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Ernan’s Insights on Marketing Best Practices

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Tumi's CDO Answers 4 Questions For Digital Innovators

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CMO.com
Charlie Cole, chief digital officer of Tumi, has been overseeing and developing the luggage and travel accessory brand's global e-commerce and digital platforms since 2015. When Samsonite acquired Tumi last year, he also took on the official role of global chief e-commerce officer, which includes oversight of global strategy for brands such as Samsonite, American Tourister, Hartmann, Gregory, and High Sierra.
Prior to Tumi, Cole held various leadership positions, including CEO of The Line and head of e-commerce for Lucky Brand and Schiff Nutrition.
Cole recently participated in our "4 Questions for Digital Innovators" series.
1. What is one marketing topic that is most important to you as an innovator?
The balance of art and science in marketing is the single most important topic to make sure I am open to being self-critical and constantly evolving my thinking. When I was younger, I believed that nothing was more sacrosanct than listening to the numbers, and if you did that, you'd be fine. However, I've realized that at a premium brand, in particular, everything starts with creative and merchandising–and your job as a marketer is to support that, not overrule that.
This requires reciprocation. Merchandisers and creative directors need to be open to analytical feedback and evolve as well. I have framed this to other people as: Creative and merchandising set the guardrails, and it is my job to widen those guardrails as much as possible through education provided by the digital marketing sphere.
This is a big ask for a lot of marketers: You're not the center of the universe, and you are, in fact, a service department. It's very normal for marketers to be fairly exalted in business because we get to do a lot of sexy stuff. But, in reality, we are a support industry, not the driving function.
2. Why is this so important?
You can't be binary. You are seeing the ultimate personification of this taking place in the e-commerce ecosystem today. Amazon–arguably the greatest analytically driven company in history–is struggling to penetrate the luxury market. Brands rightfully fear Amazon's completely democratic approach to brand protection. While this may be a bit unpopular to say, great brands still drive the conversation. Yes, social listening and feedback is important, but the fact of the matter is people still wait for truly special brand newness.
If you are not self-aware and don't evolve, you will lose. The scariest thing? We're not talking about losing your job. We're talking about losing your career. If all you are is a brand marketer who can't listen to numbers or just a brilliant analytical marketer with no respect for the brand you're supporting, you're a dinosaur and more likely already dead.
3. How can this improve the customer experience?
The customer is the big winner. You get creativity, inspiration, and aspiration, and then it's mixed with evolution and personalization as you engage with the brand further. My mom bought me a pair of Air Jordans when I was 9 years old, and now I'm 34 and can design my own Nikes! Talk about a win for me.
4. How will this improve the effectiveness of marketing?
Customers will get what they didn't expect, what they didn't know they needed, and then practically give you the playbook on how to continue to market to them. For companies, you have to let your artists take the first guess; that's their job. Raw, pure creation. From there you can invest in iteration–which means investing in analytics plus science. If you balance those two things, you are letting people do what they do best. The biggest challenge for a larger company culture is to instill the trust throughout the organization to drive a collaborative environment between two types of people who think completely differently.
Bonus Question: What is your favorite activity outside of work?
Well, it's 70 degrees and sunny outside, so that may be influencing this answer a little bit, but I would say my absolute favorite thing to do is to sit on my back porch with my wife, throw the stick for our lab Tucker, and watch him romp around while sipping on a nice, dry rosé. Yup, that's the ticket.
For additional Digital Innovator stories, click here.

Monday, September 25, 2017

All These Mergers... Consumers Are Asking: Will Their Brand Connection Still Be There?

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CustomerThink.com
“By combining companies, we believe will be able to…enhance the customer experience, increase customer value and put ourselves in an even stronger position to help shape and lead the next generation of shopping,” So said Mike George, QVC’s president and CEO.
But will they?
When brands merge are they diluting the brand message and connection with consumers? With so many mergers and acquisitions recently, you have to wonder what it means for brands and their connection with consumers.
L’Oréal which owns 34 brands has a unique perspective—let the brand be itself and be what consumers want. Jean-Paul Agon, L'Oréal CEO, noted, “Brands have to be authentic, but for [consumers], it means the brand is transparent and there is sincerity in what they express… We have to adapt permanently, or even anticipate permanently, the consumer’s demands…”
The lesson for brand managers going though mergers it that it’s essential to both respect and reassure consumers who have made a financial and time investment in selecting and patronizing “their brand.” When things “change” due to merger, an emotional connection could be at jeopardy if doubt sets in that that their original decision to become a customer is no longer valid.
The Harvard Business Review noted that an emotional connection between a brand and its consumers is a significant differentiator. “On a lifetime value basis, emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers.
Here’s a bit of insight they share that brand managers should take note of:
  • “Most companies lack a strategic objective that spans the customer journey.”
  • “Our research across hundreds of brands in dozens of categories shows that the most effective way to maximize customer value is to move beyond mere customer satisfaction and connect with customers at an emotional level – tapping into their fundamental motivations.”
The advice In our ERDM learnings from 15,000+ hours of VoC research interviews, consumers told us that understanding them and developing relationships is a competitive differentiator for maintaining a strong brand connection:
  • “Your generic communication make it obvious that you don’t understand me. You are trying distill my complex needs into simple generalities to make it easier for you … and useless to me!”
  • “You marketers don’t understand that personalization is valuable … it forges strong ties when there is the almost-certain outreach from competition.”
One of the issues in meeting consumer connection needs according to Adobe Digital Insights (ADI), is that brands think that they are delivering this experience but according to consumers—they are not.
Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst at ADI, explains why value is always the key to connections.
“[Brands] have to demonstrate value to the consumer. Companies are still not built to be able to do that…. At a time when marketers are competing for time and attention…Organizations, themselves, are fragmented, and, on top of that, their technology is fragmented, making it difficult to make progress…We’re in a really high-pressure environment where marketers need to not only protect their loyal base, but also efficiently steal from the competition… The winners are going to be the companies that have the technology and chops to serve relevant, personalized communications to consumers, consistently…”
TakeAways:
1. Consumers want meaningful relationships with brands. When doubt creeps into a consumer’s mind they lose the original motivation that sparked their connection in the first place. Brands need to be sincere and clear in all touch points so that the value “reason” is continually reinforced and present.
2. An emotional consumer connection with your company is a primary driver of engagement. Actively involved consumers are far more likely to be not only be top purchasers but also vocal and authentic brand ambassadors. But this takes a continual commitment to demonstrate understanding and develop highly personalized experiences.
3. To grow, companies need to protect the investment they have in their already loyal consumers while simultaneously reaching out to new prospects. And, finding ways to be relevant to both.
With so much merging and blending, the question is; will these combined companies thrive or not? However, one thing is for sure; consumers will want proof that any new union deserves their patronage. In an interview, Doug Rose, SVP of programming and marketing for QVC, said, “Amid the rapid transformation of our business, our recipe for cultivating loyalty has not changed: To deliver a shopping experience that fosters enduring relationships, rooted in trust.

