experienceProcter & Gamble (P&G) announced their goal of having “50% externally initiated product / process innovations” as early as 2006 and declared at the same time war on the “not invented here” syndrome. P&G is aware of the fact that in an experience economy, which permanently gives customers the opportunity to evaluate products and services in detail, the speed of innovation will inevitably increase.

Today, marketing is no longer solely responsible for the perception of the brand: if every customer transaction pays into an imaginary trust and experience account of the brand, all areas of the company with customer interaction (such as sales, service, consulting, support, accounting, etc.) must take responsibility for the brand. The coordination of the different interaction channels, in the sense of an orchestrated customer relationship, opens new scopes of action for marketing.

The key to better coordinated processes lies as usual in overcoming departmental boundaries, for example through integrated front-end systems that access a common database. So far, the integration focus has been mainly on the connection between marketing (demand generation) and sales (qualification). In an experience economy, integration with service and customer support is crucial for a holistic picture of the customer relationship: e.g. it would be important for marketing to know which customers have just opened a critical support ticket to exclude them from a specific marketing campaign.

Data-based marketing should first and foremost have an eye on the customer, the buying center, and the different personas: in which phase of the purchase decision is the customer, what information does he need now in order to progress in the process, is it about (process) technical or commercial information, via which channel he can best be reached and when. Anyone who has ever tried to draw an “average” customer journey for a B2B customer on a flip chart knows that there are almost no limits to the complexity. Nevertheless, it is important to take the first step and take a serious interest in the role and motivation of the customer.

The battle for customers is over – the customer won

The cards in the market have clearly been reshuffled. Today, we all leave traces in our search for the best products or solutions which can, of course, be recorded and evaluated by intelligent solutions to ascertain the buyer journey and to identify recurring patterns. The market watchers Chiefmartec, for instance, list several thousand individual products in their annual overview to help us keep track of what happens in the MarTech market that has become extremely confusing with thousands of individual products. There is a great risk in solving a single problem, for example building a web shop, with a product developed precisely for this purpose. However, when the next problem occurs, the next specialized product is needed. So, obviously, this "best-of-breed" approach often leads to quick results in the first step but carries the risk of soon having to integrate a patchwork of individual solutions with one another.

Why? Well, the customer / consumer / business partner always perceives the company in its entirety. If the individual interfaces are not coordinated with one another, we inevitably go through a less than optimal customer experience: for instance, would you be happy if you are offered exactly the same product from your supplier, at significantly more favorable conditions, shortly after you have  purchased it? Just because the systems have not recognized that your purchase, the conversion, has already taken place? Exactly!

That’s why integration of processes and data, as well as overcoming departmental boundaries, is the great promise of various suite providers. Integration out of the box, of course with open interfaces, more and more a touch of open source, and of course with a partner ecosystem that offers a variety of extensions on the standard platform.

And yes, even if you leave out the marketing loops and are aware of the higher complexity of the projects, the advantage of the holistic view of the customer, based on a central database, remains: customers always perceive a company as a whole and they do not have to be interested in the details, limitations, or challenges of individual departments – and that’s exactly why this “holistic approach” is so crucial for a positive design of the customer experience.

Data-based marketing requires data – the more the better

Because every “intelligent” data analysis lives from recognizing recurring patterns within a database, it is clear that the larger the database, the more meaningful the results and the easier it is to read a customer's “digital body language”. For data protection reasons, it is of course never about the individual, but always about the segment, whereby the possibility of recognizing the individual consumer and reaching them individually is (at least technically) already an option.

The first step was “only” about getting the right message to a person / persona at the right time via the right channel - which is still easier said than done. In the second step, we are now experiencing the possibilities of personalization not only on the communication level, but also on the product and service level - and it is no longer just about building special systems or manufacturing variants. Mass customization has reached the mass market with a constantly growing variety of products - from individual postage stamps to individual glasses in 3D printing to the inevitable sports shoe.

Identifying interested parties at an early stage, addressing them individually, providing competent support during the purchase and afterwards, and perfectly matching the production and logistics process to the demand, is what counts.

In other words, when data is really the new oil, it is time to find the right oil well, right? We must distinguish between two essential phases along the buyer journey: (a) The anonymous visitor (before conversion); (b) the known (identified) visitor. The aim in both cases is to collect relevant information about the visitor, evaluate this information, and display optimized content for the visitor in real-time.  Examples of available information are geolocation, time, device, and access source (direct, referral, organic, paid). This little information already allows an effective optimization of the website. If the data is collected and linked to the click behavior of all the visitors, meaningful prognoses can be made about the next possible action. Appropriate analysis and optimization solutions can independently create visitor segments, provide information about deviations from the (previously defined) norm and, in combination with content management and asset management systems, offer significant added value for the company.

By Daniela La Marca