Digital Marketing in practice (final episode)

In our last episode of the series we have spoken of the holy grail of Digital Marketing landscape and how this is deeply connected to the identity of our customers. So let’s try to recap for a moment what we need :

  1. all our customer data (web logs, app logs, purchases, calls, surveys,etc…) marked with same identity Id in order to proper assign every event to the same customer and we need this data to be collected in real/near real time.
  2. to define what are our targets (sales, customer satisfaction, market penetration,etc..) and define a strategy to reach those goals.
  3. To define the strategy we use the data collected at point 1 to identify the patterns that are leading to : high revenues customers, abandoned carts, poor reviews, good surveys,etc….
  4. Once our overall strategy (sales, discounts, promos, coupons, social,etc.. ) is defined we need to put this strategy in practice defining our customers journeys, for example look at this or this , so literally we have to define on each touch point (where), what and when some “actions” will happen, who will be the target of those actions and what are the subsequent “sub actions” or steps that automatically have to happen at every step of the journey.
  5. To produce on all the touch points the respective UI associated to the actions.
  6. To go back to Point 1, evaluate the new data and check if the strategy is working and if necessary take the corrective actions.

Now in an hypothetical “perfect world” we should be finished,  but reality is much more complicated than that 🙂 .

rality check ahead sign

In fact , while we can define journeys and customer segments, profiles and target audiences , we need some “binding” to happen between our defined journeys and the real touch points.

An example? Let’s assume we define a coupon/loyalty initiative, this only means a quite large list of system configurations and actions :

  1. Define the new coupon initiative in the loyalty system
  2. Define the budget allocated for those coupons and the limits associated
  3. Integrate the new coupons with the e-commerce in order to have them to be applied and accepted at order time
  4. Integrate the journey builder actions into the e-commerce in order to have the e-commerce UI display the promotion new look & feel
  5. Integrate into e-commerce UI engine journey builder sub-steps if any
  6. Tag properly all the consumer journey steps in order to collect back the data points of the journey
  7. Etc..

Now repeat this for the marketing campaign system that handles email, sms and notifications, repeat this for the call center,etc….

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As you can imagine we need a single unified collection of products (identity,e-commerce, apps, crm, marketing email/sms, etc…) all connected by the same vendor and the “unified data collector system” to be also the customer journey builder , in fact we can reasonably understand if our strategies are effective only if we can observe on the very same tool if the journeys we designed are working or not (what if we define a journey of 12 steps and almost nobody goes after step 3 ? ).

I guess that if you look now on preferred search engine and do so basic research you will find at least 20+ vendors that are saying that they have this kind of combined solution in place.

In reality , even if we assume that all the 20+ vendors have all fantastic and well connected platforms, all the enterprises have already a gargantuan amount of systems already in place and you cannot “turn off” everything and start from the scratch.

At the same time even if you start from zero, often the cost and the lock in risk associated with ALL IN ONE solutions are so high that you can anyway end up going to think about a Lego approach.

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So what is our recommendation here ?

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The right approach can be perhaps neither build or buy , I call it smart integration.

Smart integration means the following:

  1. Define your own MML : marketing markup language
  2. From the central data repository define the personalized MML journey for each customer
  3. Write this MML journey on the identity of each customer
  4. Build/Configure on all the touch points the functionality needed to read the MML journey (leverage first the customer device/browser to perform the integration) from the identity itself ,translate that in meaningful actions on that specific touch point (email template on marketing automation, call center Next Best Action on the CRM, etc…)
  5. Collect all the data and evaluate , correct and start again 🙂

An example of MML?

You can start simply with something like this:

loyaltyblrule1

Now if you want to create a unified MML definition for the main strategies and touch points , I think it would be a fantastic idea and for sure a very successful start up!

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Digital Marketing in practice (part 4)

We finished part 3 defining the need of a customer identity provider that can seamlessly be integrated in all our touch points , but this also means that we can personalize our front ends only when our customers logins with our identity provider.

Can we personalize the appearance and the offers of our front ends without requiring the user to login?

If we look back to part 2 during the RTB the combined systems essentially do this job , because they recognize the user with a cookie or by device Id and they trigger the “right” advertising for him according to his profile (the real time auction is triggered only on the brands/campaigns that have this user profile in their target audience) .

Can we use cookies/device ids to do the same?

In reality we can do even more than that, because of the following : while DMP can “see” the same customer as two or more different customers because he uses a laptop with different browsers and a smartphone (in reality DMP uses a very sophisticated algorithms to match cookies and devices ids with IP addresses and other variables to remove ,when possible, duplicates and build unified profiles…) since we have an identity provider in place , when the customer logins we can match the same identity Id with all the different device ids and cookies ids and target correctly the very same customer.

However again , we don’t want to build completely from the scratch such a complicated system, and there are options available on the market .

