Articles about Digital Marketing
Stick with Your New Year’s (Marketing) Resolution Over 40% of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions each year, and of those, fewer than 10% stick with it. Honestly, most people give up before Punxatawney Phil makes his annual appearance. Why is it so hard to stick with a resolution? Usually, it’s because the steps to success look something like this: Make a resolution: “I’m going to get in shape!” Invest in equipment to support the resolution: “I bought an exercise bike!” Do an activity to support the resolution: “I’m waking up 30 minutes early every day to exercise!” Fall off the wagon once. “I hit snooze and well…attempts were made!” Use an exercise bike to hang sweaters. (For those of you who have clothes hanging from your workout equipment, you may be feeling personally attacked right now, and we apologize for that.) To stick with a resolution, you need clear goals, a strategy to meet them, support to guide you over obstacles and challenges, and measurable results to track progress. If your team’s New Year’s Resolution is creating a successful content strategy this year, it will take more than declaring, “This is the year we get good at content!” and purchasing the latest, greatest marketing software to make it happen. It takes a clear, consistent message and customer insight into the buyer’s journey. Plus, you need to know the right channels to publish content and follow a set publishing schedule. It sounds like a lot. Because it is. (Which is why so many companies struggle to stick with it!) But when you have the right support in place, such as a team of experts who can work with you to build a content strategy that aligns with your brand and resonates with your audience, this is one New Year’s Resolution that is sure to be a success. Check out how we supported a brand and content marketing strategy for a pharmaceutical tech company: and tripled leads over six months >>
Working on your marketing plan? Time to form a calming circle Don’t get spooked, but you’ve only got two more months to pull your 2023 marketing plan together. And if that dire and stressful thought has you feeling like the icy breath of death is breathing down your neck (just us?) you could: Put on a scarf Hope somebody on your team has an epiphany about personalization Get your customer data strategy back on track Here’s your treat: You can tackle customer data without resorting to potions. But you do need a recipe. In our Customer Data Strategy Workshops, we bring marketing, data, and technology stakeholders together to map your data and processes, quantify your risk, and map out a modernization plan. Fun-size: Not sure how to dive in? We hosted a digital roundtable event in December where marketing leaders from multiple industries talked over real-world issues like CDP vs MDM, handling data security in regulated space, and how broader 2023 trends impact your martech and C360 strategies. Don't worry we have the recording in case you missed it! Check out the full video here >
Unpacking branded communities At its Inbound 2022 conference, HubSpot unveiled a new community of practice, connect.com, where HubSpot marketers can share ideas and build connections. In recent years, many companies have made forays into community building, with mixed results. An online community can help companies build stronger customer relationships, discover important product and consumer insights, and drive sales. Or it can be a waste of time. If you want an online community that drives business value, you’re going to need a strategy. Real people don’t bond around yet another platform, app, or notification. To drive high-impact results, successful community strategies typically include: Audience awareness: If you haven’t already, this is the time to do persona research and carefully assess your customer journeys. “Community” means different things to different people — and in different contexts. Knowing your target audience can help you craft experiences that resonate. Authentic value: Is your audience looking for ideas, collaboration, training, or access to learn from experts? Where does their need intersect with your organization’s personality and expertise? For your brand’s online community to thrive, it needs to fit your culture and deliver real value to your target members. Aligned platform: Whether it’s a Facebook group, Slack channel, or fully branded platform experience, the technology that hosts your community matters. The platform experience impacts engagement and retention, and ultimately determines how much tangible ROI you’ll see in the form of insights, feedback, and pipeline. Interested in exploring what an online community could do for your brand? We can help. From customer research to complete community engagement strategies, Fusion partners with mid-market and enterprise companies to reimagine customer connection. Learn more >>
For many, the approach of the Google Analytics 4 takeover brings nothing but dread. And we get it. Although GA4’s new insights and methodology can be an incredible boon to businesses that want to improve their user targeting, it’s a huge adjustment, and there’s no simple solution. Below, we cover the most commonly voiced pain points of a GA4 transition and offer ideas on how to adapt, so you can keep your team from burning their laptops and heading for the hills. I can’t export my data from UA into GA4. Transitioning from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 isn’t a simple, one-to-one migration. Why? Because GA4 operates on an entirely new user-based model. UA uses a session-based model that collects data from actions taken by the user within a particular session. GA4, on the other hand, relies on an events-based approach: meaning, instead of looking at goals per session, you’re looking at events per user. This allows us to track user behavior across multiple devices and platforms. While this means better insights into the target audience, it also means migration isn’t as easy as just importing your UA data into GA4. You’ll need to audit the metrics you’re currently using and rethink them in light of GA4’s new data tracking methods. Get tips for GA4 migration without the migraine >> My views are no longer available. If you’ve spent any time in Google Analytics 4, this loss may be the most jarring discovery you’ve made. Raw, test, or official — all the most commonly-used views are gone. Before you have a panic attack, breathe into a paper bag and read on. GA4 doesn’t use views because the interface is set up for you to create custom data filters. For those of us that aren’t data experts, this can seem daunting at first, but it gives the opportunity for you to track the information that’s going to be most valuable to your company. Here are three things you should know about data filters: The filters you create are permanent. This means you should be certain of what you’re tracking before you set up a filter. Use “test mode” to preview your filtered data before you set up the filter for good. You can set up to 10 filters. You likely won’t have to worry about maxing out your filters, but again, do some internal testing to prioritize what filters you need so you’re not taking up real estate with a data view that’s not going to provide long-term insights. You can filter out internal IP addresses. No more worrying about throwing off metrics every time you test a lead form! You can set data filters to exclude your team’s activity so you’re only seeing what’s happening from external visitors. Learn more about building custom reports in GA4 >> Bounce rate is changing. Bounce rate is one of the elite metrics that many look to as a gauge for page effectiveness. But the truth is, bounce rate may not be as helpful as we’ve believed it to be. The GA4 transition doesn’t quite do away with bounce rate, but you’ll find the metric in a different form. Instead of a 1-for-1 replacement of UA’s bounce rate, GA4 provides a different way to measure page effectiveness, in the form of “engaged sessions.” So, instead of tracking who comes to your site and doesn’t interact, it measures those that come to your site and do interact, and monitors which actions they take. Thus, you can calculate bounce rate by looking at it as the inverse of engagement rate. However, bounce rate is much less insightful than engagement rate, so although the drastic change may be awkward at first, we’re confident that most users will warm up to this method and even find it more beneficial in the long run. The GA4 user interface is difficult to use. For users who’ve spent the past 15 years using UA’s out-of-the-box reporting, GA4 can be an upsetting experience, to say the least. UA’s pre-defined reports provide valuable data, but GA4 has a serious leg-up over its elder counterpart: custom reporting. You can recreate most of UA’s reporting by creating custom reports with GA4’s Exploration tool. What this means is, you’re not getting less functionality — you’re getting more ways to view your data, and you can tailor them to your business and desired outcomes. Will that make the interface any less weird or uncomfortable? Sadly, no. But with some training and a little practice, users will acclimate to the change and begin to see the benefits of custom reporting and the far-more-accurate data it provides. Adapting to the wide world of GA4 Although GA4 will take some getting used to, the new model gives a simultaneously holistic and granular view of user behavior that offers better insight into your target audience — and how to reach them. If you’re ready to take the plunge into GA4 but still apprehensive, our Google Analytics 4 Survival Guide can give you the tools and tips you need to start out on the right foot. Or, if you want a real person to talk you through the process and help you get set up, talk to a Fusion Alliance analytics expert today. Get the GA4 Survival Guide >>
In the golden era of Universal Analytics (UA), Google pre-packaged a comforting array of reporting right out of the box. But, as companies transition to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) in preparation for UA’s planned sunset in 2023, marketers have been surprised to find far fewer of those pre-set analysis tools, and many are scrambling to rebuild the reports they rely on for key metrics. For example, if you check your UA account for acquisition, you’ll find roughly 25 different reports you can tap into right away. If you check acquisition in Google Analytics, on the other hand, you’ll see an overview screen and…two reports. But there’s no need to panic. While switching from UA means you give up those pre-packaged reports, what you gain from GA4 is the opportunity to collect data and analyze it in ways that make the most sense for your business. In this article, we’ll point you to places where you can find the UA reports you’re used to in GA4, and then we’ll show you how to build GA4 custom reports that fit your business needs. Forget the good old days. The best is yet to come. Find your favorite UA reports in GA4 While you might not be able to find a one-to-one match for everything you’re used to using in UA, GA4 does offer some reasonable facsimiles, although the naming may be different. Acquisition Reporting → Traffic Acquisition If you use UA’s Acquisition Reporting to answer questions about website traffic, you can find some similar metrics in GA4’s Traffic Acquisition. You’ll notice that Traffic Acquisition is set up in a similar format, but — and this is a big hurdle — you won’t be able to drill down into the data with a few quick clicks in GA4 like you can in UA. In GA4, instead of clicking around to find information, you use the plus sign (+) to set up secondary dimensions when you want to drill down into information. As you set up secondary dimensions, you’ll be able to search and narrow down the data to determine the best way to answer the questions your business is asking. In this case, GA4 shows you the same information you found in UA, but in a more targeted, deliberate format. Bounce Rate → Engagement Rate At first, it seemed bounce rate had bounced out of the analytics arsenal entirely with GA4, but now it seems the metric most responsible for marketing panic attacks is back, but in a slightly different form. Bounce rate does exist in GA4, but it’s calculated a bit differently because of GA4’s different data model. So, if you compare your current UA bounce rate to GA4, you will see a difference, and you’ll need to set new benchmarks. GA4 introduced a new metric to try and give us better information about how visitors use our websites: engagement rate. Unlike UA’s bounce rate, GA4’s engagement rate measures people who stay on your site and actually stay engaged. It’s a bit more dimensional than bounce rate, but also a little more difficult to manipulate. You can export engagement rate data into Excel if you’re up for doing a little more digging, but this report is one that might benefit from customization. Audience Overview → Demographics Overview Similar name, same functionality! As in UA, in GA4, Demographics Overview gives you a quick snapshot of your users, including: New vs returning users Demographic data Browser and operating system access Content Drill-Down → Pages & Screens Report In UA, the Content Drill-Down report gives a view of how site content performs at a hierarchical level within the URL structure. In GA4’s Page & Screens Report, on the other hand, you see your content by page title, but not by section. You can change the GA4 report view to page path, which allows a little bit more clarity, but the interface doesn’t support clicking around into different sections and paths. A few workarounds may help: Use the search function to look up different sections of your website, like “blog,” “about,” “services,” and so forth Export content to Excel to group and compare different sections against each other Use Explorations rather than Pages & Screens to dig into specific content performance questions Explorations When you can’t find a 1:1 match for a UA report you used to rely on, you could use GA4’s Explorations function to rebuild an exact match, but you could also take the opportunity to fine-tune the report to answer questions in an even better way. Within the GA4 Explore tab, users can build their own detailed reports, called Explorations, from a gallery of templates. We expect that this library will continue to grow but the baseline options are already quite useful. Of course, as you build out your own custom GA4 reports, you’ll want to start from a list of defined questions that serve your own internal goals, KPIs, and requirements. But to help you get the hang of how to create your own Explorations, we’ll outline a few examples here, based on UA reports you may be used to using. Behavior Flow → Path Exploration This report delivers a segmented view of website traffic. For example, to find out how many site visitors get to your contact page via organic search, you can create a path exploration by: Navigating to the GA4 Explore tab Choosing the path exploration template Clicking organic search sector Clicking the path to find how many of the visitors in this segment visited the contact page Behavior Flow → Funnel Report You can create a similar version of the path exploration report with a funnel report, adding more detail about the steps you want to analyze. You can set this report up by: Navigating to the GA4 Explore tab Choosing the path exploration template Clicking organic search sector Clicking the path to find how many of the visitors in this segment visited the contact page Adding form submission as a requirement Editing and adding steps to change the desired action This report can give you a better idea of common visitor behavior flows on your website. It’s a highly customizable GA4 report, both by steps and the dimensions of behavior you can track those journeys across the site. Exit Pages → Free Form Explorations Although you can’t find exit pages and exit page percentages out-of-the-box with GA4 as you can in UA, you can use free-form explorations to create a custom GA4 report to get you that data. Here’s the setup process at a high level: Navigate to the GA4 Explore tab Select the Free Form Exploration template Set up the page path you’re tracking, including exits and sessions Compare which pages have the most exits to total sessions to get the percentage While you can’t find the percentage in a calculated column, this report is a helpful replacement if you need to find this data quickly. Using Free Form Explorations, you can take any of your metrics and add any dimensions to home in on your data at a very close level. More options for building GA4 custom reports As you dig into GA4, you may find that you can add new dimensions and metrics to the tables for some of GA4’s limited out-of-the-box reports, but you may find that the results lack the depth you need. Depending on the types of reporting you need, you may also find that Explorations give you enough common views to replace most of what you find in UA. However, most marketers will need to get a step further in their GA4 reports before completely moving away from UA. With GA4 still in flux and new features and functionality shifting, Looker Studio (formerly Google Data Studio) may offer your team a way to find consistency and recreate some of the views you were used to using in UA with your GA4 data. Shifting from UA outputs to GA4 custom reports isn’t easy To make the switch from UA to GA4 seamless, you might need to call in reinforcements. Check out our GA4 resources or let us know if you have a specific question. Our team is helping mid-size businesses and enterprise-level organizations handle every aspect of the GA4 transition, and we’re happy to help you get what you need to be successful. [Match-up] Understand the differences between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 [Path] What you need to know to upgrade to GA4 [Plan] 6 steps to make your Google Analytics 4 transition easier [Video] Meet the new Google Analytics 4 [Contact] Ask us anything
