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Ernan’s Insights on Marketing Best 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.”