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Ernan’s Insights on Marketing Best Practices

Monday, February 12, 2018

Stop the Condescending Second Guessing. Trust that Customers Know What They Want.

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on RetailTouchPoints.com
According to the IBM 2017 Customer Experience Index (CEI) Study, “Only 19% of brands offer more than a basic level of personalization of the online experience.” This doesn’t come close to meeting consumers’ demands for more personalized and human needs-based communications and experiences.

So how do marketers step up and deliver? For 2018 they need to trust that customers know what they want. Marketers must end the condescending view that customers don’t know what they want or don’t tell the truth.

In our ERDM VoC research, consumers told us time and time again that marketers still don’t get it! They still aren’t providing personalization that is meaningful or relevant:
  • “What we receive is not smart personalization.”
  • "They aren't personalizing the things that matter to me!"
  • "What they consider personalization is so old-fashioned."
  • "I want more than just simplistic buying history-based emails."
To provide “smart” personalization, marketers must engage customers to learn how they define their individual, personal, human needs. Then, meaningful communications and interactions must be created, which are not generic, inferential or transaction-based and are more helpful and tailored to selfprofiled preferences.

So, Step 1 in re-creating your marketing plan is to go beyond simplistic algorithms and buying histories and understand how, why and how often your customers want to be communicated with. This necessitates that you engage, ask, LISTEN, provide the ability to set preferences, and then respect these preference requests once submitted.

Step 2 is to end generic “spray and pray” marketing blasts and develop true, human-based omnichannel personalization driven by consumer preferences. This means trusting that customers know what they want.

Additionally, key consumer journey life stage points need to be identified, and corresponding engagement actions put in place.

Engagement strategies that offer help, advice and valueadded dialog are required at these key lifecycle points:
  • Acquisition
  • Onboarding
  • Anticipatory responses to decreasing engagement (visits, responses, purchases)
  • Immediate resolution of negative experiences
  • Surprise and delight and thank you marketing
  • Value added cross-selling and upselling
  • Repeat sales and renewals.

Takeaways:
  • Engage customers by providing easy avenues of communication at all touch points. Whether it’s an online preference center or opportunity for contact updates during checkout, chat or phone conversations, give consumers the power to drive their relationship with your company.
  • Create the means to fully understand the intricacies of an individualized shopping journey. Engage shoppers to customize their experience — based on a compelling value proposition.
  • Identify key consumer life stages and put in place specific actions to acknowledge or respond to situations in a seamless manner, which demonstrates a desire to earn long-term loyalty rather than to expect it.
And, trust that customers know what they want. End the condescending view that customers don’t know what they want or don’t tell the truth.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Amazon & Kohl's; Walmart & Google — Blurring the Lines Between Online and In-Store Shopping

Amazon & Kohl's; Walmart & Google — Blurring the Lines Between Online and In-Store Shopping Article by Ernan Roman Featured on CustomerThink.com

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CustomerThink.com
You know the saying, "two heads are better than one"? For many companies, this phrase is playing out in new marketing partnerships which allow for better consumer experiences than either company could provide on their own.
Amazon and Kohl's Bridging Clicks with Bricks

Recently Kohl's announced that it will begin accepting Amazon.com returns at certain U.S. locations, where they will pack and ship eligible items — back to an Amazon fulfillment center — for free.
"This is a great example of how Kohl's and Amazon are leveraging each other's strengths – the power of Kohl's store portfolio and omnichannel capabilities combined with the power of Amazon's reach and loyal customer base," said Richard Schepp, Kohl's chief administrative officer.
Additionally, specific Kohl's stores will feature an Amazon Smart Home Experience which will provide a hands-on, interactive experience for consumers to try out a variety of Amazon devices.
"Kohl's and Amazon share a customer obsession and we've joined together to leverage each other's strengths and deliver a great experience ... said future CEO, now chief merchandising and customer officer Michelle Gass.
"The whole retail industry is going through a massive transformation," said Gass. "Those who ultimately are going to survive and thrive through this period are going to think differently...In terms of us staying relevant and interesting, surprising, engaging, it's doing things like this, so that in the end we can take market share and win over (the) long term...[It's] a bit of a laboratory to understand how customers engage with this kind of experience inside of Kohl's."
Dave Zimmer, vice president, sales and marketing, Amazon Devices commented. "Teaming up with Kohl's provides an incredible opportunity to pair world-class customer and shopping experiences."
Wal-Mart & Google Joining Up to Offer Voice-Enabled Shopping
In September, Wal-Mart shoppers could start linking their Wal-Mart accounts to Google Express to rapidly order via voice on Google Home or by shopping on Google Express. And while other retailers do offer items on Google Express, Wal-Mart's partnership is the only one that allows consumers to link their user account with Google Express, enabling Google to use consumers' past Wal-Mart order history to learn shopping patterns and recommend suitable products.
The integration will allow consumers to use a voice-device to state that they want to order a specific product. The platform will note their past purchase and ask if they'd like to re-order the same product again. If so, the order is seamlessly placed. Wal-Mart will be the first with this capability.
"We're thrilled to partner with one of the most popular stores in America to help make your shopping faster and easier," said Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google's senior vice president of ads and commerce.
Wal-Mart's head of e-commerce, Marc Lore noted on the partnership, "It makes sense for us to team up with Google... We know this means being compared side-by-side with other retailers, and we think that's the way it should be...An open and transparent shopping universe is good for customers..."
TakeAways:
1. Consumers are blurring the lines between online and instore shopping with web-rooming and show-rooming.
Now retailers are following suit to provide the same. Marketers need to take heed of this trend to provide seamless Ecommerce and physical avenues to shoppers who may want to surf and shop in store or touch ‘n feel and order online.
2. Today's shopper is looking for advanced technology to simplify their busy lives.
Marketers need to begin utilizing the home-based cell, web and interactive devices that consumers now commonly own to provide enhanced shopping experiences with greater accessibility.

