Digital TransformationOptimizing customer experience is critical to surviving in the age of digital Darwinism

Optimizing customer experience is critical to surviving in the age of digital Darwinism

CMOs and CDOs from Hyundai, 20th Century Fox, Marriott, and others weigh in on how they're investing in technology focused on improving customer experience.

A report released this week by digital research firm, Altimeter, revealed that the most digitally innovative brands are investing heavily in technology aimed at modernizing the customer journey.

The report is based on interviews with nine top CMOs and CDOs from companies that include 20th Century Fox, Carnival Cruise Lines, Electronic Arts, and Expedia’s HomeAway, among others.

Altimeter synthesized in-person conversations with these digital leaders to glean how they’re tackling modernizing the brand experience for digital-first customers.

Key findings on tech investments by digitally innovative brands

The findings of the Altimeter study are consistent with what’s happening in the martech industry as a whole—namely, top brands are investing in technology to improve overall customer experience (CX). This investment is crucial for brand survival, dubbed “digital Darwinism” in the report. Essentially, brands must adapt to survive and thrive.

In Q4 2018, Gartner reported that that marketing leaders in North America and the UK expected to spend 29% of their budget on marketing technology, up from 22% in 2017—this represented the largest share of the budget, exceeding that of labor, paid media, and agency fees.

marketing budget allocation according to companies in north america and the UK, by category
Image Source: eMarketer

Additionally, a recent IDC study revealed that 85% of enterprise decision-makers plan to make significant investments in digital transformation in the next two years to avoid falling behind their competitors.

This transformation depends heavily on improving customer experience, with many CEOs planning to focus on creating digital strategies to improve CX by the end of year.

The report highlighted several different approaches that legacy brands are implementing to modernize the customer journey with the goal of delivering effective CX.

Data collection and interpretation

Marketers are shifting away from conventional efforts to engage with customers and working internally in their organizations to create more relevant customer experiences.

Hyundai CMO Dean Evans describes the company’s approach as moving from a “creative exercise and crossing your fingers” to one that’s “data driven, and performance based.”

As with most industries, digital is transforming the car buying customer journey, reducing what used to be an average of five visits to the dealership down to two. People are researching cars online before visiting the dealership.

Per Evans, “…it takes data and a progressive marketing department to get the person in the dealership to begin with.”

Entertainment company Electronic Arts is taking a similar approach to data driven marketing by integrating their marketing, publishing, and analytics groups under the leadership of one CMO, Chris Bruzzo.

"it takes data and a progressive marketing department to get the person in the dealership to begin with"

Real-time data analysis

Vacation rental company, HomeAway, uses real-time data to understand customer behavior.

HomeAway analyzes customer data across multiple channels including their website, app, and social media. They use this data to segment customers in real time, identifying customer signals so they can deliver customized, relevant content and messaging.

HomeAway also uses real-time data to determine what customers don’t want such as irrelevant ads and poor landing pages. By adjusting content and optimizing the customer journey, HomeAway has become poised for growth, earning nearly 9 billion in bookings in 2017.

Data tells a story—and analyzing it helps to humanize it, enabling companies to make sense of customer behaviors which can then inform how they should invest in products, services, and technology.

Julie Rieger, Chief Data Strategist of 20th Century Fox, employs data scientists and psychologists to sort and translate customer data with the goal of better understanding—and humanizing—the customers.

Investments in machine learning and AI are at the forefront of data interpretation with HomeAway as well. They’re shifting from manual marketing optimization to reactive modeling using AI.

“The right data combined with the right tools are not only becoming better at finding the right customers, they’re also focused on not spending money on the wrong customers.”
–Altimeter Digital Experience Innovators Report

It appears we’ve come full circle. Once upon a time, reams of aggregate data tended to turn groups of consumers into generic statistics. But now, AI and real-time data analysis is differentiating people, enabling marketers to isolate behaviors and triggers in order to provide personalized, and relevant shopping experiences.

Using personalization to stay relevant

Companies are using data to better understand their customers during critical moments of the digital buying cycle. This helps them achieve relevance at every consumer touchpoint—a tall order.

Consumers have come to expect a certain level of personalization. A recent eMarketer survey revealed that nearly 90% of respondents were annoyed by irrelevant messaging. Additionally, 44% of respondents indicated they would switch to brands that were better at personalization.

Personalization comes in a variety of flavors, but consumers indicated that the top ways they feel like an individual are:

  • Getting special offers sent to them
  • Being recognized as the same person across multiple touchpoints
  • Customizing how, when and where the brand interacts with them
ways brands make consumers in North America and the UK feel like an individual, Jan 2019
Image Source: eMarketer

Panera, under the guidance of Daniel Wegiel, its Chief Growth and Strategy Officer, is attempting to create a personalized experience in a variety of ways. Panera allows customers to modify their meals based on preferences, but they also use data to drive loyalty and growth.

By allowing customers to save favorite meals and customize orders, Panera is building a profile of food preferences that enables them to customize offers and content.

Altimeter’s report emphasizes how personalized, relevant experiences translate to happier and more loyal customers. Loyalty is its own reward, contributing to brand reach from customers who become brand advocates.

Marriott also considers loyalty a core marketing strategy involving the entire organization. Karin Timpone, Marriott’s Global Marketing Manager, places a strong emphasis on the customer experience beyond the booking. Marriott works with partners in the entertainment, culinary, and sports industries to provide rich content showcasing various activities, attractions, and destination spots to enhance their experience. The loyalty program boasts over 110 million members.

Brands are becoming technology companies

The Altimeter report concludes with a list of actionable next steps that brands can emulate based on the “experience innovators” they interviewed.

Using marketing data as a driver to improve customer experience plays a critical role for all experience innovators, with investments focused on organizing and evaluating data. Real-time data insights help companies unearth the story of their customers, enabling them to personalize and deploy content at all touchpoints.

Finally, ensuring that the entire organization is involved in all aspects of the customer experience is critical to meeting customer expectations and ensuring future business growth.


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