Roundtable: How to optimise customer engagement strategies

Customers’ paths to purchase differ widely between brands and sectors, but as Marketing Week’s panel finds, some best practice is universal and always proceeds from the same starting point: put the customer first.

In association with Acxiom

MW: How do you separate the key parts of the customer purchase journey and prioritise marketing activity to influence it?

Sudesh Jog: Data is a double-edged sword. It promises so much but it can stop you from doing anything. We prioritise in the context of what is important to the business. Depending on who customers are and what their history is with us, they are going to have different journeys and outcomes. It’s a complex challenge.

Jane Honey: It’s a scramble of touchpoints and you have to be consistent with the brand to have traction. You can capture the interaction and use the data in context with other touchpoints.

Matt Stockbridge: What we at Mondelēz are trying to do is sell chocolate and biscuits. The analytics show that, unfortunately, no matter what fantastic marketing and other touchpoints happen, if you put a one-pound deal at the front of a store like Tesco, that will give a massive uplift. FMCG’s key driver is distribution. But, on the other hand, what about creativity? How do we tell stories at scale?

Marcos Moret: At Britvic, it’s about getting a relevant, distinct message in front of as many people as possible because, ultimately, we have a wide consumer base. The tension between pure reach and making something distinctive is interesting. If it’s a given that data can increase the relevance of the message, let’s do more data-oriented work, but we have to strike a balance.

Jema Avedian: We are at the beginning of working out who our customers are. Face-to-face, we know them very well. We need to build similar relationships with our customers online.  We are already a targeted business – not everyone can afford to buy Turnbull & Asser shirts. It’s our biggest challenge to get consistency across online and offline, and our website is as much content as ecommerce.

MW: How much do customer journeys vary?

Sudesh Jog: There are three lenses. One is in the very near term: a customer goes online or calls in, then how long does it take for their issue to be resolved? The next is a longer interaction: new customers looking to buy, others wanting to leave. That’s a good one-month customer journey. The third is customers who have been with us a long time. Each has different touchpoints and it is inadvisable to examine their value on the same basis at each of those three levels.

Alessandra Di Lorenzo: I have observed the importance of the single customer view. You can’t speak about data if you cannot identify your customer properly. The challenge for non digitally native companies is how to connect the offline customer with online and does that translates to mobile.

Jonathan Carter: Increasingly, we hear CMOs asking how they can track their customers’ digital footprint. Obviously, ‘digitally native’ companies are in a much better place to do that. You are trying to put sensory connections out there so that you get real customer journey information coming back rather than just the ones relating to transactions.

MW: How do you track customer journeys when you are one step removed from the customer interaction?

Elizabeth Southwood: At Microsoft Lumia, we don’t control our channel, we don’t control what happens through [mobile network] O2 or [retailer] Carphone Warehouse. We can segment our market but essentially there is the lower-end smartphone user and the higher end user. We don’t do well with the higher-end consumer at the moment, but we are getting there. At the lower end, users go into a store and buy on the day. Higher-end consumers spend three months researching the product. There is a big disconnect in ideas as to how you reach all of these different people.

Marcos Moret: In the FMCG world, where we don’t have our own retail outlets, there are arguably really big changes that are still to be made in the way that we work with our customers, such as Tesco, to find mutually beneficial ways of exchanging data.

Jonathan Carter: One of the biggest challenges is should you force registration on a device in the same way as you would with Apple? Do you have to do that to control the customer experience or do you want it to be frictionless out of the box? You can do it as long as you are adding value the moment they have given you their data.

Elizabeth Southwood: People generally don’t mind it with Apple but when we tried to do it with Nokia [now Microsoft Mobile] they didn’t like it and we had to do away with it.

Jane Honey: It is an interesting example because it’s the Apple product but also the Apple ecosystem [of services such as iTunes]. I don’t have a relationship with Carphone Warehouse, it’s merely the place where I get the Apple phone. I have a relationship with Apple and I would give it all sorts of data.

MW: How are customers persuaded to part with their data?

Ian Landsborough: It is about the value exchange – I will give you my information but how are you going to use it? Are you going to give me good offers or are you going to just spam me?

Jane Honey: I don’t feel that Apple has ever misused my data, but that it has always been helpful. Every time I give it my location for example, it has been to my benefit, not its benefit.

Alessandra Di Lorenzo: The elephant in the room is privacy concerns. One of the key concerns that we are reporting to the CEO on privacy in eBay’s service is: are we going to disrupt the experience? Equally, will a non-digitally native company know what to do with the information, because it means nothing if you don’t know how to use it. There are not enough data scientists in the world to help marketers do this stuff.

Matt Stockbridge: Trust is a massive part of this. In a room full of people 80% will have an iPhone and if you ask them whether they believe Apple makes the best device, only half will say yes. But they will all be advocates for it. Apple has built up this position and it is highly competitive but it’s easy to lose and difficult to build. The battle for everyone is to at least maintain a level of trust in a world where everything is transparent and you can offer no excuses.

