Ernan’s Insights on Marketing Best Practices

Monday, December 11, 2017

'Tech Has To Adapt To People,' Says Lowe's Innovation Labs Leader

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CMO.com
Amanda Manna is a true innovation leader. As head of narrative and partnerships of Lowe’s Innovation Labs, she oversees the team responsible for innovation strategy, an extensive applied neuroscience research program, partnerships, and marketing and communications.
In her own words: “I direct the framework we are using to drive disruptive change within Lowe’s.”
The Innovation Lab has established a global reputation for breakthroughs, including the first AR/VR home design tools, in-store autonomous robotics, exoskeletons for store employees, and the first store in space—a 3D printer aboard the International Space Station.
With that as a backdrop, Manna provides an interesting, perhaps even surprising, take on technology in this edition of “4 Questions for Digital Innovators.”
1. What is one marketing topic that is most important to you as an innovator? 
There is a lot of excitement about the potential for new technologies like augmented and virtual reality, robotics, and artificial intelligence to transform customer experiences. Too often, this leads marketers and innovators to throw technology at the wall to see what sticks.
The problem with this approach is that people aren’t changing nearly as fast as technology, so what the world needs is more intuitive tools—made possible by technology—that can change human behavior.
Ask yourself, “What are the ‘common cold’ problems facing your business?” You know, the longstanding, stubborn problems that just continue to persist despite every effort. For Lowe’s, one of those problems is how to visualize the end result of a home improvement project. It’s estimated that $70 billion in projects every year never even get started because of how hard it is to envision the end result or share your vision with someone else.
After you’ve identified the problem, then consider how technology might be applied to help solve it. For my team, we knew we could use visualization technology like augmented and virtual reality to solve this human need and overcome fear and apathy. That insight led us on a journey that has helped Lowe’s lead the adoption of augmented and virtual reality tools for home improvement.
2. Why is this so important?
Technology has to adapt to people, rather than the other way around. It’s important as marketers that we are intentional about being imaginative, to ensure we build solutions that help people solve common problems or take advantage of new opportunities.
Too often, it feels like we throw new technology at problems we failed to solve with the previous generation of technology. And usually, these are marketers’ problems: How do I capture and keep attention, shift perceptions, or drive a purchase behavior? Until we actually solve the human problems that our customers care about, none of this innovation will drive the results marketers need.
At Lowe’s, we view our stores as a competitive advantage because they become living labs that allow us to get feedback from actual customers and employees. This is the best way we know to create not just solutions that work, but solutions that work for our customers.
3. How will this improve the customer experience?
It’s clear that by solving real problems first, marketers will deliver a helpful, supportive, and differentiated customer experience.
For example, we’ve learned that customers are intuitively turning to AR via a smartphone for collaborative design, which enables them to visualize changes within their existing space. As a result, our first global product launch was Lowe’s Vision, an AR design application for Google’s Tango platform.
What you learn along the way will likely surprise you, and if you’re paying attention to the right clues, they can lead to new opportunities. While we started off using VR for design, what we saw was that by putting people in a fully immersive environment, they were engaged, focused, and ready to learn. These insights led us to create Holoroom How To, a virtual DIY skills clinic that customers and employees can use to learn how to tile a shower.
4. How will this improve the effectiveness of marketing?
Today, with the launch of Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore, augmented and virtual reality technology is now in the hands of millions of people around the world. Artificial intelligence is driving the functionality of devices, tools, and experiences that are available today, such as smart home devices, and those that will transform tomorrow, such as self-driving cars. Technologies that may still feel far-future today are actually at our doorstep.
We all have the opportunity to shape the future as a result of the actions we take in the present. Start today by putting new technologies to work in service of old problems, and you can gain a head start on rising customer expectations by building tools that exceed what they need and want today. For Lowe’s, this head start has driven near-term value, in addition to the long-term benefit that comes by boosting our reputation as an innovative retailer.
The point I want to leave you with is that it is important to build solutions that don’t just work, but that work for real people. When you focus on building something that is helpful, useful, and exciting, it will sell itself.
Bonus: What is your favorite activity outside of work?
I love to spend my time outside of work relaxing with my husband and daughter. A perfect weekend will find us enjoying the outdoors and listening to music on our screened porch.

Monday, November 27, 2017

How Innovators are Breaking Silos and Creating Cross-Functional Alignment

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CustomerThink.com
Summary: When silos rule, internal communications break down and it’s difficult to present a united vision, brand and compelling message to consumers. However, some innovators are redefining cross-functional integration and alignment. 

How GE is Redefining “Communications”

GE Vice President and Chief Communications Officer Deirdre Latour, noted in regards to the company’s restructuring, that there is “no longer a divide between internal and external communications.

Latour commented how the company has fused its total communications, “We view communications as completely boundary less. There are no internal communications and external communications.” The company uses a system they call “go direct” to, as Latour notes, “build a direct communications program using data, that allows us to speak directly to [all] people and …communicate with those who care most about GE.”

How Cross-Functional Alignment Is Growing Tumi 

Luggage company, Tumi, has learned that “Cross-functional alignment to help the brand grow “beyond incrementality” helped boost effective customer engagement and drive growth. Following are cross-functional insights from Charlie Cole, Chief Digital Officer at Tumi,

  • “…it’s imperative that we put all our own needs aside and focus on working together to deliver on that expectation.”
  • “All four of us [digital, creative, merchandising and brand] work together against the same goals, and we have a mutual respect for each other’s expertise, making us effective and efficient.”
  • “It’s marketing/brand’s job to best understand and engage the customer from an emotional perspective. It’s digital’s job to continuously test and measure the impact of our engagement efforts…. I focus on how to provide the most immediate feedback on what’s working and what’s not so we can maximize our tactics.”
  • “We are also able to achieve new heights due to our strong collaboration…”
Research Shows Cross Functionality Fuels Superior CX

McKinsey & Co. noted that in order to build better consumer communication brands need to fix their internal communication.

