All the data in the world is one thing, and AI to parse it is another. It’s raw power. But it means little to nothing if marketers fail to integrate today’s muscle within a holistic approach to the customer journey.
Let’s sketch out what this means.
Number one, success is won by addressing real needs. AI? Machine learning? They’re buzzwords marketers should leave at the door if they’re not adding value to a real customer concern. People can get fired up about technology hype and the novelty of AI, but we should never forget what Peter Drucker said: the purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.
Where hype meets reality: Personalisation and AI
It turns out AI adds quantifiable value when properly alloyed to a simple but fundamental aspect of the marketing process: the customer journey. The customer journey faces a timeless problem. Namely, the problem of personalisation. Generic consumer experiences burn audiences because every customer is, in fact, an individual. Their experience is unique, so the journey on offer should be too.
We tackled that particular nut by building a tool called Convincely, which uses AI to guide the customer journey by personalizing their experience to maximize conversions in a marketing funnel. Personalization is one area where hype and reality meet. In fact, personalizing online and offline experiences is the low-hanging fruit of AI, and one of the easy pathways to connect online data with the offline world.
Here’s another reason we built Convincely. To use AI effectively, you need to use good-quality data. And most companies don’t. We often find AI is not being used effectively because the simplest step—getting your data right—is not taken. People go get these Harley-Davidson and Rolls-Royce technologies, but then fill them up with a low quality diesel; it won’t work.
So how do you fill up with high-grade data?
Grocery shopping in Sweden
Some time ago I lived in Sweden. Many say it’s a forward thinking place. And my supermarket was no exception. It had this self-scanner system, similar to Amazon Go. All it required was a barcode scanner and my loyalty card. When you arrived at the shop you would walk over, swipe your loyalty card and grab a hand-held barcode scanner.
It basically allowed you to skip the checkout altogether. Scanner in hand, the supermarket would send me personalized offers as I shopped, based on my purchases. It meant I walked in the store primed to buy items, and never forgot about something I needed.
The fact was, they not only created a better user experience for me, but provided genuine value, too. In marketing speak, it was a basic form of segmentation and personalization based on my profile, which today could be improved by using a smartphone as a store scanner and a mobile wallet.
So what can we learn? That all paths to success lead back to the user experience and a consumer-centric view. A brand might create an amazing product and get lucky, but if it creates a product that meets an existing need, it will succeed more often. That’s why statistics show nine out of ten startups fail—with the most common reason being that they simply do not build a product that fits a consumer need.
User experience is key to understanding what the consumer needs are, and why the customer goes on the journey to begin with. The only way you can form that customer-centric framework is with data; you can’t make it up. Design-led thinking and other user-experience approaches applied over the last 20 years have brought us to the point where we can now quantify the customer experience and create models around it that help us understand the “what.” Then, we can do qualitative interviews to understand the “why.”
With this approach, we’re seeing a significant return on investment, often a 3 to 1 improvement in the efficiency of campaigns. In one case, a telecom service provider saw a 215% increase over its baseline conversion rate just by meeting people’s needs—that is, simply by making a shift in their perspective and creating an experience which demonstrates in words and pictures what value they create for their customers instead of just joining in a price war.
Both agencies and marketers now realise that the only way to achieve the 10–fold growth needed to succeed in business today is by launching holistic campaigns that begin with customer needs, and tie these into designs and marketing channels that connect everything end to end. At Ebex, our goal is to take these insights, tailor the approach to our clients’ audience, and generate returns that far exceed other methodologies using conversion rate optimisation.
So how can marketers practically move towards a holistic approach?
An emerging trend is toward establishing partnerships with platforms and other agencies. For example, we at Ebex partnered with Domo to give companies the power to visualize their data in a simple and frictionless way. Platforms like Domo see that agencies can expose them to a lot of clients who are already pre-filtered for their interest in data. It is a win-win-win scenario for the platform, agency and client.
To synthesize, here’s where we are. Isolated marketing strategies cannot keep up with current growth demands. We’re realizing we have to get everything right. We can’t take a holistic approach in just one area of the customer’s journey. We have to be awesome at the data, awesome at the user experience, awesome at website creation and awesome offline, as well.
What’s more, the data shows that if customer touch points don’t integrate gamification principles, you’re burning potential conversions. Why? The attention economy rewards immediate comprehension of choices. The choices must enable the attainment of personalized consumer goals. A user who moves toward their goal should receive positive feedback, and continue to uncover information that reinforces their goal in an increasingly tailored way. It’s literally about the customer journey, the whole way through. Everything must be connected. And that’s something AI can help with.