Advocacy, design and getting closer to customers: the key takeaways from IBM Amplify

From embracing the power of advocates to closing the gap between brands and their customers, marketers from Facebook, M&S and Homebase offered their advice on boosting customer engagement at IBM’s Amplify conference.

1. Marketers need to close the gap between consumers and brands

Deepak Advani, general manager of IBM Commerce, discussed how marketers are moving from a B2B or B2C world to C2B (customer to business), where they need to “really understand their customers and deliver an experience that blows them away”.

According to a recent study from IBM and Econsultancy in the US entitled ‘Listening to the Customer’, four out of five consumers think brands don’t know them as individuals despite the fact that 81% of brands think they have a holistic view of their customers.

The study also showed that while 90% of marketers agreed that personalised customer experiences were critical to success, only 21% of consumers thought communications from average brands were usually relevant.

In order to bridge this gap, Advani said that brands need to “spend their time and energy understanding what makes customers tick” by developing insight from data, adding that IBM has invested $24bn in analytics over the last several years.

This data, he says, allows them to “deliver personalised experiences” and become more “humanised”, referencing Starbucks as an example of this, having moved to become “in the people business serving coffee” rather than the other way around.

Also speaking at the event, Blake Chandlee, global vice president of the GMS partnership team at Facebook, also referenced the importance of “personalised marketing at scale” in making its ads more relevant to users.

Chandlee said that the social network wants brands to provide “the same quality level [users] are seeing from their friends”, adding that Facebook is trying to avoid “interruptive marketing” by thinking of “people, not cookies”.
“It’s not that they don’t want advertising in the world of feeds mixed in with content, but they want it to be relevant to them,” Chandlee added.

“I think we’re getting close to that. It’s about making sure we understand consumers to deliver them the right message at the right time in the right place.”

2. Brands must harness the power of advocates

Dr. Jonah Berger, author and professor at the Wharton School of Business, discussed how word of mouth can be more impactful than traditional advertising, but added that brands need to understand the science behind it in order to create real brand advocates.

“Brands need to understand the science behind why people talk and share to build more effective campaigns and get products and ideas to catch on,” he said.

Berger claimed that there are six factors that make people talk and share, the most important of which is finding the right triggers, or things that put a brand top of mind.

For example, he highlighted peanut butter’s association with jelly as the perfect trigger, stating that brands such as Corona and Kit Kat have tapped into this by pushing their associations with the beach or coffee breaks.
“You need to find your peanut butter, or the thing in an environment that will remind people of you,” he added.

Creating word of mouth can turn consumers into brand advocates and increase brand trust and loyalty, something that is crucial according to the IBM and Econsultancy study, which also showed that 72% of consumers said they would share their geographic data with a brand they trust, an increase of 89% over the average brand.

3. Brands need to focus on ‘simplifying design’

Speaking at the event, marketers from IBM, M&S and Homebase also highlighted the need to focus on design to make platforms more user-friendly when using data and analytics.

Advani said IBM is “hiring people with design backgrounds to optimise the experience for end-users”, calling the company’s “analytics back end and elegant front end” its “beauty and brains”.

“You can have the greatest analytics in the world, but if you don’t simplify it will never become mainstream,” he added.

David Walmsley, director of M&S.com, said the brand is also investing in its back end to create a better front end experience for customers, while Jo Kenrick, marketing director of Homebase, said the brand is seeing growth is customer interactions after partnering with IBM to change its core platforms at the front end.

“We needed to build an infrastructure which would allow us as marketers to make the changes happen,” she said.

“We needed to deploy data and utilise it to understand the customer better and do it much faster.”

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