Monday, September 11, 2017

4 Requirements for Linking CX to ROI

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on crmirewards.com
Eighty-one percent of consumers are willing to pay for a better experience, according to the Capgemini’s study The Disconnected Customer.” Yet, customers don’t feel that companies are delivering high quality customer experience (CX), and one in five consumers stopped purchasing from a company after a poor experience, Capgemini’s research found.
In our own ERDM learnings from more than 16,000 hours of VoC research interviews, consumers were emphatic that short-term sales-focused tactics were irritating, brand damaging, and undermined loyalty. As empowered consumers, they expected engagement oriented communications and experiences.
Here is a representative quote from the research: “You marketers don’t understand that personalized engagement post-sale is valuable for the customer and... forges strong ties with your company that serve as a ‘grace account’ upon which to draw when there is the almost-certain problem or outreach from competition.”
Chris Hull, Chief Merchandising Officer at the iconic American luxury lifestyle brand Shinola, puts it this way, “Consumers are looking for meaningful experiences that differentiate one brand from another. One way we do this is by designing our stores to engage the five senses:
  • Sight – see team members build bicycles or do personalized embossing;
  • Sound – a warm welcome and vinyl playing on our Runwell Turntable;
  • Touch – well-crafted products, such as watches and leather bags;
  • Taste – a complimentary bottle of Shinola Cola;
  • Smell – the smell from our Shinola candles lit throughout the store.
This is all part of conveying our distinctive handcrafted products and has resulted in higher engagement, satisfaction, and conversion rates.”
With this in mind, here are four factors that will help you link CX to improved ROI:
1. CX strategies must align with consumer demands
Too often sales strategies are spray painted to look like CX strategies. However, customers are smart and know the difference between sales pitches posing as engagement and true CX. They resent when marketers think that customers are too naïve to know the difference.
According to Nike Chief Executive Mark Parke in comments about CX strategy development, “The important thing to point out is that changes are being driven by the consumer…. They want it fast, easy, and [they want] personal service.” Nike has implemented measures to drive personalization and has seen sales improvements in a landscape where so many other retailers and brands are failing.
2. Accurate data is essential for driving CX initiatives
As Jim Conning, managing director at Royal Mail Data Services so aptly puts it, data accuracy is non-negotiable for ROI: “CMOs and marketing directors all understand the importance of accurate customer data, but I’m not sure that more inexperienced members of the team understand the increased ROI of more accurate data.” The company’s research indicated that 34% of marketers fail to fully understand the financial impact of poor quality data; 70% of the 300 companies surveyed admit to having incomplete or out-of-date customer data; and 6% of annual revenue is being lost through poor quality data.
3. ROI also requires CX-focused content
Irrelevant content hurts your brand, so stop sending spray-and-pray blasts!
This quote from our VoC research is a blunt reminder. “When I receive generic emails, it’s obvious that you do not care enough to understand my individual needs. Instead, you are trying distill my complex needs into simple generalities to make your email blast easier for you...and useless to me!”
Consider this from a Salsify Study: “If you provide superior content, and a competitive price, you have the opportunity to both close the sale and build long-term consumer loyalty.” The study found that…
  • 88% of consumers say that product content is extremely or very important to their purchase decision
  • Price matters, but it’s product content that gets consumers to buy
4. Establish CX-oriented metrics and compensate accordingly
New and additional metrics are required to track and compensate for CX-oriented behaviors. Too many companies fail to change metrics to reflect their CX strategies and still compensate based on legacy “sell ‘em and forget ‘em” models.
In this blog post, Michael Klein, director of industry strategy for the Adobe Marketing Cloud, presents some effective soltuions that brands can implement to select the optimal CX metrics. One, from Epsilon’s Rob Cantave, especially stood out: “CRM data helps us understand what current customers are interested in seeing. Combining that with our third-party data lets us better understand what clusters of customers have in common. We present that information to the automated models and have them test and ultimately identify the product, categories, or content most likely to be of interest to returning customers and brand new unknown users who’ve been seen elsewhere in our network.”
Linking CX to ROI is a complex, multiphased, and corporate-wide pursuit. Remember:
  • CX requires company-wide consistency and communication so employees understand and are trained on the goals and behaviors they need to demonstrate every single day.
  • It also requires an omnichannel, data-driven strategy that’s based on meeting the requirements consumers indicate are important—to them. CX is useless without a consumer-focused approach because it will be observed as sales-y and meaningless.
  • Similarly, irrelevant content is perceived as demonstrating that a brand does not care about developing long-term customer relationships.
To achieve maximum ROI, companies need to rethink how they view CX and build impactful and sustainable strategies to satisfy customer needs over the customer lifecycle.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Moosejaw CMO Answers 4 Questions For Digital Innovators

