Today’s Marketers – More Like Imagineers?

In some ways, marketing hasn’t changed at all. It’s still about knowing consumers and connecting your company’s value to that audience in order to create customers.

In other ways, marketing has changed completely. A “day in the life” of marketers past might have been like Madmen, driven mainly by artists and creative types. In those bygone days, you might have evoked with great creativity in an ad how your customer would feel if they held that cigarette in their hand or offered that drink to the hottie across the bar.

Compare that to a “day in the life” of today’s marketer. While still as creative and artistic as ever, modern marketers are also like imagineers automating their creation with the most cutting edge data science and software technology in the background.

Here is a snapshot of what the day of a marketing imagineer might look like.

Day in the life of a marketing imagineer

Day in the life of a marketing imagineer

1. Your day might begin by readying a new microsite to support a promotional campaign you want to test. But, if it took weeks to develop your site you’d never do it. So …

  • Instead of leaving visitors to a “one size fits all” experience on your new site, you might deploy automated self-learning recommendations for additional content each visitor is also likely to be interested in reading based on the behavior of others like them. Or, you might recommend additional products others like them found interesting.

2. If you are in eCommerce, you are now considering the right prices to offer your digital target segments in order to increase profits, not just revenue. To calculate the right answer, you turn to your pricing, promotion, and product mix software solution rather than pulling a number out of thin air.

3. Since the spray and pray days of marketing are over, you now need to capture the moments when your customers exhibit behavior that qualifies them for these discounts. And, of course, this needs to be automatic. So, you configure yourreal time digital marketing system to extend the discount codes to site visitors while they are on the site and via retargeting emails after visitors have dropped off.

4. Sometimes discount codes don’t work like they should. Rather than shrugging and accepting that as unavoidable, you’d like to be the first to find out when customers struggle. So you configure your customer experience management systemto alert you instantly when there is a spike of promo codes that aren’t going through. Using replay, you put yourself in the shoes of the customer, see what they saw, and identify and remedy the issues.

5. But, by now those customers have dropped off the site and are probably pretty annoyed. How to win them back? You connect the list from your customer experience management system into your cross-channel marketing application. You send them an email with an offer to help. Or, you let the CRM system prompt call center agents to offer help proactively when these customers call in.

6. Since nobody is perfect, you are always measuring and experimenting to see where you can improve your marketing performance. Yet, this isn’t your grandmother’s marketing reporting either. Today, statistical marketing attribution algorithms automatically tease out which marketing touch points deserve credit for truly creating incremental revenue when customers are touched by multiple campaigns in the run up to a transaction or purchase.

All that data, science, and business machinery is humming intact in the background so that you can imagineer a great customer experience and your customers can go about hunting for discounts and have fun browsing.

In the IBM Enterprise Marketing Management product team, our job is to make yours easier. For example, we just released an update to our digital marketing, customer experience management, and pricing management SaaS solutions. The new capabilities are some of the enabling capabilities in the “day of the marketer” above. See the release launch page for all the new capabilities enabling our users to engage their customers with one voice.

To hear from a real marketer that is setting the pace and outperforming their peers, tune in on October 24 when Ewald Hoppen from explains how his team uses cutting-edge technology as well as innovative marketing techniques. Their results speak for themselves, e.g. a 273% higher ratio of sales per email sent, a 63% lower email opt-out rate, and a 15x increase in ROI for their display ads.


Note: This was cross-posted from the original on the Smarter Commerce blog.

The central role of digital channels in the Omni-channel world

The original version of the chart below was created by Kevin Cavanaugh back in Unica days (Kevin’s now CTO at Allant Group). Still to date it’s one of the most popular pieces of thought leadership content I carry around with me on my USB drive everywhere I go. Folks in the audience often take pictures of this during presentations.

What it shows is that customers engage with our companies through so many channels and that some of these channels are more likely to be used during certain times in the customer lifecycle. For example, after learning about a brand via mass media commercials a prospect might grab their tablet to learn more about the product and then ultimately call the call center to ask further questions and sign up or purchase.

