Tag Archives: Oracle Marketing Cloud

Holiday Mailing Lessons for 2019

The 2019 mailing year is already well underway. For many senders, that means dealing with reputation fallout from sky-high holiday volume and re-implementing best practices on outbound campaigns that may have been improperly removed. For the Oracle Deliverability Operations team, it means reflecting on the patterns and practices we have monitored over the November and December mailing period, and leveraging those lessons to improve mailing for our customers in the year to come. No matter where you find the current state of your own mailing program, our insights below will provide a foundation to improve your mailing practices in 2019.

Volume

Yet again, we continued to see a year-over-year increase in overall messaging volume for the holiday mailing period in both November and December. Considering US shoppers registered record-breaking levels of shopping over Cyber Monday in 2018, this is not surprising. But it is important to remember record-breaking email volume isn’t necessarily a good thing for everyone.

Many senders think launching more email will result in earning more ROI, but user fatigue can cause serious harm to a mailing list. This is particularly true if the increase in volume is due to repeat messaging rather than an organic increase in general mailing list size. Bombarding recipients—or worse opening up targeting to an entire list regardless of opt-in status or engagement—will drive spikes in bounces, spam complaints, and negative brand awareness. This will lead to reputation and spam placement issues that can take weeks to resolve. It is important to give recipients a break in the inbox and to only target individuals who are opted-in and engaged.

Gmail Reigns

In other unsurprising news, we saw the largest volume of outbound mail go out to Gmail. Gmail has long been a top email client for users in terms of market share and could even surpass the Apple iPhone for the top spot in 2019 if growth continues.

2018 saw Gmail focusing on improving the user experience with updates to their inbox interface, including added features allowing you to:

  • Snooze messages
  • View messages in confidential mode
  • Receive annotations on messages before they are even opened.

What does this mean for senders going into the New Year? It tells you that best practices are more critical than ever before.

Senders have the ability to feature their messages in the inbox in new ways, but none of this will matter if campaigns keep finding themselves landing in the spam folder.  

Speaking of Landing in the Inbox at Gmail

Throttling and reputation-based filtering appears to be the new normal on a larger scale at the Gmail ISP. While user preferences (i.e., if a receiver adds a mailing address to their address book, drops a message in a particular tab, or flags a message as spam, etc.) still have the power to override the ISP’s placement algorithms at an individual level, more and more senders are falling victim to overall deferred or delayed delivery based on their reputation alone. As has long been the case at other ISPs, this is determined by the same underlying factors, namely IP- and domain-based reputation.

Lax best practices and increased volume over the holidays can add up along with everything else, and the result. If engagement-based criteria (such as how much time has passed since a user opened or clicked a campaign) are overridden, unsubscribes ignored, or acquisition best practices (i.e., confirming opt-ins) allowed to fall to the wayside, it’s likely that hard bounces, spam complaints, and reputation issues will swiftly occur.

Senders need to make sure they are:

  • Targeting their best users (those who are regularly engaging)
  • Acquiring their users correctly
  • Removing inactive segments/processing unsubscribes on an ongoing basis

Now is the time for senders to take a step back, review their campaign performance, and assess what strategies did and did not work for them. And most importantly, it’s time to triple check that all best practices are applied and functioning as they should be on outbound mail in 2019.

Learn more about emails and how you can use to their utmost potential on mobile with Oracle Marketing Cloud’s “Mobile Email Guide.”

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All I Want in 2019 Is an Integration

The new year is upon us, and with it comes the traditional series of glossy articles about key technology trends to watch. A myriad of posts appear on LinkedIn, blogs, and in respected business publications, all spreading the corporate gospel, advocating the need to throw out the old and embrace the new. A new year, a new hype, as the dictum goes.

