Lytics CEO James McDermott quote "All the data in the world won't help you if you don't use it the right way"

Ask James McDermott what his varied roles — technology executive, entrepreneur, lawyer and professor — all share and the answer is his need to be “a storyteller.” His aim is always to create a shared vision of the future with clients, customers, employees and shareholders.

“So far, my career has been a series of accidental roles and the desire to keep learning,” McDermott said. “All of my experiences have been about trying something new, and there’s nothing more new than a startup.” Figuring out his path as an entrepreneur has given McDermott the freedom to “try new things all the time and to learn what works and doesn’t work.”

McDermott is currently CEO of Lytics, a customer data platform provider for marketers. He co-founded the startup with colleague Aaron Raddon (now Lytics CTO) after they met while both working at Webtrends.

'Take Action' with Data

“We started Lytics because we were working with companies at Webtrends who wanted to do more with data than just view reports,” McDermott said. “They wanted to take action.”

The co-founders chose the name, Lytics, because it was short and it represented the company’s mission. “It’s about helping customers understand and use data to deliver smarter, more relevant experiences,” McDermott said.

Lytics is one of the sponsors of CMSWire’s DX Summit taking place Nov. 12 through 14 at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago.

We spoke with McDermott about his take on the current state of digital marketing, the move towards more personalized marketing, and where gaps exist in today’s customer digital experiences and how organizations can work to close those gaps.

Meet Customers at the 'Exact Moment' in Their Journey

CMSWire: Where do you see the primary gaps in the kinds of digital experiences companies are delivering to customers today and the kinds of digital experiences those customers are expecting?

McDermott: I think the biggest gap comes down to understanding how dynamic the customer journey has become. For so many years, the marketer’s perception of the customer journey was a linear path with experiences happening in succession based on heuristic rules.

But we all know customers make decisions in split-second moments across a variety of channels and devices, and it's not a linear path. This dynamic engagement creates new complexity that’s challenging for marketers to respond to at scale. Using traditional rules-based journeys and micro-segmentation simply cannot keep up with the speed at which individual customers engage.

So what happens? Marketers serve experiences that are behind where their customers are in their journey, or worse, they serve experiences that are redundant or not at all what the customer wanted — based on a customer decision that’s already been made. These are costly mistakes.

With how sophisticated customers have become in the digital environment, they expect brands to know them individually and to keep up with where they are at in their journey. And using rules, micro-segmentation and trying to serve individual experiences in a somewhat manual approach becomes far too complex over time — and isn’t scalable.

CMSWire: How should companies work to close those gaps?

McDermott: Companies have to rethink their approach to marketing to successfully serve these dynamic customer journeys.

First, they should look at how well their organization is aligned to understand their customers. This means digging in with marketing, IT and other functional business units to examine how connected their customer data is across the organization.

Second, they should examine how actionable that data is across the business. Can marketing, customer service and other key customer-facing roles leverage the data they need to create a connected experience for the customer?

Third, they should look at the team structure and roles that are ultimately in charge of serving the dynamic customer journey. We often see companies who embrace the strategy of customer-centricity but face strong headwinds with how their organizations are structured to actually deliver on that strategy. It’s the old adage of “people, process, technology.”

And last, no amount of rules or endless segments can truly deliver on dynamic one-to-one customer journeys. Companies need to leverage sophisticated technologies that bring their customer data together and provide smart and predictive insights using machine learning.

And then, companies should look to automated orchestration where the predictive machine drives what experiences individual customers receive in real-time. The key to real-time is to meet customers at the exact moment of where they are in their journey, at scale.

CMSWire: How do you see increased personalization, virtual voice assistants, AI, machine learning, IoT, AR and VR impacting digital customer experiences? How should organizations prepare to take advantage of these technologies?

McDermott: All of these technologies enable marketing teams to be uniquely relevant to the individual customer when fed with the right data.

Organizations should make sure they are connecting every customer data touchpoint in a way that these innovative technologies can leverage.

Traditional batch-driven data loading and query-based reporting won’t cut it. Decisions need to be made in real time, and at massive scale, to power individually relevant marketing experiences.

CMSWire: In your opinion, what is the current state of digital marketing? Where are most organizations in terms of making the move to one-to-one marketing away from traditional brand-based marketing?

McDermott: Digital marketing is at a crossroads. The consumer knows what good experiences look like and many organizations are struggling to figure out how to take all of their customer data and turn it into something that delights a consumer.

Moving to one-to-one marketing is a journey of many steps. What we see is that companies are now consciously redefining the marketing organization to build around the customer, instead of building around the channel, for example, email, web, social, etc.

This transformation leads organizations to a new way of marketing — customer-first marketing that starts with data and ends with delightful experiences that are tailored to each individual.

But this is a journey that requires executive commitment, organizational alignment and a marketing stack that follows a hub and spoke model instead of the traditional silos.

CMSWire: Why is it important to the ongoing relationship with customers that organizations adopt a ‘trust-based marketing’ approach? Should marketers view compliance with regulations like GDPR as more helpful than constraining?

McDermott: Think of it this way: All the data in the world won’t help you if you don’t use it the right way.

Beyond GDPR, marketers should use customer data to communicate with their customers the way their customers want and like, and with their permission. This is the new table stakes for creating value and building long-term relationships with customers.

In the wake of consumer data misappropriation scandals, companies and brands that use first-party customer data in a way that aligns with building customer trust will thrive.

But embracing a trust-based marketing approach means more than just respectful gathering of data. The concept also sets the expectation that marketers use personal data to serve the customer’s best interests. The end goal is to make customers feel both valued and understood.

CMSWire: If you could host a picnic lunch with anyone living, dead or fictional, who would you invite? What would the two of you would talk about?

McDermott: That’s a tough question. A picnic lunch with Leonardo da Vinci would be fun.

I’d ask him to explain a few of his inventions and maybe paint something for me. Then, I’d ask him how he managed to think so broadly and do so much.

Learn more about the Digital Customer Experience (DX) Summit here.