After 300 sessions revolving around the customer experience at Oracle OpenWorld, a panel of senior practitioners today tried to summarize what they learned about social media, marketing and sales.
There were funny moments during the conference, such as when Oracle's social team learned that #OOW is the hashtag for out-of-wedlock -- not to be confused with #OOW14, the show's official handle.
But there were also serious discoveries, such as how quickly companies are shifting to customer-centric thinking and why B2C companies are adopting B2B tactics.
The Same Page
Rebecca Harris, global senior strategist for the Social Center of Expertise at General Motors, explained how her company now brings its social, sales and marketing teams together each week to assure they're listening to the customer and replying in a single voice.
"The conversations are not pleasant. We beat each other up. Sometimes, we go away mad. But the next week, I make them all come together again and we start over," she said.
"We laugh at some of the things we get out of this data, but it's critical, critical, critical for us to run our business," Harris said, offering the example of the early feedback on social media regarding its new full-size trucks.
"The early things coming back through social were that the steering wheels were too hot in the South, and that the cooled seats in the front were venting hot air to the back of the truck and the guy in the backseat was getting roasted," she said. That led to changes at the factory before the dealers could report feedback from their customers.
Early warning of problems is indeed critical to GM, which has recalled more than 27 million vehicles in 2014 alone, approaching an industry record.
The most noteworthy recalls involved faulty ignitions switches that have been tied to 23 deaths. GM has confirmed some of its engineers knew about the problem for a decade before the company launched recalls.
Social has Matured
Meg Bear, group vice president for the Oracle Social Platform, remembered how people used to wonder if social media was a fad or if it only applied to B2B.
"What's interesting about this conference and throughout this year is that we've moved well past that," she said. "Companies are being able to take this information and turn this into strategic value in their business plan and execution plan."
Oracle itself tracked some 200,000 social messages about the four-day show, with 45,000 of those showing up as Tweets under the proper hashtag. Most, Bear noted, concerned Larry Ellison. "I would say most people were excited about his new job role and doing his own demos," she said.
On the marketing side, John Stetic, group vice president for the Oracle Marketing Cloud, said people are grasping the notion that marketers are now able to orchestrate and automate their tasks to better understand which tactics work best.
In the Pipeline
Marketers like being able to track customers "from that first touch through every single engagement point you have, to be able to understand how someone is flowing through that marketing pipeline and then being able to move them into CRM," he said. "Just being able to do that gives marketing so much more insight into the process than they had in the past."
A case in point is Swiss Post, which has acquired 40 companies in 16 countries during the past four years
"We integrated that and now have a total tunnel from marketing to sales," said Sandro Principe, head of strategic marketing and sales for the company. "We're able to measure each contract our customers signed and know from which channels we got the first lead. So now our marketing is truly measurable and we can put real figures into everything we do."
The Shoe Fits
NetShoes, the Brazilian sport shoes e-tailer, is so customer-centric that it assigns 300 of its 2,000 employees to work with customers 24x7.
"Our strategy is not only to sell shoes, but to become part of the lives of our customers and to make sports happen in their lives," said Jesus de Francisco Garcia, the company's director of infrastructure. "We have to anticipate what you want to do, what you want to buy, even before you imagine you want to buy that. We have to have a lot of analytics and many technologies to do that."
Another finding was the "blurring of the lines between B2C and B2B, said Ian Davis, senior director of product management at Oracle. "As B2C tries to sell more complicated products," he said, "there's a lot of learning that can be taken from the B2B world and reimagined into how it fits into B2C."