Dan Pingree is the chief marketing officer of Moosejaw Mountaineering, where he oversees the outdoor retailer’s marketing initiatives, including search engine marketing, search engine optimization, email, photo, video, graphic design, content production and publishing, social media, brick and mortar marketing, catalogs, direct mail, A/B testing, and data analytics.
Moosejaw combines his love of e-commerce with a passion for the outdoors, and admits to owning doubles and triples of basically every piece of climbing equipment. He has held previous digital marketing and e-commerce leadership roles at Drugstore.com (Walgreen’s), Housevalues, and Microsoft and holds a Master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School. When not at work, he enjoys climbing, skiing, and trips with his family, the most recent of which was a trip to Cuba.
Pingree recently participated in our "4 Questions for Marketing Innovators" series. His topic is very timely: experiential marketing.
1. What is one marketing topic that is most important to you as an innovator?
In today’s retail environment where fierce competition abounds and continued retail bankruptcies dominate the business headlines, creating a notable, unique experience through various marketing activities has never been more important in defending against the assortment, convenience, and pricing pressures of Amazon. This is our focus every single day at Moosejaw.
We define “experiential marketing” as a series of marketing events or interactions that are unique and memorable to the customer and help him or her feel understood. This includes all touch points that a customer can have with Moosejaw, from initial introduction, site experience, emails, product recommendations, customer support, and even order packagin
One of the key attributes of surviving and thriving retailers over the next five to 10 years will be their ability to effectively and consistently deliver those unique and memorable interactions to customers.
2. Why is this so important?
Consolidation within retail is happening at a rapid rate. Amazon continues to put smaller pure plays out of business and is no doubt directly responsible for mall closures and big-box retailer downsizing. Amazon’s strength is within the transaction—that is, their assortment, aggressive pricing, and world-class logistics and delivery capabilities.
Retailers would do well not to attempt to “out-Amazon” Amazon but rather seek to build unique, notable experiences for their customers—experiences which help customers feel understood and valued at every touch point. Experiences that are consistent and unique, which other retailers—including Amazon—are not offering.
At Moosejaw, we sell outdoor clothing and gear, most of which is available at other retailers. Because of this, we have to constantly ask ourselves, “Why would somebody buy from Moosejaw?” The answer, of course, is because of the unique and notable experience Moosejaw offers its customers.
As we are successful with our experiential marketing efforts, I have no doubt that Moosejaw will be a strong, healthy retailer in the years to come, Amazon’s meteoric rise notwithstanding.
3. How can this improve the customer experience?
Experiential marketing enhances the customer experience because you’re creating interactions where you are demonstrating a clear understanding of who the customer is and what she wants. If it is known, based on your previous and current site browsing and past purchase history, that you like the Canada Goose brand, it doesn’t make any sense to show you promotions related to backpacks and climbing ropes. If you do, you may lose this customer forever because they feel misunderstood.
Every customer is an individual with unique tastes and preferences, and our marketing efforts must treat you as such. On the other hand, if the site experience involves changing the home page, search slots, navigation, and product detail pages by exposing the kinds of brands, categories, and offers that we know you like based on the data we’ve collected about you, we can create an experience that is welcoming, engaging, and worthy of your time.
Doing this well creates a differentiated experience versus every other retailer since nobody has truly cracked the code—yet. For all retailers big and small, there is a huge opportunity to win in this area. The slog is hard, long, and expensive, but ultimately those who figure it out will have a defensible position against the retail headwinds caused by Amazon.
4. How will this improve the effectiveness of marketing?
Dollars spent on experiential marketing simply perform better than generic marketing. We’ve seen it repeatedly in our results in areas such as time spent on site, add-to-cart rates, conversion rates, open rates, click-through rates, and many others.
The challenge is that the upfront investment costs in technology and people—not to mention the time required to test and learn which experiences are most meaningful—are huge barriers to most companies. But those who stay committed to experiential marketing will find the reward to be well worth the investment.
Bonus Question: What is your favorite activity outside of work?
One of my favorite activities is alpine mountaineering. I love being outside, on high mountains, in beautiful and remote locations. I’ve been working on climbing the highest mountains of the seven continents, of which I’ve managed to climb three so far. I hope to complete them all before too long, including Mount Everest.
For additional Marketing Innovator stories, click here.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Companies That Thrive During Tough Times Share These Traits

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CMO.com
In the same economy and same consumer market in which thousands of retailers and brands are struggling, others are thriving and growing. Why? What drives the outcome of "something went wrong" versus "things are going great"?
Their "secrets" become apparent by understanding who they are, who they serve, and how they connect with customers in a value-driven, sustainable way. It all starts at the very top.
"CEOs must create a culture where the key measure of success is the success of your customers," said Serge Saxonov, CEO of biotechnology company 10x Genomics. "To achieve that, the company must constantly seek unbiased, unadulterated, and blunt feedback from customers and prospects. That will keep the company from creating its own version of ‘marketplace reality.'"
Employees also factor into the equation. "CEOs must ensure that every employee cares passionately about the success of customers and make decisions based on ensuring that customers succeed," Saxonov told me. "This will drive the sustainable success and growth of the company."
Here's a look at three success traits traits driving success at a trio of top brands.
Success Factor #1: Meet A Clearly Defined Need
According to the Accenture study "Technology Trends 2017" (PDF), relationships are no longer about keeping customers happy as the company guides them toward a goal. Relationships will be about walking with people on a path they define.
In the very competitive fitness sector, Orangetheory Fitness has received the workout world's attention with 600 studios across the country and $450 million in revenue. To differentiate itself from competitors, Orangetheory Fitness aimed to satisfy the needs of high-tech, fitness-oriented consumers with a technology-driven solution that participants monitor to pinpoint the effectiveness of each workout.
"Technology enables the consumer to ... work out better. ... I think the lack of technology made it very hard for people to hit their fitness goals," said CEO David Long.
Findings from 16,000-plus hours of VoC research interviews conducted by our firm, ERDM, make it evident that success depends, in large measure, on understanding what it takes to earn the customer relationship. Consider these representative quotes from the research:
  • "It's not just what we buy from you; it is the total experience that determines whether we buy from you again ... or go to the many other choices in your category."
  • "If you want to keep me as a customer, I expect what you market to me to reflect my individual interests and preferences."
Success Factor #2: Abandon The Ego Of ‘That's How We Do It'
According to John Rand, senior vice president of retail insights for Kantar Retail, "As a response to the many obvious challenges to the traditional business ... seek to differentiate, adopt new practices, and reconsider the brand and shopper focus."
A few years ago, Lego's CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp told colleagues, "We are on a burning platform ... [and] likely won't survive." Recently, however, the company announced the highest revenues in its 85-year history. What made the difference? Perhaps Julia Goldin, Lego's chief marketing officer, has the answer: "Every year [we] recruit every child again and make the brand exciting for them."
Two key strategies that keep Lego ahead of the game are:
  • It cut its losses and outsourced ventures that were outside of its core expertise: According to Simon Cotterrell of analytics firm Interbrand, what has made Lego successful comes from knowing what it is good at. "That's a very brave thing to do, and it's where a lot of companies go wrong," he said. "They don't understand that sometimes it's better to let go than to hang on."
  • The company found new ways to listen to its customers: Anne Flemmert Jensen, senior director of Lego's Global Insights group, noted, "My team spends all our time travelling around the world, talking to kids and their families, and participating in their daily lives." The company also rolled out Lego Life, a social network for kids.
Success Factor #3: Don't Just Market--Understand And Communicate
Urban Outfitters has experienced an 146% increase in revenue and 75% gain in conversions through the use of new, personalized marketing opportunities and innovative use of tools, such as very targeted location data.
"Our goal is to provide better experiences for our audience in this competitive landscape," said Andrew Rauch, senior director of global digital marketing at Urban Outfitters. Additionally, Trish Donnelly, CEO of Urban Outfitters Group, commented on the brand's use of social to connect: "This channel has given us yet another relevant way to connect with our customers and engage in two-way conversations."
In summary, a combination of clarity of vision and focus, agility, and strategies that stress connections and relationships that evolve over time with customers is what separates companies that still thrive in a landscape of tough times versus those that don't. This final quote from the VoC research says it all: "The brands that earn my loyalty are those that make the effort to understand me and help me over time. The brands that sell and disappear haven't done anything to earn my loyalty and dollars."