We can ,for example, leverage Google Analytics (GA) Id coupled with our Identity Id as GA Crm Id (some examples are listed here) and use this combo to provide personalization even when customers are not logged (ga Id–> Identity Id–> customer identified).

Of course we need to store this relationship somewhere and the nosql structure of the identity provider can be a nice place (but it will not be so simple as you can imagine 😉 ).

Another way to do it is to have the personalization/promotion engine directly integrated with a DMP and use the DMP segments to define the personalization on the front-end, but this, if we plan to leverage correctly our identity provider, it is not a good idea.

If instead you plan to have a “no-registration/login” website, this technique can be really useful.

Now if we assign to each customer one or more “tags” where , for example we say if the customer is Gold, Bronze or Silver:

and we write those tags directly into the identity record of the customer, what will happen it is that any front-end that is able to read from the identity provider , can also do personalization and promotions looking at those tags, right?

And since the identity is the same across all front-ends, we can have always the right personalization for our customers right?

Well in theory yes , in practice we need something more to achieve this:

1) A personalization / loyalty / promotion engine on the front end that usually reads from front end db

2) A push down operation that copies the “tags” from the identity provider to the local front end

3) A magic system that writes to the identity provider the “right tags” for each customer and also coordinates what “gold/silver/bronze” mean for all the various actors :

  • what is the email template for a gold customer?
  • what is the discount for a bronze one in the e-commerce shop?
  • what silver means for the smartphone app?

If you pick the right identity provider and the right front ends the steps 1-2 should be only some minor configuration to do on the identity provider adapter for that front end.

Step 3 it is the holy grail of the overall landscape and we will look at it in the next part.

Digital Marketing in practice (part 3)

In the first and second part of this series we enumerated already several systems that we need to have in place to actually drive our digital shop of toys:

E-commerce (this alone it is a universe of components like payment gateways, web log analytics, social integrations, rating & reviews , coupons/promotions etc …) , supply chain, crm , marketing platform and last but not least the DMP with all the pieces and integrations .

How to manage all those platforms and how to integrate them?

How to perform something “simple” like define a campaign with promotion and special look & feel and have this promotion displayed only to the special customers irrespective if they browse the e-commerce site or they are on the Facebook page or they use the iPhone/Android app? And what if we want this to happen only x times to each specific customer and after that do not appear any more?

What if we want to do this for N (let’s say N=30 or 300) customer groups?

If we have 4-5 or more front ends (e-commerce, app Iphone, app Android, social pages, marketing emails, etc…) do we have to perform 5×300=1500 ui changes (1 for each combination of ui and customer group) ?

How do we recognize the same customer across different front ends in order to offer him the right promotions (multi channel)?

And if we add also retail stores (our own retail stores) into the mix (omni-channel) ?

What is the cost if we do this in the wrong way?

Finally one of the most desired features: Can we have a customer group journey builder and on each step of the journey decide what will happen on all the touch points (front ends) for those customers?


Those questions are usually the bread and butter of all the digital marketing and sales departments trying to serve their clients with the best of breed available technologies but at a reasonable cost , not only in terms of licensing and customization but mainly in terms of maintenance and integration costs.

In fact a “build” approach for those scenarios is simply impossible not only from a budget perspective but principally from a time to market perspective.

In order to proceed and propose some feasible approaches we need first try to figure out what are our key enablers that can help to simplify our landscape .

A first consideration is the following:

If we want to provide the same “service” to our customers on different touch points, we need to recognize customers in those front ends in the very same way.

One way to achieve this is to assign and reuse for each customer a unique identity that can identify him across all channels.

Ideally we need an identity solution, with hashing, encryption, cyber threat detection, multi factor authentication, social logins, etc…

More importantly we need an identity provider that is “plug-gable” in our e-commerce, apps and other touch points.

Assuming that our identity provider is in place (here a list of possible vendors) we can already offer very nice features and obtain very important benefits:

1. We do not manage passwords, we offload almost completely the identity security and compliance to our identity provider

2. We can offer social or sms login so people do not have to remember new passwords but they can re-use identities that they already have.

3. We can leverage identity provider advanced features like: progressive profiling (ask info to our customers at the right time and not all in once at registration time), identity sso across multiple touch points (if you are already logged in website A you are also automatically logged in website B) , conditional multi factor authentication (mfa), mobile app with qr code scan for mfa instead of sms, etc…

4. Identity forms (registration, password reset, login/multi factor login, etc) managed centrally once for all in the identity provider. Defined once, used in all the touch points.

5. Custom schema: in addition to the usual username/userid etc… modern identity providers give you also a flexible schema for customer identity data that you can leverage for multiple purposes. We will see the value of this soon..

In the next part we will look in the architectural benefits that this choice can bring and how we can leverage this to deliver the previously discussed features.