Marketers at mid-market companies are going through the stages of grief over Google Analytics 4. Some are still in denial (“Whatever, we have Universal Analytics until July 2023, and they will probably extend the deadline.”) and others have moved on to anger (“Google Analytics sucks!”) If you’re actively wrestling with the transition, you’re probably squarely in that cage match stage. We get it. Our team has been helping businesses with GA4 implementations since it first rolled out, and making the switch isn’t easy. Along the way, we’ve found four key matchups that might help you avoid getting KO’d by your Google Analytics 4 transition. Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics Google Analytics 4 Universal Analytics Round 1: Tracking Users Events Sessions Goals Round 2: Data Engagement Bounce rate Round 3: Interface Low clickability Drill down analysis through setting up secondary dimensions High clickability Drill down analysis through ad hoc clicking in results Round 4: Reports Explorations Embedded reports Round 1: Tracking In Universal Analytics, we track metrics by sessions tied to behavioral goals. Here’s one common scenario: Patricia visits your website home page on her phone one day and bounces. A few days later, she scrolls an article from your site on her desktop and bounces. The following week, she reads a case study on her iPad while waiting in the carpool pickup line and fills out a contact form. At this point, UA documents three sessions, and one goal achieved. But is that the best way to document what actually happened here? Google thought not, and pivoted. Google Analytics 4 tracks metrics according to users and events. Using the same scenario, GA4 documents that one user took four actions on your website: home page, article, case study, form fill. You see the progression, and the impact your site has, at a more granular and yet more holistic level. With GA4’s user-based data model, you see what users do when they interface with your brand — regardless of the device they use, location they come from, or platform they visit. Instead of goals per session, you’re now able to see events per user. Round 1 winner: GA4 Round 2: Data When July 2023 rolls around, a lot of people are going to be caught by surprise when they can’t just upload their Universal Analytics data directly into Google Analytics 4. Next, they will try to export their data from UA to GA4 and that will…also not be possible. Sorry, folks, it simply will not work. The data models are different, and Google has not laid down a path to make a simple data port happen. How can you counter that punch? Your best move is to get started in GA4 as soon as possible, so you can begin to collect new data and understand how those metrics will influence your overall reporting. And the sooner you start collecting GA4 data, the sooner you’ll be able to use it in your year-over-year metrics. Because the data points aren’t the same, your old UA data won’t be of much use in year-over-year comparisons. Learn more about how switching to GA4 impacts YOY reporting >> The shift that impacts almost everyone changing over from UA to GA4 is the shift in bounce rate. Long used as a benchmark for user engagement, UA’s bounce rate metric didn’t make it to GA4 in quite the same format. Instead, GA4 measures engagement in more absolute terms. GA4’s new “engagement” metric takes the guesswork out of bounce rate. Instead of saying “people are leaving immediately, probably because the content wasn’t relevant or the load speed lagged,” GA4 tells you how many people stay on the site long enough to take another action. Before, a low bounce rate could mean someone read your entire blog archive going back to 2007 OR that they had 39 tabs open for a week. Now, you’ll know if a site visitor was idle or active — giving a clearer picture of whether or not they were truly engaged. The bottom line is that GA4 offers a little more accurate view of engagement, but your UA to GA4 bounce rate numbers won’t match up. Your stakeholders are still going to ask about it for a while, and that’s going to be annoying to handle in reporting meetings. Round 2 winner: draw Round 3: Interface If you’re a long-time user of Universal Analytics, you’re probably used to being able to dig into your data as the mood seizes you. Wondering which URLs drove the most traffic last month? Click, click, answer. Want to find out how you got so many hits from Denmark yesterday? Click, click, answer. Puzzled as to why your website suddenly ranks for terms like “can horses drink beer” (or maybe that’s just us)? You get it. The UA interface’s high degree of clickability that enables ad hoc analysis. Not so with Google Analytics 4. When you log into your dashboard, you’ll see a similar view, but all of your clickability is gone. No digging into traffic cohorts. No in-the-moment drill-downs. But all is not lost. If you click the plus sign on a measurement in GA4, you can set up secondary dimensions. So if you want to check which referral URLs are driving traffic, you can build that query in. Maybe you want to set up secondary dimensions to narrow down data here and dig in deeper there. With some time and patience, you can eventually get to a view similar to something you might have seen in UA. But your “click, click, answer” days are over. Sorry about that. Round 3 winner: UA Round 4: Reports We know people who have used Universal Analytics their entire working lives and never built a custom report. If you open your UA account, you’ll find dozens of out-of-the-box reports to meet your needs. While most mid-market to enterprise businesses do have some custom UA reports, they certainly aren’t required to use the tool. Now open your Google Analytics 4 account. Where UA shows you report after report to help you review your website health, traffic, campaigns, networks, landing pages, and so forth, GA4 shows you an overview screen and…two reports. Two. If that prospect leaves you feeling like you got the wind knocked out of you, you’re not alone. Once you get over the inability to migrate your data from UA to GA4, you’ll need to plan to migrate your reports. And that’s going to be a bigger problem for a lot of medium- to large-sized businesses. Take a deep breath and start by cataloging every report you use in your UA account. Map out exactly what you measure, and how the results are displayed. Note how you use the results, and which business units rely on the outputs for operational and strategic decisions. Then, start building custom reports in GA4 to answer those needs. Learn more about building reports in GA4 >> No, it’s not going to be a one-for-one replication. Yes, it’s going to be time-consuming and frustrating. Depending on your timeframe, budget, and bandwidth, you might need to look into partnering with a third party to get this work done right and in time for the switch. On the bright side, though, this process may alert you to reporting you’ve used out of habit that wasn’t exactly right. Building new reports offers you a fresh start, and a chance to really understand what your analytics needs are, and how data can help drive better decisions across the business. Round 4 winner: draw Spoiler alert: GA4 wins Ultimately, the Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics match isn’t a fair fight. Come July 2023, Universal Analytics is out for the count. But what you choose to do in the meantime could mean the difference between emerging victorious or limping out of the ring with broken ribs (proverbially speaking, we hope). Your approach to the GA4 transition could make all the difference. Increase your odds of GA4 success by checking out our (cage-free) resource: 6 steps to a successful Google Analytics 4 migration.
Rub some dirt on it, marketers. When a behemoth like Google rolls out a wholesale change like GA4 while the new product is still in beta, it’s understandable if you miss some fly balls or pull a muscle. New reports. New features. The vague sense that you should be grateful for the opportunity while also feeling dumb that you don’t exactly get the nuances. If all this leaves you feeling like you’re getting yelled at by Tom Hanks in 1993’s A League of Their Own, we understand. Universal Analytics won’t be available for much longer, and GA4 is a moving target. But you don’t have to beat yourself up about it. We’ve got a team digging into the transition to help you stay in the game. Get smart. Not sure which play comes next? Need to catch some GA4 basics? Here are a few resources to get you started: [Deep Dive] Build a solid game plan: 6 steps to making your GA4 transition easier [Offer] Get your GA4 migration back on track [30-Min Webinar] Maximize your GA4 opportunities
Contingency planning isn’t crying wolf In a 1996 SNL skit, comedian Dana Carvey impersonated a news anchor pre-recording announcements of things that might happen while he was on an extended vacation. The scenarios got more and more ridiculous. What if a former U.S. President were mauled by wolves? Well, as the off-camera producer pointed out, it happened to President Taft. That’s why we plan for contingencies. Astronauts do a similar type of preparation before space travel. Rather than filming sober announcements for newscasts, the astronauts perform simulated scenarios of everything that could possibly go wrong in space. The goal is to build muscle memory so that when something unanticipated goes wrong – and it will – the astronauts can keep their stress in check and work on solutions. As former NASA rocket scientist Ozan Varol says, “Astronauts maintain their calm not because they have superhuman nerves. It’s because they have mastered the art of using knowledge to reduce uncertainty.” Lest you think that marketing “isn’t rocket science,” Varol goes on to explain how the same principles of problem solving used (or catastrophically misused) in the space program also drive performance in more pedestrian forms of work and life. Does your team have the knowledge to handle unexpected pivots? After all, even the most comprehensive plans can be impacted by unforeseen circumstances, random events, or the speed of change in today’s economy. Modern problem-solving demands trustworthy insights. That’s why when we talk about the importance of getting your GA4 instance going by mid-July to preserve year-over-year data, we aren’t just crying wolf. Whether you’re building your marketing program slowly or aiming for the stars, rocket scientists, U.S. Presidents, and comedians agree that the key to finding solutions in the midst of uncertainty is the ability to find and apply knowledge in any contingency. Get smart: In his book Think Like a Rocket Scientist: Simple Strategies You Can Use to Make Giant Leaps in Work and Life, Ozan Varol writes about lessons he learned working on NASA’s Mars program and how we can change our thinking to make better decisions in any job or circumstance. It’s a pretty fascinating look at the space program, and also fairly useful as a self-help/business read. And whether or not you’re into summer reading, take a few minutes between calls to watch the Dana Carvey news anchor sketch. It’s a classic.
The pace of change and unpredictable circumstances of the past couple of years have led many companies to rethink their just-in-time approaches to resourcing tangible goods and materials. But why stop there? To scale and adapt fast, companies also need a new approach to how they resource skillsets. One of our clients, PRECISIONxtract, did just that. By taking a just-in-time approach to their shifting skillset needs, the company was able to scale up fast — and minimize risk — in a changing business environment. A right-fit-first approach PRECISIONxtract’s transformative healthcare market access solutions offer patients and providers unprecedented connection to the right medication and resources in clinical settings. To bring that vision to life, PRECISION could have found a series of single-skill vendors or taken the time to recruit and onboard new employees. Instead, they looked for a cross-functional partner that would be a seamless fit with their company culture and that had the right mix of scalable skills. They found that fit with Fusion Alliance. Fusion quickly became an integral part of PRECISION’s team, assembling a group of more than 20 strategy, data, and technology experts to deliver responsive support for a growing set of initiatives. Boosting surge capacity across disciplines Knowing that their flagship product, Access Genius, needed design and functionality upgrades, PRECISION called on Fusion to assess and modernize the application without disrupting the existing business. To avoid downtime and increase speed to market, our team used an Agile process and a model-driven design, in which models from the source code informed modernization efforts. Streamlining the overall architecture not only saved development time, but also made Access Genius easier to deploy to PRECISION’s clients. And, to make the product easier to maintain and cheaper to run, we applied containerization through a microservices model and moved Access Genius to a distributed cloud hosting framework. Our solution provided real-time customer insights that were delivered across a variety of digital channels, in lieu of a people-driven process. This helped take Access Genius: From a complex, cumbersome, legacy monolith into a lightning-fast, distributed, cost-effective, cloud-native solution From a user-driven, database-centric format to a distributed API-based framework, enabling immediate data updates for important cost and coverage changes From a time-intensive customer engagement portal to an intuitive, streamlined, automated process Equipped with a modern, stable, extensible platform, PRECISION was free to explore opportunities for more radical innovation. Disrupting the market with frictionless access to timely data Although Access Genius successfully broke down barriers with data, the solution’s interface required users to navigate a complex dashboard with manual clicks and drop-downs. For pharma teams with limited time to connect doctors to information, seconds count. Working with PRECISION’s product team, Fusion technology experts analyzed the friction point of manual navigation and explored ways to make Access Genius more seamless for the user. Drawing on deep expertise deploying cutting-edge technologies into highly regulated spaces, Fusion suggested exploring a shift away from a traditional web-based interface to an AI-enabled voice functionality that would connect users to the most relevant data and messaging right in the flow of conversation. Changing the way pharma enablement tools go to market At the same time, other Fusion consultants were hard at work rethinking the way PRECISION’s products reached, empowered, and retained customers. We brought in a range of specialists to bring new strategies to life, including: Instructional designers and training developers created an interactive training platform to equip pharma sales reps with greater confidence in provider interactions by deepening their understanding of the Access Genius tool. RESULT: Access Genius IQ, a new training tool that helps PRECISION customers see faster ROI for their Access Genius investment Brand experts, visual designers, content strategists, and web developers elevated visual brand elements and created websites, editorial content, and outreach campaigns. RESULT: New website architecture, design, and content; long-form lead generation content; prospect cultivation email marketing Digital marketing strategists, creative designers, and ad teams implemented innovative ad campaigns in rapid succession as PRECISION had more time to develop and roll out new products. RESULT: LinkedIn ad campaigns generating 3X leads, including 100 qualified leads in the first 90 days Read more about the success of Fusion’s marketing partnership with PRECISION >> Reimagining the skillset supply chain Partnering with Fusion gives PRECISION access to a huge team of experienced consultants with a wide range of skillsets — allowing the company to surge and scale as their business needs and market realities shift. With Fusion bringing in the right people at just the right time, PRECISION saves valuable time and resources, enabling them to be more innovative, more agile, and more impactful for their customers, healthcare providers, and patients. Ready to explore how Fusion skillsets can help your team succeed? Our ongoing work with PRECISIONxtract is just one example of how we help companies build momentum for a digital-first world. We bring big-picture thinkers, technology-minded creatives, data scientists, and technical experts to work alongside our clients, providing a force-multiplying effect that leads to scalable, future-focused solutions for the most complex challenges. Ready to get started? Let’s talk.
