Monday, March 20, 2017

How to Match Digital Experience Tactics to User Scenarios

Experience is not a one size fits all solution. Though today most conversations are around a generic bucket of experience tactics being delivered to a universe of prospects, customers, partners and employees. The reality though is that this universe is made up of many different sets of experience expectations. If we want more satisfied customers, increased loyalty, a lower cost to serve, more engaged employees and ultimately an increase in net promoter score, then we need to think differently.

What is needed are different iterations of experience based on user scenarios. I use the term scenario instead of segment because experiences are dynamic, ever changing like scenes of life. Segments are static slivers in time.

Here are some vastly different user scenarios. A 38 year old "technology social" woman who likes to shop high-end brands is traveling alone to work by train, using her tablet to discuss the latest style of dress shoes with her community. A 23 year old "technology always" man who loves his phone is sitting at lunch with his friends to watch the latest mountain bike performance videos. A 50 year old "technology transactional" man is at work checking mutual fund performance on his desktop. Each of these scenarios have different sets of experience expectations.

Here are categories of input which can be used to define scenarios.
  • Consumer Characteristics - Demographics, Psychographics and Lifestyles
  • Categories & Brands - What product or brand are you interacting with?
  • Locations - Where are you; home, work and or traveling?
  • With Whom - Are you alone with your kids, friends, spouse, etc?
  • Channel Exposure - What is your interface; mobile, tablet, desktop, brick and mortar?
  • Life Activities - eating, socializing, vacationing, using technology, etc

The woman on the train will expect an experience based on her current scenario. The man at lunch will expect something different, as will the man at work. In fact, the experience expectation will change throughout the day for each of these users.

Just like there are multiple scenarios, an expected or exceptional experience is not a single solution, but a composite of three experience categories. I define these core categories as the communication experience - is what you are saying to me relevant, the operational experience - does the channel work, and the value experience - what's in it for me. Each has its own set of strategies and tactics. What changes for the solution is the weighting of each experience category by each scenario. So in one particular scenario there might be more weighting given to the operational experience and less to value.

This approach provides a framework for identifying a customized approach to delivering experience expectations. It supports more innovation around particular scenario experience because it exposes gaps or focus that might not have been apparent before.

Here are a some tactics aligned to the experience categories:
Communication experience; personalized content both text and imagery, relevant products, relevant timely marketing, appropriate instructions, chat, social integration, tools, knowledge libraries and more
Operational experience; intuitive navigation, seamless workflow, life-stage/business stage support, purchase cycle support, accessibility, up-time/load time performance, SEO management, availability of customer service, seamless channel handoff, collaboration and more
Value experience: appropriate pricing, relevant transactional and shipping fees, relevant products, appropriate features/benefits, coupons, offers and more

The weighting of each of these experience categories and tactics will be driven by the scenario(s) of the user. For example, the women on the train using community/social platforms will want the ability to access appropriate content and a platform that is quick. The man checking mutual fund performance would want accurate data and the ability to transact quickly and seamlessly.

Traditionally, the solution has been to deliver all experience features to everyone but there is a cost to deliver and maintain. Why invest into personalization if an end user wants a high performing platform to deliver video? Focus on tactics that have the highest impact on experience across the most scenarios.

The reason we want to provide expected user experiences, and exceed them at the right price, is to ultimately generate more and lower cost revenue. This will come from initial transactions, repeat purchases, advocating and referring new business. This in turn would/should increase net promoter score (NPS). But remember this is a journey, which means an ongoing process of measuring and adjusting for optimization.

Here is how to match digital experience tactics to user scenarios:
  1. Dig deep into the target audiences you care about and develop multiple scenarios for each. These will be much more robust than segments and personas. Think of it as creating a 5 five scene movie taking place over 24 hours. A day in the life.
  2. Match up similar scenarios across all target audiences in your universe. See where there are common denominators. The bigger the need the higher the focus.
  3. Categorize existing and potential user experience tactics into communication, operational and value. Look for gaps, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvements. You might find one category is non-existent and the other robust.
  4. Tag experience category tactics to scenarios, weighting the tactics based on the scenario needs. Survey end users on their experience expectations by scenario and use these results to assign and weight tactics.
  5. Determine the ROI of tactics by scenario then prioritize, roadmap, build and deploy experience tactics in order to meet experience expectations. Measure scenario user experiences ongoing to ensure impact of tactics on the bottom-line. Adjust, deploy and measure again.

These are some new concepts, but I believe using scenarios instead of segments will provide a more realistic view of your target audiences. Breaking experience down into communication, operational and value categories will provide a more detailed view into tactical inventory to identify gaps, weaknesses and opportunities versus scenario needs.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Digital Marketing Stack: Half or Full?