Monday, July 24, 2017

Does Your Brand Experience Align with Customers’ Voices? Elizabeth Arden Shows How

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CustomerThink.com
“Our leaders quickly realized that before we could use digital to transform our customers and the world, we needed to transform ourselves.” This according to General Electric Co. CMO, Linda Boff, “Over the last few years the company changed its way of doing business at every level. And, per Boff, “When we apply these technologies in our teams and facilities, our customers and markets can reach their potential.”
“Listening” has been the industry buzz word for years and is key to building relationships for both BtoB and BtoC businesses. And although many companies have put in place extensive systems for “listening” very few are responding to what they are “hearing.”
So, the action companies must take is to share customer listening insights across all departments involved in product development and marketing. They must ensure that the actual brand experience and products align with BtoB and BtoC customer’s voices.
Elizabeth Arden Goes Inside to Get Insights
Going beyond traditional focus groups has been a strategy for beauty company, Elizabeth Arden who looks to their “Arden Insiders,” insight community of more than 4,000 women, to inform the direction of innovation and critical product and design decisions. Utilizing consumer opinions and feedback, the company can make educated decisions to stay aligned with consumer sentiment.
Celia Tombalakian, the senior director of global insights and product development commented on their new customer-insight driven marketing, “…[The] Customer intelligence platform allows us not only to identify our customer’s likes and dislikes…but to stay current on who she is and where she is going from a beauty point of view—typical focus groups or questionnaires just can’t capture this.”
The company uses this insight group to test copy, print ad concepts, promotional offerings, product claims, model photography, and branding and new product ideas. The feedback drives decisions on all aspects of creative and design. Per Tombalakian, “We launched our community as a one-year pilot and within the six months we were discussing plans for geographic expansion. The ROI was very apparent to all stakeholders.”
The company uses real time feedback on initiatives they are working on through their Arden Insiders insight community customer intelligence platform. Noted Tombalakian, “Arden Insiders transformed how we are making many decisions…this is critical because they can weave [the customer] point of view through all stages of product or program development rather than just key junctions.”
The company also implemented a dedicated market research and customer insight department to assure that their customers’ voice is incorporated in all decisions. Tombalakian summed up the investment payoff, “We launched our community as a one-year pilot and within the six months we were discussing …expansion. The ROI was very apparent to all stakeholders.”
Use Insights to Connect
Findings from 15,000+ hours of VoC research interviews indicate that customers want deeper engagement throughout their brand lifecycle. This means that marketers should utilize Voice of Customer (VoC) insights from your customers and prospects to improve their experience during all these key points: acquisition, activation, loyalty—and critically, deepening the relationship.
Here are a few quotes from recent VoC research to consider as you develop your strategies:
“When a supplier proactively works to understand my needs, we can develop a personal connection. That forms the basis of a long-term relationship that will remain when we are approached by their competitors or have the occasional problem with their solution.”
“I appreciate you asking for feedback and clearly listening and taking action based on what we are saying. Very few companies ask for our opinions regarding how they can get better and what I would like to see them do. That’s cool. It means you are trying to get bigger and better.”
It’s not just BtoC companies that are seeing results from customer listening, BtoB brands such as GE have devised campaigns to target niche audiences to gain insights on sentiment. GE’s #CC9900 GEEKS GO campaign connected with coders in a challenge environment on social media that used a game-style conversation to spark interactions.
Make Listening an Everyday Marketing Practice
In a research report by Wharton, Listening to the Online ‘Voice of the Customer’, the following points were cited:
  • Large online customer discussions boards carry the potential to revolutionize the world of market research, offering businesses a massive and free data base of what customers think about their products.
  • Traditional surveys and focus groups are flawed because the process of identifying the specific product attributes in a customer survey [are] typically guided by company marketing managers, [and] often ignore issues being raised by customers. In addition, focus groups might not always reach the most passionate and engaged customers who are voluntarily discussing products and brands on the Internet.
  • [There are] “unseen attributes of a product” – that is, issues that buyers are discussing which executives back at the headquarters are not even aware of.
The takeaway for brands is that actual customer sentiment needs to be a prime focus and that listening (rather than assuming or modeling) must become a regular part of everyday marketing practices.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Head Of Neiman Marcus' iLab Answers 4 Questions For Marketing Innovators

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CMO.com
Scott Emmons is focused on innovation for the Neiman Marcus Group (NMG), where he is responsible for evaluating, designing, testing, and piloting cutting-edge technologies and applications for luxury retail. Emmons founded and built the Neiman Marcus Innovation Lab (iLab) in 2012, which has grown to become the company’s hub for innovation projects and has earned a world-class reputation for retail innovation. Recent innovation projects include Memory Makeover, connected fitting room technology, intelligent mobile phone charging stations, and voice-controlled sales associate communicators.
Emmons 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?
I would start by saying I am not a marketer. However, after being given the opportunity to help create the Neiman Marcus Innovation Lab, it didn’t take long to figure out that marketing was going to be one of the most important partners when it came time to introduce new technology into the retail customer experience. One of the biggest contributions that the Innovation Lab has made is that it has helped open doors between IT, marketing, and other areas of the business. It has also allowed for a much more collaborative relationship to evolve. The most important topic has been solving problems for the customers. It is a topic that is always top-of-mind throughout the retail organization.
2. Why is this so important?
For one thing, it has allowed me to focus on the fact that we are in the luxury retail business. The most important thing everyone does at Neiman Marcus is contribute to our customer’s experience, making sure it is the best one possible. I am a retailer first and a technologist second. In IT, we have to be great at delivering information services to our business partners, but our customer is first and foremost. It is possible to lose track of that in the day-to-day activities of keeping everything humming along.
“Customer first” is not just a checkmark on a review form; it is what has driven the Neiman Marcus brand for 110 years and is what will take us through the next 100 years. I believe the iLab has played a role in helping us maintain that customer focus in this time of constant change. By making experimentation with new customer-facing technology available and applying it in ways that make the customer experience better, I believe our innovation program has helped the IT organization evolve from order takers to business partners that are part of the ideation and innovation process. That, in turns, means we can better position resources to support initiatives and to be able to say yes a lot more often when asked to support new capabilities. The innovation program is allowing Neiman Marcus to be first to leverage the latest and greatest technology and help drive our reputation as an innovative retail technology leader.
3. How can this improve the customer experience?
This translates into a more agile organization that can build and deliver new capabilities for our customers at a much faster pace. Given the ever-increasing speed that change and new technology is being introduced, it is only natural that the business has had to adapt to meet this challenge. Removing the internal silos allows us to be better and faster at delivering a cohesive and compelling experience to our customers. It allows us to bring the right resources to the never-ending circle of evaluating, experimenting, learning, and refining how we deliver value to our customers. The iLab can quickly deliver technology that enables new surprise-and-delight moments to the customer. This same technology has brought new capabilities for collecting data that delivers new insights for the marketing team.
4. How will this improve the effectiveness of marketing?
Essentially, I have been talking about blurring the lines between the technology team and marketing, as this translates into combining skill sets. Bringing marketers together with technologists and combining people that know how to communicate and resonate with the customer can effectively identify, integrate, and implement cutting-edge technology to support the efforts. It is a powerful combination.
Bonus Question: What is your favorite activity outside of work?
I love to travel abroad with my wife and daughter. It is important to see and experience different cultures and perspectives. This also comes in pretty handy for my innovation work!
For additional Marketing Innovator stories, click here.