A content management system (CMS) is the tool that companies use to manage and display content marketing. Depending on where you are in your digital transformation — and, more specifically, in your digital marketing journey — you might think of a content management system (CMS) as the place you put the copy for your website or the platform you use to launch email campaigns. If you’re like most people, you think of a CMS in narrow terms of what you’ve seen one do before. That view might have served your company well for years. It might work today. But, as you think about the ways your company might scale or shift over the next several years, in a digital world that changes more and more rapidly, it might be worth giving your CMS another look. Why your CMS matters >> Choosing a CMS: 8 things to bear in mind Whether you’re in the market for a new CMS to support an upcoming initiative, or you simply want to make sure your current solution is still serving your goals, we’ve identified eight key factors to think through as you identify the best CMS. 1. Content complexity Because the primary job of your CMS is handling your content, be sure that the platform you’re using or choosing can handle the complexity of your content landscape — both current state and where you’re headed in the near-term. Part of the CMS selection process includes envisioning where you want to be in the future. Technology advances fast, and customer expectations are not far behind. As your target audiences incorporate technologies like wearables, voice assistants, and AI-enabled interfaces, your content may need to evolve to reach them. While your content may not be complex today, will that direction remain sustainable for your business? If your content primarily exists on a single website, you may be able to use a simpler CMS. But if you use content across multiple interrelated sites, reuse content across digital properties, or support video, audio, or other media, you might need a more robust system. Planning ahead for a flexible, scalable solution may make more sense in the long run. Get help with your content marketing strategy >> 2. Storage needs Another factor to consider when choosing a CMS is storage. Once again, the types of content you need to support and the diversity of platforms where you need to display it play a critical role in this decision. If your internal policies or regulatory requirements require the CMS to be your system of record for auditing purposes, your solution will need more capacity than if storing legacy content archives elsewhere is a possibility. Depending on use cases, volume, and user experience needs, some media-rich content such as videos could be stored on an external channel like YouTube or Vimeo. Be sure to get internal input before making that decision, however, as UX for embedded video may be compromised depending on how your digital properties are structured. For organizations that rely on printable content, such as brochures, one-pagers, and other PDF content, interfacing a document management system with the CMS might make more sense than storing a large content library directly in the CMS. Storage needs can also be influenced by your organization’s cloud strategy. Where your business intends to host the CMS — on-prem, in the cloud, or with a SaaS provider — matters when it comes to your storage decisions. Cut through cloud complexity >> 3. Workflow automation Regardless of the size of your IT and marketing teams, smart workflow automation can be a force multiplier. As you evaluate your current CMS and move toward choosing the right CMS for your business, think through how that tool may impact existing workflows. If your content creation, editing, review, and publication process has many steps, automating some parts of the workflow probably makes sense. Some CMS solutions can handle step-by-step hand-offs, which frees your team from the need to shepherd pieces through to publication — and eliminates the risk of a task being dropped or forgotten along the way. 4. Ease of use When it comes to CMS selection, functionality requirements balance against ease of use. If you don’t have on-team resources who can handle in-the-moment development or ongoing maintenance, you might need to opt for more of a What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) content editor so that your marketing team has the flexibility to create needed assets in a timely manner. To weigh your needs for self-service content creation, think about which team members might be entering, editing, and approving content, and what skillsets might be required to use and maintain your chosen CMS. How your team is structured, existing competencies, and the ability to upskill or cross-skill those team members can also be important factors in your decision. 5. Ease of integration While there may be an edge case or two of a CMS operating as a sole solution within a business, chances are you need one that can function as part of an existing or evolving tech stack. As you choose the right CMS for your business, take the time to map out all of the other marketing, sales, project management, and other business-critical technologies you’ll need it to interface with. Some examples of tools you’ll need to interface with a CMS might include: Customer relationship management (CRM) Email systems Social media marketing Marketing automation Project management Forms Analytics and data dashboards Most of these tools will either send data to or receive data from your CMS, so once you’ve identified the tools, systems, and platforms that need to connect with your CMS, you’ll need to determine if APIs are available or if you’ll need custom API development. Different CMS solutions offer different options for built-in integrations, and some make it easier to customize integrations than others. Find out more about API strategy>> 6. Amount of customization required Customization concerns extend beyond API options to encompass everything from the user interface, workflows, security, and functionality of your CMS. When it comes to choosing the best CMS, customization is a Goldilocks evaluation. You don’t want too little or too much. If your CMS requires significant customization or workarounds to achieve basic customization, you may be introducing too much risk. It might be easier to find a CMS that more closely fits your needs. On the other hand, if your CMS restricts code access and doesn’t allow enough customization, you could find yourself locked into a solution that holds you back when you need to scale or change. Instead, look for a CMS that hits the “just right” balance between meeting your needs and allowing creativity and control over the customer experience. 7. Costs When it comes to technology, the sticker price rarely equals the actual cost of the solution. To get a more accurate view of cost when you’re choosing a CMS, factor in: Ongoing subscriptions if you choose a SaaS CMS Licensing fees if you choose a proprietary CMS software External vendor time if you choose an open-source CMS and don’t have a dedicated development and maintenance team Internal team efficiency and infrastructure if you choose to handle maintenance, security, and development in-house 8. Service Related to overall cost throughout your CMS lifecycle, remember to think through your service requirements — both in terms of implementation or upgrade and the ongoing support you’ll need. Your CMS vendor may be a great partner for implementation or might suggest that you choose a third-party implementation team. As you think about implementing or upgrading a CMS, also consider: What kind of data migration support you need The level and duration of support you’ll require for the shift If you need help with cut-over planning The time and resources you’ll need for system testing Training needs On-site support Choosing a CMS: next steps As you consider how to choose the best CMS for your business, remember that well-defined needs make for better-fitting solutions, and don’t try to tackle the requirements, system audit, and vendor selection process on your own. Getting key stakeholders involved early on in the process can help you make better decisions and give you the perspective you need to choose the right CMS. At a minimum, that group should include leaders from IT, marketing, and sales, but you may also want to include customer service, data, and key business units as well. If you have the right people at the table, a half-day workshop could be enough to set your project up for success. Key points to cover in that sort of meeting include: Getting a big picture view of how the CMS will fit into your existing technology ecosystem Aligning goals and requirements across the business Outlining a budget Designating project owners Agreeing on how to prioritize requirements in light of available resources Next, your project team can evaluate potential solutions against the agreed-upon criteria. You might use your organization’s vendor selection matrix, or develop a new one to fit the project. Finally, plan for the transition. If you aren’t sure what that might entail, consulting with a team of experts can make sense — saving you significant time and expense. Ready to get started? We help organizations navigate the process of choosing the right CMS from start to finish, but we’re also happy to jump in with a quick consultation if you’re feeling stuck. Set up a 30-minute consultation >> Learn more about martech strategy >> Find out how a CMS fits into your overall customer data strategy >>
Organizations collect data from a wide range of sources and store it in any number of solutions, which can be spread across the business. For marketing departments trying to deliver personalized customer experiences, those silos present a problem, and a customer data platform (CDP) can seem like an easy answer. That could be the right conclusion, but it also might be premature. If you’re wondering how to choose a CDP, it makes sense to start with the basics. How to choose a CDP: 1. Understand the benefits and limitations of CDP solutions 2. Get internal alignment around the need and timing for a CDP 3. Surface your requirements, and prioritize your top 3-5 4. Map your core requirements to functionality you need in a CDP 5. Get stakeholder buy-in and secure a budget 6. Create a CDP selection matrix 7. Get external help if you need it 1. Understand the benefits and limitations of CDP solutions The CDP Institute defines a customer data platform as “packaged software that creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems.” This simple definition goes a long way toward unpacking the pros and cons of CDPs. A CDP is packaged software. PRO: A CDP is prebuilt and doesn’t require as much help from IT to implement and maintain as other solutions like custom platforms and data warehouses. CON: Because it’s packaged software and not a platform, a CDP will be less customizable and less efficient than adding customized functionality to an existing architecture. A CDP must create a persistent, unified customer database. PRO: A CDP ingests data from multiple sources across the business, standardizes it, and uses it to build an identity graph to enable real-time customer identification that fuels targeted multi-channel marketing efforts. CON: A CDP overcomes some of the difficulty of identity resolution but obscures the methodology. You get a unified customer view, but not a lot of certainty that it’s accurate. A CDP must be accessible to other systems. PRO: You can use the aggregated data and outputs from a CDP with your downstream systems. CON: The CDP you select must either come with the API connections you need for the rest of your martech and enterprise tech stacks or you’ll need to factor in costs for custom APIs. 2. Get internal alignment around the need and timing for a CDP Today’s martech stacks are growing fast, and it’s not always clear whether the functionality your marketing team needs already exists in the broader enterprise architecture. Overlapping features and blindspots are a problem — but also an opportunity. Gathering a cross-functional group that includes marketing, IT, data, and product teams can help you figure out how to get the most from your technology investments across the business. If you’re wondering how to choose a CDP, you might be surprised to find that many of the core functions you’re looking for in a CDP are already available in your CRM, MDM, data warehouse, analytics, and BI solutions. For example: Some analytical CRMs can track real-time online events like website browsing, adding to cart, and the like, much like CDPs. Your data warehouse may allow for an identity graph overlay and machine learning algorithms that can play a key role in enterprise-wide customer identity resolution. Your IT and data teams may already have identity and access management processes in place, and that single source of customer data truth could be integrated with your existing martech stack. So, how do you know if your organization needs a CDP? Your cross-functional group can explore potential use cases in light of departmental needs, budget, and existing functionality. While every organization is different, here are some ways to frame the conversation. You might need a CDP if: Your organization has a large volume of customer data stored in multiple places, and you either can’t or haven’t been able to integrate it into a single, real-time view Your marketing team can’t access customer data or perform data tasks without help from data and IT teams You can’t unify your online metrics, CRM data, and offline touchpoint and transactional data, making it hard to build a 360-degree view of your customer You’re moving to a first-party data strategy, but you don’t have systems in place to use your data to inform audience segmentation and personalized campaigns You have functionality gaps in your current martech stack that match up to CDP features You might NOT need a CDP if: You have a minimal and well architected martech stack Your customer data is simple or straightforward enough to analyze easily without additional tools Your marketing plan doesn’t require a lot of personalization, either because your products and services don’t require it, or because your roadmap doesn’t call for it in the short term Your customer data strategy has already mapped your needs to existing solutions and your roadmap doesn’t include a CDP Your budget doesn’t allow for duplicating storage costs, building and operating data ingestion processes, or keeping up with the steep total cost of CDP ownership Your security requirements don’t allow for third-party customer data storage Your internal IT and data teams find more affordable and secure means to implement identity and access management, democratize data access, and connect data storage with martech tools 3. Surface requirements, and prioritize your top 3-5 As you meet with your cross-functional team and discuss your need for a CDP, you can also surface requirements and use cases for a CDP solution. From your larger list, choose 3-5 top priorities to help you choose a CDP. Some common examples of CDP use cases include: Streamlining identity resolution, and making those outputs more accessible and actionable Combining online and offline data Creating more personalized content experiences on your website Using more strategic targeting in your multichannel campaigns Integrating and standardizing data across systems and making it easier to use those outputs in omnichannel marketing efforts 4. Map your core requirements to features you need in a CDP After you identify your top 3-5 use cases, map those core requirements to features you need in a CDP. For example, if one of your core requirements is enabling more targeted multichannel marketing campaigns in the EU, you might need to look for a CDP that offers GDPR-compliant identity resolution processes. Be sure to note which systems and solutions you’ll need to connect to your CDP both in terms of data ingestion and output sharing with downstream systems. Your CDP will need integrations and APIs to enable those connections. Common CDP integrations include CRMs, analytics tools and dashboards, advertising platforms, BI tools, data warehouses, and data lakes. Meet with your cross-functional group again to confirm your conclusions and assumptions. This meeting is a good time to clarify any security and data governance implications for your CDP selection as well. 5. Get stakeholder buy-in and secure a budget Your next step is to get stakeholders on board for the CDP acquisition and to establish funding to make the purchase. Leadership needs to know the full report from your cross-functional team, but they’ll also have questions about what kind of return the organization can expect from the investment As you frame up the value story, consider thinking about what not having a CDP costs your company: Is your marketing team using a significant amount of IT or data team hours looking for information? If you were to solve your data connectivity issues with custom-built APIs, how much would that cost? How much are you losing in customer value by not providing a customized experience? How much time is your marketing team spending manually moving data from one system to another? 6. Create a CDP selection matrix The vendor selection process doesn’t have to be painful. Your team can feel more confident about choosing a CDP because you’re going into the process with defined use cases and requirements, as well as support from the organization. That said, with an ever-growing CDP vendor landscape, it helps to have a process for narrowing down your choices. To accomplish that task, many companies use an internally framed selection matrix or decision tree, customized to fit CDP-specific needs and requirements. These tools can help you think through solution options using your own criteria. However you handle the vendor review, plan to bring a short list of possibilities back to your cross-functional team for a final discussion before making a purchasing decision. 7. Get external help if you need it. Figuring out how to choose a CDP and where the solution fits into your larger customer data strategy isn’t easy. Fusion Alliance helps companies navigate changing customer data environments with a unique methodology that fosters collaboration, transparency, and shared ownership of digital transformations. Whether you’re just getting started or stuck in the messy middle of a CDP selection process, we help you unpack your processes and partnerships to identify risks and opportunities so you can take the right next steps toward a future-focused customer data strategy. Let’s talk. Keep reading: The Ultimate Guide to Creating Your Customer Data Strategy
Building trust into your customer data strategy In the rapidly changing regulatory environment around customer data privacy and security, it’s easy to get so caught up in specifics that you miss the big picture opportunity to build trust with your customers. Fundamentally, every box you check with your data: consent, collection, storage, use, sharing, and more is reflective of your respect for your customer. After all, how you treat their data tells customers a lot about how you’ll treat them. To take a customer-centric view of your data privacy compliance policies and procedures, we recommend a series of concrete steps applicable to any business or organization that deals with customer data in any form. While not exhaustive, this list forms a solid foundation for building trust in your data strategy. Know where you’re vulnerable One reason businesses are uniquely susceptible to data breaches and privacy omissions is the ubiquity of customer data across business units. While different departments may source, store, and use data in different ways, its presence demands compliance. The best way to get a handle on the issue is to create a data map. This unified view of the information you have, where it’s stored, and how it flows within your organization is not only helpful from a security and privacy compliance perspective, but it can also be a helpful resource for the business. Build a comprehensive data map in our Customer Data Strategy workshop >> Set guardrails When it comes to collecting customer data, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Using your data map, think through your customer data requirements, and only plan to collect, process, and store what you really need to meet your goals. Many organizations find it helpful to spell out this less-is-more approach to data collection in a formal policy, and then make it part of their data culture and training. Pro Tip: Having written policies around customer data collection, use, storage, transmission, and sharing is important, but not sufficient. Building policies into your corporate culture takes focused planning and effort, but it pays off in compliance. Understand the current landscape Depending on your industry, location, and customer base, your company may be subject to different privacy laws, regulations, and requirements. Some common standards include GDPR, CCPA, and HIPAA. Your legal team probably already has a good handle on which of these apply in your current context, but do your security, IT, data, and business units have complete understanding of those implications? Consider cross-referencing relevant requirements to your data map to be sure your organization is fully compliant. Build an agile data privacy program What if your company is not currently subject to those regulations? As you build your data privacy program, it may be wise to look into today’s privacy standards as a near-future view. Legislatures and courts continue to support customer privacy, and policy changes at Apple, Google, and other large tech and search companies forecast trends to greater restrictions on customer data collection and use. Using current standards to anticipate future changes makes sense. Keeping your data privacy program agile and flexible not only ensures that you’ll stay ahead of costly changes in the future, but also builds customer trust — a valuable goal regardless of external factors. Establish a security and governance framework Depending on your industry, this may be a formal, full-time responsibility for an individual, team, or an entire department. Or you might opt for clear policies and procedures shared across business units. In any case, your customer data security and governance framework should include, at minimum: What types of customer data are collected How customer data is protected, during transmission, in use, and at rest What standards you follow for data security, quality, access, and retention Which protection measures you use when data is transferred, stored, or used, such as data masking, tokenization, format-preserving encryption, or keys Improve the user’s experience We commonly think of user experience on digital properties in terms of how a website or landing page looks and functions. But how you interact with your customers about their data is also part of their experience of your brand. Commit to clarity: rather than burying consent information in lengthy legalese, be up-front, clear, and simple in how your structure and format your consent management and opt-in features. As you think about the ways your customers experience your privacy program, some topics to consider clarifying include: How individuals can consent to (or opt out of) your company collecting and processing their data Why customers might want to share their data — that is, what they get out of the exchange in terms of improved experience, personalized discounts, and the like How you’ll establish that a user is over 16 or over 18, if your industry or topic requires that distinction How a customer can request to have their data deleted, and how your organization will comply Put the customer first Data privacy protections show no sign of slowing down, but companies with strong customer data strategies don’t need to worry. Whatever the future holds, building a customer-first approach to collecting, storing, and using data pays off in terms of strengthened relationships across the buyer’s journey and throughout the customer lifecycle. Not sure how to get started? We can help. Our team of digital, data, and technology experts partners with you to get your customer data strategy going — or back on track. Let’s talk >> Learn more about customer data strategy >>
