Opticon 2023 Reveals Marketing’s Future
- 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.
Related Article: AI in Marketing: More Personalization in the Next Decade
Marketing People Need to Know They Do Not Know Their Customers
Michael Vanderhoof, director of digital experience at Charles Schwab, suggested that it is critical that marketers understand their client’s changing needs. He stressed that innovation hinges on reliable data and the establishment of learning organizations. For many, embracing experimentation throughout the entire product life cycle can be truly transformative.
Schwab conducts tests across all phases, actively identifying and sizing client issues. This involves leveraging real-time customer behavioral data to discern what truly delivers value to customers. Schwab’s approach involves testing multiple experiences concurrently, enabling them to maximize the value they provide to customers. Much like Linda Yates in “The Unicorn Within,” they embrace a continuous cycle of problem identification, testing, learning, and iteration. This approach empowers Schwab to continually enhance its digital products with a wealth of digital data.
Vanderhoof emphasized another crucial point. He said, “We are not our customers. As much as we may want to, we do not know what they want. We must ask how they feel and how they are going to act.” Moreover, he pointed out that customers may occasionally misrepresent themselves. To win, “organizations need to have the right data to answer the right questions.”
Related Article: Decoding AI-Driven Personalization: Setting Realistic DXP Expectations
AI in Marketing: Personalization Drives Business Success
Darren Chait, head of growth marketing at Calendly, said Calendly has an incredibly diverse set of customers. And for this reason, it needs to be able to personalize between a Fortune 500 prospect and their needs and a dog walker and their needs. This necessitates the adoption of a personalization approach and a culture of experimentation. Calendly applies experimentation across product development, marketing, and customer experience. The company has even established guidelines for when to initiate experiments and what results and outcomes to anticipate. At any given moment, they are concurrently conducting 18-20 experiments.
In managing its diverse audience, Calendly segments by role, department and function and infer intent. The company also utilizes the way a prospect came to them as a source of information. Thanks to these strategies, Calendly boasts an impressive 11.2% higher lead-to-conversion rate. has an 11.2% higher lead to conversion rate.
Related Article: Implementing AI in Omnichannel Strategies for Seamless Customer Experiences
Creating More Intelligent AI Personalization
So how can brands change how their customers feel about them? One element is intelligent personalization. To deliver on this, organizations need relevant content. According to Alex Atzberger, CEO of Optimizely, “content should no longer be created in isolation. It should be part of a campaign, and its relevance should be determined through experimentation.”
The objective for organizations is to accelerate the transition from ideation to experimentation to conversion. As per one market analyst’s recommendation, the opportunity lies in delivering increasingly pertinent content. Atzberger envisions AI as a transformative force in content creation and personalization, akin to the impact of the printing press. However, he cautions against overestimating its short-term effects while underestimating its long-term implications. With this perspective, Atzberger believes we are at an inflection point with AI, poised to reshape marketing practices and enhance digital customer experiences.
Finally, Atzberger advocates for the restructuring of marketing around a lifecycle model that evolves continuously. This model should enable organizations to seamlessly transition from content creation to commerce, experimentation, and ultimately, delivery. This shift is significant because historically, marketing has comprised disconnected, discrete activities. Alexandra London, the head of digital at Zoom, shares Atzberger’s perspective on the crucial importance of conceiving marketing as a lifecycle.
Making Marketing More Agile
Shafqat Islam, Optimizely’s CMO, delivered an intriguing talk, given his background as a former development leader and startup CEO who transitioned to the role of CMO. He openly acknowledged that he was tasked with transforming marketing. To succeed in this endeavor, he emphasized that every action he took began with a focus on the corporate and marketing mission and beliefs. This involved defining the organization’s objectives and reaching a consensus on its fundamental beliefs. This consensus extended to the recognition that content forms the foundation of the digital experience, and the digital experience is the most important product.
However, Islam emphasized that all of these efforts are futile without effective leadership. He firmly believes that leadership transcends mere values; it entails forging a cohesive marketing team that works together and avoids siloed approaches. He contends that contemporary marketing leaders must grapple with legacy hierarchies and silos. In response, he has drawn inspiration from a central concept in digital transformation and business agility, incorporating Stanley McCrystal’s framework of integrated “team of teams” thinking into the marketing organization. This serves as the foundation for an agile approach. Remarkably, Islam has even implemented stand-up meetings within the realm of marketing.
Islam contends that it’s imperative to be transparent and share the truth with people to facilitate better decision-making. He advocates for a shift in marketing toward a collaborative, non-siloed approach, which necessitates the development of integrated marketing processes. According to Islam, the foundation of effective marketing lies in the brand, emphasizing key milestones, and crafting integrated campaigns. In today’s landscape, marketing requires a unified narrative, and personalization should evolve from macro data-driven approaches to micro data-driven strategies, with micro data enabling one-to-one personalization.
In a one-on-one conversation later, Islam shared insights into his journey transitioning into marketing with a solid understanding of CMO responsibilities. His mission at Optimizely involved transforming the marketing organization into a more agile and resourceful entity through the creation of tiger teams. Although it presented challenges, he expressed satisfaction with the tangible progress they’ve made. Islam noted that the transition within the marketing team itself has been relatively smooth, as “people like marketing to themselves.” However, he candidly acknowledged that, like many software companies, the primary challenge lies in the transition on the sales side. Their product caters more to marketing organizations than to technology ones. With his experience and vision, it’s evident that Islam is well-suited for significant roles in the marketing sphere, should he choose to pursue them.
Parting Words on AI in Marketing & the Evolution Taking Place
We are currently witnessing an evolution in the landscape of marketing. As the authors of “Future Ready” assert, “Aiding customers to meet their needs, providing a great customer experience, and acting consistently and with purpose helps create this value.”
Undoubtedly, in the present day, as product lifecycles become shorter, the customer experience is just as vital as the physical product. Today’s marketers must be fully prepared to prioritize and excel in delivering exceptional experiences to deliver it.
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