The terms “mobile,” “data,” and “personalization” have been around for a very long time. When I worked for mobile marketing solution provider Vibes four years ago, this was pretty standard jargon for executives to be throwing around. Yet here we are five years later, and if you asked ten executives if they feel they’ve cracked the code and really nailed creating strategies around these concepts, the majority would say they’re still working on figuring it out. Why is that?
The answer that jumps out at me is that these are all capabilities, not campaigns. Companies do well with campaigns because they’re more tangible, with fixed start and end dates, budgets, and ROI that can be measured. Campaigns such as direct mail or email, digital marketing, social media, etc. get more attention and support from the CEO or CFO because of the ability to prove ROI and point to real success in the short term. They’re safer because they are limited and allow executives to report good quarterly results to their investors.
Developing capabilities like making your business mobile or data-centric and building a cohesive customer journey that enables true personalization is not a one-and-done task. These changes take time, are more strategic, and can make it harder to measure ROI in the traditional short-term sense. A true capability that will create a long-term competitive advantage for your business is going to cost more and affect many areas of the company.
So how do you go about driving this type of change?
Step 1: Focus on use cases and business problems.
Identify the company’s top five or ten business problems and priorities. Are you trying to acquire new customers? Build customer loyalty? Provide a better customer experience? Steal share from your competitors? Think about the outcome first and how capabilities like mobile, data, and personalization can help you achieve them.
Step 2: Get into the specifics of what you need from each capability.
Start with a crawl-walk-run framework. Crawling may be a 6-12 month timeframe, while walking is within 1-2 years and running is within 3-5 years. Think about evolution and the long-term.
Step 3: Execute in an iterative and agile way.
No major strategic changes are going to be perfect the first time out. You’ll have to try things, make mistakes, learn, and strive to get better each time. You can’t bring one-off campaign thinking to a long-term change evolution and shut down the whole thing at the first sign of failure. Choose experienced partners in mobile, data, and personalization and lean on their expertise.
Putting the Framework into Practice: Providing Better Customer Service
Let’s say your main goal in implementing better strategies around mobile, data, and personalization is to provide better customer service. You want to use these capabilities to provide a seamless customer journey from acquisition to support.
Crawl: Implement text and mobile messaging for customer support.
Look at the data you have on your current customer journey and assess the strengths and weaknesses. Given the goal of improving service, your CSAT scores are likely not where they should be. Identify the areas where customers are giving you lower marks and dig in to figure out what is causing the issues. Look at your call center analytics and try to align the numbers with customer feedback. Be honest about what data is usable to drive insights and action and which is not so you don’t take any steps based on incorrect information.
Let’s say you’ve identified the main weaknesses as long hold times, lack of channel options for communication, and a poor mobile experience. Armed with this information, the next step is to truly look at your customers. First, segment your customer base by lifetime value to ensure that any changes you make will result in increased profitability from your high-value customers. Demographics like age and gender can be misleading and lead to incorrect assumptions based on stereotypes, so it’s more important to understand behaviors. From there you can begin to identify what kind of improvements will resonate most.
After considering the issues your customers identified as well as the capabilities your highest value customers would most appreciate, you select a trusted enterprise messaging provider. They will integrate two-way text and mobile messaging into your CRM, which will deflect calls, improve hold times, provide additional channels for convenient communication, and allow for better personalization due to the CRM integration.
Walk: Implement text and mobile messaging for loyalty and retention.
You’ve nailed the customer service implementation of text and mobile messaging, deflecting expensive and time-consuming calls and improving CSAT. Customers love that they can send a quick message to your 1-800 number such as, “Where is my order?” and receive a quick, personalized response from an agent who has their record pulled up in the CRM. You’re ready to look to the next step.
Now you can go from reactive to proactive, using customer data from your CRM to increase loyalty and retention. For example, you send a reply-enabled automated text to a customer a few days after they were scheduled to receive an order asking how they liked the product and if they have any questions. If the customer replies that the shirt was great but that pants didn’t fit, you could send them a link to a landing page for easy returns and exchanges. That kind of service will go a long way towards retaining customers and garnering referrals.
Run: Implement highly personalized text and mobile messaging throughout the customer journey.
While the crawl and walk stages of this implementation might have included some low-level personalization, such as addressing the customer on a first-name basis and asking them how they are enjoying products they ordered, true personalization is the culmination of everything we have discussed thus far. In the walk stage, your company would have gotten slightly more proactive by reaching out to the customer to check on an order they’ve placed, but in that case you still waited for the purchase to trigger that message. The run stage might include using all the data you’ve gathered to incorporate some machine learning and message the customer (if they’ve opted in to marketing campaigns, of course) to let them know that their favorite style of jeans is now available in a new color or that a sweater similar to others they’ve bought is on sale. That message could include a link to a pre-populated shopping cart to make the order process as frictionless as possible. These messages are not triggered by a massive campaign, but instead by the customer’s own past behaviors and preferences.
How You Know It’s Working
True personalization is about tailoring the customer journey to the individual. You’ll know you’ve hit your stride when it starts to become easier and your metrics are telling you that you’re effective at reaching each individual person with the right message and tactic. KPIs like clickthrough, response rates, conversions, and CSAT will all start to improve. Retailers will see a higher velocity of repeat purchases.
Building these capabilities is not easy and it doesn’t happen overnight. It requires internal champions. Today, the average business executive’s tenure is just a few years, so unfortunately there is often little incentive for them to start such long-term initiatives. However, businesses that want to remain competitive would be wise to think about the long-term outlook, building a team and a pipeline of future leaders that can carry out the necessary transformation.
About Mark Tack
Mark Tack is an entrepreneurial marketing leader who specializes in building and running optimized B2B marketing engines. Mark has led marketing in larger data companies like Acxiom, Experian and IRI as well as enterprise SaaS businesses like Vibes, IPS, and Intellext. To learn more about Mark’s approach to optimizing B2B Marketing Engines, please see his article on LinkedIn.