In the crowded field of martech solutions, finding the right tools can be challenging. Businesses not only need to identify the right customer data strategy to fit their goals, but then source or upgrade the right software and systems to bring that strategy to life. In this quick comparison, we’ll define two commonly misunderstood tools, help you sort through the CDP vs DMP conundrum, and explore how they might fit into your technology stack. What is a Customer Data Platform (CDP) and what does it do? A CDP is not technically a platform; it’s a software solution that collects and streamlines customer data primarily from first-party sources to improve marketing operations. Because they are designed in support of long-term customer engagement, CDPs store data longer and can provide a single source of truth for customer records. Learn more about how CDPs fit into a customer data strategy >> What is a Data Management Platform (DMP) and what does it do? A DMP is a data warehouse that collects, segments, analyzes, and stores primarily third-party customer data for use in advertising campaigns. This adtech component plays a critical role in targeting and retargeting for short-term leads and customer conversions, but is not set up to support historical analysis. Learn how third-party cookie deprecation is impacting adtech >> How CDP and DMP solutions can work together A CDP and DMP can work together in a modern martech stack. A DMP can be one source of data for a CDP, and the CDP can also share information back to the DMP. When approached strategically, the question isn’t CDP vs DMP, but how the two systems can support each other. With the right processes in place, a DMP can help bring in new prospects, a CDP can help brands connect and engage, and retargeting and customer cultivation can continue in a seamless loop. More resources for your martech stack Also wondering about the CDP vs CRM debate? We’ve got five factors to consider >> Wondering how to choose a CDP? Check out our approach >> Need to get a big picture view? Get the Ultimate Guide to Creating a Customer Data Strategy >>
After investing in martech solutions — often layering in new platforms and software over time — many organizations find themselves stuck. Whether the root issue is technology, processes, or capabilities, teams get frustrated when their tools don’t deliver. If you’re in a similar position, the best plan is often to step back and review your customer data strategy. It might be time to re-evaluate in light of changing circumstances and shifting organizational goals. You might need a new roadmap to accommodate new privacy regulations. Or you might need a fresh take on how your martech stack fits into your enterprise architecture. Customer data strategies come to life in different ways, but smart implementations always start with well-aligned use cases and clear expectations. In this article, we’ll look at three real-life examples of how organizations we work with got unstuck by creating or refreshing their customer data strategies. Transformation 1: From scattered data to always on marketing Our client managed customer data across multiple platforms, with no connectivity between digital and on-premises touchpoints. Lacking a unified view of customer behavior, the client defaulted to scatter-shot marketing, with disappointing results. As part of a customer data strategy engagement, Fusion helped this client: Define what wasn’t working and identify root causes Align business objectives, technical requirements, and key use cases Recommend near-term remediation and future-state strategies Establish a roadmap with incremental steps toward the solution Then, we worked with the client to implement, test, and refine the customer data strategy, bringing the new solution to life in a way that fit the company’s culture and environment, including: Developing a Master Data Platform Customizing multiple platform APIs to unify customer engagement data Integrating multiple digital platforms Implementing PowerBI for data visualization As a result, the client now has a consolidated view of real-time customer behavior and multi-channel marketing activities, which enables an “always on” approach to customer engagement. Transformation 2: From customer churn to customer retention Another client was experiencing high rates of customer turnover but because they couldn’t discover the cause, they couldn’t develop a strategic plan for turning the trend around. Our team suspected that the key was in the client’s customer data. To identify root causes for the customer churn, we: Assessed the client’s customer data, which was housed in various locations and at different levels of quality across the organization Implemented a centralized data platform to reconcile and unify customer data from different systems of record Consolidated and cleansed the customer data, making it easier to use and analyze Designed machine learning models to test high-value use cases like identifying warning signs of customer churn, flagging high-risk customers that fit the indicators As a result of centralizing and standardizing customer data, and using machine learning to quickly analyze significant current and historical information, our team helped the client flag customers likely to leave and put retention strategies into action to reduce the churn rate. Transformation 3: From disconnect to martech maturity Another client we worked with had invested in powerhouse martech tools but wasn’t seeing the return they had expected. Overwhelmed by the disconnect between expectations and results, the organization asked us to help sort out what had gone wrong. Our team helped the client re-evaluate their customer data strategy to determine the best path forward. Some of our work included: In-depth analysis of existing technology platforms, software, and services Clarifying the customer journey and identifying friction points both for internal and external users Optimizing technology configuration and integrations, including key architectural changes Cleansing data to remove duplicate information and give the client greater confidence in the quality and reliability of the data they collected Implementing process and governance improvements As a result, the client’s marketing team now works faster and more independently of IT, confidently using customer data to automate and personalize marketing touchpoints, and speeding up time to execution for their outreach and campaigns. Get your transformation back on track Ready to do more with your customer data and martech solutions? Defining a customer data strategy and bringing it to life doesn’t have to be so daunting. Whether you need a quick consultation or an in-depth engagement, our team can help you identify opportunities, outline a path forward, and put you on track to optimize the ways you collect, store, and use your customer data. Let’s talk >> Get the Ultimate Guide to Creating a Customer Data Strategy >>
How do I get customers to give me their data? Three trust-building steps toward a first-party data strategy
You understand the implications of cookie deprecation and the importance of pivoting to a first-party data strategy. But, if you’re like many organizations, you might be wondering how to get customers to give you the data you need to make that strategy meaningful. You know that collecting first-party data is a tough ask from customers because you are one yourself. In a digital-first world, where data breaches make the headlines every week and privacy laws continue to tighten, people are increasingly wary of sharing their data. And yet, those same circumstances make it more vital than ever for marketers to collect it. How do you overcome data sharing reluctance and build a foundation of trust for your first-party data strategy? Every business is different, but we’ve identified three key steps that any organization can take to get – or keep – their first-party data gathering on track. Key 1: Be transparent Everyone knows companies need first-party data, but before they hand over their information, they want to know how you’re using it. Studies show that most people are comfortable sharing data with companies they trust, who use the data to meet customer needs — and if you plan on selling or sharing the information, they want to know upfront. Your best move is to explain how you store and use data in plain, uncomplicated language. Make the terms easy to find and the customer’s rights simple to understand. Then, highlight the ways you use the data you collect to benefit your customers. What benefits and experiences can they expect when they let you know about their interests and preferences? Key 2: Deliver value Don’t just talk a big game about personalized content. If you offer incentives in exchange for data, be sure it’s something that your customer actually wants. Your generic and sporadically published newsletter? Probably not it. A guide that helps the customer with a real issue they experience day-to-day? Probably more successful. What content meets the customer’s unique needs? What touchpoints build connections between your brand and the customer’s own values and personal identity? Smart companies build content and offers tailored to customer interests, needs, and buying stage, not broad filler work. Key 3: Be consistent Your customers expect a consistent experience every time they interact with your company, whether that’s on your website, chatting with customer service, or talking with sales. Rather than capturing these touchpoints in data silos, your technology needs to connect information across business units and channels, so the customer is tied back to a centralized profile and so that your organization can connect the dots. Whether you store the information all in one place or keep it dispersed, your analysis should be able to cross boundaries and deliver actionable insights that help you personalize content, marketing, and individual interactions so your customer has a seamless experience with your brand. Take the next step. Building a first-party data strategy is no easy task, but the results are worth it. If you’re not sure how to get started or think you might have gotten off track, we can help. Fusion Alliance helps companies reimagine how they connect with their customers through strategic solutions at the intersection of digital, data, tech, and cloud. Let us know how we can help >> Get the Ultimate Guide to Creating a Customer Data Strategy >>
Although Google plans to phase out its Universal Analytics (UA) tool in favor of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) in July 2023, if you’re like most companies, making the switch to GA4 isn’t high on your priority list. That might be a mistake. Because UA and GA4 operate from very different frameworks, your GA4 migration isn’t going to be a quick and easy one-for-one shift. Companies will find significant differences in how data is tracked and measured, which will impact existing tags, metrics, KPIs, and reports. These differences take time and planning to work through successfully. Making the switch to GA4 might be something you can handle with your in-house data, IT, and analytics subject matter experts. But depending on the complexity of your current UA setup and the role analytics plays in your digital strategy, you might need a more strategic plan to get the GA4 transition right. How to switch: setting a realistic roadmap for your GA4 migration 1. Audit your current Google Analytics usage and metrics 2. Stand up your new GA4 property 3. Map your previous metrics to new GA4 options 4. Create, customize, and integrate dashboards 5. Train and explain to get your team on board with the change 6. Iteratively improve Step 1: Audit your current Google Analytics usage and metrics Before you start your GA4 transition, you need a clear view of what you’re collecting now, and where and how you’re using your UA outputs today. First, list the metrics you track in UA. Survey business units with access to find out how your organization uses those metrics, particularly where metrics influence KPIs. Your audit should also include the other systems and tools that connect to your UA account, such as Google Ads, Google Search Console, Looker Studio (formerly Google Data Studio), and the like. Be sure to map functionalities, customizations, or enhancements your organization has developed for your UA instance over time. You may not be able to reproduce them exactly in GA4, but you’ll need to understand the use cases so you can replicate the results. The audit may also be a good time to evaluate the processes your company has in place around tracking, measurement, and analytics in general, as well as the dashboards you use. Any dashboard that relies on UA will shift with GA4, so it makes sense to take the time up-front to identify any other improvements or efficiencies that might advance your business goals. Step 2: Stand up your new GA4 property Google provides detailed instructions for setting up a new GA4 profile and connecting it to your website. Once your profile is established, begin connecting the other systems and tools you identified in Step 1 of this article. You’ll also need to convert your UA goal metrics to GA4. In some cases, this is as simple as figuring out different naming and labeling conventions – for example, if you tracked Signups in UA, you’ll set up the same thing as Conversions in GA4 – while in others you might need to create something new in GA4 or add custom functionality. Because GA4 is still evolving, new developments and features are added regularly. Look for ways to replicate the customizations you rely on in UA and be aware that you might need third-party help to identify or develop workarounds. Depending on the complexity of your current analytics, customizing your GA4 account could take considerable time, so be sure to leave enough of an overlap with UA in your roadmap and timeline. Step 3: Map your previous metrics to new GA4 options Allow 3-6 weeks for your new GA4 instance to collect and measure data before you compare it to your UA results. Due to the significant differences between UA and GA4, be prepared to see differences in the type of data collected and the ways key factors are measured. You may not be able to compare the results in a 1:1 fashion, but mapping out the differences can help you to refine your customizations and ensure that you have time after your GA4 migration to mitigate or explain discrepancies. Your team is probably used to analyzing UA data to determine the reasons behind significant changes: launching a campaign, a spike in bot traffic, differences in browser and device use, and so forth. The same factors impact GA4 information. By comparing your metrics over a few months, you’ll be better prepared to understand those impacts when Google sunsets UA. Step 4: Create, customize, and integrate dashboards With a robust internal report builder comparable to more sophisticated third-party tools, GA4 offers more options for business reporting, automated reports, and dashboard creation. While the enhanced functionality will be helpful, you’ll still need to analyze and customize every dashboard and report you rely on, whether basic internal reports or external tools like Looker Studio, to map to GA4 data tracking. Remember that the UA to GA4 transition is not a 1:1 switch. Not all UA measurements are available in GA4 and others can be extracted but require updating and customizing your reports.rs can be extracted but require updating and customizing your reports. KEY NOTE: Since GA4 is still in beta, be sure to keep an eye on the updates Google continues to make to features and functionality. As recently as July 2022, Google announced conversions, bounce rates, and UTM parameter tracking — none of which were originally part of the beta platform — will be a part of the new update although not in exactly the same UA form. At this stage, comparing reports between UA and GA4 for a longer period of time will be helpful. You’ll see measurement differences as GA4 becomes your new source of truth but look for indications that trends or analyses aren’t mapping between your profiles. That could be an indication that you need to do more in-depth work on data collection, goals, and reporting. Because you will not be able to access your historical UA data after December 2023, you must build in time for this comparison sooner rather than later. Once Google officially sunsets UA, you won’t be able to see your UA reports in the dashboard or access your historical UA data via the API. Build in time to do your analysis before the end of 2023 – and consider downloading your UA history to keep as a reference. Don’t rush this step. Being able to trust your data is critical, and while you will see differences in numbers during your GA4 migration, it’s important to ensure that you replicate business reporting requirements so that your metrics yield reliable and actionable insights. Step 5: Train and explain to get your team on board with the change Throughout the process of migrating to GA4, keep your end-users informed. Effective change management requires more than a heads-up about a dashboard change. Your training and communication plan should include: An overview of the timing and requirements associated with the move from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4. A tutorial on new vocabulary, especially as it relates to changed metrics. An explanation of how different metrics can be used to find the insights teams rely on. A tour of dashboard changes, with step-by-step instructions as needed. A presentation of the parallel reporting analysis you conducted during Step 4, so that your team understands trade-offs, replacements, what the new numbers mean, and how to conduct their analysis differently in the new GA4 environment. Step 6: Iteratively improve As GA4 continues to evolve, be prepared to continue optimizing your data collection, reporting, and dashboards to be sure you’re collecting accurate information and getting the most out of your data. And since GA4 is still a beta platform, it's important to stay on top of the new add-ons, features, and changes so you can adjust your measurement strategies accordingly. We are monitoring the news and sharing updates as they come. Follow Fusion Alliance on social media and/or subscribe to our Fuse: Marketing newsletter for more. Feeling stuck with GA4? We can help. Wherever you are in your switch to GA4, you can always get back on track. Our team helps organizations with end-to-end GA4 migrations, but we also step in for more tightly scoped problem-solving like custom integrations, dashboard creation, and training. Let us know what you’re dealing with, and we can set up a free discovery call to help you work through it.
