Effective Campaigns

Karen McCandless explores how Microsoft and its partners can help marketers to dynamically manage content and execute campaigns across multiple digital channels

Karen McCandless explores how Microsoft and its partners can help marketers to dynamically manage content and execute campaigns across multiple digital channels

Today’s marketing world is complicated. With so many new ways to connect to customers and so many elevated expectations, retailers have a real challenge on their hands getting their message across and converting marketing campaigns into sales. Every retailer has a story to tell, but it’s consumers that are deciding how they want to engage with retailers and brands. Competition is stiff and the customer journey is much more convoluted, with no clear path from brand marketing to a consumer picking a product.

“Consumers are constantly bombarded with marketing messages, no matter what the channel,” says Colin Masson, worldwide solution director of Consumer Goods and Marketing at Microsoft. “If a consumer searches online, they’ll get comparative offers from many brands. And while they are in store (it’s a battle to even get them in there), consumers have their smartphones at the ready to search online for alternatives at a lower price. Traditionally, the chief marketing officer (CMO) has focused on the creative side but, with the emergence of mobile and social and the increasing pressure to provide return on marketing investment (ROMI), this is now changing. Marketing campaigns now have to directly translate into bringing in new customers and driving higher revenue from them.”

And as consumers embrace new technology, the way they relate to brands changes. In this omni-channel world, shoppers are using an increasing number of devices and channels such as mobile, social, search, comparison and deal sites. A whitepaper from the Microsoft Advertising Consumer Insights team entitled The Consumer Decision Journey: Retail explains: “While many retailers still separate brick and mortar from online retail channels, consumers see the two as connected and they expect to feel that connection throughout their decision journey. Accessing circulars online and then bringing deals and coupons into the store, reading consumer reviews while at the shelf and connecting back with a retailer through online channels if questions arise are all commonplace activities. But they’re hardly seamless; consumers want connected experiences and more sophisticated means of moving from online channels into the store and back again.”

“Retailers need to provide content that is exciting and relevant. It should be delivered through different mediums and devices, whether it be touch screens and digital signage in store, e-coupons, social engagement or style tips on mobile devices. With Scala, retailers can tie in scent, lighting, touch, sound and gesture to create a completely immersive sensory experience in store,” says Amy Savidge, relationship manager – Central, Retail at Scala. “From augmented reality to geo-location, we've harnessed a lot of powerful technologies for retailers, but it's always critical to match digital branding and promotions with brand identity – not just in message and design, but also in the overall quality of experience. By doing this, they can help differentiate their brands through unique customer shopping experiences, which will encourage consumers to spend more, recommend the retailer to others, and want to keep coming back.”

As Savidge suggests, retailers need to connect the shopping journey by seamlessly integrating all these touchpoints to provide a better customer experience. These experiences should take advantage of the new multi-screen world through natural user interfaces such as touch screens and motion capture.

“Xbox (and Kinect), for example, is no longer just about gaming, but more about an integrated entertainment experience, which provides the opportunity to engage with consumers for a sustained period of time,” says Masson. “In addition, product placement within games is increasing, with downloadable apps and in-app purchasing providing a level of information from the consumer that you don’t get when they are browsing on a website. Meanwhile, Skype lends itself to co-shopping experiences where consumers can try on clothes through a virtual catalogue and share this with their friends through video chats. Or they might have a consultation with a beauty advisor through Skype to try a new look.”

Screens and digital signage can also enable retailers to gather data and interact with customers in new ways, while providing better sources of real-time business data. “When these displays are used with our analytics platform Scala iS, retailers can automatically adjust messaging to reflect customer habits and trends based on POS data, drive patterns, basket trends, marketing calendars, inventory, weather changes, environmental factors, time of day, day of the week and season of the year,” says Savidge. “It transforms historical market data and live third-party data streams into marketing messages that positively impact buying behaviour, resulting in increased sales. They can also keep content fresh and educational, so the consumer wants to access more information in store.”