Monday, June 12, 2017

How You Should Engage at These 7 Points in the Customer Lifecycle

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CustomerThink.com
Here’s how Fran Horowitz-Bonadies, chief executive officer, Abercrombie brand/Hollister & Co. describes consumer communication in 2017:
"For the past year, we spoke to one-and-a-half million consumers on what they are looking for in their shopping experience… There’s been almost a 180-degree turn on making sure we keep the customer at the center of everything we do. It’s been [our] most important singular focus…"
But, it’s not only about keeping customers at the center of your communication and engagement strategies. Research findings from thousands of hours of VoC research conducted by our firm, ERDM, indicate that customers want unprecedented levels of personalization at 7 very specific points in their lifecycle with a brand. Think about how savvy customers are to identify the following points where they want brands to engage;
• Purchase
• Onboarding
• Reach out when you see Decreasing Engagement
• A Poor Experience
• Surprise & Delight / Thank You
Value Added Cross Selling
Value Added Repeat Sales.
However, to deepen relationships at these key points, brands must shift to truly relevant and value-driven communications. Per the research, traditional transaction / persona / implicit data based communications are not viewed as relevant.
Using the 7 VoC research-based lifecycle points, here are ways that marketers can add value to communications.
New Purchases and Onboarding—You Need to Become Part of the Consumers’ Lifestyle
Bacardi Limited Chief Marketing Officer Mauricio Vergara recently noted:
"We need to get our brands back into culture, so we’re moving away from a traditional marketing model of talking to consumers to really being part of their lifestyle…If we are true to that philosophy of being part of their lifestyle, a brand that they actually relate to in their day-to-day life, we cannot just be present in the high-selling moments… It’s been a learning process…but we’re definitely seeing the payback."
When You See Decreasing Engagement/Poor Experiences – You Need to Understand How to Win Back Trust
V. Kumar, a marketing professor at Georgia State University outlined in a Harvard Business Review article, the key factors marketers need to keep in mind when attempting to win back lost consumers, "Too many companies go after whoever they’ve lost, throwing all these offers at them, hoping something will work," Instead what he recommends is fully understanding which group of lost consumers will yield the best bet to come back and not depart again, then crafting an offer or message that is compelling to that segment.
Here is what the study advises: "firms will be more efficient if they focus on people whose prior behavior suggests a predisposition to return. The researchers found that customers who have referred others, who have never complained, or who have had complaints that were satisfactorily resolved are the best bets. Reasons for leaving are also predictive: Customers who canceled because of price are more likely to come back than those who left because of poor service, and people who cited both reasons for quitting are the least likely of all to return."
For Cross Selling/Thank You/Repeat Sales – Use Value Added and Emotional Engagement to Strengthen Connections
Recently, Yeti — a manufacturer of coolers used primarily for outdoor and camping pursuits — decided to open their first retail location. But, rather than building a transaction based store, the brand decided they wanted an experiential, emotional, connection-building brand immersion. The brand noted, the goal was less to "find a way to sell a lot of coolers to people who come inside and more to create a permanent brand activation that allows people to interact with Yeti in ways that they’ll hopefully take with them in the future."
Corey Maynard, Yeti’s Vice President of Marketing explains "It’s meant to be much more of an immersive Yeti experience…than it is to be a transactional space… Yes, we’re selling coolers…but it was much more important to us that people could have fun with the Yeti brand and see it brought to life …than just be a place that’s driven by transaction." Tony Kaplan, YETI Director of Consumer Experience "YETI’s flagship is not a typical retail store… [it is an] authentic experience that allows our customers to interact with the YETI brand in a whole new way."
In summary, think about the 7 stages in the lifecycle which emerged from the research and see how many opportunities exist for you to deepen your relationships with customers!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Don’t Be Shy: Opt-in Customer Data is Essential for CX Success

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CMO.com
A full 96% of digital marketers say personalization advances customer relationships, according to a new study from Evergage and Researchscape International. Yet more than 55% say the industry isn’t getting personalization right. And nearly 50% give their company’s personalization efforts a “C” grade or below.
So how do CMOs raise the bar?
To develop an effective personalization strategy, CMOs need to start with a solid foundation of traditional customer data. But that is not enough. The essential next step is building deeper levels of human data gained via preferences and attitudes.
Some brands already understand that.
“To achieve truly meaningful personalization and CX, we needed more than traditional purchase history and overlays of behavioral/inferred data. We needed to get customers to opt-in and tell us their individual preferences,” said Scott Emmons, head of the Neiman Marcus Innovation Lab. “But to earn that deeper level of information, we had to offer something meaningful. Our Memory Makeover smart mirrors are a high-value way for customers to share their individual preferences regarding cosmetic products. We make it clear that this information will be used to serve them in the stores and as part of ongoing email communications to reorder products or learn about new products that are uniquely relevant to them.”
Why Traditional Data Approaches No Longer Work
Findings from over 16,000 hours of Voice of Customer research conducted by our firm indicate that traditional customer experience, personalization, and personas are no longer effective. That’s because the B2B and B2C decision-making journey is neither linear nor simplistic, and customers are complex humans, not cohorts.
However, marketers must realize that they are not entitled to deep customer information. They have to earn it. A reciprocity of value is required, where customers opt in to provide deep preference data in exchange for smart, useful personalization.
But here’s the caveat: This data must be explicit data, meaning it is self-profiled preference information delivered via a site’s preference center or through dialogue boxes. Explicit data indicates deeper or longer-term preferences versus traditional implicit data, such as data-mined information or short-term consumer interests or needs.
“Too often, personalization relies on statistical inferences from a customer’s purchase and browsing history. This will likely be subject to error and spurious correlations, one reason why many customers are unimpressed with today’s attempts at personalization,” said Wayne Duan, director of merchandising and merchandising operations at Walgreens Digital Commerce. “The retailers who will win are those that successfully collect explicit customer input and harness those direct and intentional actions to improve the customer experience.”
Duan cited as an example Walgreens’ Beauty Enthusiast program, which asks customers their preferences, such as makeup style and skin needs. “We use this clearly expressed data to personalize the customer offering and experience within our beauty category,” he said.
Kevin Lindsay, director of product marketing at Adobe, built onto that with a point about context. “Historical customer data, such as purchases, is important but not predictive,” he said. “It must be enriched with contextual information to drive truly relevant personalization and CX. Contextual information provides the uniquely rich opportunity to understand the human dimension and situation of customers.”
Betabrand, a crowdsourced apparel company, is another brand that understands the fundamental shift in personalization. “Betabrand has a unique ability to measure and react to every click, vote, comment, purchase, etc., on our site,” said CMO Aaron Magness. “We use this rich data to provide a personalized shopping experience that goes way beyond the old-school segmentation mindset and truly serves you what’s relevant, not what’s relevant to people like you. Having data is one thing; understanding how to act on the important data is what matters.”
And while having the technology to analyze the data is important, equally important is not solely relying on it. “Companies tend to be lazy and arrogant by trying to mass-produce marketing or solve the problems by buying the latest martech tools,” said Silver Star Brands CMO Kathy Hecht. “One cannot achieve true personalization without deep human data from your customers.”

