A LITTLE MORE CONVERSATION
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Conversation-starters are the best way of solidifying relationships with customers, as delegates at the Festival of Marketing heard.
“Every strong, healthy relationship starts with a conversation,” Facebook’s Riccardo Scotti di Uccio, platforms marketing lead for EMEA, told the audience at 2019’s Festival of Marketing. It’s not just what’s said but also how and where that matter when you’re trying to deliver the best customer experience.
Those different ways of engaging customers in brand conversations and storytelling were debated across three separate panels at the event.
buy more from a brand if they can communicate with it
The disconnect comes, Trowell suggested, from the fact that the data sets are siloed – some set aside for retention activities, some for acquisition. But customers don’t behave in the same manner.
Companies need to be taking all the information they have about customers and understanding the whole of their journey, not just whether they might be a new customer or not. Data and channels need to work together holistically to deliver messaging to customers in the right context.
“Cross-channel solutions deliver their maximum value when they merge. If you are not pulling in information about where people are on the journey, which channel or on how they're interacting with it, then you may miss a moment,” Trowell warned.
Systems that share data and build an understanding of where the customer is on that journey means companies can start running triggered, moment-based marketing across multiple channels. But this involves more than just managing large volumes of data at speed. This is the realm of intelligent machines.
“It’s interesting what you can do with artificial intelligence once it has access to the data. [AI and machine learning can] pull in not only structured but also unstructured data about media, and learns from behavioural moments from across channels.” Trowell believes that this approach has saved clients around a 35% reduction in cost per acquisition and a 46% increase in conversions.
The idea of AI rather than marketers being behind all of that growth could be a worrying prospect for human employees, which is something IBM’s strategy lead in support of Acoustic, Nick Noble, acknowledged in a separate Festival of Marketing presentation.
He spoke about a colleague who optimised an email marketing campaign in minutes, to which a senior client had remarked: “What you did in 17 minutes takes my agency people three weeks.” Bye-bye jobs? Happily, Noble added: “AI is not going to destroy jobs. It’s going to change jobs.”
What this means for managing the customer journey - such as discovering those contextual moments Trowell mentioned - is applying human and technological skills in a different, less siloed way.
“If you think you’ve got big data issues, what happens when you’re harvesting data from every single [channel], getting the insight out of it instantly and returning it to the world? That’s a big data problem and humans can’t do that, AI can,” said Noble. But he added: “In combination with us is where the magic happens.”
He urged marketers not to confuse the data journey with the customer journey. Collecting all the data points is the data journey. “You can do customer-centric marketing and be more human when people call up after they’ve had an email. That’s where we think about conversation, not correspondence. It’s all in the timing.”
By using AI to stitch the information together so customers receive contextual messaging, not just a single ad triggered by a single action, companies can use AI to track, understand and service customers intelligently. Layering the human component on top adds creativity and customer understanding. Noble concluded: “Every time, no matter what technology comes along, human and machine wins.”
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Riccardo Scotti di Uccio, Facebook
Facebook's Riccardo Scotti di Uccio on why messaging matters to businesses
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Getting the message across
In Scotti’s presentation, he discussed the importance of messaging platforms to delivering information quickly and efficiently. “People demand real-time communications and want to be in control of their time, not have brands control their time.”
He related an experience of trying to contact a company through messaging, only to be told to go to the website to find the number to call. He was then left on hold for more than 10 minutes and finally told an answer might be ready in five days or so. Needless to say, the company did not gain his custom.
“Whether in print or online, it is still all about relevant storytelling and getting people to share and discuss our editorial, as well as using the comments pages for valuable user generated content,” he said.
Metro.co.uk assistant editor Claire Eaton-Rutter said the main difference between the print and online worlds is that the online editorial team must ensure a story is up-to-date.
“You need great contacts and must not fall into the trap of just taking stuff off social media,” she said. “We have people working around the world and around the clock keeping the home page refreshed and ensuing Metro is on top of the news.”
The subject of commercialising the data news brands collect was raised, with the panel quick to stress that the editorial product must retain its integrity with readers despite commercial pressures.
The Evening Standard’s Tomchak said every journalist must understand how to use data but not obsess over it or copy will simply become clickbait. “Data must not become the tail wagging the dog because the audience will not understand what you stand for anymore,” he said.
Hough agreed that an over-reliance on data can be dangerous and he disliked any reference to readers as customers. “The reality is we are trying to get money from them, but we have to do that by being true and honest to our editorial roots.”
De Groose added towards the end of the session: “We have two million more readers every day, who are highly engaged in our content. We are innovating in how we deliver the news and it’s working. We are growing multiplatform demand.”
Messaging provides brands and customers a channel to interact intuitively and in real time. It’s not just a customer service situation. Messaging helps customers delve deeper into product detail, helping them make more informed purchases. “People will buy more from a brand if they can communicate with it and ask for more details. It’s a question of building confidence,” Scotti insisted.
He added that establishing this line of communication shouldn’t be hard. Planning is the first step.
“Planning means understanding exactly which context and what problem the messaging experience is going to be solving. The second step is to understand what makes the best-in-class experience for a specific brand. Finally, you can start building and that is extremely simple. It may seem like rocket science but it’s pure content that is structured in a very simple way.”
In a separate session at the Festival, a panel argued that one sure-fire way to make the customer part of the conversation is to get them ‘behind the scenes’, using video and stories on mobile – termed ‘vertical storytelling’ – to bring the brand to life. Gareth Leeding, creative director at We Are Social Sport, argued: “I think ‘vertical’ is one of the most exciting developments and changes in the industry over the past five years.”
What all the panellists identified was the access and intimacy that vertical storytelling via mobile delivers to customers. Jade Tomlin, creative director at Tribal DDB, revealed: “The bulk of our work is for Volkswagen and it's really key to give the fans things that they wouldn't ordinarily come across. The value comes from giving exclusive content.”
Blogger Stephanie Yeboah on vertical storytelling
For influencers such as blogger Stephanie Yeboah, it’s about providing variety of interaction: “It just offers something a bit different depending on the type of material that brands or influencers do.”
However, all the panellists noted the potential trap of using vertical storytelling as just another platform to repurpose cut-down versions of TV ads. They argued that social – and indeed vertical – content need to constitute marketing investments in their own right.
Immersing the customer in the experience
Beyond seeking out conversations or bringing customers behind the scenes is the idea of immersing the customer in the experience and letting them discover and live it. However, as Asher Rapkin, director of global business marketing for messaging and emerging platforms at Facebook, explained in another presentation, it’s not possible to live the experience in the real world all the time.
Facebook's Asher Rapkin gives an example of vertical storytelling
“Storytelling is something I find utterly compelling and one of the most interesting parts of our day-to-day. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) – AR in particular - are going to take us to new places in arts and personal expression.”
Using technology to bring people into the brand’s world taps into emotional connections that are sparked, but not fulfilled, by more traditional media. “Immersive media, birthed by virtual reality, is essentially being able to step into a world that is reactive to you,” he explained.
Rapkin added: “The second common application of augmented reality is utility. Clicking on an ad from Pottery Barn, for example, and using the camera to imagine placing one piece of furniture in another location around their house.”
Virtual reality is enabling experiences as varied as wandering around football matches or locations that they normally wouldn’t be able to get to, or having full conversations with people in conference rooms around the world. Rapkin concluded: “By bringing people into these experiences, we will deepen the connection in the community that comes from it.” ■
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