Opticon 2023 Reveals Marketing’s Future


The Gist

  • Opticon 2023 illuminates personalization’s potential. Learn how personalization can revolutionize customer experiences.
  • Leadership’s role in digital transformation. Effective leadership is key to marketing’s evolution.
  • AI’s content revolution. AI in marketing and customer experience is reshaping content creation, driving efficiency and personalization.

Several years ago, Jeanne Ross of MIT CISR told a story about the role of data in customer experience. She said that she was not particularly good at picking out outfits for events. Given this, she would usually have her daughters come shopping with her. One time, a personal shopper at Nordstrom offered to help her the next time she needed a new outfit.

At the very same time, Nordstrom was a patron of MIT CISR. Jeanne knew Nordstrom was working to provide better digital customer experience — and in this process better compete against Amazon and other digital natives. To do this, Nordstrom tied a predictive model to past purchase data and real time supply chain data. The goal was to market goods that were in stock that would be of interest to customers.

The next time Jeanne went shopping she made an appointment with the personal shopper. During this experience, she noticed that 50% of the outfits she loved and the other 50% she hated. Knowing this was an unusual percentage, she asked the personal shopper. Fortunately, for this story, they were honest with her. The personal shopper showed her that the computer picked out the outfits that she loved, and the personal shopper picked out the outfits she hated.

Soon after, Jeanne noticed this experience was omnichannel. The outfits pushed on the web were personalized to her.

Given this backdrop, I was fascinated last week to learn about the state of the art for personalization when I had the opportunity to attend Optimizely’s Opticon conference.

Here’s are some takeaways from Opticon 2023.

What Is Great Customer Experience?

Before delving into my takeaways, let’s establish a shared definition of a great customer experience. Tiffani Bova in the “The Experience Mindset,” says “Great CX is not defined by what organizations offer, but how customers feel when they engage with an organization’s products and service, employees, and brands.”

How can brands alter customer perceptions? Undoubtedly, smart personalization is pivotal. Undoubtedly, content remains central in enticing prospects to make initial purchases and encouraging repeat buying from existing customers. After all marketing is about, as Theodore Levitt suggested in “Marketing Imagination,” “getting and keeping customers.” To deliver both, today’s organizations need content that is relevant.

Related Article: Optimizely Announces Tidal Shift for Marketing Leaders

Delivering the Content Customers Want

Alyssa Schwabe, VP of digital marketing for Johnson Financial Group, shared her firm’s journey to relevancy and digital experience. Like many organizations, Johnson Financial Group’s starting point was a website that was static and as she described just “brochureware.”

Her team aimed to revamp their approach to align with their marketing objectives. Their primary goal was personalization, beginning with the capacity to recommend products, including the next best purchase. However, this necessitated content tailored to individual customer situations. Fundamentally, this entailed building what data experts refer to as master data or a comprehensive customer profile, alongside the capability to translate this data into actionable insights. Additionally, it emphasized the importance of offering relevant content to customers before transitioning them to an adviser, rather than hastily pushing for a sale.

To succeed, Johnson Financial established a unified customer data repository to power marketing applications, enabling tailored content recommendations and refined product offers based on customer life stages. They’ve also developed life stage demographics and conducted content experiments for each persona. While this approach is highly effective, a larger company I discussed it with revealed that such improvements would necessitate CEO involvement. This is despite Salesforce Research demonstrating that CX leaders yield three times higher returns for shareholders than CX laggards.

Related Article: AI in Ecommerce: True One-on-One Personalization Is Coming

Marketing Icon Talks About the Importance of Engaging Young Innovators

Angela Ahrendts suggests that smart CMOs and business leaders learn how to get their young innovators heard. At Burberry she created an innovation council that surfaced fresh ideas on transforming experience and the life stage of prospects. More importantly, she made sure that innovators were heard and got the support to turn their ideas into reality. This allowed her to expand the demographics of a Burberry customer and of course, sales.

Looking at the future, Ahrendts says the creators of ChatGPT were smart to go direct to consumer first. This grew the market faster than if they went after businesses first. Today’s marketers need to reach the TikTok kids to win. This is why consumer products companies and retailers need to continually bring in new blood.

When it comes to building successful businesses, Ahrendts says she “remains a brand purist.” Brands, in her perspective, generate enduring value for organizations. In this context, the marketer’s role is to maintain the brand’s relevance, beginning with defining the organization’s narrative, value proposition, and mission. It’s also crucial to understand how the organization positively affects people’s lives. While AI can ensure consistent messaging, the art of crafting the message remains a valuable skill. Ahrendts emphasized the critical role of trust in a brand, and she maintains an optimistic view of AI, believing it will enhance job roles and facilitate positive business impact. 

A child wearing shorts and a T-shirt jumps off a sand dune into her mother's waiting arms in piece about Opticon 2023 and building customer retention and brand trust.
Opticon 2023: Trust in a brand is critical.Steve on Adobe Stock Photos

Related Article: AI in Marketing: More Personalization in the Next Decade


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