Designing the “Big E”

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Glen Hartman
Glen Hartman

At Adobe Symposium in downtown New York yesterday, I witnessed a keynote by Jordan Kretchmer, GM of Adobe Livefyre, which revolved around the concept of experience. Marketo talks about driving engagement, experience, and revenue. Salesforce has been reflecting on how customer experience reaches beyond CRM.

We’re going to be hearing a lot more of the “e word” from now on, as marketing tech — and its implementation — grows swiftly beyond the marketing cloud to encompass each element of the customer journey, from acquisition to conversion, to support, service, retention and loyalty. Who thought that “marketing cloud” would seem kind of old-school by the middle of 2017, with terms “experience cloud” and “customer success platform” jockeying for attention.

One of the most lucid voices I’ve heard on the whole experience business belongs to Glen Hartman, who not only runs the North American business of Accenture Interactive, but who not only runs the North American business but also has global responsibility for digital marketing and digital platforms and operations. I spoke to Hartman briefly earlier this year, and this week caught up with him at the agency’s SoHo offices to pick his brains further.

I kicked off with a comment I recalled from our earlier discussion, about the “old school, CRM way of looking at things.” He qualified that immediately: “I’m not saying the CRM/360 degree view is bad, just that the technology is now advanced enough to meet new demands.” Personalization was about the right message or offer to the right person, and marketers are still thinking in terms of more and better personalization, he said. Whether using AI, machine learning, or bots, it’s still the same thing: “It’s quicker, it scales, it’s still valid.”

In different moments, we’re different customers

What’s missing, though, is “empathizing with the customer,” in real time and in context. Hartman offered an example from the world of grocery shopping. For a grocery brand: “Nirvana would be using all types of data — mobile, location, beacon — to push the right offer, the right coupon, at the right time.” But imagine, he said, suggesting additional ingredients, displaying a recipe: The opportunities for relevant cross-selling and up-selling are obvious. 

But if the customer is entering the store at 11.30pm, to make a quick purchase, he or she probably doesn’t want all that personalized messaging. They’d rather have a heat map which shows them the product they need, and a way to buy it with one click. “That breaks all the rules of marketing,” said Hartman. “But the experience would make you love that brand. It’s about a heightened level of relevance — in the moment.” 

The 360 degree view is all very well, but as Hartman points out, in different moments any one of us can be “a whole different person.”  Marriott, he says, probably knows him better than his parents: But what he wants from a hotel on a family holiday is completely different from what he wants and expects on a business trip. Brands can address these expectations (which are ever-increasing) by using technology to “reverse engineer” around the experience the customer is actually seeking.

What happened to empathy?

Another example from a large telco, an Accenture Interactive client. They posed a “benign question” about optimizing paid search campaigns for a straightforward commodity product. The campaigns were effective, but respondents chose to convert not by clicking but by contacting the call center. The result, of course, was to depress attribution to the substantial search spend. Why not remove the call numbers from the ad in order to force customers to convert online? An obvious solution but one, of course, which relies on forcing a customer into the brand’s preferred channel. Empathy?

It took escalation to the CFO and COO to implement the much better solution of a new attribution model and a new incentive model, allowing customers to convert according to their own preferences. A simple query about a niche problem led to processes being reverse engineered to meet the customer’s needs.

Customer-centricity: in a literal sense

One more example: A brand offering mortgage insurance found prospects dropping out of digital form completion around questions 13 and 14. It moved quickly to make those questions less of an obstacle, crafting a new version in the CMS, and ticking the compliance and regulatory boxes. The process was expensive; took a couple of months; and duly resulted in increased completion rates — but for the wrong prospects. The best prospects — the customers the brand really wanted — had not been dropping out.

“Everyone talks about customer-centricity,” said Hartman, “but I mean it in a literal sense.” It’s not about doing better campaigns, he emphasized. It’s about designing the experience — the “big E” — around the customer’s needs in that particular context and moment. 

Brands find themselves at different places along the “maturity continuum” in being able to do this kind of precise, contextual experience engineering. Hartman reduces it to three “D”s (“This isn’t scientific,” he cautions). “Around 60% [of brands] are about defense; ‘defend my business’ — I need stuff to work. 20 to 30% differentiate themselves; they’re doing better personalization, for example. 10% are disrupting (or defending against disruption).” Five years ago, he says, that was one percent.

The disruptors look at designing experiences around all the things that could possibly touch a customer. “You can;t just optimize your campaigns and call it a day.”  And by the way, Hartman says: “When a brand introduces new titles, like Chief Experience Officer, that’s code for…” Well, for a CEO who isn’t happy with the brand’s marketing.

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