AppleTV+ has your breakthrough. In AppleTV+’s bizarrely compelling drama Severance, employees’ brains are modified to separate their work memories from their off-work thoughts. Of course, what makes the show sci-fi is the fact that no one really has a “work self” and a “life self.” So, why does B2B marketing so often seem to assume that consumers and business purchasers are different people? Compare your IG feed to the LinkedIn ads you’re served. One platform shows you talking Australian lizards. The other shows you text about processing speeds. When you need insurance, you remember where to go. When it’s time to make a CMS platform decision you…probably should have made a note. We want to believe that our B2B customers make purely rational decisions, but experience and data suggest otherwise. Whether it’s B2C or B2B, people predominantly buy from emotion, not stats and features. Creative marketers who are willing to push the envelope can capitalize on this idea to stand out in the sleepy B2B marketing landscape. It’s hard to argue with results. One of our clients, a pharma sales enablement company, saw 6x lead growth when they pivoted from standard B2B ads to a brighter, more engaging campaign direction. Your B2B targets don’t come to work as a separate persona. Creative marketing captures attention with a whole brain approach. Ready to ditch the sinister work-life lobotomy assumptions? We’re always ready to talk about how to set your brand apart, whether it’s new creative or a streamlined martech stack. Let us know how we can help. Get smart: Wondering how to sell creative marketing internally? We’ve been reading The Human Element: Overcoming the Resistance that Awaits New Ideas and thinking through the authors’ framework for overcoming our natural resistance to change – especially as it applies to organizations. If you’re struggling through a shift, this book could be worth your reading time.
Third-party cookies are a staple in a marketer’s arsenal and have been for decades. So, now that they are soon to be fully eliminated, marketing teams are panicking. Are we truly ready for a future without this key source of third-party data? While some companies have started to plan for a cookieless future, most still don’t have a baseline understanding of how their business will be affected — much less how to roll out a strategy to operate in this new world. It’s an important problem to solve for. And not all solutions are created equal. What marketers choose to invest in now could make or break their marketing campaigns for years to come. Why are third-party cookies being deprecated? The reality is that this has been a long time coming — Mozilla started phasing out third-party cookies in 2013. But now, Google is expected to phase out this online tracking tool in 2023, and Apple has moved their mobile device ID (the Identifier for Advertisers or IDFA) to opt-in only. Data privacy is a growing concern for consumers, and businesses must keep up. As consumer data gets collected and passed around between countless third parties, there are benefits to targeted marketing, but there are also more possibilities for harmful data breaches. And with multiple pro-privacy laws coming to fruition in the U.S. — such as the California Consumer Privacy Act and similar laws in Colorado and Virginia — organizations are being held more accountable for the data they own and use. Those who prepare for the change will stand out from the crowd by delivering relevant, timely, and insightful customer experiences compared to the one-size-fits-all experiences of the competition. Those who haven’t prepared will need to build that strategy quickly, all in an environment where there’s no clear replacement and simply less data available. So how do you do it? Here’s how you can still create a customized customer experience without third-party cookies. Leverage the first-party data you already have First-party data is often your best source for accurate and specific consumer information. Increasing first-party data has been a priority for marketers for years. According to a 2018 study, 85% of U.S. marketers said that increasing their first-party data is a high priority. And if you think about it, you’re probably already collecting data on your customers with different tools (e.g., email, social, etc). But there are better ways you can leverage first-party data. For example, look at your CRM and sales tools. When utilized correctly, you can evaluate customer data based on interaction reports, performance metrics, conversion rates, etc. Now is the time to look at the tools your company is already using and leverage them to reach the right audience with the right content. Personalize customer experiences with declared data Declared data, a type of first-party data, is one of the richest sources of customer information you can get. This is the data a customer gives you themselves in one-on-one interactions. This is the most accurate information about their desires and demographics. As Forbes explains, consumers are happy to share their information to get a more personalized experience. So don’t be afraid to ask for your customer data when it makes sense — it will be more important to have this declared data than it ever has been before. Utilize email marketing Although email marketing may not be new, it can still deliver ROIs of over 4,000%. It is a great channel for driving sales, nurturing relationships, and understanding your customers. Most importantly, it allows you to collect customer data through opt-ins — and then that data can be segmented by location, company size, position, etc. You can deliver unique offers and messages to each group for the best response. Businesses can use tools like HubSpot to build lists, segment communications, and create automated journeys. Email will become the go-to first-party data targeting solution as third-party cookies are being phased out. Your business can market to customers when they’ve left a website and utilize this information to create more customized messaging and experiences. In addition, you can utilize email lists within advertising platforms like Google Ads where subscribers can be retargeted and brought back to convert. A lot of what third-party cookies provided can be achieved with proper email marketing. Examine your partnerships for customer data exchanges You may be thinking about how you are handling third-party data, but how are your vendors preparing for the change? By leveraging the right technology, companies can safely and securely discover overlapping customers without exposing personal identifiable information (PII) or breaking data privacy laws. These insights alone can help you quickly assess the untapped potential of a collaboration. Now is the time to work with partners to begin exploring the safe exchange of data for the benefit of both parties. Overhaul your data management strategy This is a great opportunity to change the way you manage and leverage your customer data to develop targeting, execution, direct marketing, and customized experiences. This does require effort and investment from your organization (e.g., investing in a quality consumer data platform (CDP) or a great CRM system). Ultimately, your investment results in better control, a more customized experience, and a greater ROI. While CDPs and CRMs offer two different marketing and sales data management solutions with differing strengths, you don’t necessarily have to choose between them. It’s possible to use a CRM as an input and output channel to a CDP. And, in turn, use a CDP to provide a 360° customer view data set within the CRM. Choosing both a CDP and a CRM can deliver an amazing customer experience and tremendous business value: achieving high marks in customer satisfaction and providing integrated tracking and engagement. Learn more about the differences between a CDP and CRM, and what could work best for your organization. By making the investment now in a new and improved data strategy, you can set yourself up for success in a world without third-party cookies. Look forward to the cookieless future The elimination of third-party cookies will fundamentally change digital marketing as we know it. But it also presents an opportunity to move away from an old standard and push your online marketing into the future. By maintaining a solid understanding of all the forces at play and updating your strategies to prepare for the transition, you can set your organization up for success and keep you ahead of your competition. Start now with our risk assessment workshop. Ready to see how this change is going to impact your organization? Register for our upcoming webinar, “Does cookie deprecation affect me? And 5 other key questions to ask before it’s too late.”
Most people take websites for granted. They pay bills, book flights, and download white papers online with relative ease. But not everyone assumes that digital tools are designed with them in mind, and that’s a failure for everyone. One in four U.S. adults report having a disability that impacts major life activities. That’s 61 million friends, neighbors, and family members who deserve a digital experience that is just as user friendly as anyone else’s. Integrating website accessibility into your design process and culture is a step toward addressing this very human problem of exclusivity. And while a sense of justice is enough to move many organizations to act, there is also a strong business case. Offering a user experience that caters to only a select group of users alienates potential brand advocates and carries serious legal risks. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act Title III Regulations, public properties, including public websites, have to adhere to accessibility parameters. In other words, your digital presence must be designed and coded so that people can carry out their desired tasks, from completing a form to making a purchase. This should extend beyond your basic site to search tools, mobile apps, and social media. Organizations often find themselves on the wrong side of this issue. Rather than proactively carving out a path to invite accessibility in as a priority, they are reacting to negative feedback and even lawsuits. These companies are well-meaning but don’t know what to do to ensure compliance. To help keep you up to speed, here are six ways accessibility will impact businesses and website design in the near future: 1. Lawsuits will escalate From 2017 to 2018, the number of website accessibility lawsuits filed in federal court under Title III of the ADA shot up from 814 to 2,258. This trend will likely continue as more users hold noncompliant websites and other digital tools accountable. Recent high-profile lawsuits have called out Winn-Dixie, Beyoncé, Burger King, Rolex Watch, and Amazon. In a particularly unsavory 2019 story, instead of fixing its online ordering feature, Domino’s pizza responded to a blind customer’s lawsuit with a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court to quash the case. 2. Standard design processes will change To achieve a more inclusive user experience, designers and developers follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) for web standards. It’s part of their process, showing up as captions on videos for people with impaired hearing or spoken versions of site copy read aloud by screen readers. Before accessibility can become an intrinsic part of the website design process, organizations will have to rally their troops and emphasize its importance. In the near future, writing alt-text for images, ensuring all content can be accessed with a keyboard, and making sure text can be viewed at 200% without impairing readability will be second nature. While we aren’t there yet, the additional steps needed to build a compliant site will become standard procedure over the next few years. 3. Know-how will develop fast Remember the 1990s when accessibility ramps were tacked onto commercial buildings like ugly metal afterthoughts, function-rich but design-poor? Today, ramps are architectural features, such as switchbacks crisscrossing wide flights of stairs, and curving slopes that add to a structure’s beauty. In digital, we aren’t working with hammers and drills, and we’ve had 29 years to appreciate the precepts of the ADA. The speed at which website accessibility can and should evolve will be much faster than its brick-and-mortar counterparts. Plus, adherence helps companies compete more effectively for the more than $645 billion of disposable annual income that Americans with disabilities control, creating an additional layer of urgency. 4. Site facelifts will facilitate compliance Organizations regularly upgrade their websites and apps to make them faster, more secure or better optimized for search. Add accessibility to that list. When talking to our clients about site improvements, accessibility is at the forefront of conversations about website facelifts. These are often great opportunities to ramp up (pun intended) inclusion efforts. 5. Someone will own accessibility Who on your team will lead an initiative around accessibility? How will this person develop knowledge and implement more stringent ADA accessibility user testing? Is this a role for design/development or someone in HR/legal? More organizations are asking themselves these questions, and many are looking to outside partners to help them get and stay compliant. Whether it’s handled internally or externally, accessibility will become part of someone’s job description. 6. Audits will head off future legal fights ADA lawsuits and subsequent news stories can burn through an organization’s brand equity, repel customers, and rack up hefty legal expenses. When performed by a trusted digital partner, an audit can bring to light web accessibility infractions so that you can deal with them before they impact your audience. (One caveat: beware of predatory auditors. Scammers have been known to offer auditing services and then threaten to expose noncompliant clients to the ADA if they don’t sign on for follow-up projects.) As organizations take first steps to prioritize accessibility, initial results might look and feel like that ugly ramp from the 1990s. At Fusion Alliance, the growing pains have been worth it to ensure that our user experience offers everyone the same level of respect and compassion. Making accessibility part of your digital design conversations now will better serve every human in the future. Don’t wait to talk to your team. And if you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out.
