How machine learning is helping brands create insight-led customer experiences

Meaningful interactions that drive customer engagement are only possible when marketing is driven by real-time insights.

The growth in digital business models has created a compelling need for a consistent approach to personalised communications, and better customer experiences can only be created through a data-based strategy.

In this interview, Steve Warren, CEO at Mapp Digital, explains how brands can gain real-time insights to build intelligent customer journeys with the right technology.

How important is an investment in marketing technology and digital transformation?

Steve Warren (SW): There are a lot of marketing clouds out there that overpromise and underdeliver. Whether it is complex connections to disparate platforms, expensive support, or even the inability to leverage the full capabilities of a massive solution, companies must look to integrate their marketing technology and investment to ensure true digital transformation. Managing customer data, marketing intelligence, data activation, personalisation and automation from one single source, at a competitive price, is critical for all companies.

In my conversations with companies around the world, it has become clear that the requirements for successful and efficient marketing have increased significantly over the past year. And brands are asking for bundled marketing platforms that have a real impact. It is more important than ever to implement a data-based strategy for better customer experiences. Successful brands engage with their customers in a regular and targeted manner, guided by reliable insights. Only in this way can brands increase their ROI across all channels.

How do brands benefit from the integration of their cross-channel marketing activities with marketing intelligence?

SW: It is all about transforming data into actionable insights and turning those insights into action. The real value of marketing intelligence lies in its ability to deliver insights. Companies can have endless amounts of data, but they need to be able to digest and organise it in a way that allows them to execute on actionable marketing activities.

Lack of insights always equates to lack of customer engagement. Brands must understand their customers and empower them to create meaningful interactions. This is only possible if marketing execution is driven by real-time insights based on full-fledged marketing intelligence.

How are innovative brands using their martech stack to create and fuel outstanding brand and customer experiences?

SW: Recently, we commissioned a study conducted by Forrester Consulting, which was a real eye-opener for me. For exceptional brand journeys and customer experiences it is essential to leverage a strong first-party dataset, to ensure that brands have a holistic view of their customers. Companies that have implemented artificial intelligence or machine learning tools report an improved ability to update their strategy, have a greater understanding of customer intent and benefit from better customer insights.

Surprisingly, we’re hearing less about staff and talent improvement. Only a quarter of the surveyed brands attribute their success in recent years to continuing training and education. This proves that while hiring and developing qualified staff is important, using the right technology tools for insight-driven marketing offers the greatest potential for future growth.

What is your ‘insight-led customer experience’ approach, and how does this help achieve brands’ objectives today?

SW: ‘Insight-led customer experiences’ underscores the importance of marketing intelligence and insights in the cross-channel marketing game. This approach places insights at the core of the technology, using data to generate insights that help create better customer experiences (ie data, insights, engagement). In a way, it is reversing the order of where and how customer intelligence is used within traditional marketing clouds, where analytics are put at the end of the process to measure results (ie data, execution, analytics).

Brands are looking for marketing technology that uses reliable insights as a means to improve engagement and customer experiences by enabling true one-to-one personalisation.

Can you highlight any brands using this approach and the results they have seen?

SW: Globally more than 3,000 companies rely on Mapp, including renowned brands like Argos, Ella’s Kitchen, Francesca’s, Freesat, Homebase, PepsiCo, Vivienne Westwood and The Entertainer. Our customers are primarily mid-market and large enterprises from retail, ecommerce, and direct-to-consumer sectors.

For example, The Entertainer wanted to modernise its customer marketing and realign its online strategy with a scalable marketing platform. The company achieved a triple-digit percentage increase in revenue from its email channel alone, 430,000-plus unique customers were converted in three months and 300 million-plus dynamic personalisation impressions were served across email and web in four months.

What do brands miss out on if they don’t take an insight-led approach like this?

SW: The commissioned study I mentioned before, conducted by Forrester Consulting, was very clear in this regard. Brands need marketing analytics to develop an effective customer experience strategy. Our research shows, that 88% of marketing decision-makers agree that it is important to understand changing consumer needs to improve the customer experience, however, many brands are not acting on this knowledge. Only a little over half of companies are planning to implement a marketing intelligence solution this year.

We also learned, however, that investment in insight-led marketing stacks is well underway as companies seek to improve their customer understanding. The brands surveyed consider marketing intelligence, customer data management and automation as top investments made in the past two years.

How important is centralised data management to improve brand performance?

SW: Improved performance hinges on the ability to truly know customers. It’s time to break away from decisions based on gut feeling and traditional campaign thinking. Brands have a responsibility to understand who their customers are and instill an internal culture that leverages insights. That’s the only way to meet consumers’ expectations and deliver real value.

Therefore, unified customer profiles are indispensable. They provide brands with a 360-degree view of each individual customer by centralising personal attributes, transactions and engagement in one single place. This empowers brands to make informed decisions based on real-time customer knowledge from all available data sources.

What are the marketing opportunities in a post-lockdown world?

SW: We’ve seen a massive acceleration of online business models in marketing over the past year. The need for consistent online exchanges with customers through a targeted strategy has made investment in customer data, marketing intelligence, data activation, personalisation and automation indispensable.

I also see an overriding focus on marketing efficiency due to incredibly tight budgets. The best way to service this need for efficiency is with insights that can be seamlessly used for marketing activities. Brands will benefit from a holistic understanding of the customer across all channels and can optimise and further develop their own marketing strategy. At the same time, insights help to avoid ineffective targeting and ensure good use of their budget.

How does artificial intelligence help marketing to achieve growth and become more successful?

SW: I see two major areas for practical applications of AI in marketing. The first application is about data itself, because marketers are facing the challenge that there is just too much of it. AI can help to monitor all incoming data and extract value from it. For example, AI-powered tools can notify marketers about anomalies in the data. Are conversion rates on mobile dropping significantly? You’ll know right away and be able correct the situation. Is a specific campaign bringing in new customers with an order value that is above average? Then it’s time to put more money behind it.

The second area of application is about improving the customer experience with insights that have already been extracted from the data. Brands can use this to predict future customer behavior and answer questions like: Are my contacts reading their emails in the morning or in the evening? Should I promote general top-selling products, or should I personalise information based on previous interactions? These are just a few examples of how AI helps marketers become better at their job.

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