Retailers also need to create great experiences through mobile devices, as this enables them to reach and influence consumers at the point of decision. “Technology has a long history of changing consumer expectations,” says Charles Allen, director, Movanta. “The internet drove consumers to shop and research online, and now there has been another even more profound shift with smartphones and tablets. Shoppers have their phones with them most of the time and they expect more from retailers than just a website on their phone – that’s like putting corporate brochures online as a PDF. They use smartphones for games, interactive and animated content or locationspecific offers. Consumers want to interact with retailers on their phones, not have a generic message pushed to them.”

So what is the answer to this? Consumers are increasingly accessing information and functionality on their devices though apps while retailers are using them to promote their brand, product or service. Christian Dior, for example, chose Windows 8 as its target platform to get out in front with a premium app. The app, which was designed and deployed in less than 30 days, blends data and content, performs smoothly and looks good, while being functional and relevant.

Servebase and Movanta have partnered to provide a white label app that lets a retailer send targeted messages and run a loyalty scheme on their customers’ phones using insights gathered from their payment stream information.

“The app integrates with Servebase’s payment gateway ANYpay, which provides realtime information about what consumers are buying – it’s not general demographics, such as this person is 25-35 years old,” says Allen. “On top of this, retailers can add analysis and insight. For example, this customer shops with us every month, they spend X amount, this is when they last were last in store and this is the demographic they fit with. The retailer uses this segmentation and then makes it more relevant through triggers such as location and time of day to send a tailored promotion. The app catches people when they are in the moment and provides the right message at the right time. It can also engender loyalty by offering rewards and incentives such as a money off coupon in exchange for a social media post after the sale.”

Allen touches on an important point in that digital marketing must be more personalised and tailored if retailers are to create an effective campaign. Adverts must not only be memorable, but also shareable, engaging, with added value for the audience.

The Microsoft Advertising Consumer Insights whitepaper explains: “As an industry, we need to move beyond basic targeting, tracking and demographic segmentation to drive deeper, permissioned engagement with consumers, where we deliver valuable and personal experiences in and out of the store.”

“Retailers must focus on creating an experience that maximises engagement,” says Nate Barad, director of product strategy at Sitecore. “With each engagement (whether a customer buys from you or not) you can learn something that will help you predict future behaviour and tailor your strategy accordingly. For example, I bought a Surface tablet at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference and received a call a week later asking how I’m getting on with learning the new gestures. As I purchased the device at the partner show they already know I’m a brand fan so a follow-up call is powerful – maybe I will want to buy some accessories.”

For retailers, social media presents additional opportunities to listen and learn while engaging and connecting directly with consumers, whether it is capturing and responding to customer feedback about products and services, or heading off negativity before it tarnishes the brand. “In addition to increased sales, retailers are also looking for greater opportunities to engage with customers and participate in ongoing online conversations,” says Shree Dandekar, director of product marketing and strategy at Dell. “People are talking about their brands online everyday whether they choose to monitor it or not.”

But engaging with customers shouldn’t always be about cross sell or upsell; it’s also about showing you value them so you can foster loyalty and turn them into lifelong customers. “If a consumer is searching for products within a certain price, that will help you understand their budget, or if they are searching for children’s toys then they will likely have a family,” says Barad. “Lego does a great job of this – based on my interactions with them, they know that I need two of everything, as I have two children. The value of actually measuring engagement and campaign success is that they can change things that aren’t working during the campaign or learn what works and what doesn’t for future campaigns.”

This is where running a well-managed marketing organisation comes in – from planning to execution to measuring the results. “Over the last few years we’ve started to see much more investment in marketing resource management (MRM), which covers areas like planning and budgeting,” says Masson. “This is key, as retailers also run hundreds of campaigns a years, which are often split up by region and department. If, for example, retailers want to carry out a localised campaign then they need to plan this carefully. For example, in the US winter starts at very different times across different states. So when should retailers start their seasonal promotions? Also, if retailers don’t budget and track their spend they will be unable to calculate ROMI.”