How can we cultivate a culture of connectivity while remote? Have you ever felt the energy of working on a team where everyone was in sync and got things done? Or have you experienced the opposite, team collaboration that you dread, where no one agrees on anything and you just go in circles day after day? Collaborating as a team shouldn’t be left to luck. Instead of showing up and hoping for the best, why not design how you collaborate? Imagine getting everyone on the same page, setting guidelines, earning each other’s trust, and hitting or surpassing your goals. Those are the ideas that went through my mind as I developed an in-person Designing Collaboration workshop for the 2020 Indy Design Week (IDW) (a gathering of designers across Indianapolis). But when the conference pivoted into a virtual event due to the pandemic, I had to pivot too. Luckily, my Fusion Alliance team and I are no strangers to running virtual workshops, so it wasn’t difficult to transform my in-person Designing Collaboration workshop into the virtual Designing Remote Collaboration workshop. As I shifted focus to the remote format, I realized designing virtual collaboration isn’t just relevant, it’s necessary for success, especially today. This article will give you a quick walk through my workshop so you can see how bringing design thinking mindsets and methods with purpose into your remote team can improve collaboration. Unpack the common challenges of working as team Our workshop began by getting all participants to think about of the challenges involved in working as a team. Take a moment to think about what issues your team faces. See if any overlap with the ones we identified in the workshop: Members have different values or points of view Endless discussions without action Struggling to understand one another and align on next steps Domination by the loudest voices Review the mindsets of design thinking We shared the following mindsets of design thinking in our workshop. Just think of the impact on your organization if these concepts were to become practice. Being judgment free to encourage psychological safety Valuing getting started over being right to avoid analysis paralysis Allowing work to be time boxed and unfinished Working together, but alone so everyone’s voice is heard Making things tangible instead of discussing so that there is a common reference Having a beginner’s mind to overcome our internal limiters Apply design thinking methods to remote teamwork For the collaborative portion of our workshop, teams focused on redesigning how remote teamwork works in their organizations. We accomplished this challenge using a purposefully designed recipe of design thinking methods. Icebreakers help bring order IDW volunteers Moti Saleminik and Blake Coats assigned participants into Zoom breakout rooms, and using Miro, an online collaboration tool, they began an icebreaker activity. While icebreakers can be fun, time is valuable, so our activity was designed for attendees to both get to know one another and to assign an order in which participants would speak to avoid stumbling over each other when it was time to share. The 2×2 matrix revealed that those in the session were overwhelmingly dog lovers! Visually capture where to focus A Speedboat exercise, a method for visually capturing anchors that are preventing progress, was then used for groups to note what about remote collaboration holds their organizations back. What about remote collaboration holds your team back? After a vote, our workshop groups had identified the most important challenge they felt should be addressed first. The top challenges across the groups fell into the following categories. Adopting new technology Virtual (Zoom) fatigue Disjointed virtual relationships Handling distractions New norms Brainstorm potential solutions Groups were then asked to turn their top challenge into a “how might we” statement starter in order to kick off a brainstorming activity. Brainstorming is most effective when using a structured ideation format such as the Creative Matrix, a grid for generating ideas at the intersection of topics. Using the Creative Matrix, participants generated nearly 60 ideas in just 15 minutes. A Heatmap vote exposed which ideas were most inspiring. These included: Rating the focus levels of participants to gauge whether a meeting should take place or not Aligning meetings with participants preferred times Intentionally building into meetings breaks that release tension Customizing views and features of meeting tools to express unspoken social cues and prevent distraction Take virtual collaboration offline With the next activity, Crazy-8’s, I took a risk by asking participants to work offline and then post their work to the Miro board. Changing the medium seemed like it could cause issues, but by using pen and paper, each participant quickly sketched variations of their ideas without having to learn a new tool. The sharing and discussion that ensued allowed groups to build on one another’s ideas, which included concepts such as: Rating the focus levels of a team to optimize collaboration times Tracking the time meeting attendees spent actively participating in a meeting Smart calendaring to ensure an individual’s most productive times are uninterrupted by meetings Enhancements to meeting tools, such as blurring video when inactive and emojis to virtually read the room Commit to action The last step prompted groups to reflect on their experience and note what types of actions they would commit to going forward. This is what they came up with: Optimistic about Awareness of how emotional and mental health impacts teamwork Breaking down the barriers of location Learning new tools and approaches to collaboration Worried about How easily people can disengage or be distracted when remote The speed with which teams can adopt new tools and techniques Team members’ ability to adapt to this new way of working Learning about Emotional intelligence and social behavior Focus and our environments Additional best practices for collaboration Committed to Greater planning and communication of meeting goals Being aware of and establishing boundaries while working remotely Implementing collaboration techniques Summary: The benefits of designing collaboration We wrapped up our time together by reviewing how intentionally designing collaboration can make teamwork more effective by: Building empathy and trust with teammates Continually iterating towards a goal Aligning around clear, tangible artifacts Engaging every team member Now that you’ve walked the journey with us, take these lessons and apply them to your own collaboration. Final thoughts I want to say thank you to the IDW event organizers who put on an amazing virtual program. They did a fantastic job of adapting the format and worked with all of the presenters and facilitators to ensure we had what we needed to provide participants with an experience that continued to deliver on the theme of Cultivating Connections. I also want to thank the workshop participants who spent their time with me. They dove right in, demonstrating the value of designing remote collaboration. It was a blast to facilitate this workshop, and remember, as Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Interested in working with me? At Fusion Alliance, we’re ready to support your digital transformation, innovation, and experience design initiatives with custom-designed workshops or consulting engagements. Learn more about workshops by Fusion Alliance. Want to see our virtual workspace? Looking for additional resources? Visit Design+Strategy Academy and let me know what you think.
With increasing customer demands and competition a click away, access to data-driven responses in real time has become a necessity for business users and marketers. Today, the market is full of digital analytics tools for measuring your customer experience across web and mobile applications, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and point of sales (POS). When used correctly, these digital analytics tools can provide businesses with a wealth of insights into the performance of their digital platforms. To best leverage digital analytics, you will first need to set clear business objectives and define how your organization intends to measure success on your digital platforms. An in-depth look into your current measurement strategy, if one exists, including metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) will reveal if digital analytics are providing the data and insights necessary to ensure business and customer needs are met. Identifying metrics Organizations often make the mistake of using out-of-the-box metrics like page views, sessions, bounce rates, and session duration as KPIs. These basic metrics are not representative of actual business objectives and can prove useless without the right context. For example, if a marketer wanted to understand the value of a landing page, they would want to look at the number of leads generated by the page or the long-term business impact that customers who came to the site through that page brought. Instead, reports focus on the number of people that saw the page or the bounce rate for the content. While this is helpful information, it doesn’t mean anything if you can’t tie the analysis to ultimate business success. Regardless of industry, website visits and page views do not increase bottom lines, nor should they be used as KPIs. If these are the types of metrics you’re seeing in reports or using in your analysis instead of relying on KPIs like leads, transactions, revenue, or conversions, then it may be time to re-examine your digital measurement strategy. Developing a measurement strategy Successfully integrating digital analytics into business processes requires a clear measurement strategy. A measurement strategy outlines business objectives, what should be tracked on the website or mobile app that will inform these objectives, the types of reporting that will be available, and to whom it will be exposed to once the implementation is complete. Depending on current processes, analytics tools, technology, and available resources, the process of uncovering this information can take several months, but it is a vital step that should not be overlooked or rushed, as the end result is a digital measurement model that provides the framework to align digital analytics with business strategy. The digital measurement model A digital measurement model is a high-level, visual summary that links your core business objectives, such as increasing brand awareness, customer acquisition, or increasing sales, to the digital strategies used to achieve these objectives and their requisite goals. From there, specific KPI and targets will be identified for each digital strategy, helping business and marketing stakeholders understand whether their efforts are trending in the right direction. These elements should be captured in a matrix that can be used to inform the tracking strategy, reporting development, and ultimately gauging the health of your digital practice. Benefits of a measurement strategy Creating a measurement strategy that aligns your business goals with the activities of the digital teams can have a significant impact on how the business operates. With clearly defined objectives and KPIs for measuring digital outcomes, digital teams can focus their efforts on producing measurable value, instead of opting for a shotgun approach that hopes some portion of their efforts will drive outcomes. A well-defined digital measurement strategy encourages an environment of accountability. With KPIs to measure the gap between real-time digital outcomes and targets, executives gain greater visibility into the progress (or lack thereof) being made toward business objectives. It also creates a baseline of expectations, helping digital team members to better prioritize work to produce measurable value. Most importantly, developing a digital measurement strategy gets people talking. Shaping strategy to reflect business objectives encourages collaboration among business operatives and leaders across the board, from marketing analysts to the CMO. Gaining alignment on what matters most helps an organization instill confidence in teams and helps team members gain a better understanding of how their day-to-day work contributes to the overall mission of the company. Final thoughts All too often, digital analytics are completely overlooked within marketing teams. This could be due to lack of expertise around robust measurement implementations, or analytics has been under-prioritized in favor of more tactical activities. Whichever the case, overcoming hurdles to generate actionable business insights from your digital platforms is vital to the health of your digital practice and the needs of your customers. To successfully leverage digital analytics, organizations need to take a deep look into their current measurement strategy and reframe as needed to align their implementations with their established business strategy. Ultimately, having a clearly defined digital measurement strategy paves the way for receiving lasting, meaningful insights from your digital platforms and provides a system of accountability for team members and leadership to unite around.
Brick and mortar retail is in trouble. It may seem obvious with stores like Neiman Marcus, JCPenney, Toys R Us, and Sears in bankruptcy or bankrupt already. But what’s less obvious and what too few in retail have acted upon is the depth of the dilemma the industry faces. To be clear, what retail faces today is the prospect of, first, irrelevance and, eventually, outright extinction. The threat is real and not without precedent. Retail would be wise to heed the lessons learned from the history of newspapers. As with retail, newspapers have existed for hundreds of years and until recently have been a stable, time-tested method of building wealth and influence. But today, there is little doubt that newspapers are largely insignificant and on the path towards extinction. For newspapers, this ignoble end started with a rather humble technological oddity, the first web browser, NCSA Mosaic in 1993. Few would have predicted then the industry-shattering consequences to newspapers. But within 15 years, newspapers were being shuttered in droves or selling for a tenth of their previous value, as internet startups like Craigslist, Facebook, and Twitter eroded their most profitable businesses by stealing eyeballs and thus advertisers. The mistake newspapers made was largely ignoring the internet or only tepidly testing the waters. Newspapers were slow to invest in new technologies that would enable them to compete in a brave new era. By the time they realized what was happening, it was too late. Retail faces the exact same threat and is repeating the exact same mistakes. This time, it is the internet’s child, the cloud, that is causing the disruption, and retailers ignore the cloud to their own peril. For traditional retail, their only salvation is, in effect, to fight fire with fire and quickly embrace, invest in and adopt cloud technologies. Let’s talk about how. React and leverage In order to save themselves, traditional retailers must react to overarching societal trends and leverage their inherent strengths. Overarching societal trends that impact retail include the following (many of which also impacted the newspaper industry): Affordability and accessibility of mobile devices (phones and tablets) Increased technology adoption Retail business models, financial structures, and revenue-generation practices Consumer behaviors related to price sensitivity and changing buying preferences Demographic changes Changing definitions of “social” Increased focus on convenience, customers want a seamless, holistic experience Movement toward a cashless society At the same time, traditional retail has certain strengths that can be leveraged, including: Local, physical presence Friendly customer service Ability for customers to physically interact, experience, and sense products The store of the future Retail must go far beyond simply having a subsidiary, inferior online presence. This is essentially all that newspapers did to react, and it’s obvious how well that turned out. Instead, in order to survive and thrive, retailers must quickly invest in cloud technologies to evolve and adapt their businesses to envision a physical retail store of the future. Imagine, if you will, a retail store of the future like the one illustrated above. As a potential customer nears the store within a mile or so, he or she is notified of a flash sale via phone. Intrigued, the individual stops by the store, interacts with the product, and then can purchase the product simply by opening up a mobile application and taking a picture of it. The customer then walks out the door. This is the store of the future, and in order to build it, retailers need three components: Mobile point of sale IoT and cloud services Data strategy, analytics, and stewardship The first step in building such a store is to develop an intuitive, immersive mobile application that can be used to purchase products. Once built, the retailer now has the ability to retire traditional point-of-sale systems, providing huge benefits, including: Increased velocity of sales and inventory data Single sales engine for both online and store sales Elimination of complex and expensive point-of-sale systems Reduction in headcount or repurposing of headcount to improve customer service Decreased dependency on staff and a corresponding reduction in scheduling complexities Ability to target customers with personalized offers and incentives While initially, the mobile application may simply make purchases from the retailer’s e-commerce portal, the retailer can phase in in-store purchasing simply by accounting for store inventory. This can be entirely automated through geofencing, a location-based service that triggers a response when a device enters the virtual perimeter — for example, providing real-time inventory data for all stores, information that can be leveraged to drive flash sales on overstocked products or dynamically increase the price of popular items. The mobile application becomes an extension of the retailer’s brand and store that the customer always carries with them, allowing retailers the opportunity to learn about their customers and build loyalty in a way that is impossible otherwise. Through standard phone technologies like GPS, the retailer is aware of the customer’s proximity to their store, allowing marketing efforts to be maximized at the point that a potential customer is most likely to buy. In conjunction with the mobile application, retailers must invest in cloud-scale applications, services, and APIs that will support the mobile application purchasing and inventory reconciliation as well as drive automated marketing efforts and notifications. These cloud services will collect internet of things (IoT) data from mobile devices and from in-store sensors to help drive more efficient, effective behavior for the retailer and influence potential customers to buy. Finally, retailers must also ensure that they have a solid data strategy. There must be methods for not only ingesting and processing this increased, high- velocity data, but also in leveraging the information and converting it into knowledge in real time. Traditional retailers typically do not know what happened within any particular store until the next business day after point-of-sale systems have uploaded their data and overnight batch processes have loaded the data into data warehouses for reporting purposes. Conclusion The store of the future requires an entirely different way of thinking about data and changes to business processes and decision making that correspond with the increased velocity at which data flows into the organization. Retailers have two simple choices. Either address these factors now or join the ranks of other organizations who fought a brave fight, but still perished. Need help getting started? Let us know.
