In December the Soho Hotel played host to our second Christmas edition of Marketing Reimagined. Joining forces with our friends at Adobe, we invited an intimate gathering of clients, WPP peers and industry chums to an afternoon of presentations and debate.
Our clients took to the stage to share their journeys and during the afternoon we heard from HSBC, Unilever and Coutts, alongside Wunderman’s Executive Creative Director, Ian Haworth, Adobe’s Vijayanta Gupta and our very own Cleve Gibbon. Whilst the presentations varied and led to much debate, there were, as ever, many recurring themes. Empathy seemed to be one of the buzzwords of the day and there was certainly plenty of that in the room as we shared a glass or two of champagne with our guests at the end of the day. So, to sum up the main talking points…..
People are the new tech
People, talent and skills were touched upon throughout the afternoon. There seems to be general consensus that whilst the tech revolution continues at full speed, there is a significant gap opening up when it comes to the talent and skills that are required to fully embrace it.
New roles are being created on a daily basis. Data scientists are now critical to the marketing mix; experience or journey managers are vital in connecting traditional enterprise silos and, in the age of disruption, companies are looking for out-of-sector talent - innovators and thinkers - to shake up traditional ways of working and unchallenged working practices.
Integration and the digital ecosystem
The current proliferation of marketing technology ($20bn dollar industry, over 2,000 vendors) is outpacing the ability of most businesses to adopt it. Innovation is moving at a far greater rate than it is within enterprise technology and an innovation gap is emerging because the challenge of taking the new marketing technologies and absorbing them into the business is huge.
Key to success is to focus on the experience rather than the technology as the leaders in experience have clearly done. Airbnb, Uber, Farfetch and Apple are all exemplars when it comes to getting the experience v. technology balance right. Success relies on getting your story to market quickly, easily and at scale.
So the focus should not be on digital marketing but on marketing in a digital world. The key is to close the innovation gap by tackling both platform provision and enterprise adoption. Use the platform to define the customer experience. Put data and insights at the heart of it, work agile, build MVPs and use the resulting insights to constantly iterate. In short, put innovation at the front of the platform, don’t let the platform be dictated to by the experience.
Driving adoption is the game changer in experience management. It’s do or die when it comes to evolving into an agile, experience business. Technology is only a part of an holistic digital ecosystem that also needs to comprise content, channels, data, process, architecture and people. Aligning all of these elements is critical to adoption which is so often sidelined as ‘training’ at the end of the digital journey. Adoption must be central to the transformation conversation, not an afterthought.
New rules of engagement
Adobe’s Vijayanta Gupta introduced key findings from their latest report, The Future of Experience. It focuses on five key areas that brands need to consider:
Empathy – never forget that the customer is at the heart of the process. As Wunderman’s Ian Haworth also reminded us, ‘it’s not what we say, it’s about how we make people feel’. In a world of data, humanity is central. Brands must empathise and hit an emotional note.
Serendipity – although we call it personalisation, the truth is that consumers often don’t want an experience to be too personal. They do however, want to find what they are looking for on the right channel at the right time.
Privacy – we live in a world where push notifications abound. But striking the right balance is critical. There is a time and a place for everything - don’t overstep the mark.
Reciprocity – it’s all about give and take. Consumers (particularly millennials) are wary about handing over data and will expect a clear value exchange in any interaction.
Adaptability – it’s hard to be seamless in a siloed society. We’re so often encouraged to break down silos but is that always the right advice? It’s a huge ask in a traditional organisation, so is there another way round it….
The new wave of disruptors start with a blank canvas, they build their organisations from the ground up, around the customer experience. Traditional organisations have thrived for years with a siloed structure, resistance to change is great and, actually, silos work! That’s why they exist.
Rather than battling to break down silos, work to connect them. Forward thinking organisations are establishing Digital Centres of Excellence that link experiences across multiple channels and the silos that exist within organisations to create them. Others, equally on the front foot, are hiring Experience or Journey Managers to do the same. However the dots are joined, they do need to be joined.
Next year’s game changers
Finally, an end of year event should always leave a prediction or two as food for thought. Vijayanta Gupta cites two tectonic shifts that he thinks will be the game changers of the near future. We’ve been talking about the Internet of Things (or of Everything) for some years but according to Gartner, by 2020 over 20.8 billion connected devices will exist in our world. On top of that, Artificial Intelligence which was first written about in a white paper in 1956, has finally come of age. Stamford University has proven that the error rate of machines is now as low as that of humans and Google has shown us that AI can practise and learn with its astonishing success with AlphaGo.
If managing customer experiences is exciting now - it’s about to get a whole lot better!