In their quest for the holy grail – being able to render tailored experiences to individual customers – brands seem to have made a strong shift in focus to short-term, ROI-driven communication.
Smart move? Shareholders, lured by dividend payments, will no doubt nod their heads in approval. However, is there also a (long-term) downside? Yes, I think there is.
Propulsion engine for short-term consumer activation
Nowaday Customer Experience is all over.
“Thank God”, I’d say, “it’s about time brands started to think about putting the customer at the centre of their universe. And act accordingly.”
Marketing automation vendors are rubbing their hands as their stories about marketing automation being the solution for Customer Experience resonate where brands are considering investments – or have already started implementations – on a large scale.
Yet with a strong focus on personalised activation capabilities that come with marketing automation software, marketers’ focus seems to have shifted towards short-term ROI where the importance of building and maintaining brand communication is underestimated. Remarkable, because that is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition.
I have to confess I don’t take folks too seriously when they try to capture the noble art of marketing in a formula, so I plead guilty committing the same crime for the purpose of emphasising my point: that adding strong branded communication to the equation will create a potential multiplier in Customer Experience.
If you are up for rendering seamless, omnichannel customer experiences then an indispensable part of your toolkit is an automated marketing infrastructure. This enables you to run campaigns and event-driven communications utilising a combination of customer touchpoints such as email, in-app push, social, and web pages.
Without manual intervention. Even so, if your competitor would have exactly the same ‘toolkit’ implemented, automated marketing is no more than a hygiene factor. It is the brand behind the marketing automation machinery that creates the distinctive competence.
Adding artificial intelligence to the marketing automation game predictive algorithms will help you lift your marketing efforts from a personalised to an individualised level.
Behaviour from the past is the basis for anticipating likely behaviour in the future, enabling you to give your customers the feeling of a personal treatment based on past in-store and online purchases, clicks, complaints, recommendations, and social shares.
A crucial factor to turn AI into an advantage is to hire or hook-up with experts who know how to deal with large amounts of behavioural data, and who know their way around data crunching.
They should also know how to slice and dice this into meaningful insights, or tweak and train existing predictive models to work for a specific vertical or type of business – all to generate meaningful insights as an input for later use in campaigns and data-driven communication.
With your marketing automation and artificial intelligence in place you are all set to give your customers the best experience possible. At least, in theory.
However, what you see these days in daily practice is that next-best actions are generally of the product promotion kind. Not exactly a perfect Customer Experience if you ask me.
This is like pushing you to buy that neat dress shirt, after having just bought a couple of them a few days ago, or charities ‘begging’ for a higher contribution when you’ve been a donor for quite some years, spending a fair amount already.
Among other things, Customer Experience is being valued by receiving invites for special events; getting special treatments free of charge because you’re good for average yearly spendings of €650; or a brand asking you for expert input for a new product or service they are planning to launch.
Another effect of marketing automation-based, AI-driven consumer activations is, in general, that campaigns turn into look-a-likes, where brand names are almost replaceable.
Brand as your differentiator
The DNA of your brand is unique. If there is one single asset that has the potential to help you stand out from the competition, it’s your brand. So, if you want to add extra emotion, and look and feel, to your marketing automation and AI, then step up your marketing game.
Turn mediocre ‘me-too’ level communication into a true Customer Experience eco-system. It only takes a sharp definition of your brand, including brand ideal and brand values. With that in place you have a blueprint for everything you say and do as an organisation.
No matter if it concerns the campaigns you’re running, ongoing communication, or how your employees behave at any given customer touchpoint – both digital and in the physical world.
To cut a long story short: marketing automation and AI open the door to new opportunities in brand engagement and Customer Experience.
But without that unique branded look, feel, and emotion the automated your marketing campaigns and those of your competitors just feel the same. Adding branded communication to the equation will help you to create a unique Customer Experience at any given touchpoint, and as a consequence benefit from improved marketing ROI and business results.