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Ernan’s Insights on Marketing Best Practices

Monday, August 1, 2016

Citi's Managing Director, Global Rewards, Answers 4 Questions For Marketing Innovators

Mary HinesAs Citi’s managing director, benefits, new product development and global rewards, Mary Hines oversees the growth and development of the company’s ThankYou Rewards loyalty program, as well as the benefit offerings associated with Citi’s Branded Cards portfolio. She is also responsible for leading innovation efforts within the Branded Cards portfolio and bringing new products to market.
Hines recently participated in our "4 Questions for Marketing Innovators" series.
1. What is one marketing topic that is most important to you as an innovator?
Nearly every business model on the planet is being impacted by a powerful, disruptive force: digitization. And with more consumers relying on mobile devices to interact with brands--in 2015, almost two-thirds of U.S. adults had a smartphone, up from one-third in 2011, according to the Pew Research Center--brands have no choice but to adapt or die. Adapting to the changing landscape isn’t just smart, it’s a matter of survival.
2. Why is this so important?
For Citi, leading what’s next and digitizing our model is central to our strategy. From 2014 to 2015, we saw a 25% increase in our global customer base interacting with us via mobile, and this trajectory continues. In order to remain relevant and innovate for growth, we need to ensure we’re interacting with consumers when they want and where they want, and increasingly, this is via mobile.
3. How will the customer experience be improved by this?
Through Citi’s ThankYou Rewards loyalty program, we’ve been on a journey to transform the offering so that we’re providing relevance in a digital world. We are optimizing the program for our mobile-savvy member base and enabling redemption where customers are. Our digital catalog has been mobile-optimized, and, through this, we’ve seen a twofold increase in digital engagement over the program’s analogue counterpart.
What we’ve found is that when we’re engaging customers where they want to be engaged, it’s a powerful relationship. In a study we’re about to release, nearly 90% of consumers said they are less likely to switch credit-card providers or banks when they use their credit-card rewards. So by interacting with customers where they are, we’re not only providing ease and simplicity, we’re laying the groundwork for a long-term relationship that will extend far past this mobile moment through technological innovations of the future.
4. How will this improve the effectiveness of marketing?
At the core of marketing, it’s being where customers are. However, the “where” has and will continue to shift as technology transforms at a rapid pace. And brands need to stay ahead of the game to stay in it.
Bonus: Favorite activity outside of work?
Being class parent for my son’s pre-K class—never a dull moment.
For additional Marketing Innovator stories, click here.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Retailers Seeking Brand Loyalty Challenged by Volatile Store Traffic Environment

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on Loyalty360
In the past year, a plethora of retailers made assertions pertaining to a “challenging store traffic environment,” and its negative impact on sales and, ultimately, brand loyalty.
Challenged by volatile store traffic
What’s more, these retailers have spoken of a challenging environment, with volatile macros globally, and an increasingly competitive landscape replete with digital technologies disrupting many aspects of their respective business models.
Ernan Roman, President of ERDM, told Loyalty360 that the challenging store traffic environment can certainly have a direct impact on loyalty marketers.
“Our firm, ERDM, recently conducted 2000-plus hours of voice of customer research interviews with millennials to understand their expectations of the retail shopping experience,” Roman explained. “The findings explain why many retailers are finding this to be a challenging time in terms of store traffic. Per the findings, millennials take for granted these factors in the shopping experience; choice, price value, service, speed, convenience, contextual relevance, and frictionless purchasing.”
A retailer’s shopping experience has to satisfy all these criteria in every element of the omnichannel mix, Roman noted.
“If the retail shopping experience does not bring additional value to the online and mobile shopping experience, why visit a store?” Roman said. “Marketers must learn from the omnichannel convenience, personalization, service, engagement and magic of the retail experience provided by leaders such as Burberry, Rebecca Minkoff, and Sephora.”
Based on the research findings, Roman recently visited a Sephora store and observed how the use of in-store technology, tutorials, and demos enhanced the customer shopping experience.
“But, the really thrilling part was how sales reps entered customers’ personal preference information on their tablets so customers would have their updated information as part of their profiles, therefore improving their future online or retail shopping experiences!” Roman said. “The Sephora reps were focused on improving the customers’ omnichannel experience and providing guidance to help them make informed decisions across all channels. The sales flowed naturally from this value-added engagement. Retailers that are not embracing this holistic, customer-focused and omnichannel vision will not win.”

Monday, July 11, 2016

Are Your Policies Helping Or Hurting Customer Engagement?

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CMO.com
Are your policies helping or hurting customer engagement“You can only eat so much plain white cake. The 30 percent is the icing.” This is just one of the statements Joe McFarland, J.C. Penney’s executive vice president, made during a recent company conference. He then went on to instruct attendees, “We want you to stop doing things that don’t focus on the customer.”
Additionally, J.C. Penney CEO Marvin Ellison made the following statements: “Our marketing has to be more specialized,” “We have great data; we just aren’t using it,” and, “The customer loves us, and we need to love them back.”
Shifts from traditional corporate policies toward customer experience-focused improvements are reinforced by two important research reports:
  • Forrester principal analyst Laura Ramos noted: “Customer-centric companies must figure out how to engage customers on their terms throughout the customer journey. ... In order to become a customer-centric company, old metrics and models need to be thrown out. ... It doesn’t work that way anymore.”
  • A McKinsey report advised, “As improving customer experience becomes a bigger component of corporate strategy, more and more executives will face the decision to commit their organizations to a broad customer-experience transformation.”
One company that has put both money and policy behind its commitment to better its consumer experience via corporate policy is Chick-fil-A, which is currently the highest-scoring restaurant brand in the U.S. Customer Experience Excellence rankings.
The company spends more than a $1 million evaluating its service. In addition to traditional focus groups, the company conducts a quarterly phone survey with customers from each restaurant. Each location receives a two-page report detailing what's working and what needs improving.
“My business grew on the understanding that customers are always looking for someone who is dependable, polite, and will take care of them,” said S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A.
The company has a dedicated area on its site for Chick-fil-A stories. Additionally, its 80,000-square-foot Hatch Innovation and Learning Center is dedicated to helping the company invent next-generation customer experiences.
My three takeaways for marketers:
1. Make it a priority to challenge your corporate policies and procedures to determine whether they are creating obstacles or facilitating employees' ability to provide the best possible customer experiences.
2. Regularly engage consumers in “real life” customer experience surveys and conversations to determine what is and isn’t working. Listen. Learn. Make changes.
3. Do you have a formal training to make sure your CS strategy is put into action, with clear benchmarks to measure success? If the answer is no, fix that right away.
“Marketing can’t deliver a great customer experience independent of sales, service, and any other part of the organization. ... Without a holistic approach, you are really only hoping that you can deliver a great experience,” said Gartner analyst Jake Sorofman.
It is now no longer an option that marketers in every industry challenge their corporate structure to understand whether legacy policies are building barriers to, rather than enabling, customer engagement.