Taking steps towards cognitive computing

The concept of cognitive computing and A.I has been much discussed recently, in the same way that real time marketing was a few years ago. While there have been a limited number of practical applications of this technology to date, there is no doubt that the concept is set to dominate the landscape for some time. All the big players such as Adobe, Salesforce and IBM are vying to take the lead here, with IBM’s Watson in particular making waves in the industry.

The next few years will see organisations start to get to grips with what cognitive computing can offer. While there is much fascination with the potential for cognitive, there is still an element of nervousness from many organisations, especially when it comes to A.I. This is not unfounded, as A.I has not yet reached the point where it can run without careful human monitoring.

There are still fundamentals to be worked out to achieve true machine learning where the machine is fully responding and recalculating on changing inputs without any programming from a human party.

More fundamentally, though, businesses need to look beyond a ‘gimmick-led’ application of these technologies and instead investigate how it can be applied to actively improve personalised customer experience.

For example, this could take the form of a holiday company knowing that an individual likes to ski, has two children aged six and nine, has been on skiing holidays before in the February half term and favours Italian resorts over French ones, and then drawing information from 1st, 2nd and 3rd party data as well as analysing weather statistics and flight information and then offering appropriate holiday options based on this information.

Again, data is the key here. The more relevant data that is gathered, the more personalised the experience for customers. The importance of having excellent processes in place to capture and manage data is perhaps more significant than ever. As data scientist Bradley Voytek famously said while at Uber: “I don’t need to know everything about everybody. I just need to know a little bit about a whole bunch of people.”

Those that succeed will be the ones who can properly leverage both data and technology to make customers’ lives better.

 

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Real time gets real…

While there was a huge amount of noise about real-time decision-making and real-time next best action marketing a few years ago, we haven’t as yet seen significant practical application of this technology.

This is set to change from 2017 onward. Many organisations looked into or acquired technology to facilitate real-time when it first emerged as a leading trend, but it is only now that many are actually practically applying it.

The reasons for this are manifold. The tendency is often to purchase a particular piece of technology, without first stepping back and putting together a clear business case and roadmap for the technology. Before purchasing any technology, organisations need to address the following:

  • Why are we doing this? Is there a clear articulation of the existing or soon to be business problem we need to solve?
  • What value is the purchase directly linked to? g. saving money, making money, enhancing the brand
  • What is the measure of success? This is often too generic and not specific enough. It should be clearly articulated and documented.
  • What do we actually need from the technology?
  • Will value be achieved through core functionality or through the use of advanced features?
  • Has this been documented in the business and investment plan?
  • Do we have the right operating model and skills to successfully implement and integrate the technology?
  • Are we already utilising the technology we have to best effect?

All too often these questions are not asked or answered until after a piece of technology has been purchased, which can lead to a significant disconnect between what a business thinks it is getting from a vendor and what it actually needs.

This has been the case with many implementations of real time marketing technology, which is why it has taken some time to see significant practical applications of this.

 

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We run regular ‘Knowledge Bench’ events. Find out more.

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Making the most of data

How to make the most of data with Adobe Campaign…

In order to deliver the most relevant messages to your customers, it is important to first understand them. Insights about your customers could include purchase cycles, product or service preferences, web browsing history, or calculated attributes such as propensity or model scores. Harnessing this information correctly can allow you to send the best offer, or the product of most interest, to the customer; ultimately improving marketing effectiveness.

Getting your Data Right

Data can be a daunting prospect, with it often coming from multiple source systems with various degrees of data quality, so it is important to approach it in a structured way. That said, using Adobe Campaign and making the right data available does not have to be a huge project, as a phased approach can deliver incremental gains and improve campaign success.

There are different ways to present data to Adobe Campaign, including:

  • Overnight batch loads (perhaps the best approach for larger datasets)
  • Real-time connections (this can pull small amounts of data to augment a triggered campaign, or be pushed by an external system)

Where multiple systems connect to Adobe Campaign, it’s important to manage the potential duplication of customer data. Luckily, processes can be easily defined to make sure you always have the full view of customer touch points. Further, as it’s not best practice to store data relating to clicks, opens, URLs, campaign and delivery meta-data, Adobe Campaign can allow for the export of this data to a marketing DataMart; meaning it can be used for broader reporting, and analytical purposes, with your choice of Analytics tool.

Integrations

Connecting Adobe Campaign to other systems allows information to flow between systems in both directions. Examples of this might include something simple, like configuring the SMS connector, or alternatively a more complicated custom integration with a CMS. Adobe Campaign is a very flexible platform with various “out-of-the-box” integrations. It simply requires configuration, with the framework, allowing for further custom API integrations if desired.