Channels of interaction over course of the Lifecycle

Channels of interaction over course of customer life cycle

Yet, over the years there has been a dramatic change. Kevin originally created this chart to visualize how critical it is to integrate online and offline channels for successful customer strategies. That is also how the chart was introduced in my book in 2008.

But today when you look at the chart you see an expanded number of digital channels at the heart of it. Digital is slowly taking over the chart. And the #1 take away from the chart today isn’t the online-offline integration anymore.

Rather, it’s that digital channels in themselves are an Omni-channel world ranging from website to tablet, phone, email, ad networks, social media networks, etc. Many of the most successful digital marketers today tie these digital channels together for continuous customer engagement. When a customer drops off from one channel, they continue the dialog with the customer on the next channel that he or she comes back on. That is assuming that the customer has at some point authenticated on each channel or device so he or she can be identified again.

Optimizing each of the channels and devices is bread & butter. But optimizing how they play together — that’s the Nutella on top.

One fun anecdote is that back when Kevin first created this chart we had question marks for the role of mobile in the customer lifecycle because the smartest phone around was still the Blackberry back then. It wasn’t clear at all back then how mobile would be used in the customer life cycle. Boy have we come a long way since then. Mobile is everywhere now.

The Coming New Standard for Digital Data Collection via Tags

Having served in the digital analytics and marketing industry for the past 12 years, I remember waaaay back in maybe 2006 there were passionate voices in the industry advocating that the page tagging layer should be interchangeable, i.e. standardized, between web analytics solutions vendors.

Customers should have it easier to switch out web analytics solutions. Vendors should be competing on the merits of the insights that they help customers derive, not on the mechanics of data collection.

Back then, those proposals went nowhere since all of us back then at Unica, Coremetrics, Omniture, Webtrends, etc. were busy growing business like crazy and getting acquired.

Standardization is poised to become a reality now

I shouldn’t jinx it by speaking too optimistically but all signs are that we are on a very promising path to standardization of data acquisition via page tags now.

And this will be not just  for web analytics solutions, but more generally for all digital marketing applications.

The goal is to save marketers from needing to learn and program a whole new tag data collection language with every vendor’s solution that they want to try.  The value is that marketers can then be more agile with trying and using new applications since these could all feed off of a common data collection layer.

Who is in the standardization effort?

Today, the standardization effort is being lead by a few dozen member companies including the ‘who-is-who’ in digital.  They are working in the W3C Customer Experience Digital Data Community and making rapid progress towards proposing a standard for data acquisition.

The participants represent:

  • Digital marketing and analytics vendors such as Adobe, Criteo, Localytics, Google, Marin Software, Reevoo, and of course IBM
  • Tag management pure play vendors such as BrightTag, Ensighten, Tag Man, Tealium
  • Web practitioners and managers from multiple businesses who will be among the prime consumers and beneficiaries of this specification
  • The Digital Analytics Association is also a participating member

IBM’s “Sri”, Viswanath Srikanth, from the IBM Software Standards team is chairing the group effort.  Sri is planning to be in Nashville at the Smarter Commerce conference to share details from the community’s work.

How will this work?

Aside from the impressive list of participants, the other great news to me is that this is really straight forward from a technical and practical perspective.

You could compare it to the way standardized electrical power plugs and sockets make it possible to plug in any electrical device no matter where or which power company is serving the region. They all rely on there being a standard interface in between them, namely standardized power sockets and plugs.

In digital, data is the fuel that powers marketing and analytics applications. Yet all websites and digital marketing applications have developed their own data language, i.e. JavaScript key-value pairs for things such as page titles, categories, URLs, retail shopping cart details, visitor data, behavior events, etc. etc.

  • So one application may expect page category in a variable named “pageCat = ABC” while the next app may expect it to be named “CategoryPage = ABC”.
  • Similarly one website may place a shopping cart item into a variable such as cart[] while the next might place it in something like basket[].
  • etc

Welcome the uniform JavaScript Object Data Layer

But … if there is a common translation layer in between sites and apps that everybody can rely on … that would solve the problem.

