As Cloud and mobile technologies are highly disrupting the consuming habits and the market, marketers need to take this new paradigm into account. This comes with a huge number of new tools marketers need to compare, select and adopt to keep up doing their job right and cope with those new challenges.
In addition to the tedious tasks of making the due diligence work to select the right tools and the effort needed to adopt those tools, marketers face another nightmare: “how do I integrate those tools together?”
In a recent article published on MartechAdvisor.com, Mark Geene, Founder & CEO at Cloud Elements states that, “as businesses become more digital, they must address the critical challenge of making sense of the magnitude of customer data flowing in and out of marketing automation apps. This can be made all the more difficult with the wrong approach”.
While marketing team prefer leveraging SaaS applications, pay for and run them by themselves without IT interfering in their operational needs and contributing this way to the development of shadow IT, this integration issue becomes a big challenge: “how the hell can I integrate my different marketing tools to leverage my investments and be more efficient ? Do I need to spend my time exporting and importing files manually from one tool to the other? And how do I leverage information from my existing CRM or marketing automation systems?”
Asking IT after deciding choosing a solution in their back would be an awkward situation for sure; but assuming they might be willing to do the job, how long do you think this is going to take them to make the integration right ? They will need to build multiple API-based connectors that require by definition a lot of monitoring and maintenance effort to make sure they keep working over time – yes, Cloud apps evolve all the time and their APIs too …
That’s why, when it comes to connectors, a “buy” approach is much more efficient than a “build” approach. Better rely on vendors specialized in Cloud app integration, commonly called iPaaS vendors, such as Cloud Elements. There are also vendors like Axway who are offering more limited iPaaS capabilities on top of a leading API Management solution and this might sometimes be enough to do the job right with no need for multiple investments in integration technologies. If you want to learn more about it, check out what is iPaaS …
In today’s fast changing environment, how to reach your customers efficiently and create a delightful experience to engage with them, retain them and create new business ?
Omnichannel vs multichannel
Before going further, I think it’s important to understand the difference between “multichannel” and “omnichannel”. Those two terms sound similar but there is actually a subtle difference in the digital practitioners’ world.
The difference comes down to your company’s approach to digital channels. Let’s say you want to address the common channels – physical, phone, web, mobile – and focus on maximizing performance of every channel individually. This is a multichannel approach. You will set up different specialized teams with the right tools, technology and expertise for their specific channel. Every team has their own reporting and revenue goals. Unfortunately, following obstacles can play against the company’s interest:
slower time to market
consuming resources of expensive personal – legal, compliance, regulatory and executive staff
error prone approach to deliver a consistent message across channels
not a continuous common user experience across platforms
This reminds me of the e-commerce industry between 2005 and 2014: most retailers had a separate e-commerce team that had no internal interaction with the stores. Actually, the e-commerce web site was considered as a “virtual store” and its revenue was directly compared to those of physical stores. With this type of organization, there was no chance for the “Web to Store” and “Store to Web” marketing strategies to take off and that’s why most retailers have changed their organization since then to adopt an omnichannel strategy.
An omnichannel approach puts the customer at the center of its strategy and get rids of corporate silos. A digital customer is today using multiple channels simultaneously and expects to live a consistent experience:
comparing prices on the Internet while being in the store
getting additional product information while buying in a store
getting information on the Internet and receiving a voucher to be used at the local store
leaving store and receiving attractive offers by SMS on its mobile to go back to the shop
We will see that this represents a strong shift in the corporate culture …
Putting the customer at the center of your strategy
The concept seems basic but requires important transformations at multiple levels in your company:
an organizational transformation: change the org chart to create customer-focused teams gathering experts from different functional teams and getting rid of the organizational silos slowing down every decision and killing innovation.
a management transformation: turn the metrics into customer-oriented metrics and not just revenues per product line or per channel; set new objectives that are aligned with the customer engagement level.
an IT transformation: turn all legacy applications and technological siloes into digital-enabled systems communicating with the new ecosystem through APIs.
Those transformations and their related challenges need to be addressed urgently by many industries to keep the customer relationship and not be desintermediated by new nimble players.
Enabling your applications for omnichannel
If you work in a large company that is not a GAFA, your applications are extremely heterogeneous because they have been acquired and deployed over several decades. Mainframes and in-house solutions are still there and not about to disappear from the IT landscape. Why ? Because they process critical information and do the job well. Replacing them would be an extremely high investment that could not be justified.
In order to help companies embrace the digital economy and be able to have an omnichannel strategy, middleware vendors, such as Axway, have developed interesting solutions to enable bi-modal IT. This consists in enabling APIs on top of existing applications in order to communicate with mobile, Internet of Things, social media and multiple partners who are also adopting this approach. Why are APIs so important ? This is because they are the lynchpin for digital business, they are the de-facto standard for modern communication.
By having a unified API Management layer at the edge of the IT architecture, companies can leverage their data and services and expose them in all digital channels. The experience on every channel is optimized by implementing dedicated policies making sure the delivered content/data is optimal for the device.
Enabling your marketing teams for omnichannel
Beyond enabling application integration for omnichannel, it’s also important to enable the marketing teams with omnichannel marketing tools. Their job is to make sure the services that are delivered to customers provide the most delightful experience in order to increase customer loyalty and create new business.
That’s what “Customer Communication Management” is about. This consists in enriching existing services with marketing-processed content.
As as example, take a bank statement:
API Management solutions allow to publish bank statements on the web site, on mobile, on apple watches and even potentially authorize other applications to access your account with your authorization if needed.
Everybody checks its bank statement
But what about turning the traditional statement into new modern and engaging statement ? Making this experience richer ? What about using this statement to provide additional content that makes sense to the customer ? Like embedding enriched digital items such as:
interactive and responsive dashboards
calling an agent
getting called back
videos (the rising media)
chat box with picture of the bank advisor
This concept is called “dynamic communication”, offering unmatched customer experience.
This allows to have a single team working on the messages dedicated to all channels. Layout, design and templates are centralized. Variables can be inserted and are fed with data coming from the different systems to create personalized messages. This approach:
accelerates digital adoption
creates new demand and revenue streams
Customer Communication Management (CCM) solutions allow to offer this enrichment across all channels to keep a consistent omnichannel communication:
a unique proofing and validation workflow
How do they do that ? They centralize the process of customer communication. Instead of having multiple teams working separately for every channel and spending a lot of time in internal alignment, CCM solutions allow centralized actions such as design, composition, proofing, approval, deployment, tracking and reporting, archiving
Analytics & Data enrichment
You can’t control nor improve what you can’t measure. Analytics is the master piece of every digital architecture. You need to have instant visibility on your customer behaviors, application health, SLA enforcement …
Dashboards with drill-down capabilities allow you to prepare for internal reviews and improve your next campaigns.
Data enrichment is a also extremely important to better engage with your customers through custom messaging and optimize the ROI of your campaigns. Data coming from customer response tracking are sent and stored into data lakes connected to the CRM. This helps with customer segmentation and feeds targeting algorithms that provide personalized content to reach higher conversion rates. This looks very similar to my previous experience in digital advertising: provide the customer/prospect with the content/ads is interested in in order to create a positive experience, a stronger engagement, more business and higher ROI.