Their insights indicate that brands need to “better organize and mobilize employees around consumer needs.” Additionally, they note that “designing the customer experience entails…reorienting company cultures.”

And that, “rewiring a company to provide leading customer experience is a journey in itself…. requiring high engagement from company leaders and frontline workers alike…it takes patience and guts to train an organization to see the world through the customer’s eyes and to redesign functions to create value in a customer-centric way.” But here is their caution, “too many companies focus on individual interaction touchpoints…”

The company noted that there is a distinct difference between a single touchpoint and a total journey, noting that “…customer satisfaction … is 73 percent more likely when journeys work well than when only touchpoints do.” And that building this journey “ “…must be made clear to every employee through a simple, crisp statement of intent: a shared vision and aspiration that’s authentic and consistent…” And, that journeys should be, “the framework that allows a company to organize itself and mobilize employees to deliver value…”

  • Communication with consumers begins with communication across departments at all levels. If there is no clear vision shared across all functional areas, then brand messaging, goals, and strategies become jumbled with no clear objectives.
  • When companies unite teams to work together for common goals, the collaborative results produce far stronger marketing that drives growth.
  • Companies need to put ego aside to continually re-evaluate and fix what is not working and adopt new interdisciplinary actions.
Pontish Yeramyan, founder and CEO of performance consulting firm Gap International, noted on the breakdown of interdepartmental communication,” When.. department or function becomes the most important thing, they lose perspective of the bigger outcome.” Brands need to break the cycle of tunnel vision to embrace wide-scoping, all-encompassing thinking in order to provide the type of consistent, well-rounded consumer experiences that builds relationships and thereby sales and loyalty.

Monday, November 13, 2017

GM's Global Director Of CX Answers 4 Questions For Digital Innovators

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CMO.com
David MingleAs global director of CX strategy and enterprise experiences at General Motors, David Mingle has spent the past four years laser-focused on transforming the customer experience.
“There is a lot of friction in today’s car buying process that we need to address,” said Mingle, who has held various management positions at Nissan North America, Chrome Systems, and Ford Motor. “At the same time, customers increasingly tell us that technology is a top purchase consideration, and they want their vehicles to seamlessly integrate with the rest of their digital lives.”
Read on for what followed.
1. What did you do with that feedback?
This insight fueled GM’s decision to make connectivity a strategic priority. We now have more 12 million connected vehicles on the road, and we have nearly 4 million customers using our mobile app. Both are incredible opportunities to introduce new and innovative experiences to our customers.
2. Why is this so important?
Research shows that engaged customers are more loyal, less price-sensitive, and more willing to talk favorably of the brands they love. We see digital, especially mobile, and vehicle connectivity as huge opportunities to move from customer interactions centered around maintenance and repurchase cycles to providing engaging content and value-added services at every key turn. It’s a game-changer for our industry.
3. What does that look like at GM, specifically? How will this improve the customer experience?
CX is still an emerging discipline for most of us. There isn’t a playbook that can tell you how to successfully innovate your customer journey. You just need to start with the basics and mature your approach over time. Develop a clear articulation of your customers’ needs and expectations. Leverage your existing surveys, social media insights, and internal or third-party studies. Don’t be surprised if you identify gaps and additional research is required.
At GM, we receive nearly half a million survey responses every month. We built a tool that flags surveys for follow-up when it identifies a low score or certain issues in the customer comments. We see meaningful uplifts in NPS and retention when successful recontact is made by our dealers or contact center advisers. This gave us a valuable early “quick win” that we could leverage in justifying further investment in our CX roadmap. And we now have a database of millions of customer surveys, giving us limitless opportunity to drive customer understanding across our organization.
We use this data and other research to map the customer journey. These maps help us identify the moments that matter most to our customers that also have high levels of customer effort or pain. These become priorities in our CX roadmaps.
As your customer understanding and journey maps mature, they will enable you to change how your company plans and solves problems. Our CEO calls it “Think Customer” and has declared it a key leadership behavior central to our ongoing success. This customer-centric mindset is driving unprecedented levels of collaboration across the many departments responsible for delivering each segment of the customer journey.
An example is our mobile app for owners. It includes features from sales, marketing, service, care, and Onstar packaged as one integrated experience, which is far easier for our customers than each business unit having their own app. That would not have happened without a common, customer-centric vision for our customers’ mobile experience.
4. How will this improve the effectiveness of marketing?
Customers today expect you to know their journey, act on their feedback, and be available 24/7 on the channel of their choice. Brands that effectively leverage their customer understanding to continually simplify and personalize the customer experience will drive higher levels of loyalty, lower customer acquisition costs, and streamlined customer support.
I would say we are still in the early innings of GM’s CX transformation, but we are already seeing demonstrable results that suggest the strategy is working.
Bonus: What is your favorite activity outside of work?
My wife and I have been blessed with three incredible and differently abled children. Our oldest has autism. We spend a lot of our free time advocating for adults with disabilities. [They are active board members at Dutton Farm, a program that provides vocational and life skills training for adults with autism and other disabilities.] It’s been very rewarding to get to know and support the caregivers, teachers, and others who give so much for those in need.