That translation layer will be a uniform JavaScript Object Data Layer, i.e. a set of key-value pairs under pre-agreed key names and definitions. Websites can populate these with their data. All digital marketing and analytics solutions that need access to this data can get it from the standard data layer regardless of the website’s details.

In other words, vendors and websites do not need to understand each other directly anymore, e.g. how a page is designed, or how shopping carts work – since the basic contract would be that the standard JavaScript Object gets populated and all solutions can get data from that layer.

How do you apply the uniform JavaScript Layer to Your site?

When the coming new standard is first established, the plan is for website managers to populate the uniform JavaScript Object Data Layer manually, just like you are used to adding any data collection tag to your site today.

But after doing this just once, all standards compliant third party solutions can plug and play.

When solutions require additional key-value pairs of data beyond those specified in the standard, no problem, those can be deployed through additional tagging.

In the future, once the standard is well on its way the plan is for content management and eCommerce systems to facilitate the uniform JavaScript Layer out of box as much as possible, cutting out even the initial manual effort where possible.

When can you expect to see the benefits of this?

The next milestones in the W3C Standards discussion group are for the data layer spec to be readied in May/June 2013 and finalized and published by July/August 2013.

From there, it is only a matter of time before the member organizations adopt the standard into their product road maps.

I have no doubt that the tag management solutions and major digital marketing suite vendors will be first to race and implement the standards. Once that has happened, point solutions will follow.

How can you contribute and influence?

Simply go to the W3C’s web page for the Customer Experience Digital Data Community Group and follow the links on information about how to join.

Why are vendors driving the standardization? Why now?

What is it you might wonder that is driving vendors such as IBM to invest in this standards effort now given that for so many years most vendors weren’t prioritizing standardization at all.

The first major change has been the advent of tag management solutions. With those available widely, no vendor can hope to lock in their customers by making it cumbersome to retag.

Secondly, many of the participating vendors offer a wide and ever growing portfolio of solutions. We need to make it easy for our customers to plug and play with our native solutions plus with point solutions of their choice.

This is a core strategy that customers should expect from their vendors. At least that is why IBM is in it.

After all,  … could you imagine undoing the standardization of electrical power plugs?

Learn more at the upcoming IBM customer conferences

To learn more, join IBM customers and prospective customers in Nashville (May 21-23) and Monaco (June 18-20). Sri and our IBM colleague Eliot Towb are presenting on the topic and available for discussion and your feedback.


This blog was attacked by a worm in March-May (clean now)

As if blogging wasn’t hard enough, I had the fun experience of cleansing this site from a worm that seems to have gone around and infected many WordPress blogs recently.

The site is clean now. The hosting provider (GoDaddy) has also checked over it and found no more infected files.

[

Come to Practitioner Web Analytics, Madrid May 25/26th.

The Practitioner Web Analytics conference in Spain will be in its third year when it comes back this May. It is shaping up to be a great event. Folks like Aurelie Pols, Jacques Warren, Dennis Mortensen and many others are on the list of guests. Plus, most importantly, the local who is who of web analytics with very promising case studies.

I get to do the opening and closing keynotes at this year’s conference. Below is a bit of info on those (and my background) in a 6 min. video.

Come see Akin at Practioner Web Analytics 2010 from Akin Arikan on Vimeo

iPad, the Kindle killer

You can be pretty sure that iPad isn’t anywhere close to being a laptop killer except in the leisure usage department, e.g. watching movies on a plane.  After all, who wants to type anything on an on-screen keyboard more than they need to.

However, I imagine that Amazon’s Kindle will be in big trouble now.

The monochrome Kindle UI unfortunately will seem pretty boring compared to the multi-touch, colorful, and multi-purpose, iPad.

Though I haven’t owned either device and maybe there is something to be said for the Kindle being easier on the eyes.

We’ll see.