However, it’s good to remember one of the enduring adages in the otherwise rapidly-changing world of Customer Experience (CX): any technology is only as good as its ability to integrate with a wide variety of applications and solutions. The relentless quest for ever-more niche features has come to a timely end and made way for the compelling need for a fully-integrated suite. Savvy marketers the world over are no longer persuaded to tie the commercial knot with a vendor purely on the basis of how many proverbial bells and whistles they were able to fit into a single solution.

Moreover, given the proliferation of best-of-breed and suite solutions alike, with corporate buying strategies often resulting in a mix-and-match approach, it is fair to say that IT landscapes have grown ever more complex. Being able to effectively embed a brand-new solution into such an intricate environment therefore becomes more than just another project-level aspiration. With the rise of the Cloud, it has emerged, with an alarming sense of urgency, as organizations’ prima objective. The age of function-feature has come to an end. All hail the age of integrations.

This begs the all-important question: how do you define an integration to begin with carefully-drawn arrows, mystically connecting two boxes in an expensive-looking PowerPoint slide, more than often do not find their mirror image in reality. What makes a good integration then? Can flat file transfers to ship data from point A to point B really be considered for the coveted title? Or does it take a real-time API connection with a similar-looking interface on either side before we can ascribe the definition with a clear conscience?

Furthermore, in this era of ever-rising expectations, what makes for a well-developed integration according to the vendor, may not necessarily be shared as a conviction by customers, since not all integrations are created equal. Data may flow with ease between two components which complement each other perfectly, but the customer is left with the feeling that there is no integration in the truest sense. But this is not because two platforms are not able to seamlessly exchange the data they require. It occurs because more than one solution is involved in making it all happen.

This brings us to a crucial point. Over the years, Marketing Cloud suites, including the Oracle Marketing Cloud (OMC), have grown mostly through the acquisition of best-of-breed applications. Once brought into the fold, the daunting task of integration would commence: aligning data models and types, import and export definitions, interface designs, and so on. As time progresses, well-considered solution architecture blueprints are built and signed off on, controlled availability versions of the integration are released, and feedback is gathered. At times, it may take a few iterations to get things right. Nonetheless, throughout the process, best-practice design principles, such as e.g. separation of concerns, are adhered to so as to guarantee the integration is fit for purpose. After all, building an integration for the sake of integration does not serve any meaningful end and would be little more than a redundant exercise in design.

Let us take a simple example. Imagine a platform P is made up of three components: A, B, and C. If A is fully integrated with B, and B in turn with C, wouldn’t it make sense to also pursue a direct link between A and C? The answer can be argued in a number of ways, of course. If there is incremental merit in building a bridge between A and C, be this in the interest of improved functionality or a commercial proposition, then the answer should be yes. For example, not all users of the platform necessarily purchase all three components and would still appreciate the ability to connect the dots. Moreover, if the integration between A and C would be bi-directional, a closed loop could be constructed that may perform better or more quickly than through an intermediate connection with B. That being said, if little to no value can be derived from such an integration - or worse - the integrity of the respective components is detrimentally affected as a result, the answer can also be a plain and simple no. Build what is meaningful, not just what can be built. Your architecture shall be better for it.

The previous scenario is illustrative of a wider point: any solution architecture needs to be guided by a clear set of design principles. Or to put things differently, there is a right and a wrong way of setting up a Marketing Cloud or embedding a CX ecosystem. Overall, when designing an architecture, it pays off to take heed of the principles enumerated below. These principles have been derived from the SOLID framework for software engineering. For reference, please refer to inter alia H. Singh & S. Hassam (International Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research, 2015).

Key Design Principles for Best-Practice Marketing Cloud Architecture:

Separation of Concern (SOC):  Applications should be divided into distinctive features, and each feature should have minimal overlapping wit other features.

Principle of Least Knowledge (POLK): Platform A can request a service of platform B, but A should not "reach through" platform B to access yet another platform, C, to request its services.

Don't Repeat Yourself (DRY): Integrations are added to the architecture with the explicit objective of re-usability and future-proofing, in light of potential changes to the IT landscape.