Monday, May 15, 2017

Webrooming vs. Showrooming: Are You Engaging Both Types of Shoppers?

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CustomerThink.com
According to Forrester, “webrooming consumers will bring in $1.8 Trillion in sales in 2017.”
Marketers need to understand this new type of shopper. If you are not adjusting your strategies to keep pace with this new reality, you could be setting your brand up for missed opportunities.
Here’s a quick overview:
  • Webrooming Consumers: research products online before buying them in a physical store. (78% of consumers say they have webroomed in the past 12 months.)
  • Showrooming Consumers: visit store(s) to examine a product before buying it online. (72% of consumers say they have showroomed in the past 12 months.)
Understanding why consumers engage in these practices is critical for strategy development. Per the Forrester study,
Webroomers don’t want to pay for delivery and want instant gratification. Showroomers want to touch and feel a product prior to purchasing.
What can marketers do to engage this new shopper?
In a Think with Google report it was noted that 82% of shoppers say they consult their phones on purchases they’re about to make in a store.
Beauty retailer Sephora has embraced the showrooming and webrooming concept. Mark Alexander, director of mobile product management at Sephora USA Inc. commented, “Mobile continues to be our fastest growing channel,” Alexander says. “We’re really excited about what mobile can do for online and in-store sales.”
Sephora’s mobile app offers an “in-store” mode which consumers can use while they browse to scan in a product to read online ratings and reviews and access the loyalty program to check reward points. The store can also send personalized messages and alerts to consumers with the app via Bluetooth beacon technology.
Recently, Walmart also embraced the Webrooming/Showrooming trend and responded with some innovative offerings. Understanding that two of the big “asks” of today’s consumer are immediacy and free shipping, the company has adjusted its online shipping policies to make it easier, cheaper and faster for consumers to get their selected merchandise. Walmart’s new 2-Day Shipping is available on popular products and applies to orders over $35. The company also offers free shop on line/pickup in store as well as free grocery shop online/pickup in store.
Marc Lore, president and CEO of Walmart U.S. eCommerce noted that “Two-day free shipping is the first of many moves we will be making to enhance the customer experience and accelerate growth… In today’s world of e-commerce, two-day free shipping is table stakes. It no longer makes sense to charge for it…”
And, taking things one step further, Home Depot not only offers order online and pickup in store, but the company also offers to “do the heavy lifting” by letting customers order online and have it delivered from the store at their chosen delivery time and date that can be selected from a scheduling calendar.
Take the time to listen to the Voice of your Customer
More so than ever before it is no longer about how brands want to sell, rather it is all about how today’s omnichannel consumer wants to shop and buy. Marketers need to meticulously watch, learn, and re-evaluate shopper behaviors so new practices and technologies can be developed in response to demands.
Understanding the ever-changing purchase journey is the first step in meeting a new type of shopping expectation. Not embracing Webrooming or Showrooming actions could jeopardize current and future relationships as consumers gravitate to brands that step up to deliver innovative purchase options.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Dia&Co Chief Answers 4 Questions For Marketing Innovators

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CMO.com
Nadia Boujarwah is the co-founder and CEO of Dia&Co, an in-home shopping experience for women who wear sizes 14 and up. A lifelong fashionista, Boujarwah founded the company on the belief that style can act as a catalyst for self-love. Prior, she worked as an investment banker at Perella Weinberg Partners, and most recently served as COO and CFO of New York-based jewelry brand Frieda and Nellie.
Also of note, Boujarwah was the first Kuwaiti woman to graduate from Harvard Business School; she also holds a BSc in economics from the University of Pennsylvania.
Boujarwah 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?
I’m obsessed with the importance of a strong brand promise. Before setting any marketing strategy, you must have a crystal-clear articulation of your commitment to the customer—and I highly recommend putting it in writing. At Dia&Co, ours is: “We promise to understand her better than anyone else will. We put her first, always.”
By codifying your commitment, you not only clarify the most foundational elements of your strategy for yourself, you also clarify it for your team. Put your brand promise at the end of every internal email. Put it on a sticky note on your laptop. Put it on your office walls. At the end of the day, upholding the brand promise is each employee’s most important job responsibility, and teams become much more aligned when that’s made explicitly clear.
Moreover, in my experience, teams also become more invested when they know that they’re part of a collective promise to the customer. It creates a powerful bond and a true sense of accountability. It becomes a part of the culture. “Earn the trust you are given” is one of our core values at Dia&Co—and it’s one that was suggested by our employees.
This core value has also become an intrinsic part of our hiring process. The one non-negotiable trait that all prospective employees must have is a commitment to our customer. We screen for that qualification explicitly; it’s built into our interview rubrics. Protecting and nurturing that internal culture is an imperative.
2. Why is this so important?
Our goal is to be the beloved brand in the lives of our customers. In a world with more and more options, only a singular focus on her makes this possible.
You earn loyalty from a customer the same way you earn loyalty from a friend: by building trust. To build trust with your customer, you must understand her better than anyone else will, you must clearly communicate the value that you will bring to her, and you must consistently exceed her expectations.
3. How can this improve the customer experience?
The process of defining your brand promise requires you to go beyond the data and to connect with your customer on a human level. I believe it’s critical for any B2C business to stay focused on the human need they serve. What sometimes gets lost in personalization is the person. It’s important to remember your customers are humans, driven by deep needs and desires, as we all are. To create successful personas, you need more than observations of behaviors. Your personas should be supported in data, yes, but more importantly, they should be rooted in the psychographics of your customer and the emotional benefit you are providing.
It may sound obvious, but it’s worth stating: To connect with your customers on a human level, you have to actually meet them. One way our team committed to this was by embarking on a six-city listening tour, where we traveled around the country to meet our customers and hear what they wanted from us, what was providing value, and where they thought we could improve. Listening is at the core of our business and the secret to providing unparalleled service. When a brand takes the time to understand you and treat you like a cherished friend, it creates a meaningful and positive connection.
This approach acknowledges that the most powerful customer experiences are rarely functional. The products we love most are products that have a real emotional benefit that we come to depend on.
4. How will this improve the effectiveness of marketing?
Focus begets success. Ultimately, the power of knowing your customer deeply and putting a fine point on the value you are committed to delivering is twofold: It allows you to make better decisions, and it allows you to move more quickly.
We all make dozens of judgment calls a day. Take some of the guesswork out of success by doing the most valuable work with your customer up front.
Bonus Question: What is your favorite activity outside of work?
In my free time, I love catching a spin class and cooking. My current dish of choice is a cauliflower rice risotto. It’s so delicious you won’t miss the real stuff!
For additional Marketing Innovator stories, click here.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Stop (ONLY) Marketing To Millennials

