Get ready for the next evolution in marketing, one that will be as “fundamentally transformative” as mobile channels were to marketing in the past decade, according to Forrester VP and principal analyst James McQuivey.
“It’s about the way the entire [technology] stack is enhancing something that we are born capable of. ... That thing is conversation,” McQuivey (photo, above) told attendees at last week’s Forrester 2018 Consumer Marketing Forum, in New York City.
Thanks to the growth of voice systems such as Amazon’s Echo and Google Home and other connected devices, conversational commerce will be the next evolutionary stage for marketers by 2025, he said. “Everything [brands] do for conversation today is the equivalent to that app for iPhone [brands] did in 2009,” McQuivey said.
Powered By Personalization
The backbone of conversational commerce is personalization, but few marketers have mastered that skill—yet, according to conference speakers in one session after another.
During her session about privacy, Joanna O’Connell, VP and principal analyst at Forrester, said marketers also need to rethink notions of customer segmentation. “Drop everything you’re doing and start thinking about identity,” she said.
Brands need to bring back a persona mindset but in a more sophisticated way, informed by much-improved abilities to gather data on individual consumers, O’Connell pointed out.
Several case studies during the conference highlighted how segmentation by behavior and attitudes, rather than demographics, is now possible and desirable for effective engagement.
For example, NBC Sports CMO Jennifer Storms noted how the TV network was able to deal with a “critical challenge” to engage consumers with two major events four days apart—the Super Bowl and Winter Olympics—thanks to a consumer segmentation study carried out after the 2016 Rio games. The study broke the sports audience down into six segments based on needs, values, and behaviors and then used Nielsen viewing data to match segments with NBC Universal’s different platforms to engage with each segment most effectively, despite the fragmentation of TV audiences.
Many of the conference speakers agreed that the No. 1 investment priority in the next five years for many businesses is an improved understanding of customers, and experts stressed the importance of finding the most relevant consumer insights in all of the data that's being created today.
That’s where technology comes in handy for data analysis—“connecting the dots,” as Josh Herman, global director, GSMI IT, integrated marketing and analytics at Kimberly-Clark, put it during a talk about omnichannel advertising. “The plumbing has been around a while,” he said.
For example, The Truth Initiative, the anti-smoking organization targeting Generation Z, has used data analytics to help it tailor and deliver the right messages to a young audience it wants to mobilize via social media. When it wanted to recruit advocates, it reached them with online videos and tested which of a variety of messages connected with influencers, noted Dionisios Favatas, managing director, digital marketing.
Data For All
It’s no secret that today’s most advanced organizations use integrated intelligent technology to automate processes, bring analytics and marketing technology together, and give access to consumer insights to the entire organization, not just the marketing department.
“If the role of the brand only lives in marketing, you don’t have a brand,” said Michael Stefanski, VP, global brand and marketing at MetLife, during a panel about digital transformation and brand differentiation.
The brand, Stefanski added, is the experience delivered every day, and that requires collaboration. “That’s the hard thing, but it unlocks the power,” he said. “You have to create teams, and it doesn’t always happen in the first go-around. There’s always turf wars.”
A customer-centric culture that breaks down silos requires buy-in from the top. “My job is never done neutralizing this,” said Doug Jensen, VP, CRM and corporate marketing analytics at Estée Lauder.
Panelists also discussed the importance of building trust with consumers in order to gain access to their data. Afterall, consumers are becoming more aware of brand values and factoring them into buying decisions, according to Anjali Lai, a senior analyst at Forrester. This is a significant shift and one that can be traced in the data, which shows 52% of consumers take brand values into account to make a purchase.
This poses an entirely new challenge to engaging with consumers, who are “hyper-sensitive about brand values and expect brands to take a stand ... really commit to something and expose that commitment though everything they do,” Lai said.
Consumers have multiple truths and conflicting demands, so satisfying them isn’t easy, Lai acknowledged. Using the brand voice to reinforce those attitudes can make consumers ready to engage and follow the brand, Lai said.