When we apply these principles to one of the integrations in the Oracle Marketing Cloud, e.g. the integration between the marketing automation platform Eloqua, and the Oracle Data Management Platform (DMP), the following implications and rationales can be postulated:

SOC

The implication:

- Unknown segmentation in DMP

- Known contact segmentation in Eloqua

The rationale:

Set baseline expectations about platform functionality and intended workflow across them.

 

POLK

The implication:

- BlueKai agnostic to Eloqua data model

- Minimum viable datasets for integrations

The rationale:

Maintain respective platform integrity and avoid introduction of costly/redundant complexity in cross-platform data flows

  DRY

The implication:

- CRM data feed consolidation

- Common ELT jobs for BlueKai and Eloqua

The rationale:

Commonly defined data model can be used to feed different applications given common use case intention

It should be clear from the above that there is merit in not considering the art of integration lightly. So as the landscape keeps evolving and new widgets, features and grand ideas surface with every sunrise in the year 2019, reflect on which arrows to draw. Aim to commit to sensible design, one which upholds the equilibrium between specific requirements and practical considerations. Strive to see past the technical mechanism underpinning an integration and value what such a connection can truly bring to the business you are part of. Finally, before you decide which integrations to add to your corporate new year’s resolutions, ensure that its viability and usefulness will endure for longer than just the first month of the year. In the eternal words of Oprah Winfrey: “Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right!”

Find out more about Oracle Marketing Cloud’s best-in-class digital marketing solutions

Why Gmail’s New Promotions Tab Is a Big Plus for Your Email Campaigns

Email marketers have gained access to a powerful new platform for reaching subscribers: Gmail’s new Promotions tab. Google’s latest update to the Gmail app includes a tab that’s tailor-made to showcase your most compelling B2C offers—and this gives your top content a chance to shine like never before.

Marketers have long known that email delivers the highest ROI of all digital channels, but ROI can fluctuate widely depending on how sophisticated a campaign’s targeting is.

Emails containing personalized offers are far more likely to survive spam filters, generate clicks, and deliver revenue. But even for brands that invest heavily in email personalization, the daily struggle to stand out against the spam can often prove difficult.

Gmail’s latest update aims to sharpen the contrast between meaningful emails and non-personalized junk. How? By bundling the offers most relevant to each recipient under a specialized Promotions tab, which highlights specific features of those offers, like promo codes and expiration dates.

Here’s how your brand can start taking advantage of this new feature right now — using the creative assets you’re already showcasing in your emails.

Gmail’s Promotions Tab Helps Your Personalized Offers Stand Out from the Spam

Personalized emails are powerful, so long as they are opened. In the beginning you have to create a compelling subject line and snippet of preview text to capture each subscriber’s attention. Any email with a subject line or preview snippet that fails to captivate subscribers is likely to be ignored, sent to the trash — or worse, blocked by Gmail’s spam filter. It doesn’t matter how well designed your tailored promotions are if they go unseen.

Gmail’s new Promotions tab gives your most compelling offers a far greater chance of capturing subscribers’ interest, while also keeping your brand in full control of each email’s messaging and visual appearance. Now, instead of a text-only subject line and preview snippet, your offers can show up in a specialized tab within Gmail’s iOS and Android apps — bundled by category and featuring enticing details and imagery.

In short, the Promotions tab can supercharge your power to engage subscribers with each personalized email you send — meaning your most relevant offers will get more clicks and generate more revenue.

And best of all, you can do all this without creating any new assets. With a personalization solution capable of managing a content library of creatives, you won’t need to spend any more time or resources developing new assets or messaging for Google to feature in the Promotions tab. All you need to do is paste the generated code from the Litmus tool into the email templates currently used in your campaigns and the promotional content will appear in the preview.

Sound good? Let’s take a closer look at how it works.