Though from measurement and multichannel metrics perspective I can share that:

  • I have no idea what kind of measurement the Kindle allows that isn’t completely proprietary to Amazon
  • The iPad on the other hand can be measured just like any other mobile device.

For example, in Unica NetInsight it is possible to see web analytics reports that detail how iPad users browse the Internet.

The iPad also runs all applications that were created for the iPhone. And so the same method used for instrumenting iPhone applications with analytics tags for NetInsight also works just as well for iPad applications.

Ship date in the US is April 3d.

Twitter: here is a business model for you

If I doubted Twitter before and became a recent convert, … well this week I became a Twitter lover.

What did it for me?

It was watching the tweets come across the ticker in real time on Tuesday while Google were announcing their new features at the emetrics conference in D.C., some 2,500 miles away from me.

It was like being there in person. Thanks to tweets, e.g. by @June_Li. What a great use of Twitter.

But Twitter has a problem:

It hasn’t found a business model.

And, famously, Twitter users also have a problem:

The vast majority of tweets are boring and a nuisance. And some tweeters tweet more often than they have interesting things to share.  It’s a new form of spam! There should really be a frequency crap. [Note on Oct 26th: oh oh, freudian slip, as Mike Keyes caught. That was meant to read “cap”]

Twitter could do everybody and themselves a big favor and solve both problems with a single strike.

I’d propose they should charge an increasing price for each tweet per person per day, e.g. as follows:

  • Your first tweet per day is free
  • 2nd tweet per day, you pay 50 cents
  • 3d, you pay $1
  • 4th, you pay $2
  • 5th, you pay $4
  • 6th, you pay $8

Surely, if something is worth saying to your followers you will spend a buck to do so. And if it isn’t worth a buck even to you, then, by all means, shut up.

Meanwhile, Twitter would leave it completely free to follow as many tweets as you like.

Twitter could forecast how much revenue they can expect from a move like this. Since they aren’t doing this, I presume they will have thought it through and probably concluded that there is a problem with this idea. The numbers might not add up to justify their current $1B valuation maybe.

Privacy, Schmivacy!

Other than “How about cookie deletion?” the second biggest question that I have received in the past year when discussing the topic of online-offline integration is the question about privacy.

  • Will it be OK with privacy regulations if I integrate click data from web analytics with customer data in order to improve the relevance of my marketing communications?
  • More importantly, will it be OK with web site visitors’ expectations?

The regulations side is usually a short answer for me. Mind you, the regulations seem rather cumbersome to read. But the bottom-line boils down to:

  • Have a clear privacy policy on the site
  • Make it as easy to opt-out as possible, ideally a single click
  • Extra credit, if in addition to opt-out you allow the individual to set their own preferences of how they’d like to be contacted and on what topics
  • In countries where it is required, work with opt-in

To me, the bigger question seems about site visitors’ expectations.

It may seem we are wearier of being tracked than ever. There is always a big outcry when Facebook et al announce a move towards ad targeting.

But in reality, we are much more public with our lives than ever. especially in our social networks. See this article for instance.

So what is it about this privacy thing that we really want?

The following examples help me.

Privacy in a store

We hate walking into a small store if the sales person is too much in our face and doesn’t let us browse the items on our own. Maybe we fear getting pressured into buying something before we are ready. Heck, we may well be browsing for entertainment and not thinking of buying anything at the moment. And the shop keeper that is in our face makes us feel bad about ourselves.

But we also hate being in a big box retail store and not being able to find someone to answer our questions when we are ready to ask them.

Really, we want the person to be right there — magically — just when we need their help but not before. And we love it if they understand us so well that they can recommend just what we will benefit from buying.

Privacy in a restaurant

We hate when the waiter is too much in our face, especially after we are done with the meal. Maybe we fear pressured in vacating the table for the next guests.

Just as much we hate it when the waiter is nowhere to be found when we need the check or want to order something (else).

The waiter should just — magically — refill the glasses as soon as they are empty. They need to be right there with the desert menu and our check just when we want it.