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CustomerThink.com
“There’s both ageism in our culture and ageism in our profession of marketing. But some of it’s not even malicious ageism. Some of it is just, ‘I want my brand to feel young and modern and youthful, and the only way to do that is to be targeting it to the young and modern and youthful.’ But that’s simplistic thinking.” This according to Denise Fedewa, Executive Vice President/Strategy Director, Leo Burnett.”
Many marketers have invested significant portions of their budget chasing the millennial consumer. But, here’s a fact that might make some rethink that strategy. According to DataMentors, while Millennials do make up the largest generation today (86 Million), Baby Boomers still take second place (77 Million.)
If marketers are putting all their chips on Millennials, they could be in for a surprising loss when they realize just how much they are leaving on the table by excluding other demographic groups in their marketing mix and messaging.
But marketers are just not marketing to this lucrative “older” consumer: “[Baby Boomers] can sustain and be a strong driver of the consumer economy over the next five to ten years especially the upper-income households. They have the money to spend. It’s a different mindset …now saying, I’ve got to spend it while I’m here,” says Doug Hermanson, principal economist at Kantar Retail.
  • The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) calculates that less than 15% of firms have developed a business strategy focused on the elderly.
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit found that only 31% of firms took increased longevity into account when making plans for sales and marketing.
  • A report by the McKinsey Global Institute points out that older consumers are one of the few engines of growth in an otherwise sluggish global economy.
  • According to DMN3, online research shows an overwhelming 82.3% of Boomers belong to at least once social networking site and over half of Boomers who use social networking sites will visit a company website or continue their search on a search engine as a result of seeing something on social media
According to Morgan Stanley, “As consumers age, their spending increases, with the U.S. consumer’s peak earnings, spending, and investing years between ages 35 and 55. Boomer generation will still maintain enormous spending muscle. In the next two decades, spending by Americans over 50 is projected to increase by 58%, whereas spending by Americans 25-50 will grow by 24%…”
In learnings from 15,000+ hours of VoC research interviews, consumers have told us again and again that they want needs-based personalization that connects with them at a human and genuine level. To develop relationships with all consumers, marketers need to devise personalization that drives engagement by increasing conversion rates and return visits because the consumer feels that the brand understands them. But unfortunately for many age brackets, this is not the case.
“Most of the female baby boomers feel as if marketers don’t really understand them, and they’re not making a really strong, concerted effort to speak to them as an individual,” says Dave Austin, managing director of marketing agency Influent50 “There’s this misnomer that boomers are not… digital-savvy, which is just not true. They’re one of the first generations to use technology in every portion of their life.”
However, a savvy few companies have tapped into the digital-loving Baby Boomer market, such as Stitch, an online dating, activity and travel community for those over 50. According to founder, Marcie Rogo, “[Boomers are] brand loyal. This is what I love about them. They like the real talk. If they trust you as a brand, they will stay with you. They’re not going to hop around like millennials.”
L’Oreal has recently announced that it has added 69 year old actress, Susan Sarandon, to its roster of over 50 brand ambassadors for its beauty product line, which has made a choice to have a representative from each generation to portray their message that beauty ‘transcends age’. In their “senior marketing” the company notes that their new brand ambassadors, “embody the new kind of radiant 60-something women.”
TakeAways:
1. Millennials represent significant buying power, but they are not the only ones. When marketers put most of their marketing eggs in one demographic basket they are missing opportunities and revenue from other segments that feel the brand does not want their business.
2. Marketers must make the effort to understand the needs, actions, and buying patterns of every demographic group.
3. Marketing needs to “speak” to consumers in a voice that is both authentic and genuine. If the message is stereotypical, consumers have no reason to identify with a brand they feel does not accurately understand their needs or lifestyle.
One of the key lines from Madonna’s Billboard “Woman of the Year” acceptance speech was, “The most controversial thing I’ve done is stick around.” Marketers have fallen in love with the pursuit of a digital demographic at the exclusion of other demographic age groups. Now, the key is for marketers to see past the obvious to gain a deeper understanding that all age groups are digital—and have big buying power.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Your Data Is Your Strategic Firewall Against Competition

