytics doesn’t need you to solve only a technical problem but a “social” one. Analytics is sexy but for it to make an impact, it needs to be embedded into the fabric of the company. This calls for analysts to become more social & in fact better presenters & story tellers.

They need to learn to demystify analytics & link it to practical ways for the business to make money! And analysts need to learn to link their work to “the last mile”. Analytics should not be expected to deliver a “Aha moment”, instead it should be a “factory approach to improved decisions”. So analytics is not just a planning tool as much as it is an Execution tool to improve the customer experience & business impact. Start with a decision in mind & work backwards, not with the data in mind & working forward. And today with reams of external data available to most marketers, analytics can even mash up different kinds of data & improve the Customer experience.

Compare the analytics industry with the world of journalism. One of the most deadline filled industries in the world is getting it right with what it calls precision journalism! Despite crazy deadlines, I am amazed at the powerful stories journalists write using data. I wish the analytics industry was half way as good!!The corporate world needs to learn from this & use data to tell stories better! Journalists are coping with the rising information flood by borrowing data visualization techniques from computer scientists, researchers and artists. Some newsrooms are already beginning to retool their staffs and systems to prepare for a future in which data becomes a medium.

Analysts are often tempted to communicate how they did the analysis: “First we removed the outliers from the data, then we did a logarithmic transformation; that created high autocorrelation, so we created a one-year lag variable”—& the typical business user is already yawning! The audiences for analytical results don’t really care what process you followed; they only care about results and implications

Here is an example of a master storyteller. Many people employ static charts, but visual analytics are increasingly becoming dynamic and interactive. Hans Rosling, a Swedish professor, popularized this approach with his frequently viewed TED Talk that used visual analytics to show the changing population health relationships between developed and developing nations over time. Rosling has created a website called Gapminder (www.gapminder.org) that displays many of these types of interactive visual analytics

In early 2010, The New York Times was given access to Netflix’s normally private records of what areas rent which movies the most often. While Netflix declined to disclose raw numbers, The Times created an engaging interactive database that let users browse the top 100-ranked rentals in 12 US metro areas, broken down to the postal code level. A colour-graded “heatmap” overlaid on each community enabled users to quickly scan and see where a particular title was most popular.

See more at: http://nyti.ms/1iCAQnp

Brent Dykes has this wonderful take in a Forbes article & I quote:

“It’s important to understand how these different elements combine and work together in data storytelling. When narrative is coupled with data, it helps to explain to your audience what’s happening in the data and why a particular insight is important. Ample context and commentary is often needed to fully appreciate an insight. When visuals are applied to data, they can enlighten the audience to insights that they wouldn’t see without charts or graphs. Many interesting patterns and outliers in the data would remain hidden in the rows and columns of data tables without the help of data visualizations.

data analytics

storytelling with data

Finally, when narrative and visuals are merged together, they can engage or even entertain an audience. It’s no surprise we collectively spend billions of dollars each year at the movies to immerse ourselves in different lives, worlds, and adventures. When you combine the right visuals and narrative with the right data, you have a data story that can influence and drive change”.

change management

Creating organisation changes through storytelling

Also today Marketers have access to a lot of external data. How they mash this up creatively with their own data & produce features that are of value to consumers is going to become very important in the days to come.

Here is an example:

How Airbnb can add more value to its consumers?

Airbnb is making travel easier for its consumers & today they have access to a lot of data that can make the consumer’s buying process easier!There is a lot of data available about city neighbourhoods.I thought of this particular example because of  Ben Wellington’s article in The New Yorker. He used data points from New York City noise complaints not only to map out which neighbourhoods were noisiest, but why they were noisy.

Noise data

New York data

From the screenshot above, you can see that you’ll definitely want to steer clear of two neighbourhood near the Bronx if you hate the sound of ice cream trucks.
How can this help a Marketer?: Imagine if this led Airbnb to import this data & use it to help you in selecting a place to stay. I am fresh from staying in Singapore in an Airbnb apartment which was in a noisy neighbourhood. If this can be created into an index which pops up as I view an Airbnb apartment, it adds another data based layer to my decision of which apartment to choose. You can enhance this with other data like Crime in the neighbourhood etc & suddenly data is actually adding much more value to the AirBnB platform.
So if data based storytelling can be linked to “How customers buy” , that can hugely enhance a customer’s experience & value. Think about how you can do this in your business & use storytelling to impact key decisions in your company & also your customer experience.