Engaging a Digitally Connected and Dependent Consumer
How has the cloud impacted us? It is a terrific question…and a hard one to simplify in one post. The shift to the cloud has brought with it changes in how CPG brands fundamentally operate across all functions and across the globe. From how we establish web services to the very operating systems we use, organizations as a whole are less tethered to on-premises systems and IT applications. Cloud has delivered agility and scalability, allowing CPG brands to re-imagine the very way they can engage with a digitally connected and dependent consumer.
But when I think of the cloud, almost immediately I think of the opportunities held in data. With the cloud, CPG brands have been able to capture, analyze and harness the power of mass amount of customer intelligence and data, in turn offering up a broad range of exciting and highly personalized experiences.
I also think of efficiency. Cloud solutions have been implemented to bring new rigor and agility to the entire organization. It is not unrealistic to envision a system that allows a marketing team to see the totality of the customer experience journey and lifecycle. We can connect data, commerce and supply chain systems, looking at the entire live business and how it intersects with the real-time customer.
IoT has the potential to impact both the operations of CPGs AND how customers engage
It is exciting and daunting all at once…and for marketers it means speed…and with speed can come chaos. Marketers must now manage a cloud based marketing technology stack that empowers wrangling data, a multitude of campaigns and connected experiences all through unique (and often disconnected)marketing technology platforms that can quickly get out of our reach and control.
Layers of Complexities
Ironically, the challenge I hear MOST often from CPG brands when it comes to data and the scale of “big data” that the cloud delivers is that while there is a massive amount of data out there, more often than not, the most critical transaction and real-time in-store data is missing. In reality, when the retailer holds that point of purchase relationship with the customer, it adds a layer of complexity, and can often create a new silo, that makes developing a single-version of customer truth difficult for even the most advanced brand. Brands are also overwhelmed with the vast array of intelligence sources. This has led many to retract their wide net and only fish for insights in comfortable marketing-owned ponds. Far too often, marketers are only looking at their own website…their own marketing channels like social and mobile. They aren’t able to gain insights into customer behavior and transaction data at the retail partner or store brand level…which means they are missing a big piece of the digital experience puzzle.
But I think one of the biggest issues is that there is no actual data strategy in place for the ENTIRE organization…we are, basically, winging it. According to the marketers we surveyed, 34 percent admit any data strategy in place is only in place for the marketing team but does not extend beyond their own functional walls. The organization has not embraced the idea that data is critical to success and can create a competitive edge.
Transform Culture, Process, and Platform
In the spirit of transparency, I have NOT managed IT organizations…and as a marketer, I have no desire to…managing IT organizations is a tough job. But I have worked with terrific CIOs and have learned lessons from them as they press on in this connected customer era. For organizations to truly succeed there cannot be fractures or friction between the strategies that engage and delight the customer and the systems that power those experiences and transport the data about those customers back into the organization. I fully respect the insights, expertise and sage knowledge IT brings to the table…as a marketer today, I’d be a fool to discount it. But far too often, the political machinations within and organization can pit IT and marketing against one another.
We are SO FAR beyond conversations about the relationship between CMOs and CIOs. In fact, most savvy leaders have made those bonds and elevated both marketing and technology conversations to new strategic levels. But these C-level relationships aren’t enough…that alignment and partnership needs to extend through both functions. We have seen this transform how both Marketing and IT are actually structured, with many organizations having “marketing technologists” that actually sit within the marketing organization and “customer experience specialists” that actually sit within the IT organization.
We have got to get out of our own way and let the customer take their spot in the center of the conversation. Rather than a battle over title or territory, winning brands are getting out of the way and working together to transform culture, process and platform.
IoT To Impact CPG Operations
IoT has the potential to impact both the operations of CPGs AND how customers engage. From the customer perspective, IoT opens the door for new streams of intelligence and information about a customer that can stream into the organization–where is the customer right now, what are they doing, are they working out, have they run out of something, are they looking at new products–and as customers become more comfortable that this data exists, the more their expectations will shift with thoughts like, well of COURSE they should send me replacements before I run out of coffee pods…of COURSE they should know what recipe I am testing out and that I forgot the eggs.
The real question, especially for brands looking to welcome IoT into the experience will be does the CUSTOMER value the outcome…or did you just add to the noise. IoT for as much as it can be an amazing addition to the customer experience…it can also be a distraction for a vehicle for an unexpectedly creepy moment.
IoT can also reshape operational processes as sensors and beacons can alert organizations about issues, needs, bottlenecks and opportunities to gain more efficiency. Industrial IoT has the potential to redefine what efficiency means for an organization.
What we keep hearing from both CMOs and CIOs is that customer and commerce systems are not fully integrated and aligned. Organizations need to look for technologies that connect the entire experience, from marketing processes and experiences, commerce and transactional engagements AND the back end of the organization like finance and supply chain. Innovation can certainly be fostered and accelerated in point solutions, but real business growth and agility will only be fostered in systems that connect the totality of a customer’s experience with a brand. I really like tools that connect the entire live organization like SAP Hybris and IBM’s Commerce solutions. When you look at a solution like SAP Hybris, you gain the ability to deliver highly personalized engagements that tie into service, support and supply chain. Regardless of what system you use, be sure to look for a platform that can easily integrate data from disparate systems and can integrate your view of the customer far beyond a handful of departments. See the entire journey, not just the one that is easiest to get to.