Sudesh Jog: One of the largest turn-offs for BT customers is if they have had a conversation with us and call back again, and they have to explain the situation all over again. They expect you to know. They expect you to use their data because it makes it easy for them in the context of their ongoing relationship. On other communications they expect you to use data but they are trusting you to still stay relevant because this is not in the context of their own particular [customer journey]. They are expecting you to judge what is relevant to them.

Jonathan Carter: As customers, we all know that databases exist and the more informed will know that a single view of the customer is something most organisations aspire to. But what most organisations don’t aspire to is to give the customer a single view of them. I think there is an exchange there that is missing.

Jane Honey: If you were on the phone to BT and we were both looking at the same data together – if the customer could see it and the company could see it, how much easier would that phone call be?

Ian Landsborough: If we talk about the value exchange with the customer, we are also sitting in the middle of a potential value exchange between the organisation and the retailer. There is a wealth of transactional information and the manufacturer has lots in terms of the brand. We need to bring these points together to create that single customer view.

Bianca Spada: HTC is lucky to have a product that customers don’t leave their homes without so we can get that information. We created a campaign that said ‘the power of the phone times the power of the user equals you: unlimited’. We want to tell people it’s not about the phone and it’s not about you, it’s the combination that makes it powerful.

MW: What is the consumer’s attitude to the value exchange for data?

Alessandra Di Lorenzo: If you look at millennials [those aged 18 to 34 today], they were born in the digital world and their sensitivity is not as high. As long as they are getting their needs met, they are going to be fine with a company using their data to deliver a service. It’s part and parcel of what they have grown up with.

Jonathan Carter: Research that we are releasing on consumer privacy in 2015 shows that generation Z [people aged under 18 today] has an increasing tolerance of data use but a degree of cynicism about it because it believes there is no value exchange

Jane Honey: Tesco is introducing personal business objectives for everyone that are less about the what you do to hit targets and more about how you do it. They have to hit the targets but it’s about behaviour and gathering feedback from the customer to demonstrate that you are doing something that has added value.

Marcos Moret: Perhaps we will see something where a customer has a service issue and if the company were party to their interests and passions, it could compensate them by finding tickets for a tournament. But it’s about the degree to which you take it, versus verging on the slightly spooky. If I were to receive a communication like that, I would be happy about it.

MW: What is the biggest challenge of creating a value exchange for data outside of the product itself and what are the organisational barriers to achieving this?

Matt Stockbridge: Beyond the trust issue, the biggest challenge we are facing at the moment is who to listen to and who to work with. Facebook, providers and media companies all have views on creating communications based on their data and ours. Also, all that needs to happen is for someone new to come in and get rid of the previous work and change their ideas. You need brand consistency to have a consistent customer experience.

Jema Avedian: With Turnbull & Asser, everyone at every level is invested in the brand so they have the same viewpoint. When they come into contact with customers they will experience a person who has a passion for the brand and we are working to move that passion into online. It’s important that the owners themselves are very involved in the business, which means that the passion is relayed through all the customer touchpoints, online and in store.

Jane Honey: Non-digitally native companies, when they do crack the customer journey challenge, will have a major advantage, particularly the ones on the high street. I’m thinking about how that face-to-face relationship with the customer can be transformed. They will be the ones to watch.

Alessandra Di Lorenzo: The conversations I have had with senior management to get sign-off on these kinds of activities is about having data that allows us to do the talking, but on the other hand we need to protect our customers. It’s about how we can have control of the data and explain how marketing agency partners treat that data and keep it safe for the brand.

Sudesh Jog: You need to find the right data, leverage it in real time and then you need to formulate a response. To deliver a value exchange, the organisation needs to transform – you can’t wait around for creative that takes eight weeks.

Elizabeth Southwood: Microsoft is a massive organisation based in Seattle. We are able to do a few bits here and there. It’s a constant struggle for us trying to educate the Americans on the UK market and what it responds to.

Jane Honey: It is a cultural shift of moving from the instinct-based feeling that ‘I’ve been in retail for 30 years and I know what’s best for the customer’ to a data and insights mindset. We had one experience where the editorial team was putting a roast beef joint on the Tesco webpage and highlighting products customers also bought, typically horseradish sauce and Yorkshire puddings. But the data team noted that the product most commonly bought alongside raw beef was raw pork. And you can’t persuade the editorial team to feature raw pork alongside raw beef because it doesn’t make sense. At some point you have to go with instinct-led approaches but more businesses should be looking to the insights.

MW: How will wearable technology affect the view of the customer journey?

Bianca Spada: There is going to be a lot of data from wearables. As the customer is passing a shop is it going to show them something they like? It’s something they wear on a daily basis.

Sudesh Jog: You have to see it from the point of view of avoiding a conflict of interest. If you are using technology to improve customer experience, there is no conflict. If we can use it to fix issues with customers’ broadband before they even arise, there is no conflict.

Matt Stockbridge: It’s not only wearables; we have heard lots about the internet of things and the falling price of sensors. This is the missing link and it’s where privacy will play a massive part. How are people and their environments going to interact? The scariest example is of banks potentially using eye-scanning equipment in place of passwords. But by scanning the eye you can find out a lot more about the customer in terms of disease. Will that affect whether or not you give them a loan? Wearables and technology will create many more customer touchpoints but it’s also going to create a great deal more challenges.

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