Why the single customer view is a ‘utopia’
At the Festival of Marketing, senior marketers learned that, if you want to humanise your brand, you can’t put data before strategy
Do you show that you care? Marketers are very keen to claim that they’re putting the customer at the heart of their business, but how much of that care and concern is actually reaching the customer?
According to Salesforce’s 2020 ‘State of Marketing’ report, 61% of customers say if companies don’t adapt to their needs, it feels as if they don’t care. But with tight budgets, more and more channel interactions and changing customer behaviours, how is it possible to meet those customer expectations?
At an exclusive roundtable at the Festival of Marketing, sponsored by Salesforce and hosted by Marketing Week’s editor-in-chief Russell Parsons, a group of leading marketers came together to explore the possibilities for humanising customer interactions and making the most of every moment.
SPONSORED BY salesforce datorama
BACK TO top
BACK TO HUB
watch ‘Time to market marketing: How to increase your influence’ at the Festival of Marketing on demand
Find out more about how marketers can take a bigger role in leading their businesses. Watch Salesforce’s session, ‘Time to market marketing: How to increase your influence’, at the Festival of Marketing on demand now.
Aviva’s group brand and reputation director, Raj Kumar, explained that ‘putting the customer at the heart of the organisation’ really means showing empathy and making the customer’s life easier: “It’s about however you want to deal with us, whenever you get the opportunity, and it’s seamless.”
Kumar added that, just because there is a human involved in a customer interaction, marketers can’t necessarily assume it’s ‘humanised’. “The humanising part isn’t the channel. They still need the right training. It’s when something is easier than expected, that’s a relief. [Deliver that relief] repeatedly and you build the humanising part of the brand.”
This is all very well for a customer-facing brand that has one-to-one contact with its customers at least occasionally. For a non-transactional brand like a broadcaster, building that relationship is more difficult. Emily Latham, Channel 4’s head of digital marketing and martech, admits that personalised interactions are culturally quite challenging for a broadcaster.
“Our job is to find the stories that connect with audiences and engage customers with the right content at the right time.” She said that the channel’s hit drama It’s a Sin delivered in spades by speaking not only to the LGBTQ+ community, but also segments with a nostalgia for the 1980s, those impacted by AIDS and more.
“Our job is to find the stories that connect with audiences and engage customers.”
Getting behind that customer mindset clearly comes down to the never-ending challenge of gaining and managing rich, relevant and timely customer data. Gathering that data from multiple channels and finding ways of organising it effectively is a perennial problem.
Jonathan Beeston, Salesforce’s product marketing director, revealed from the company’s latest survey of 1,065 marketers that they believe the connected view is important but there are major challenges to building it. ”Digital is the centre of the customer’s world. Marketers are really trying to stitch those disparate siloes and channels together so they can deliver a consistent experience,” he said. “The trouble is, they’re spending too much time on the data and not enough time using it.”
Geoghegan agreed, noting that it’s not even a question of leaping on the latest martech bandwagon. “Classic connections planning is more important than ever. Simplifying it and understanding the most potent moments is classic marketing but the complex media environment means it can be bewildering for brands.”
Emily Latham, Channel 4
Not perfect, but ‘good enough’
The devil is very much in the detail and, while data can help shape and enhance customer interactions, there is still an art in how it’s applied. Admiral Group’s head of marketing, Alex Murphy, pointed out that product-centric businesses tend to lack the joined-up customer approach of other sectors but, equally, marketers should be wary of abusing a rich customer purchasing history: “We could be very detailed about how we market to someone but you start to sound like an ambulance chaser, not a human.”
Through a campaign management tool, the company is able to collate its customer information intelligently and market effectively. “Getting that cross-product view was so important for us because it helped the smaller products grow in a way they couldn’t before,” Murphy added.
Too much of the ‘creepy’ marketing that tends to follow customers round the internet, even if they’ve already bought the product, comes from putting data before strategy, according to Morgan Reavey, director of customer marketing at TSB: “Speed is not everything. Connect with your first-party data to check what customers have already done.” He said the company has been working with Channel 4 to match data to find the right customer segments for the right message.
As ever, the ability to engage with the customer and build accurate, profitable but ultimately human interactions sees most marketers still on something of a journey. Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s area vice-president James Bishop acknowledged that there is some way to go yet. “Becoming customer-centric is a real challenge. Everyone is on a curve around engagement maturity. There is a leadership challenge at very senior levels in organisations, who are struggling to understand the pace of digitisation and the change in customer expectations.”
Perhaps companies’ expectations of themselves are set too high. From incompatible metrics – Bishop points out that accounting standards rarely take into account the concept of customer lifetime value – to unattainable goals, marketers may need to search less for perfection and become more comfortable with ‘good enough’.
“Who doesn’t want a single customer view with a lifetime value associated with it,” admitted Aviva’s Kumar, while also acknowledging that single views are only small parts of the customer’s life and a focus on brand and consideration could be more fruitful.
Diageo’s Geoghegan added that the single view is a great concept but also “a bit of a utopia”. Instead, he suggested using the data you have and exploring “the art of what’s possible”, adding that, even if brands did get to a “nirvana” of perfect data, it’s unlikely they will have thought enough about what to do with it. “There’s a real art alongside the science of pulling this together.”
Salesforce’s Beeston concluded: “It’s about taking control of what marketing data you have and making sure you can understand how it connects together with the different approaches you’re taking with your campaigns. First-party data is a really powerful insight about your customers, especially when combined with your campaign data. The key is all about using these things together.”■
→ Click here to download Salesforce Datorama’s ‘Marketing Intelligence Report’
In a similar position is Ellie Norman, director of marketing and communications for Formula 1. She revealed that, although the sport has a worldwide audience of millions, the number of stakeholders – ticket sellers, merchandisers, teams – makes it a challenge for F1 as an entity to get close to customers itself. The key is in understanding the difference between customers and fans, she added.
“The people who engage a lot identify as a fan. They almost feel like they own the sport, instead of being a customer, which is transactional. How am I driving long-term value? We’re a mass-reach broadcaster but also a direct-to-consumer subscription product, and then we’re growing via extensions like Netflix’s Drive to Survive and social media. We’re taking the benefits of media fragmentation to drive a more one-to-one approach, using the characters – Kimi the Ice Man for example [after driver Kimi Raikonnen] – to build personas around them so fans identify with the characters in the sport.”
That distant end user will always be something of a challenge. Marketers agree that finding those human connections is not necessarily done through interaction, but rather through understanding. Andrew Geoghegan, global consumer planning director for Diageo, noted that the chain to his customer varies enormously, by segment and by country.
“We need to remember that they’re people and know where our products intersect with their lives,” he says. “We’re an ingredient in a social occasion and we need to understand the moments and motivations. The job is to get our brand to come to mind, versus another, and support that with the right price. We have to be relentless.”