woman riding a bicycle with VR goggles on
PHOTO: Sebastian Voortman

Sometimes we get so far ahead of ourselves with the promise of emerging technologies that we forget the most basic of all rules: You gotta learn to crawl before you can walk.

That's good to remember at a time when marketing technology conversations quickly drift to opportunities beyond the grasp of most businesses.

AI, AR, VR, Machine Learning … Oh My

Sure it would be cool to transform your operations with artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms and augmented reality (AR) displays. After all, Apple CEO Tim Cook predicts "a significant portion of the population of developed countries, and eventually all countries will have AR experiences every day, almost like eating three meals a day."

And AI and machine learning — which uses data and computer code to automatically predict certain outcomes based on discovered patterns — are powerful tools. Together, they can accelerate personalized customer care and new product development.

But let's take a step back.

Related Article: How to Create Better Brand Experience: Focus on Outcomes Instead of Buzzwords

Focus on Marketing Technology Basics

Yes, all of the trend-setting, transformative technologies could ultimately help your business exceed your wildest expectations. But unless your business operates at the speed and scale of Amazon or Facebook, they are likely more aspirational than practical at this point.

Right now, most businesses still need to focus on the basics, including personalization, channel convergence and mobile commerce. You have to master these basics before you can move on to the next-big things.

Personalization

As the volume and variety of data has grown, so have the options to create more targeted and almost intimate messages, in the online world and beyond. In the past 10 years, personalization has evolved from a novelty to an expectation. Generic marketing strategies are as outdated as landline telephones — and are more likely to shrink your customer base than expand it.

Personalized marketing is more palatable to your customers because it doesn't feel like spam. It's more engaging because it addresses their wants and needs. And increasingly, it's an expectation. Your customers want to feel understood, valued and connected, so they expect relevant marketing, delivered at the right time.

But many companies we talk with are still struggling to master personalization. It's simply not being used to its potential — and customers know it. Only 22 percent of consumers reported satisfaction with the level of personalization they are now being provided with, according to an October study by Segment, a customer data platform provider.

According to research commissioned by Sitecore and conducted by Vanson Bourne, up to 86 percent of customers see personalization as a critical factor when making a purchase, yet a third of brands admit they lack the tools and skills needed to properly provide the experience customers desire.

Takeaway: Make personalization a priority. Start with some basic personalization and grow your efforts with the use of the right data and technologies. In fact, if you have the proper tools and strategy in place, you can execute simple, effective personalization without asking your website visitors for even one piece of identifying information.

Here at Arke, for instance, we've developed an advanced software development kit that includes modules for integrating a number of the most common third-party digital marketing tools. We can link an “anonymous” website visitor to an existing CRM record (maybe via an outbound email they clicked on), which allows for delivery of a personalized online experience based on information in the CRM record.

Related Article: Refine Your Personalization Efforts by Ditching Tech-First Tendencies

Channel Convergence

There are more channels and more opportunities to engage with customers and prospects than ever before, from web chat and text messages to email, customer contact centers, and in-store displays. Customers take advantage of all these opportunities, seamlessly mixing in-store visits, online product research and other information sources when making purchase decisions. 

To survive, retailers today need to understand the relationships between all of their digital and physical channels and create a seamless, omnichannel brand experience.

Delivering great omnichannel experiences builds trust for the brand, deepens brand loyalty, and increases the lifetime value of your customers. Of course, retailers must also consider how their store looks, how their employees behave, and what they offer on their shelves (or websites).

By any measure, the experiences should be consistent across all channels. Customers should get the same “feel” from a retailer regardless of channel. They should also be able to move easily and without friction from one channel to another.

Takeaway: Business should capitalize on the availability of data across all relevant customer channels. By integrating the data from all channels where you're likely to find your customers in one platform, they can eliminate silos and create the all-important single customer view.

Mobile Commerce

Wherever your customers go, you have to be there to meet them. Research shows it has never been more important to develop a strategy to connect with your experience-driven, on-the-go omnichannel shopper.

Online shopping today generally occurs alongside many other digital activities. On average, mobile shoppers will visit six apps — and spend less than four minutes on each one. It’s an erratic, unfocused path-to-purchase, but the path where most companies will now find their target customers.

In this distracted, unfocused environment, brands can cut through the noise with relevant mobile messages. Delivered at the right time, as part of a holistic customer experience, they can prompt consumers to follow through with purchases. But they also have to take steps to follow these mobile shoppers — to connect data about these users on the back end to properly measure the sum of all marketing inputs.

Takeaway: By working with third-party attribution analytics technology and implementing deterministic device pairing, marketers and advertisers can link the device on which an ad is originally viewed with the resulting use of the correlated mobile app on any subsequent device. Marketers can connect user activity through specific user identifiers. These IDs should be non-personally identifiable. They should also be unique to a user of your service or app, and persistent for a signed-in user across all devices.