Loni Kao Stark is director of product & industry marketing for Adobe's Digital Marketing Solutions, which means she's very much aware of what organizations are doing with their customer experience strategies. Here's her take on what digital marketers have been doing wrong, right and where their focus should be for 2013.
Digital Marketing in 2012: The Good & The Bad
We've seen some research today that says organizations are still not getting their customer experience strategies right. We asked Stark what the organizations Adobe is working with are getting right and what are they still struggling with?
Stark said that many organizations are improving the experience in different channels. So thanks to a lot of innovation the experiences on mobiles, on websites and in social media has improved.
However, the cross-channel experience is a different story. Organizations are still struggling with supporting customers as they move across channels, or when two channels collide (as in the case of being in a brick and mortar store with your mobile in hand).
So is it a technology issue? Or a strategy issue? Stark says it's both. First, it's an organization and a KPI challenge. Consider that most organizations still keep different teams in silos. So the mobile team, the email marketing teams and the website teams are still separate.
But it's also a tech challenge. It's about having the right technology to map back the experience to a single visitor context or id -- digital and offline channels.
Stark has talked to different organizations that have different KPIs across teams. For example, a retailer she spoke with has different KPIs for its store team compared to its website team. So there's no incentive to think about a cross-digital/in person shopping experience. And in some ways they may even think each other competitors.
What this ultimately means, says Stark, is that leadership is required to ensure the KPIs are ones that support the cross channel experience.
The Customer Life Cycle - How Have Things Changed
With a focus this month on the customer life cycle, we thought it appropriate to ask Stark on her views. So what does the customer life cycle mean to Stark?
First she sees the customer life cycle in the more traditional way that the market tends to look at as well. Being able to build awareness, taking customers to the point of considering to purchase, then the services, then the cross-sell / up sell.
There's a part of service, or post sales, that is to ensure the customer's issues are resolved, but the other part is figuring out what are the adjacent needs. Stark says that with large financial institutions, for example, it's really important to think about the customer life cycle being after the initial sale.
The other model that Stark looks at applies more to social media, tying social media initiatives back to business value. Where does the customer see their relationship with a particular brand? For example are they not aware, are they seeing themselves in the vendor/customer relationship or as subscribers to the brand and their personal identity is melded to the brand (Stark called them super fans).
These super fans are much more loyal and open to repeat purchases, open to writing user generated content and recommending the brand/products to friends and family, and they are more likely to be active participants in communities. This model works better when you look at the business value you can tie to social.
Stark believes that all social activities should have the goal of fostering super fans. In this way you can get to a more predictable model in social media. It's hard to predict what overall behavior is going to be and the impact to revenue for viral campaigns. But with super fans, you have a greater opportunity to build a predictable asset around social.
Everyone agrees that social is a component of the marketing mix. But people are still wondering how to invest and should it be a major investment. Stark says they are trying to help organizations build a business case around social -- and the focus of that is on building a community of super fans.
What's in Store for Digital Marketing in 2013
What does Stark believe digital marketers should focus on this year?
Bring mobile into the cross-channel experience. Many organizations have invested in mobile teams, but did it in a silo and they are feeling that pain of that siloed experience. Mobile needs to be a part of the cross-channel (or omni-channel) strategy.
The other is around getting serious about social. Put the dabbling aside and now think about an overall strategy and how to embed social into all digital properties.
Finally, there's lots of interest around personalization. A lot of companies have spent time on personalized banners and other ads. But to convert these visitors to customers, personalization needs to be take to the next level where organizations are offering relevant and useful content. This is about developing the brand premium, where the customer comes to organization's digital properties for all their needs on a particular product, including value-added information related to that product (advice).
The digital space is getting more crowded, so having people see a property as a destination is the key to success in 2013. This idea of a destination spot is something that the publishing industry understands well and Stark says that other industries can learn from to build their own destination spots.
Stark sees the most exciting part of digital marketing is the creation of something that has sustainable value and leads to a corporate asset. Things that build over time enable organizations to build competitive advantage. Everything discussed here helps build those relationships. So get rid of your "drive by social media", drop the walls between your teams and start thinking cross-channel, destination spots. It does sound like a fun, challenging year for digital marketing.