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CMO.com
“Rivals cannot unlock or simulate your data. Data is the defensible barrier—not algorithms.” These are the words of Andrew Ng of Chinese search giant Baidu in a recent New York Times article.
The article also stated: “For decades, dominance in the technology industry was based on software or hardware. Now it is increasingly based on who owns the best data.”
Data Is A Competitive Advantage—If Used To Improve Customer Experience
Data is the competitive differentiator in terms of preference-driven customer experience and personalization. It is also a strategic firewall against competition.
Your competition cannot duplicate or simulate your data. But data sitting idly in your servers or used only for sales messaging will not catapult your company to the next level. It is the customer insights in your data that are your competitive uniqueness. Success will be based not only on the quality of data, but its creative utilization.
In an Infosys whitepaper, “Transforming Big Data Analytics into a Competitive Advantage for Insurers,” it was noted: “Having access to rich sources of data and using that data to enable effective decision-making are two separate aspects.”
Per VoC research conducted by our firm, today’s personalization is broken. It relies on implicit data, i.e., web browsing behavior, data mined from social media, data modeling, and purchase-based behaviors. These are not providing the necessary depth of information to drive relevant communications and offers. As a result, most attempts at personalization simply do not drive the expected increases in response.
Marketers must now make a profound shift and move to human data, which is based on explicit, self-profiled, opt-in preference data. Human data personalization is unique in that it lends itself to segmentation based on self-described personality types, attitudes, and life stages. Human data-based personalization is consistently driving double-digit response rates.
New Data Collaboration Partnerships Are Essential
The acquisition of LinkedIn by Microsoft was an innovative strategic data-based move. With the acquisition, Microsoft can now leverage the approximately 467 million names in LinkedIn’s database to market its products, such as Office 365. According to Bill Phillips, vice president business applications at Microsoft, the LinkedIn database along with other sources “will power a set of insights that we think is unprecedented.”
Realizing the importance of the data it has mined, Progressive Insurance joined forces with European insurance company The Generali Group to enter into a research and development collaboration to improve their individual data analytics capabilities.
“Collaborating internationally with Generali allows us to further expand and deepen our customer insights,“ said Pat Callahan, personal lines president of Progressive Insurance. And Valter Trevisani, chief insurance officer of Generali, said: “The collaboration with Progressive allows Generali to accelerate the execution of the strategy in regards to connected insurance and advanced analytics.”
Advanced Human Data: The Ultimate Tool For Preference And Customization
In a McKinsey & Company report, the following points were noted:
  • “Advanced data analytics is a means to an end. It’s a discriminating tool to identify, and then implement, a value-driving answer. And you’re much likelier to land on a meaningful [answer] if you’re clear on the purpose of your data.”
  • “The impact of big data analytics is often manifested by ... incrementally small improvements. If an organization can atomize a single process into its smallest parts and implement advances where possible, the payoffs can be profound.”
There is a consumer expectation gap between what consumers want delivered and what is actually being presented to them. In findings from our own VoC research, we have identified the following requirements:
  • Marketers must rethink data strategies to provide “smart” personalization that goes past short-term implicit data to long-term, relationship-building human data.
  • Every department and channel must respect customer preferences.
  • B2B and B2C customers are willing to provide trusted brands with deep business and personal information in exchange for more personalized offers and communications.
Sportswear manufacturer Adidas has committed to improving customer relationships by merging previously siloed data to enable the company to move away from atomistic bits of data to an interconnected 360-degree approach. Per senior project manager Sokratis Kartelias, the data overhaul uses “shared metadata service to deliver the most compelling, relevant, and relatable content to the right consumers. The company plans to do this by processing their consumers’ responses database to continually update personalization to be as relevant as possible.”
For years, data was something collected and used primarily for outbound sales. Recently, marketers are expanding the vast possibilities that human data provides for customer insights, product development, new channels of engagement, deep-level personalization, and so much more. This high-value data will help propel your business to the next level and serve as a formidable firewall against competition.

Monday, February 20, 2017

TIAA CMO Connie Weaver Answers 4 Questions for Marketing Innovators

Connie Weaver is an expert in brand transformation, customer analytics, and digital strategy. Her approach combines the “art and science” of branding by establishing data and measurement as a key complement to on-going innovation. Currently the Chief Marketing Officer for investment giant TIAA, she has led marketing efforts for a range of Fortune 100 companies, start-ups, and non-profit organizations.
Connie 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?
Breaking down the barriers to innovation, no question. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that it’s too difficult to innovate in a complex environment. This is the kind of shackled thinking that drives innovators crazy! Not only is this constrained confidence bad for you as a leader, it’s terrible for your organization.
Look at TIAA. Look at financial services. We are a nearly 100-year-old company in an industry loaded with many more guardrails than you’ll find elsewhere. FINRA, banking regulations, insurance compliance standards – the list goes on.
Yet we were able to innovate beyond even our own expectations throughout all phases of our transformation. We placed the customer at the center of every decision and asked, “How does our brand make the customer feel? How can we enhance that emotional connection?” We dramatically streamlined our website and online experience. Our marketing function collaborated with our legal and compliance groups to make sure our new “radically simple” language still fit within industry regulations.
And yes, there were barriers along every step. One of the keys to overcoming the pain points is to remember that you can innovate anywhere, anytime. If you make the customer a priority and passionately stand behind your mission, there is always a path. Sure, you may need to test and learn, walk before you run. We all do. But stay resolute in your efforts to be innovative and you will move the needle.
2. Why is this so important?
The results that you can drive through innovation make all of the effort worth it. Since rebranding TIAA, we have seen major improvements not only in awareness of our brand, but deeper understanding of what our brand stands for and how it can support the customer’s needs. We’ve also seen great leaps in online traffic and doubled the time visitors spend on our site.
These are major wins. And they have all occurred because of our commitment to innovate with the customer in mind. We continue to meet customers where they are in their financial journeys and provide them with the tools they need to reach major milestones. If we hadn’t decided to set off on this quest for innovation and transformation, we could possibly be falling behind our customers and what they need from us.
3. How can this improve the customer experience?
The experiences we are fostering for our customers are always top of mind for us. And that comes out of trust, loyalty and total transparency. We sat in the living rooms of customers to talk about their financial fears and trepidations. We took our focus way “off Broadway” and traveled to cities across the country to uncover major insights.
If customers feel front and center – and that you’re willing to innovate to help them and not just yourselves – then they are more likely to engage with your brand. And, we can achieve our goal of making our customers feel more confident in their financial futures.
4. How will this improve the effectiveness of marketing?
If there is true buy-in, innovation can galvanize an organization. This TIAA transformation was not about one single person being an innovator or one single idea being innovative. This has been about driving change for our customers and getting a lot of people to help us along the way.
From the beginning, we thought outside of the financial services box and stoked up partnerships internally. We worked hand-in-hand with sales, legal and compliance, finance, and strategic agencies.
And this all-in engagement is what has made me the most proud. I have led many successful brand transformations in all sorts of crisis and change, but never before have I seen this type of impact in such a short period of time. Our entire organization has rallied behind our customers. Ninety-six percent of our employees now understand the TIAA brand and what it represents. And we are excited to continue delivering innovation for 100 more years.
Bonus Question: What is your favorite activity outside of work?
I love working with nonprofit organizations to help them rebrand and become more customer-relevant. Making a difference matters to me and I’m lucky enough to serve on the boards of the national Make-A-Wish Foundation, Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, and the University of Connecticut Foundation. Let’s not forget roller coasters, skiing and hiking – as if my professional life isn’t exciting enough!
For additional Marketing Innovator stories, click here.