The digital marketing technology stack is like a stack of pancakes. Too little and you might not be satisfied. Too much and you have buyer's remorse. How do you get it just right?

What is the digital marketing technology stack? The answer will differ depending on who you ask. Some will define it as marketing automation, a digital marketing hub, sales automation, content management, ecommerce or some combination of each. The digital marketing stack is a subset of the marketing technology stack.

The digital marketing hub (DMH) is defined by Gartner's as, provides marketers and applications with standardized access to audience data, content, workflow triggers and operational analytics to automate execution and optimization of multi-channel campaigns, conversations, experiences and data collection across online and offline channels. DMHs are focused on the top of the funnel.

"Advanced" digital businesses though are looking to manage and optimize the entire customer journey and experience, looking beyond what a DMH offers. Their collection of capabilities are able to create awareness (lead) top of the funnel, support consideration (opportunity) middle of the funnel, support transaction (conversion) and support service (repurchase/advocacy) bottom of the funnel.

The digitally advanced business would have what I call a "funnel technology stack" that would include robust DMH tightly integrated with sales automation and experience. These businesses would have the features found in their stacks fully implemented. The digital "emerging" business on the other hand might not have a DMH, not have all the features enabled, or they might not have tight integration with their sales automation, experience and or ecommerce platforms.

Below are the four leading DHM providers according to Garner's 2017 Magic Quadrant. They basically offer the same features; the big difference is CMS integration.
  • Adobe Marketing Cloud – analytics [Omniture], audience manager [DMP to build customer profiles], campaign [cross-channel management], experience manager [CMS for building websites, mobile apps, & forms, and manage digital assets], media optimizer [programmatic ad buying], primetime [multiscreen TV platform], social [listening, analytics, publishing & engaging], target [a/b testing, predictive insights, personalization].
  • Oracle Marketing Cloud – marketing automation [Eloqua], cross-channel orchestration [Responsys], content marketing [plan, produce, publish, promote, prove], social marketing SRM [listening, analytics, publishing & engaging], data management platform DMP [BlueKai], testing & optimization [Maxymiser] a/b testing, predictive insights, personalization. No integrated CMS.
  • SalesForce Marketing Cloud [formerly ExactTarget] – channels (studios) [email, mobile, social, adv, web], platform (builders) [journey, personalization, audience, content (CMS), analytics, marketing cloud connect], DMP/Krux link/data science.
  • Marketo – marketing automation [cross-channel campaigns], acct-based marketing, email, mobile, social, digital ads, web, marketing analytics, predictive content. No integrated CMS.

In addition to experience & operational applications and backbone platforms, a digital architecture is going include middleware and a supporting premise and or cloud-based infrastructure. You can learn more about the digital architecture here Digital Architecture to User Experience. Leaders might also want to consider applications to support communities & reviews, SEO, loyalty/rewards, mobile optimization, retargeting, webinars, and lead scoring & nurturing to name a few.

Customer needs, competitive digital gap analysis, business drivers and digital maturity should guide your digital stack design and implementation plan. Top focus for marketers in 2017 according to an Adobe study include: whole customer focus, content marketing, digital foundation, campaign orchestration, predictive marketing, connected experience, relevant creative and journey management. Sales is focused on prioritizing and scoring leads, nurturing opportunities, inside sales and account-based marketing (ABM). Service cares about customer success, great experience, fast response, personalized offers and community.

So how do you handle these needs? What should the digital technology stack include, a DMH, a CRM platform, a CMS platform, or a combination of these and other capabilities? For many a full stack of technology can be overwhelming. Features end up not being fully utilized. You might end up paying for capabilities where you are not getting value for the expense. You could ease your way into a full technology stack one piece at a time to better ensure optimized use. The down side of piecemeal is not necessarily supporting full funnel needs as quickly as a full stack solution.

In either case a change management plan is needed to ensure that the business understands what the technology/vendor can do, and second, so that technology/vendor understands the needs of the business today and in the future. A change management framework should include: defining measurable stakeholder goals; creating business cases which are continuously updated; monitoring assumptions, risks, dependencies, costs, return on investment, and cultural issues; creating communications that informs various stakeholders of reasons for the technology and the benefits of successful implementation; and devising an effective education, training and/or skills upgrading scheme for the organization.

