Consumers have changed. Since the onset of the pandemic, everything marketers used to know about CX, loyalty, and marketing has completely flipped. Now, in the era of bolstered commerce strategies and economically savvy consumers, brands need to know how to accurately plan and target in this new world of consumerism. The biggest thing brands need to understand, is experience is everything.
I will be connecting with Courtney Trudeau, vice-president of technology at Merkle, to discuss what delivering an unparalleled experience for customers looks like – and how brands can do it. Courtney is a marketing technology leader with over 20 years of agency and in-house experience, guiding digital experience strategy, B2B & eCommerce website development, and driving marketing technology strategy and implementation. She’s been with Merkle, the leading $2B CX agency part of Dentsu, for just over a year.
Gary Drenik: Last year’s imperatives were all about data, measurement, and loyalty. What sets this year’s imperatives apart from last year? It seems the focus this year is on scaling your business through tech, data, and commerce ecosystems.
Courtney Trudeau: Last year, we talked about creating a value exchange with data, using measurement as a catalyst for change, and commerce + next generation loyalty. This year, we expand on those themes to discuss scaling CX delivery and building lasting customer relationships in an uncertain future. We provide explicit examples of how to manage and grow your customer data, activate it in novel ways, and create that “total commerce experience.” This year is much more tactical. We’re not using high barriers to entry as an excuse for being unable to scale your CX vision; we’re telling the audience to look at what they own and already use, examine the skillsets their employees have, and devise new ways to connect with their audiences by leveraging these existing assets.
Drenik: What are some trends Merkle has been seeing that allude to brands needing to invest in a vision?
Trudeau: With so many brands, silos still exist across departments, data storage, tech usage, and vision for CX. These silos inhibit ideas such as total commerce experience. For example:
- Data exists in disparate systems and platforms, forming incomplete profiles of customers.
- The collaboration that’s needed between marketing and IT to make tech investments really work is lacking.
- Brands aren’t working toward shared goals that are benefitting the consumer. So, if you asked a salesperson vs. a marketer vs. a tech specialist what their vision is for their brand’s CX, you get three different answers.
Second, we’re seeing that consumers inherently trust many online environments. Brands need to harness this trust before it’s lost. According to a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey, a majority of Gen-Z, Millennials and Gen-X consumers, and nearly half of Baby Boomers, are banking and browsing information on their smartphones. This indicates trust (banking data is sensitive), and we’ll likely see an increase in activity on smartphones/all internet connected devices, making even more data susceptible to privacy law. Consumer trust should be a piece of every CX vision and marketing strategy.
Prosper – Smartphone Activities
Prosper Insights & Analytics
The Prosper Insights & Analytics survey also shows an increase in consumers’ willingness to shop for generic products to save money. This increase could pose a threat to brands that haven’t made it a priority to clearly articulate the ways they make their consumers’ lives better/easier.
Prosper – Doing any of the Following Due to Price Increases
Prosper Insights & Analytics
Drenik: The imperatives discuss needing to own your data in a cloud-based environment. What are the benefits to this approach and what does it mean for the future of marketing?
Trudeau: A cloud-based environment is the crucial foundation for delivering a fully connected, more personalized customer experience. Storing customer and prospect data in a central location that is accessible across the organization – from marketing to sales to commerce to service – helps to facilitate analysis and inform decision making. It allows linkage to other pieces of technology for successful activation. Having a single source of truth fosters greater hygiene, which reduces waste and inefficiencies. Storing your data in the cloud is also more scalable and safer, offering unlimited storage capacity and processing power, and employing robust security measures to protect against data breaches and other possible threats. The strength and flexibility of cloud storage allow marketers to adapt to a future filled with ever-changing challenges and opportunities.
Drenik: How can brands build off of existing technology to make customer experiences even better?
Trudeau: Even as machine learning and artificial intelligence become more mainstream, there is an important place for human influence in marketing decision making. It’s vital to ensure that someone with a tech/data background is feeding and optimizing existing tech to produce intended results. Make sure your technology is ingesting the information needed to make it work. Diligently articulate your CX vision and map it back to specific actions that the technology takes. Marketing and IT simply can’t live without one another, and the days of marketing and IT divergence are over; coming together for a common purpose will be the difference between winning and losing.
Drenik: What are some of the most under hyped – and over hyped – marketing trends?
Trudeau: Some of today’s trends in marketing are receiving hype that can mislead marketers. It’s easy to be enticed into implementing one of the latest shiny technology solutions or platforms (think metaverse, CDPs), only to be disappointed in its lackluster performance because you don’t have the vision, organizational structure, or expertise to support it. Of course it’s important to stay on top of innovation and plan for the future. But spending too much time and money on unproven or underdeveloped technologies can distract brands from today’s proven strategies and sabotage growth potential.
But some other trends with the potential to significantly change the customer experience game may not be getting enough attention in the marketplace (e.g., cloud solutions, ethical AI, and identity management). Connected cloud solutions have elevated CX by enabling the comprehensive integration of virtually limitless amounts of data. This allows seamless collaboration among different cloud-based tools, systems, and teams across the enterprise, greatly improving efficiency and productivity. With the increasing use of AI, it is becoming more and more important that marketers use responsible and transparent methods to prevent bias in decision making and avoid leaving potential customers on the cutting room floor. And identity management underpins all of the most effective CX strategies; without it, data can be disjointed, inaccurate, improperly secured, and susceptible to deprecation. The careful handling and protection of customer data is rule number one for earning trust and building loyalty.
Drenik: What’s the one thing every brand should be doing in 2023?
Trudeau: Every brand should be articulating an enterprise-wide CX vision and ensuring that every person at the company knows about it and shares a passion for it. Everything stems from there. And the only way to define that culture of shared passion and gain traction in the organization is to start at the top, with a CX vision that is supported and championed by leadership.
Drenik: Thank you, Courtney, for all your insights and perspective on what building a great CX strategy looks like and how brands can do it. Ensuring data and technology aren’t siloed, that trust between brands and consumers isn’t broken and that all departments are interconnected via cloud will build the solid foundation marketers need to set themselves up for success. AI and machine learning tools, technology almost every brand is already investing in, can help brands continue to build by creating new targeting models for the new consumer world. At the end of the day, an enterprise-wide CX strategy, is a winning CX strategy.
Courtney, it was great to have you here and we look forward to seeing brands put this advice into action in 2023.