As vice president of marketing insights for Leapfrog Online, Scot Wheeler knows what works when it comes to creating a good customer experience. He's been at the forefront of marketing, technology and analytics for more than 20 years.

Today he leads a team of 12 marketing analysts and decision scientists in explorations of topics like cross-channel performance visualization, consumer intelligence, environmental trend analysis, and dynamic targeting at Evanston, Ill.-based Leapfrog. The company, which promotes itself as a "different kind of digital marketing firm built to help leading brands grow their business and bottom line," tries to help business find new customers and boost conversions through the use of data.

Additionally, Wheeler is an adjunct lecturer with Northwestern University’s graduate IMC program where he teaches digital analytics, market research and statistics. The course has been captured into book form: Architecting Experience: A Marketing Science and Digital Analytics Handbook for Optimized Digital Experience Delivery. It was published by World Scientific Press in the fall of 2015.

Wheeler is also the author of Architecting Experience: A Marketing Science and Digital Analytics Handbook.

Previously, Wheeler served as director of marketing science for the digital agency Critical Mass. He earned his MBA in strategy, finance and marketing from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in 2008.

You can hear more from Wheeler and his take on digital analytics during CMSWire's DX Summit this Nov. 14 through 16 at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago. He is one of many speakers who will bring fresh insight into the use of marketing technology, digital analytics and business strategy to improve digital customer experience.

Inside-Out Customer Experiences

Walter: What's the central message you plan to deliver at our DX Summit?

Wheeler: There is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating successful customer experience through personalization. Building tailored experiences can seem daunting, but there is a systematic way to approach the experience design process that brings together each company’s unique considerations around data, technology, consumer understanding and business opportunity to identify a roadmap that can produce results immediately and expand the organization’s personalization capability over time.

Walter: What makes acquiring new customers so complex in a digital world?

Wheeler: The digital world is a world of choices. Buyers in most industries have more choices than ever, so if companies aren’t presenting themselves as the best, most relevant option for customers, those customers will pursue what they feel is a better fit. 

Businesses are long accustomed to developing marketing that is very “inside-out” focused — they want you to know the brand message and then fulfill the business’ objective by making a purchase. Being relevant to customers means taking an “outside-in” focus — understanding the customer’s story then offering them something that fulfills the need that brought them to your business. 

Walter: Why is connecting the customer journey so important?

Wheeler: It is required to shift from the “inside-out” to the “outside-in” approach to consumer experience. As consumers we experience the process of shopping and buying as a unified process evolving over time: we identify a need for something, we learn about it, we narrow our consideration, we make a decision, then we live with that decision until the process starts again. 

Unfortunately, many businesses have organized themselves in silos that break this experience up on the business side; one group is responsible for “teaching” consumers about the brand and the products, then another group is responsible at the point of purchase, then another group (hopefully) is responsible for the post-purchase experience. 

These initial slices into the consumer journey can be further segmented, e.g. digital versus traditional marketing groups, each building their own aspects of the consumer experience. Organizations built this way produce Frankenstein experiences that force customers to accept an experience built on the business’ terms. To build experiences on consumers’ terms, you must understand the journey from beginning to end. 

Walter: Why has there been such an explosion of marketing technology?

Wheeler: In a recent blog for CMSWire, I wrote that “Marketing leaders are searching for — and failing to find — customer experience strategies to effectively apply data and analytics.” 

Marketing technology vendors have tapped into this desire, and build their marketing and sales strategies around promises that their tech will enable successful delivery of relevant, personalized and therefore effective consumer experiences. But technology does not produce effective experience strategy as many marketers hope. In fact, without a pre-defined strategy for how marketing technology will be used to turn data into results, the effort to make investments in marketing technology pay off can become more of a distraction than a benefit. 

Walter: What are some of the more dramatic changes you've seen recently in regards to understanding marketing analytics?

Wheeler: The organizational reaction to the results of attribution modeling has created the most drama, and is driving a significant requirement for change within organizations. As attribution tools were being purchased and implemented over the last few years, the hope by marketers was that attribution measurement would reveal the best way to deliver cross-channel digital marketing, filling the gap left by a lack of digital understanding and strategy. 

Of course, as a form of measurement, all attribution can really do evaluate how well prior execution of strategy performed. So many attribution models are now confirming that digital marketing built on weak (or absent) cross-channel strategy does not perform well as viewed through cross-channel measurement. Even done well, attribution is not often used to consider the impact of content within channels on the channels’ performance. 

Marketing analytics are still woefully biased toward a focus on channel spend and last-click return, and are missing the boat on consumer insights and testing/optimization of cross-channel mixes and differentiated content strategies.

Walter: What do you do to recharge?

Wheeler: I keep developing new curriculum for my courses at Northwestern, which some people would consider work, but I consider fun. I am also working on improving my cooking skills with a focus on French and Spanish cuisine.