Integrations can also enable omni-channel communications to be managed from a single workflow, including email, direct mail, call centre and SMS. Managing communication through the Adobe Campaign platform ensures the consistency of the message, based on the latest information available about the client.

Automating Campaign activity

Automating campaign activity could take the form of either scheduled campaigns, where campaigns are set up to run on a set date for a period of time, or automated workflows.

Automated campaigns are usually driven by the mapping of customer ‘life-stages’ and the creation of a journey to better engage with them. Two common examples of these sorts of campaigns might be a ‘Welcome Journey’ or a ‘Lapsed Customer Journey’. With the relevant data available in Adobe Campaign, it is reasonably straightforward to setup these campaigns and better engage your customers. A customer would only usually be selected for a welcome campaign once; however, it is important to convert a customer from a one-off purchaser to a regular buyer. Using information about the customer’s first purchase, the customer can be automatically selected within a campaign and progressed until the campaign goal is achieved.

There are various considerations when implementing automated campaigns. It is important to manage contact pressure; when a customer receives too many communications in a short period of time. This could cause disengagement with the brand and ultimately un-subscription. Another important element is to ensure the validity of content you are using in your communications. If you have an offer code that lasts a month, you will need checks in place to update it once it has expired.

Other automated campaigns are triggered via an external event; this might be an abandoned basket in a web based sales process that triggers a follow up email to re-engage the purchaser. With the use of a mobile application, location based information can be used to trigger relevant messages when a user is near or in a store.

In order to best leverage these sorts of campaigns, you must first have in place the correct underlying data in order to understand and engage with the customer.

Dynamic Personalisation

With the correct data and channels integrated, you can now create highly personalised, relevant communications to better engage with your customers. Using information you have about a customer, you can dynamically alter the imagery, offers or copy within a customer communication. This might be as simple as an email hero image change for each segment in your ‘Welcome Campaign’, or alternatively, it could be a specific product promotion in a weekly newsletter based on previous purchase habits. Dynamic content can be abstracted into reusable blocks, which can be selected in multiple campaigns and deliveries.

Talk to us if you want to learn more… about data, personalisation, campaign automation or Adobe Campaign.

Written by Rich Perkins

How to get started with Campaign Management

Marketing automation software is widely acknowledged as being key for enabling scalable, co-ordinated, relevant and personalised communications to customers and prospects across multiple channels. Yet, in most companies have yet to implement anything of this kind even though they may have acquired the software.

Companies have held back or persisted with ‘what we have already’ as many still believe that marketing automation is complicated, expensive and difficult to prove ROI – and whilst we still see examples of failed projects – the reality is that the majority of these have failed due to a lack of proper planning and requirements definition and linking it to measures of success.

Let’s assume then that your company is keen to implement a marketing automation solution. What should be your first step? Or rather, what should you be doing before you even speak to any of the software companies and hear about seamless integration, single views of customer data, or automated omni-channel campaigns?

Step one

Step one, is the ‘requirements definition’. This is the key stage in the entire process.

While the overall business strategy may have been defined, it’s all too easy to just say ‘improve customer engagement’. For this to work, you need to find out how you are actually going to enable this. You also need to ask yourself, what considerations do you need to define?

Stakeholders

First identify who has contact with consumers from the business – both inbound and outbound – and requires access to the solution. E.g. in the case of the call centre – does an operator need to know what has already been communicated to the consumer when they call in? Should they also know if the consumer has already clicked through a link in an email but shown interest in a different offer or product? If the call centre operator updates information during the course of the call, can this information be acted on immediately in the solution?

How is the business structured? Is it centralised or de-centralised?  Does the solution need to support regional marketing operations where brand guidelines and content templates are managed centrally, but adapted locally?

Channels

Which channels does the solution need to support? Is it direct mail, email, SMS, mobile app, call centre – what is the role for each channel within the business? How do customers interact with the business and expect to be communicated with? Some solutions will have native engines built in to them that allow automated execution – whilst others require API integration to enable their usage. What does that mean for your business?

Communication programmes 

Defining the customer journeys and contact strategy to deliver against business objectives and also the consumers’ expectations for how you engage with them? Welcome, Upsell / Cross sell, Lapse / Retention, Abandon Basket, Order confirmation / Dispatch can be defined based on segment objectives and customer preferences but in order to enable these we need to have the data available for the solution.

Frequently companies will have multiple disparate pieces of consumer profiles residing in various applications. As a result, departments often have access to only a snapshot of consumers’ profiles, obviously this would be more informative if they had a picture of the consumers overall relationship and behaviour.

Being able to leverage and act on full insights around consumers, the ability to deliver personalised, relevant and timely content and access to testing / results across all channels is key to optimising communications effectiveness and customer engagement.