Overall this is complex effort with many moving parts. In my experience you need to be thinking about the following for the highest chance of success.
  • A funnel technology "full stack" is needed to support the entire customer journey and experience.
  • Digitally advanced businesses are using full funnel stacks including integrated DMHs, CRM and CMS platforms. Plus other features.
  • The amount of technology associated with a full funnel stack can be overwhelming, thereby reducing adoption. Smaller stacks can be challenging too.
  • Businesses starting out or growing their digital capabilities can piecemeal a digital stack "half stack" to support adoption and success. But it is even more critical to have the right architecture for this approach.
  • A solid change management plan can help to roll-out the technology at the right pace, ensuring processes are configured appropriately and that skills are in place to operate and configure the technology.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Digital Architecture to User Experience

The high-level goal of the digital architecture is to provide an exceptional experience. This in turn supports conversions, satisfaction, loyalty, repeat purchases and referrals. The winning business is the one who has the most exceptional experience at the right place, the right time with the most relevant message.

Defining and developing a digital architecture creates a lot of questions because most businesses have a different view of what it means to be digital. There is the enterprise definition, the line of business definition, the functional definition and the technology definition. Seems complex but if you ask enough of the right questions from all the stakeholders you can define a digital architecture vision that supports multiple digital strategies and operating models.

So who does this? It takes a technically savvy Digital Officer or a business savvy Digital Architect. In my previous article Digital Delivery: Closing the Business-IT Gap, I talked about understanding all digital activity from the enterprise view. As a starting point this is needed in order to plan and develop an efficient, agile digital architecture.

What is a digital architecture? This depends on who you ask and their view on digital maturity. For example, the view of a digital architecture is going to be different for a business using legacy technology infrastructure but has in part a digital operating model, versus a business that has a digital technology infrastructure and a digital operating model.

How does digital maturity affect the architecture? One way to classify digital maturity is a simple framework of Technology Infrastructure versus Operating model and whether these are in the legacy or digital phases. The use of legacy technology infrastructure with digital operating models suggests a patchwork effort, quick fixes versus a digital technology infrastructure with legacy operating model, that is poised for advancing its digital transformation. Today, 19% of North America falls into Advanced versus 76% of the EU, and NA 4% and EU 5% for Non-existent.

Whether a business is starting from scratch or building on top of legacy solutions, the process of piecing together a patchwork of disparate technologies is time consuming, complicated and costly. The result is an architecture that, by its nature, lacks full integration between the applications provided by the various vendors and may only be as good as its weakest component.

  • An advanced digital architecture would have or at least be striving for the following:
  • Omni-Channel Platform. The architecture would enable the different divisions, marketers or brands to sell, service and engage across different sales channels, including web, tablet, mobile, social media, and offline tactics.
  • Simplified Experience across UIs. The architecture would enable the different divisions, marketers or brands to engineer an intuitive user experience that requires no significant up-front training to implement and use.
  • Latest Technologies, Seamlessly Integrated. The architecture must be designed to integrate the latest technologies needed to sell products and operate an omni-channel business from any device. High-availability, continuously deployed, multi-tenant architecture are core requirements.
  • Enterprise-Level Security, Scalability and Reliability. The architecture must offer security, scalability and reliability, while at the same time being easy to use and affordable.
  • Open Architecture with a Thriving API Ecosystem connectivity. The architecture must be able to integrate with a rich ecosystem of app developers, theme designers and other partners (xTech). This requires the architecture functionality to be highly extensible.

In order to move to support a digital architecture, a two-speed architecture might be needed. A fast-speed, customer-centric front end running alongside a slow-speed, transaction-focused legacy back end. Depending on system of record needs this might be the ongoing architecture, which can be supported with integration and services. 

From a development perspective businesses need/should incorporate agile methodology along with DevOps. Businesses should transform processes and value-chains to shed weight and embrace the benefits offered by new digital technologies. User-centered design is another approach to getting the right experience in place. In addition to a consistent and exceptional user experience goal, a well design digital architecture will provide a speed to market competitive advantage. Development tools like agile, devops and user-centered design collectively support the ability for a business to quickly test and roll new features, products, services and even new ventures.

It is important to note that an open architecture API ecosystem connectivity design supports 3rd party platform integration like marketing stacks, xTech partners and their services. Cloud services can be integrated with a hybrid model for example. Possibly premise based legacy system integrated to cloud based platforms and applications.

Developing a digital architecture to provide a consistent and exceptional experience is a journey, though starting with the right foundational basics is critical. Supporting advanced digital maturity means having an omni-channel capability, seamless experience across UIs, being able to incorporate the latest technologies, enterprise-level security and an open architecture. Adaptability is key because what is considered a good experience today might not necessarily be considered a good experience tomorrow.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Value of "Earned"​ in the Digital Media Engine

Earned; the 3rd gear in the digital media machine. It is the least understood though offers the greatest value. Earned media has shown to provide the highest impact on conversion rate of any digital media. It is the "seal of approval."