Monday, January 8, 2018

'Personalization Is The New Loyalty,' Says Neiman Marcus VP

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CMO.com
Jeff Rosenfeld is the vice president of customer insight and analytics for The Neiman Marcus Group, where he is responsible for leveraging analytics to drive revenue. His team focuses on personalization, web analytics, media-mix attribution, product and customer insight, and business intelligence.

While not at work, Rosenfeld serves as a board member for charity and academic institutions, is an instructor for the SMU CAPE Digital Analytics and Insights Certificate Program, and enjoys traveling with his family.

Rosenfeld recently participated in our “4 Questions for Marketing Innovators” series. As you’re about to read, his topic of choice was very timely.

1. What is one marketing topic that is most important to you as an innovator?
Personalization is a hot topic these days, but in a recent RIS News study on who does it best, “no one” was a top-ranking answer. This pains me to see as I know at Neiman Marcus we’ve done a lot of great work in this space and driven substantial incremental revenue as a result. That said, when we put ourselves in the customer’s shoes, most of what the entire industry is doing today doesn’t feel that personalized yet. On the bright side, this means there is substantial opportunity here to improve the customer experience.

2. Why is this so important?
Traditional loyalty programs have gotten a bit stale. Personalization is the new loyalty. Ironically, it was probably also the first form of loyalty between shop owners and their customers even thousands of years ago. As the world has gotten more digital, the personalization from a top sales associate has gotten harder to replicate.

Neiman Marcus is a 110-year-old brand with a legacy of great service and personalization. For most of that time, personalization has been primarily driven by our world-class sales associates. Our best sales associates do three things: They observe what customers say and do, they act on that information, and they remember those observations over time.

In the digital world, observing and remembering is easy. This is data collection. Acting on that data is the hard part. This is where the algorithms come in. The first step in acting on the data is having solid identity information. You can’t personalize if you don’t have a complete picture of how each customer interacts with your brand. Identity information generally comes in two flavors: people we probably know (probabilistic) and people we definitely know (deterministic).

Most of today’s personalization for the entire industry is in the probabilistic bucket. At Neiman Marcus this includes machine-learning-driven actions, like product recommendations, private personalized offers, and working with partners like Coherent Path to help determine which of millions of possible combinations of email content will be most appealing to each customer. While these are critical to improving the customer experience and driving revenue, the average customer doesn’t realize the extensive curation the algorithms do on their behalf. As a result, most people don’t “feel” the degree to which their experience is personalized.

This is where the deterministic bucket comes in. Only when we can confidently link specific behaviors to unique individuals can we execute personalization that customers clearly realize is truly just for them. Beyond the basics, like cart-reminder emails and display remarketing, Neiman Marcus is doing things like remembering customers’ filter preferences across sessions and our “quick links” predictive site navigation from email.

3. How will this improve the customer experience?
Personalization improves the experience by making the entire journey, from initial exploration through post purchase, much easier. We like to call it “friction reduction.”

Quick links is actually a good example of initial progress on this front. It was born from the insight that most customers open email on their phones, which make it difficult to navigate and quickly get deep in the site. My team built a machine-learning algorithm to recommend three unique links for each customer to help them quickly navigate to where they are most likely to visit but also be so clearly personalized that customers would have no doubt it was custom for them. This is only the beginning, and I truly believe that the largest benefits to both us and the customer will come from further expanding this “explicit” personalization track.

4. How will this improve the effectiveness of marketing?
Marketing effectiveness is essentially a ROI calculation. It can be improved by increasing revenue relative to the associated costs. Great personalization helps drives a virtuous cycle of loyalty in which the customer is engaged, provides data that improves the personalization further, which increases customer engagement, and so on. As loyalty improves, revenue goes up. Generally speaking, marketing to loyal customers is more profitable than spending elsewhere.

Bonus: What is your favorite activity outside of work?

Several years ago, my dad and I took a week-long marble-carving course in the Colorado Mountains. I really loved it and ever since have been taking the occasional weekend to carve marble and alabaster abstract sculptures in my backyard. It’s a bit loud, but fortunately none of the neighbors have complained yet.