Contact pressure

With automated communication programmes comes the problem of customer fatigue, should a customer fall into multiple journeys, that could potentially see them receive a number of messages across different channels all in one day? If this does happen, this can lead to frustration and ultimately disengagement with your brand.

Planning messaging can be managed and prioritised to enable only the most relevant messages to reach the customer.

Is the solution going to be used to manage all service messaging? If not then how do you integrate the service messaging into the contact history?

Systems and data

These are inextricably linked but probably the most vital area and often the one that is not given enough consideration until after the software purchase decision has been made.

Companies sit on massive volumes of data, stored in various applications and departments and as a result, data integration of just the core operational (behavioural and transactional) data is key. That is before we start to integrate new channels or sources of data into the equation such as mobile app behaviour, i-beacon information, website behaviour, social interaction.

This is often the greatest challenge when setting out on a marketing automation project and this brings the need to ask ourselves:  what information sits in which system? What data do we need to form each? How do we access it? Is it batch or real time requirement? Is an API integration required or do we use a Federated Data Access approach?

Data integration

Once you have the answers to these questions then the next challenge is the design of the underlying data solution that is going to manage this single view of the consumer. Bringing together all of the communication activity, consumer behaviour, and tracking information from multiple sources will support the solution moving forward, but this is an entire project in itself!

Step two and beyond

If the correct level of requirement definitions has been undertaken through step one, then step two is easier for both the software supplier to answer against and also for the business, as they will clearly understand what they will be buying. In the long-term, this will mean it is far more likely that the software, if successfully implemented, will achieve the required business objectives.

Written by Peter Russell 

 

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Real time marketing and Adobe Campaign

As brands focus more and more on building ever more personalised relationships with customers, real time marketing is acting as a key tool to enable relevant and timely communication through a multitude of channels. The result of this can be an increasingly personalised relationship with the customer where they are truly at the centre of the experience, but what is it and how do we implement it using Adobe Campaign?

What is it?

Real time marketing can utilise personalised event data such as website analytics, transactions, people’s dates of births or lifecycle stage, take into account environmental data such as storms, and flood alerts, or advertise an event you’ve got coming up and then thank people for attending.

It can also make use of less direct means such as blog posts and publishing to social media pages or more direct means such as push messaging, email and outbound calls to reach the customer at exactly the right point in time.

How can I move my organisation towards more real time marketing?

There are several things your organisation could do to work towards increased real time marketing, including:

  • Think about what you want to do – is your business B2B or B2C? What is it you are seeking to communicate with the person you’re talking to? Will it benefit the customer and in turn the organisation? In a highly transactional environment does the customer want a message at every turn?
  • Map your customer journeys – this will help you understand the routes your customer takes when interacting with your organisation, and any opportunities that offers. Not every opportunity requires an action. Prioritising the messages can be key to success.
  • Understand the events, behaviours or triggers that enable real time communication – can you access the relevant systems, data points or interactions to act on these identified opportunities?
  • Explore what your data tells you about your customers – behaviours, channels they use or preferences they have? Do you only target certain segments with certain messages?

However, organisations should keep in mind that it might not be right for every business and indeed might not be possible to access and use the data required to facilitate real time campaigns. Just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you have to.

For those that will benefit from real time marketing, taking the time to consider the above steps will help you in reaching the desired outcome from these activities.

I’ve thought about it, I have Adobe Campaign implemented, how do I go about it?

With Adobe Campaign there are several approaches you could adopt to action real time marketing, depending on what you have prioritised within the customer journeys.

Simple trigger or scheduled campaigns – campaign Workflows enable activities to repeat indefinitely and can be simply based on current data, making it easy to setup things such as Birthday emails, or emails that occur a set number of days before or after a recurring event.

Integration with your analytics – Adobe Campaign can integrate with your analytics solution, allowing you to pull through data in near real time, meaning you can easily create emails that work from events such as a customer abandoning a basket.

Transactional or behavioural messaging  – the message centre allows your marketing department to control the look and feel of any real time messaging, whilst integrating seamlessly with your website or other transactional systems such as EPOS, through use of a SOAP based API. Order or booking confirmations can be enriched with relevant content that enhances the brand experience and offers potential targeted marketing messages to be included

For lower volume or less urgent messaging, integration via APIs allows you to connect any of your services directly to the marketing instance. Observed behaviours can be tracked and followed up on automatically within the platform.

A big factor in optimising the personalisation and relevancy is leveraging the content management capability of Adobe Campaign. This system can be connected with most CMS’s enabling organisations to then manage brand consistency across channels, providing access to these assets to be used within defined templates that can populate messages and offers via business rules according to individual customer and executed across any channel.

Used effectively, real time marketing can help organisations to drive all important, personalised customer relationships, something that is more important now than ever. As such, I’d urge organisations to seriously consider using this approach.

 

Written by Peter Russell

 

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