As brands adapt to the consumer-driven Experience Economy, they must be able to evolve their businesses for the digital age. This isn’t an easy task, especially for companies stuck in a mindset that their business is still driven by traditional direct marketing. Evolving the business requires a revamp of most companies’ customer engagement strategies, as well as digital organizational transformation. We went ahead and laid out some of the most significant roadblocks that hinder organizations as they try to implement a successful digital customer engagement initiative and potential fixes for these barriers. Barrier #1: Lack of digital customer engagement roadmap In many cases, organizations fail to create a long-term plan for how they will achieve success with their digital customer engagement initiative. This results in a lack of executive and key stakeholder buy-in, the inability to link the strategy to the corporate vision and mission, and poor adoption across the organization. These factors then lead to budget cuts, resourcing issues, competing priorities, and much more (see below in barriers #2 and 3). How to fix it To be successful, digital customer engagement requires a long-term vision and a planned strategic approach that communicates how it can add commercial and customer value to a brand, including new business and communication models. Organizations need a strategic vision that helps focus on delivering lasting value to your business in the areas of expanding the breadth, depth, and duration of the customer relationship. The result creates a clear call to action for all stakeholders at the outset of the program. After a vision is crafted, create a series of compelling strategic goals and objectives to serve as the foundation of the customer engagement strategy. Develop the strategic goals and objectives to specifically address the various competitive threats, issues, and opportunities identified throughout the strategy project, as well as to tie the efforts to bottom-line results. This vision, along with strategic goals and objectives, then allows organizations to create a customer engagement strategy that is linked to the business strategy, has bold long-term orientation, and is centered around customer needs. Best practice Create a roadmap that will serve as a strategic document and a canvas. It should outline the strategies and tactics across customer experience channels that will drive customer engagement and deliver results, closing the gap between your present experience and the one you envision. The roadmap ties to your defined business goals and KPIs for measuring success. Barrier #2: Organization & talent Unfortunately, most mid-market to Fortune 100 organizations aren’t set up to adopt organizational change without a lot of pushback and hesitation. This results in employees not understanding the intended experience they are supposed to deliver, on-again-off-again customer engagement focus, and a loss of credibility and satisfaction among members of the organization. To become a truly customer-centric company that drives positive interactions and experiences for its customers, organizations must push through these changes or risk falling behind. Below you’ll see a list of the behaviors and barriers that many organizations run into when taking on a transformation of this proportion and how organizations must shift in order to be successful. How to fix it Get senior management’s buy-in to review, authorize, and champion innovation in digital customer engagement. Change is initiated both top-down and bottom-up, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to acquire budgets and internal prioritization when change is coming from above. Speaking of, ensure that you properly budget and invest in digital customer engagement consistent with customer use of those channels. Similar to budgets, the organization should have the right level of resources to meet the requirements of business-critical customer engagement disciplines. You have to put your money where your mouth is and truly believe in the value of becoming more customer-focused. As with any organization, there needs to be the right structure and workflow in place to manage digital customer engagement and provide teams with the necessary insights to do their jobs the right way. Ensure that your employees are empowered and have the skills needed to deliver the experience you desire and to drive the business forward. Have experts in business-critical fields, and provide training where necessary to ensure your employees have the tools to provide truly customer-centric engagement. Finally, remember how you eat an elephant — one bite at a time. Start small by running pilots and scale across departments after you’ve made the business case about the value that investing in digitizing customer engagement can deliver. This won’t fix all the issues listed above, but it’s a start that will put you in a place to be successful — and it won’t completely disrupt your business. Barrier #3: Culture The third major roadblock for organizations is transforming the culture from sales-first to becoming more customer-centric, aligned around customer needs. This should be a direct reflection of the core values of the company. Common culture-related issues are: Getting broad-based buy-in across the organization. A lack of buy-in results from being unable to translate the vision for customer-centricity across the organization and make it actionable in terms of customer interactions down to the most granular decisions for the business. The organization embarks on a transformation journey, but loses focus before achieving the objective. The organization doesn’t have a common definition of what it means to be customer-centric. The organization is slow to change and can’t move from its reactive nature to a proactive one that has a higher risk appetite and acts with speed and agility, willing to test and learn what works and what doesn’t. The last major culture-related issue is that employees are often neglected, resulting in a poor experience for individuals who are carrying out your customer-facing efforts. How to fix it Get executives, key influencers/stakeholders, and employees involved in your customer engagement strategy process as early as possible. Make people of all levels in the organization feel like they are helping shape the outcome for the company and its customers. Communicate your customer-centric vision, objectives, and strategy continuously, and consistently report your progress toward reaching those objectives. Enable employees of all levels, granting them the ability to be responsible for successful customer outcomes and allow them access to training that ensures they perform in a way that matches the organization’s vision. Finally, get comfortable with the unknown, finding ways to run tests and learn in a single department or channel, then scale across the organization. All of these actions will increase the internal investment and accountability of employees at all levels and ensure that you transform your culture to enable your customer engagement initiatives. Barrier #4: Capabilities The final area where most organizations struggle considerably is ensuring they have the capabilities to support a successful digital customer engagement strategy. The greatest areas of concern when dealing with the enablement of digital customer engagement are capabilities in technology, data, and analytics. Point solutions are often purchased for prescriptive reasons and managed in departmental silos, which results in multi-system madness. When trying to carry out their digital customer engagement initiatives, organizations then have issues trying to link different technologies or lack the relevant technology to accomplish the tasks at hand. When it comes to data and analytics, organizations often lack key technology platforms to manage the data, which results in poor data quality. Even more so, many businesses don’t have the discipline to even measure results. When they do, what’s measured is more around internal issues or related to a problem, and the ongoing fragmentation and interpretation of data doesn’t provide any real insights that can drive business decisions around customer success. How to fix it Point blank, organizations need to invest in the best technology platforms to manage digital customer engagement. Marketing, IT, customer experience teams, etc. all need to come together and work collaboratively instead of worrying about sourcing their own solutions. Customer engagement requires key technology platforms, including marketing automation, content management systems, customer experience management systems, and the list goes on. The important thing is that you define what you are trying to achieve and work together as an organization to get the right systems in place to achieve your objective. When it comes to data and analytics, the goal is to get to a proactive approach that provides real-time insights in place. The organization must shift from internal and problem-related measurements to corporate and customer-success measures. A key step will be identifying the appropriate KPIs, information, and knowledge management control processes to fuel your customer engagement and optimize it. Transforming your customer engagement for the digital age isn’t easy, and in many cases it will take some major organizational change. This shouldn’t scare you away, but rather empower you to tackle the initiative and be a change agent who drives vast growth for your business. When you do decide to take this on for your business, beware these major barriers that often hinder success. Some of these challenges are inevitable, but knowing about them, you can now prepare for these roadblocks when they present themselves and take the right steps to move past them toward successful digital customer engagement.
One of the most difficult aspects of search engine optimization is measuring the success of a campaign. Historically, SEO providers give their clients a list of “valuable” keywords and the position of the client’s website for each keyword. Unfortunately, this kind of ranking data provides a comparatively narrow view of search engine activity because it only measures expected results. In order to get maximum insight into an SEO campaign, key performance indicators (KPIs) need to be established to capture the complete picture. Keeping score Search engines include more than 300 data points when they are calculating the score or rank of a page. Measuring how your site, page, or campaign will perform based on a specific request is a very challenging problem. A good starting point is to begin recording and measuring a variety of on-site and offsite indicators in order to develop a custom SEO solution based on the competitive landscape. You’ll need to test and develop metrics that provide relevant insight into your site’s ability to rank versus competing sites currently ranking for targeted traffic. On-site measurements On-site measurement begins by scoring the content of your website based on quantity, quality, and structure: The quantity is the number of pages of unique content and the rate that new pages are added to the website The quality score is more subjective, but relates to the relevance of the content to questions being asked by the target demographic The structure score looks at items like URLs and HTML tags to determine the ease in which the content could be indexed All of these measures are then combined into a content score, which is compared to top-ranking competitors. The content scoring also identifies gaps in subject matter and opportunities for new topics. User experience is scored by measuring bounce rate, pages per visit, and time on your site. This data is evaluated on a device-type basis in order to make sure that all visitors have a similar experience. It is also important to understand your site’s performance by checking PageSpeed and Yslow scores. In addition, the actual response time of each page and supporting assets determine a speed score. Offsite measurements Search engines rely extensively on outside factors to determine website relevance. Measuring several leading metrics to identify potential opportunities can expand the online reach of your site. Begin by evaluating incoming links to the website (follow and no-follow) to determine the number and quality of external websites linking to your site. During the backlink analysis, links that should be disavowed because of potential penalties related to Google Panda must be identified for future action. Finally, check your social media activity to determine what content is being shared and/or discussed and the overall reach of your site on social media platforms. Business factors In order to measure the return on investment (ROI) for any online marketing activity, it is important to have well-defined goals for your website and visitors. Start by developing a value for each type of conversion. On an e-commerce site, it is very easy to define the value because the visitor has put items into a shopping cart and either completed the purchase or abandoned the cart. If your website supports a large brand or collects leads, the definition of value is more difficult. However, value always exists and it is important to agree on a value in order to report on the business success from web activities. Once the business goals are defined, you’ll need a method for segmenting different online marketing activities so each channel can be measured independently. SEO traffic can be defined as a website visitor who arrives from organic search results and didn’t include a brand name in the search terms. However, with Google’s update to secure search, the availability of keyword data has been reduced significantly and the exclusion of brand name keywords has become more difficult. In order to compensate for the lack of keyword data, you should now consider an SEO visitor as any visitor who enters your site from organic search with a landing page that is not the home page (and possibly a few other pages). This is when the fun begins. You can now measure visitor traffic from SEO and compare it to other marketing activities. The ability to show a financial return on SEO is possibly the most important factor to business stakeholders and executives. Measuring the success of your campaigns with KPIs Using the metrics outlined above can provide a clear picture of where SEO effort is being applied and how it impacts your business financially. The reporting also identifies successful strategies that you can expand on based on your KPIs. It is important to remember that measurement and execution of an SEO campaign never ends. Search engines are testing changes to their ranking algorithms on a daily basis. New content, links, and social media content activity are also constantly in flux, and without continuous monitoring even successful SEO campaigns may fail if they are discontinued.
As we highlighted in our article Transforming customer engagement in the digital age, customers are in control and seek experiences that build relationships with brands that span devices, channels, and time. But how do you provide an experience that meets or exceeds your customer’s expectations? We put together 11 traits of a successful customer engagement strategy. This list can serve as a guideline and solid foundation to transform your organization's customer engagement for the digital age. Successful customer engagement strategies are: 1. Customer-centric Everything is focused on the needs of your customers, and those needs are put first. It’s more about making sure they’re happy and satisfied in every interaction. This shifts the focus for most organizations off of bottom-line results toward successful customer outcomes. 2. Conscious of context The customer is in control of how they engage with your brand. Be sure that you always understand the relationship between your brand and the customer, past and present, as well as where and when the interaction is taking place. 3. Consistent Each channel and device where the customer can engage with the brand should be consistent in design, style, messaging, and experience. This requires that all your points of engagement to be developed with the same customer insights and segments in mind. 4. Continuous Continuity is key for customers, and the goal is to ensure that customers can seamlessly transfer from one device/channel to another and pick up at the same point of interaction. Don’t make someone start over with your customer support team if they switch from their computer to their phone while on the go. 5. Customized Customers expect brands to understand their wants and needs and to personalize their interactions based on those insights. There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to engaging with your customers. Get as close to one-to-one interactions as possible. 6. Convenient Customers want to engage when they want and where they want. This includes any channel or device, day or night, 24-7. Be there and add value every step of the way. 7. Conversational Always remember it’s a two-way conversation between you and your customer. That means listening more than you speak, and when you speak, add value to further the interaction in a positive way to continue building your relationship. 8. Collaborative & coordinated Typically brands operate in silos and lack communication with one another about their interactions with customers. To deliver valuable interactions across the customer lifecycle, you will need to collaborate and coordinate your interactions between departments throughout your organization. 9. Co-created People want to feel like they have control and the ability to shape the outcomes they have when interacting with brands. Allow customers to help create their experience through your interaction. This develops a feeling of ownership and increases the likelihood of loyalty and advocacy. 10. Committed True digital customer engagement takes a lot of work, and it may rustle some feathers when you can’t see immediate, bottom-line return. Be patient and willing to invest both time and money in your customers to see the true value/results of your efforts. 11. Creative Customers want to be wowed in their interactions with you. You can’t just do the same old thing that your competitors and everyone else are doing. Think outside the box and deliver something that will change the way your customer perceives your brand and interactions. Conclusion At the end of the day, whether you’re B2B or B2C, we are all consumers and have expectations that need to be met in order to feel satisfied. To meet these expectations, brands must treat every customer as an individual, building the relationship one interaction at a time. While the behaviors or traits above aren’t all-encompassing, if mastered, they will transform your customer engagement and the way the customer perceives your brand. Put on your consumer hat and think with each interaction, “What would I want to happen here?” or “Would I be frustrated if this happened?” Ultimately, simply asking yourself these questions can go a long way in driving value in your relationships with customers.