But retailers can spend too much time planning the campaign and neglect the actual execution. “It’s important that retailers don’t suffer from analysis paralysis,” says Barad. “The Sitecore Customer Engagement Platform can help here by orchestrating the campaign process. It integrates mobile, e-mail and social campaigns into a single engagement platform while capturing and learning customer behaviours across these channels. It helps retailers have a consistent, relevant conversation every time, no matter where the interaction happens.”

Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Marketing Pilot has enhanced the value of the company’s portfolio of technologies for managing all aspects of marketing. This integrated marketing management (IMM) solution ties together campaign planning, execution and measurement. “According to Gartner, by 2014, companies that develop an IMM strategy will deliver a 50 per cent higher ROMI,” comments Masson. “The Marketing Pilot acquisition will augment Dynamics CRM to connect sales and marketing functions more closely.”

Marketing analytics are also key if CMOs are to create successful digital marketing campaigns, especially as it is increasingly complex to calculate ROMI across all channels. “How do you know if it was the e-mail blast, the magazine advert or the Facebook campaign that resulted in the conversion to a customer sale or visit to the store?” says Masson.

“Additional touchpoints are creating a lot more data, which is coming from different sources,” says Vincent Chang, director, Strategy, UX and Marketing at Netvibes, a Dassault Systèmes brand. “Take social media, where after the sale the interaction between the retailer and the consumer continues with reviews, Tweets and Facebook likes. This data can be very useful for marketers, but traditional business intelligence (BI) tools aren’t suited to process it. They are often complex and retailers also need to process this information much faster. For example, they can’t wait two days to respond to a Tweet.”

“The retail industry is going through an interesting transition as retailers strive to harness big data as a strategy for increasing sales,” adds Dandekar. “There are four capabilities retailers want from their analytics tools: an economical way to manage the data; to scale systems, to bring in data which is agnostic (structured/ unstructured) and analyse this quickly; and the ability to gain insight quicker so they can send it to business owners.”

According to Dandekar, many retailers want to achieve faster time to insight but they are still at the stage of applying predictive analytics, which involves predictions based on holistic trends and future scenarios rather than cognitive analytics, which gains sight from customer behaviour. “The analytics journey starts by listening to customers, then collecting and recording the data, analysing it and then applying algorithms to the data to derive actionable insight,” he says. “But retailers are struggling to understand how they can best use analytics to better understand their customers’ wants and needs. Cognitive analytics includes capabilities like social listening and modelling; sentiment analysis; mash-up modelling; and pattern recognition. Dell offers solutions that span the breadth of the information management lifecycle to help retailers manage their databases, integrate cloud and on-premise applications and data stores, and derive information and insights from any data.”

The benefits from gaining this customer insight are clear. “Retailers are thinking about how they can use this data to get the customer to come back and buy associated products, increase the size of the basket and open new business opportunities,” says Chang. “A great example of this is US homegoods retailer Anna’s Linens, which is using Netvibes to closely monitor consumer conversations before and after the retail experience through social channels such as Twitter, as well as review sites and blogs. They might see a Tweet that says: “I bought some amazingly soft bed sheets” and want to find out what other topics of conversations are related to soft bed sheets. They can then offer customers related products based on this analysis while monitoring this and associated keywords to see what consumers are saying on this topic on an ongoing basis.”

To enhance its social listening capabilities, Microsoft acquired Netbreeze in early 2013. The social monitoring analytics company delivers cutting-edge native language analytics combined with data mining and transactional and text analysis capabilities.

“The acquisition of Netbreeze is just one part of Microsoft’s roadmap to address future marketing challenges and opportunities,” says Masson. “We have a product portfolio that addresses all aspects of marketing requirements today and tomorrow by leveraging the value of technologies retailers may already own and use.”