AdExchanger: What’s the top thing on your agenda for this year?
MICHAEL MCLAREN: Building a consistent and insightful approach to mapping the customer journey for every one of our clients in every market: Singapore, the US, Europe.
We have a strong dedication to building out a view of that customer that’s very intimate from a data set perspective. What are their behaviors, the actual things we can pick up from first- and third-party data?
From an attitudinal perspective, what are their emotions and motivations and desires? Then we build a customer journey map: the awareness, the activation, the usage, the conversation, the advocacy. Mapping that journey, which is unique for every category and every brand, lets you define what moments really matter.
What technologies do you use to enable that?
If you’re thinking social, we use Crimson Hexagon, Adobe Social, Sprinklr. We do a lot of work in the B2B space. Some of our clients, when they’re generating leads and moving to an engagement phase, use technology like Eloqua and Unica.
Do you find it’s different working with Eloqua now that they’re part of Oracle’s massive cloud?
Yeah, that’s true. We recently acquired an ecommerce company [Optaros], because the transaction phase is increasingly becoming part of the brand experience. And, in many cases, not a very satisfying one. There’s a lot of work to be done in the commerce space. There’s a slew of technologies enabling commerce transactions, like hybris, DemandWare, Magento and Elastic Path. For us to deploy a commerce solution, we need to be familiar and facile with all of those platforms.
What can you provide if you plug into your own ecommerce platform that you couldn’t if you were using a third party?
To be clear, Optaros uses the platforms out in the marketplace. They use Magento and Demandware and stitch it into the operating environment. Unless [clients are] a big bank doing their own proprietary code, most organizations are deploying existing platforms.
[Optaros] draws down from the invoice system, inventory control and credit control system.
And then you have to stitch it into things like Adobe [Marketing Cloud]. Integrating with other software platforms is an important part of their job.
How easy is it to integrate these different platforms? Adobe has a big integration with SAP’s ecommerce platform, hybris, and sometimes it sounds like you can just plug in and go.
It’s never like that. Ever. That doesn’t mean it’s agony, but there’s a lot of work that’s required on these deployments, especially if you want to create a bespoke brand experience. It has to move seamlessly from the site, the content needs to flow through the commerce transaction, which means it needs to draw from a CMS and thread it into the credit system.
But Adobe is a good software platform. The technical guys know how to do it. But there are always challenges in deploying it.
Seems like there’s a lot of focus on integrated ecommerce capabilities these days. Why now?
Because the customer is in control of the experiences they want from brands and have high expectations. Commerce is one of those areas. What are your buying habits now versus five years ago? You’re purchasing more online and through your mobile phone than you did five years ago, and this is now the way consumers expect to transact.
I’m guessing when you stitch ecommerce into the customer journey, you get some great data assets out of it.
Data is the glue that brings it all together. Adobe had a session about reimagining the organization around IT and marketing. They were talking about the amount of telemetry data you can get from products these days. And that information should be used to help refine a product so it better meets customer needs.
One of our clients is GM. They are well and truly ahead in terms of how they’ll manage that dataflow from the automobile – telemetry data – to understand how to enhance the customer experience and add more value-added services.
So in the future, when you drive into your dealership, it’ll automatically know who you are, what the car’s history is, when it’s due for the next service. And if you dropped it in, it can schedule you for service and tell you when it’ll be ready.
Realistically, where are we on this? It seems aspirational.
It’s real. I’m not saying that scenario I described is in every dealership, but the technology exists to deliver that right now. Companies that are going to win will deliver those experiences. I don’t think it’s five years out, I think it’s right now.
Putting the customer at the center of your organization and reorienting every touch point around those expectations – that’s easy to roll off your tongue and much harder to make happen. Every organization is pretty siloed: You’ve got marketing, manufacturing, R&D, distribution. They have historically functioned to develop a product, distribute it, put it out there, sell it, create more. It’s almost a manufacturing world. The customer world is quite different.
Having that constant insight into a customer is a tough transformation. General Motors has a chief customer experience officer, and her remit is across the whole organization. It doesn’t matter if it’s in R&D or in aftersales or manufacturing. She can influence operations across the board.
What role does paid media have in all of this?
That often gets left off the docket. We’re not a media buying and planning agency. We work with Universal McCann in most cases, but we’ll work with any media company clients want. There’s no one solution for any client.
We believe the earned piece is the most powerful. Are we driving brand advocacy that the brand deserves? We believe the owned piece, building assets and putting it out in the digital world, having that ecosystem working for you is a very important.
And where paid typically plays is a reach game. To bring people into your franchise, you have to go out and engage with them. So whether it’s paid search or paid advertising, it’s a very powerful tool to drive reach at the very high end of the lifetime journey.
Allison Schiff contributed.