What is customer experience? With the experience economy taking a stronger hold, it is imperative for organizations, regardless of industry, to understand what “customer experience” means. This phrase has been defined in many ways, but our definition aims to explain the scope of customer experience: Customer experience: the interactions between an organization and a customer over the duration of the relationship, and the customer’s perception of their engagement and the supplied products or services. To effectively address the entire scope of the customer experience, organizations need a 360-degree view of the customer. The very core of a customer experience strategy (CX strategy) is understanding the behaviors, needs and wants of the customer, posing the question, “What does a great customer experience mean in the eyes of the customer?” According to survey conducted by the CMO Council, a great customer experience includes: Quick response times to customer requests or complaints Rapid response to issues and challenges Products that reflect their own needs and wants Consistency of the experience across all touchpoints This customer viewpoint has created a divide in the experience economy between businesses that quickly address customers’ changing behaviors and those who do not. Implementing a CX strategy is a necessity to thrive in the experience economy Today’s customers exhibit unprecedented new behaviors. Incumbent companies suffer without a 360-degree view of their customers or a more flexible and nimble framework to accommodate new behaviors, falling further behind competitors. Slow improvements to increasing customer demands widen the gap between business goals and customer needs. In response to the emergence of the experience economy, influencers in their respective industries are leveraging digital technologies to become more customer centric. These forward-thinking players are breaking down the silos between departments and operatives to unify employees in delivering experiences that match or exceed those of industry leaders. As a result, businesses can no longer use traditional business models to preserve customer loyalty. It’s not enough to simply know adapting to the experience economy is a necessity. Businesses need to take the next step and actually invest in a new strategy to fully embrace the marketplace shift. Investing in a customer experience strategy is not extravagant In response to the experience economy, the roles of CFOs and CIOs are changing, shifting focus from reducing costs to enabling organizations to become more flexible and scalable to grow revenue. Customer experience spending has become the top investment priority for accelerating businesses, and such investments are paying off. For a company with $1 billion in annual revenue, a moderate increase in CX generates an average revenue increase of $823 million over three years. The saying, “What’s good for the customer is good for business,” is truer than ever. Providing positive customer experiences is directly correlated with customers who purchase again, don’t switch to competitors and recommend the company, resulting in loyalty-based revenue and evident ROI. Investing in the right digital strategy and technology ecosystem creates more access and engagement with brands, increasing opportunities for a better customer experience. These technologies are being used implement CX strategy by converging people, processes, and technology. Companies have linked CX improvements through digital to reductions in service, acquisition, processing, and engineering costs. Forward-thinking companies like Airbnb and Tesla Motors are great examples of this, using new digital tools and systems to add immense value and gain a competitive edge. Customer-centric strategy also translates into an investment in employees. Employees are happiest when they feel like they have a purpose, and this is especially true for millennials, who have surpassed Generation X as the largest share of the American workforce. A unified aim to provide great customer experience gives employees a purpose, ultimately lowering employee turnover, while adding value and productivity to business process. Where to start An effective CX strategy means mastering engagement opportunities with new customers and nurturing existing customer relationships. Customer journey mapping uncovers what your customers need and when they need it along their end-to-end journey. Misunderstandings of customer behaviors and preferences, along with low adoption of the evolving digital technology, serve as barriers to an effective CX strategy. Customer journey mapping breaks down these barriers to help organizations design, develop, and deliver experiences that meet or exceed customer expectations, all while aligning to the business strategy by shifting the focus from immediate sales to delivering value to customers. Now that you know what customer experience is, why it is needed, and where to start, your business can begin gearing up for the transition into the experience economy and gain the competitive edge required to thrive. Need help getting started? Let us know.
Born in the retail industry, omnichannel isn’t just a buzzword to add to your marketing “bingo” card. (You know the one.) Omnichannel strategies provide digital customers with a seamless experience of a company’s brand, no matter where or how those customers engage with it. From brick-and-mortar stores to social media and websites — and from telephone to laptop and mobile device — omnichannel provides customers with consistent, integrated service. More than that, omnichannel better enables your company to meet your customers where they live. In a July 2014 Forbes article, Daniel Newman defined omnichannel as “. . . a reflection of the choice that consumers have in how they engage a brand, and therefore is best represented as how brands enable their clients and consumers to use these channels to engage with them.” That hasn’t changed. What is valuable about Newman’s definition is that it focuses on consumer choice, placing the customer journey squarely at the center of the strategy. Omnichannel, at its most faithful execution, is a transition from transactional, forced interactions with brands to a system of continuous, in-context enablement from the brand. Newman’s definition also widens the focus of the approach to include both products (retail) and services. How is omnichannel different? Offering products and services across multiple channels — and accessible across multiple devices — is nothing new. Multichannel marketing, or offering brand experiences in many channels for many devices, has been evolving for some time. Margaret Rouse of WhatIs.com provides perhaps the simplest explanation of the difference between multichannel and omnichannel marketing. “What distinguishes the omnichannel customer experience from the multichannel customer experience is that there is true integration between channels on the back end.” The distinction is an important one, both for marketing and for IT, because integration implies big data and the business intelligence that can be gained from it. The reality is that we are building systems and processes that use data from line-of-business (LOB) systems: Customer interactions on web, mobile, and social Brand ambassadors like customer service and sales Behaviors in brick-and-mortar stores where consumer products are the focus Integrating the systems used to manage marketing content puts customer data at the center of the brand interaction, which is what makes a seamless customer experience possible. What omnichannel is not With this basic understanding of what omnichannel marketing is, let’s talk about what it is not because that has major implications for your organization and its digital strategy. Omnichannel is not a traditional marketing funnel The traditional marketing funnel moves prospective customers through several well-defined, brand-controlled phases, from brand awareness to purchase and, if you’re really lucky, to brand advocacy and repeat business. By contrast, omnichannel is a continuous cycle, where purchasing can occur at any point during the customer’s interaction with the brand, as well as across devices. And not all of the content with which the consumer engages (or, for that matter, which the consumer seeks out) is brand-controlled. User reviews, social networks, and other consumer-driven content all influence purchasing decisions at various points in the customer journey. What this means for you is that you not only have to make the right content available at multiple consumer touchpoints, but you also have to be aware of the content you don’t control so that you are ready to respond to it, indirectly or directly. Analytics become especially important so you can track your customers’ journeys and also help predict where you can make the most impact on their buying or engagement decisions. Omnichannel is not conducted in silos Omnichannel is a marriage of technology and marketing. A true omnichannel experience requires collaboration and cooperation between marketing and IT. Neither division can dictate to the other what will work, which technologies to use, how to use them, or when to implement. Both marketing and IT need to be sensitive to each other’s schedules, initiatives, and resource constraints. What this equates to is organizational change. Omnichannel isn’t a project; it’s a way of operating your business intelligently and dynamically. Pursuing an omnichannel approach to marketing requires you to commit to organizational change. Omnichannel is not a switch you flip on — tah-dah! The crucial integration of systems that differentiates omnichannel marketing from multichannel marketing often requires updating back-end systems. And that’s neither quick nor easy. Omnichannel marketing requires careful planning, along with cooperation and collaboration between marketing and IT. An omnichannel solution doesn’t have to be expensive. But it does need to be well thought out. You have to understand that changes to how data is managed do not happen overnight. Changes to how content is written and published do not happen overnight. Changes to how and where you interact with your customers do not happen overnight. But when they do happen, there are efficiencies to be gained, money to be made (or saved), and loyalty to be won — both from your external consumers and from your internal producers. In short, an omnichannel strategy can completely transform the way you do business. Today consumers have their choice of content, devices, and touchpoints. Your digital strategy must place your customers’ journey squarely at the center. Check out “Vectren moves to omnichannel to improve brand experience” to find out why.
In the age of the consumer and the experience economy, everyone and everything is connected. Consumer expectations have shifted. The customer expects a personal relationship that offers value wherever and whenever they are ready to engage. As a result, marketers must shift away from singular campaigns and a “bottom-line first” mindset in order to stay relevant and competitive. As the number of communication channels and devices increases, so does the challenge of engaging consumers effectively and delivering consistent, contextual, and personalized interactions across each of them. So what’s the solution to this ever-increasing challenge? An effective digital customer engagement strategy. What is customer engagement? From customer service reps to marketers, the definition of “customer engagement” seems to be determined by the situation in which it’s used. In many cases, this has led to the phrase being used interchangeably with “customer experience.” While the two are definitely related, it is important to draw a distinction to understand how they act as major growth levers that drive value for both brands and their customers. The relationship between brands and their customers develops over time based on interactions and the perceptions and behaviors that follow. Brands interact with customers in order to: Make them aware of their product or service Get them to purchase their product or service Get them to repurchase their product or service and have them recommend it to their friends Customers interact with brands throughout their buyer journey. The following is an example of the basic, overarching process that customers go through when purchasing something. Customer experience is the perception or impression of those interactions. Customer engagement is the interaction/behavior by the brand or customer and the means by which their relationship is created. Customer engagement goes beyond managing the experience at touchpoints; it includes all the ways companies motivate customers to invest in an ongoing relationship with their brand. This relationship doesn’t start and stop at the purchase point, but spans the lifetime of the customer, from the time they became aware of the brand to after they’ve purchased the product/service and more. In the past, brands controlled these interactions. They were able to dictate when an interaction took place, what message they wanted to communicate, and, most of the time, the outcome. But that’s no longer the case. Customer engagement in the digital age In 1998, there were only 147 million people online. People waited half an hour to download a song and over a month to download a movie. It was in the early 2000s that the world changed forever with the release of the iPhone, the smartphone for the everyday person, the release of instant messaging services like AIM, and when social media came on the scene with platforms like Myspace. In 2018, the number of smartphone users worldwide is projected to reach 2.52 billion, with 61.2% of the world population accessing the web from their mobile devices. – Statistica In an age defined by disruptive technologies, the relationship between brands and their customers has shifted. We fast forward through TV commercials, we unsubscribe from annoying emails, we don’t open direct mail, and we put ourselves on do-not-call lists (like that works). We have information in the palm of our hands or at the edge of our tongues. We expect to be able to connect instantaneously and conveniently with whomever we want when we want. We operate in short micro-moments across multiple devices and channels, and we expect it to be seamless and quick. As consumers, our interactions with brands are no different. We don’t just simply buy something. We develop a relationship with the brands of our choosing, and we expect value during each interaction. We want to feel heard and like we helped create the value we received. This has led to a rapid shift for marketers to move from brand-centric interruption marketing to customer-centric attraction marketing. “Consumers have changed. We are in the midst of a major social change in the way consumers listen and engage with brands. The landscape has changed from campaign management to customer engagement.” – Alterian Brands at-risk study In fact, Forrester Research stated that customer relationships are now the only competitive differentiator. As a consumer, we build a mesh of digital devices around us to get things done. Customer engagement must be able to seamlessly span these devices and channels to build on the relationship between the brand and the consumer through each interaction. “The ‘digital mesh’ is the collection of devices (including things), information, apps, services, businesses, and other people that exist around the individual. As the digital mesh evolves, all devices, computer and information resources, businesses, and individuals will be interconnected. The interconnections will be dynamic and flexible, changing throughout the day.” – Gartner, Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2016: Mesh App and Service Architecture Our devices, our methods of consuming information, and the way we make decisions are constantly changing, and they’re only going to continue to evolve as technologies advance. The only thing that is consistent throughout this evolution is the individual behind the screen. We as consumers don’t form perceptions based on a single interaction, but rather on the full experience we have with the brand across all our touchpoints. How those micro-moments connect builds the relationship. This means that brands must develop or update their customer engagement for the digital age. Transforming customer engagement For businesses, this means that to improve customer engagement, you must embrace technology and data to speak your customers’ language in the context the conversation is taking place. You will need to create ongoing conversations with each individual, conversations that combine their lives and their experiences in the physical and digital world. Your marketing approach shifts from acquisition-oriented campaigns to management of customer interactions and experiences that span the buyer’s journey in a seamless way. This isn’t a one-way conversation dictated by the brand, as it was in the past, but instead a two-way conversation where brands must listen for and understand the needs of their customers. It’s time to update your engagement strategy for the digital consumer. Are you ready? Read more: 11 behaviors for success with digital customer engagement
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