How does it work in those stores and restaurants that do this well? Is it magic?

No magic.

The perfect shop keeper and waiter are super observant. They put a web analytics tool to shame when it comes to tracking our behavior.

But they aren’t in our face about it.

And they don’t pressure us into buying something or ordering an appetizer along with the expensive main course.

They are at our service.

And yet they still do bring us the best cross-sales offer at the best time.

Marketing so relevant that it feels like a service

I still cringe when I hear that marketing should be so relevant that it feels like a service. At first glance it seems a cheesy thing to say. It seems a utopian dream of techies like me.

But wait.

How about all those educational webinars on the web that I love to attend and learn from?

Guess what! The people doing them (e.g. me, myself) aren’t altruistic at all. Their purpose is purely marketing. They cost a ton of money, by the way. Yet, it is a service and doesn’t feel like marketing at all unless the speaker is too salesy.

There are other examples too:

  • How about book recommendations on Amazon
  • Movie recommendations on Netflix?

They tend to be quite relevant and not at all in your face. Ignore them easily if you want.

In fact, haven’t you come to expect and demand that any product page on a retailer’s web site will contain information on accessories that go with the item?

So, it can be done

These examples prove that marketing, in the ideal cases, can:

  1. feel like a service
  2. be not in your face and not pushy

My take away is that the combination of click and customer data, if used the right way, can absolutely enable service oriented marketing. But if you abuse it for span, you will cause all of us marketers to look bad and to lose out.
(This post is part of a series on the state of multichannel metrics today, one year after the book came out.)

Multichannel Metrics – one year later – how far did we get?

Just about a year ago, the mutlichannel marketing metrics book was published. Since then I have had a chance to tour through Europe and US to speak with many marketers from online and more traditional sides of the house.

Here is what I am finding as to how far companies have come in the past year.

  • Online – offline integration has not yet become mainstream
  • But there are more and more examples of companies implementing something and those who do have great business results to show for
  • It doesn’t always have to be online and offline integration. Lucrative enough for online marketers can be to integrate click data with online customer data. Business cases that I am aware of also look very strong.

I will share sample business ideas that companies have implemented in a coming series of blog posts.

Before then I should point out some things that haven’t changed yet.

Which industries are doing the best job at this?

The leaders today seem to be in the area of highly considered purchases such as automotive, group travel, telco, real estate, B2B high-tech, etc. Common to these industries is that

  • Before the WWW, buyers used to get all their advice from a live sales person whereas today most initial research occurs online in a DIY fashion.
  • The buying process often crosses online and offline channels, e.g.
    • Awareness is prompted via TV commercials
    • Research is performed online
    • The purchase often occurs offline

In the coming posts we’ll look at examples from acquisition marketing, persuasion, re-marketing, cross-sales, and retention / win-back.

Check the following posts that continue this thread:

  1. Online to Offline Conversions
  2. A modern example from B2B, National Instruments
  3. An example from a B2C, real estate web site
  4. Online to Offline cross- and repeat sales in the travel industry
  5. Online to Offline cross-sales in retail banking
  6. Privacy, Schmivacy!
  7. Online-Offline integration for retention marketing

Replay of May 19th Webcast with Kevin Hillstrom and Jim Novo

If you missed the May 19 WAA Webcast with Kevin Hillstrom and Jim Novo, you can replay it any time on demand.

By the way, do you think it will be 5 or more like 10 years before all TV will be much like the Internet?

That is to say, you will turn on the tube and a big bing or google box will appear in the middle of the screen. You’ll type in “Kevin  & Jim webcast”  and get your multichannel marketing fix while sipping a cup of old fashioned tea.

Unless, of course, you see my PPV (pay-per-view) ad show up towards the right of your TV screen and click on it to read this blog.

Meanwhile,  recommendations will appear at the bottom of the screen that are targeted to your remote control behavior.

Hopefully, something better than “Meet exciting online and offline marketers in <your city>”. 😎