Earned media like the name implies is "free." You can't buy it directly. How do you earn it? Provide a compelling description of the product or service. Meet or exceed buyer expectations. Or provide an exceptional service experience. Each of these strategies will resonate differently with prospects, customers and category watchers.

What kinds of actions can you earn: likes, reposts, retweets, shares, mentions, ratings, comments, replies, link saves, endorsements, subscribers, followers, pick-ups, recommendations, testimonials, reviews, and pick-ups. Effectively this is user generated content (UGC), which carries higher credibility within a network or community than company generated marketing material.

These earned actions can signal to others a positive experience with a company, product or service, therefore helping others get through the product research process more quickly. Putting your brand, product or service ahead of competitors in moving to conversion.

In the context of the purchase cycle; awareness, consideration, transaction and retention (ACTR), substantial media dollars are spent to create awareness and provide consideration to get prospects to move to transaction. Earned media can move a prospect right to transaction because others have done the work of becoming brand aware and putting the energy into evaluating features, benefits and overall value.

Below is an interesting chart showing results from a McKinsey study on touch points during the purchase cycle. The takeaway here is that company-driven marketing is more relevant during the awareness phase and consumer-driven marketing is more relevant during the consideration phase. Consumer-driven marketing being "earned."

In addition to moving a prospect more quickly to transaction, earned media results can also be bundled to give insight. For example, looking at number and quality of inbound links, retweets, number of twitter comments, Google +1's, Facebook likes, shares and comments and the extent content is shared or endorsed, can give an indication into brand/product influence. You can also bundle to get insight into engagement, sediment and other brand measurements.

There are costs associated with earned media which are more linked to operational overhead then direct expense like CPA or CPM. You need headcount to develop and distribute content, and promote and monitor earned actions. There can be paid content distribution costs as well if used. The work effort is in part a combination of traditional communications and social media management/monitoring/listening.

Earned media is a nurtured process where paid media is tactical, i.e. programmatic. A key nurturing strategy is simply to remind customers to give positive feedback. The old saying that those will with bad experiences will tell ten friends and those with a good experience will tell one applies to earned media.

There are tricks of the trade to develop and optimize a successful earned capability, but will save those for a later post. A key point to understand is that those providing earned actions need to have a reason to do so. For example, a strong emotional tie to the brand, some kind of return on their investment of time, and or a sense that their community or network will appreciate the UGC.

In the meantime, evaluate your digital media engine, review your earned process and understand how it is contributing to your overall conversion success.

Scott Alexander, President & Chief Digital Officer - Marketing Enablement

Digital Delivery: Closing the Business-IT Gap

There are lots of really good ideas in the digital space from omni-channel experiences to legacy modernization, xTech start-ups and mobile first. No shortage of ideas that are pitched and funded. At the same time there is a wide dispersion of companies on the digital maturity curve. Not for lack of funding, but for lack of execution.

According to PwC's Global Digital IQ Survey, more than 50% of executives say their businesses are not focused on executing their strategies, and few are able to bring their digital ideas to market in line with their vision.

In my experience there are two reasons. The lack of an enterprise view of all digital activities within an organization, and a lack of focus on developing robust use cases.

The majority of technology investments today fall outside of IT. Lines of business and and functional areas are stating their needs and owning their own IT budgets. This creates a gap with what is happening with the IT architecture.

Excelling at digital delivery and supporting enterprise digital transformation requires an enterprise view of not only digital projects but also the impact of these projects on the IT architecture. One-off digital projects not aligned with where the architecture is and where it is going, has short and long-term negative impact.

An enterprise view provides for synergies with other projects, for example where functional services can be reused. If there is not service type architecture today, then with enough needs IT can be planning to build one in the future to support rapid deployment. As a side note, there might be two architectures one to support legacy needs but another to support digital. Though both architectures aligned.

Where the enterprise view is at the macro level, use cases are the micro view. There is a movement with design-led development, i.e. what is the actual experience of an end-user of a given product. The design-led movement is keying off the purpose of use cases which is to blueprint and design actual experiences.

I have found that use cases which are not written with enough detailed input and thought from the business end up with development deliverables that do not meet expectations, and delayed or killed projects. At the same time when technology is not working hand in hand with businesses to create use cases, businesses don't understand the potential of what technology can deliver to optimize business need.

If you have lots of great digital ideas but poor execution, try focusing an enterprise view of all digital activity and IT architecture, and develop robust use cases (design-led development). These will help to increase the rate of digital project delivery by closing the business-IT gap.

Scott Alexander, President & Chief Digital Officer - Marketing Enablement