Litmus’s Gmail Promotions Builder Makes It Easy to Customize Email Previews

Each email preview in the Promotions tab consists of modules, including:

  • A single image preview
  • A green badge with offer details
  • A gray badge with a discount code, your brand’s logo
  • The offer’s expiration date

Although Gmail is able to pull content for all these modules directly from each email you send, you’re also free to customize the modules — which means you can fully control each preview’s appearance within the Promotions tab as well as the promo details you’d like to highlight.

You don’t need to write a single line of code, thanks to Litmus’ Gmail Promotions Builder. Litmus has teamed up with Gmail to create this easy-to-use tool, which makes the preview customization process as simple as entering a few details into a form.

Once you’ve generated the code and pasted it into your email template, Gmail users on iOS and Android will see exactly the offer details you’ve specified — along with your brand’s logo and a featured image — bundled with other brands’ relevant offers in the Promotions tab.

That’s all there is to it. It’s like upgrading from a text-only ad to a full-color spread on the front page — with just a few seconds of work, using the email assets you’ve already got.

One final important note: annotating an email doesn’t guarantee Gmail will feature it in the Promotions tab. To be featured, you still need to make sure your emails are personalized for each subscriber, containing content tailored towards that subscriber’s desires and goals.

Jordan Grossman, Product Manager at Gmail, even said, “Gmail doesn’t create value in the Promotions tab. It’s the best emails that create value. The new Promotions tab rewards brands who send truly valuable email by making them easier to find with a richer means of delivering that value.”

Google is getting smarter every day at recognizing relevant emails — and just as before, the most surefire way to generate engagement is to keep your content updated and relevant for every customer on your list.

Find out what else you can do to optimize your emails with “Go Further with Email Deliverability and Privacy.”

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Making Sense of Social Media Sponsorships and Partnerships

Just a few years ago, a top brand or company might have talked about “sponsoring” a top social media influencer or thought leader. Now, however, the discussion has shifted away from “sponsorship” towards much more of a collaborative “partnership,” in which there is expected to be much greater alignment and collaboration between the two parties. That might sound like a scary new world for top social media influencers, filled with terms like return on investment (ROI) and key performance indicators (KPIs), but it can also be very liberating.

The changing dimensions of the social media world

So why has the thinking changed? One big reason has to do with the “growing up” of the social media sector. At one time, throwing money at a top blogger or social media influencer was considered par for the course, and nothing much was really expected of the relationship, other than perhaps greater brand visibility and new access to a coveted demographic. But brands didn’t do a lot of thinking about the actual ROI of the sponsorship. In fact, they viewed the sponsorship of a blogger much more along the lines of a charitable donation, where they were really just looking to support a worthy cause and maybe get some positive PR along the way.

But something very dramatic has happened over the past few years – the social media influencer game has become such big business, and so much money is being thrown around these days, that bloggers and thought leaders and social media influencers are actually expected to help drive product, boost sales, or increase total audience in tangible ways. If you’re “sponsoring” a top fashion blogger, for example, you want to make sure that you’re doing more than just giving a lot of free samples away.

The new world of partnerships and collaboration

As a result, the discussion has shifted much more in the “partnership” direction, as brands actively seek out thought leaders and influencers who can help to advance key business priorities. There is expected to be much greater alignment in goals and strategy, as well as much more “give and take” about what steps need to happen next. 

In the past, for example, sponsorships were basically what folks in the biz called “untethered funds” – once a blogger got the funds, he or she could spend it however they wanted. Those days are over, as evidenced by all the negative PR about Instagram influencers that document their lavish lifestyles online without actually producing any real results.

How to win social media partnerships

Going forward, then, it’s important to pay attention to this shifting dynamic. When you approach a company or organization, frame the discussion in terms of a “partnership” rather than a pure-play “sponsorship.” Be prepared to bring facts about the ways that you can help build audience, extend a brand into a new demographic, or create online events that are tied into specific causes near and dear to the sponsor. It might sound like a cheesy cliché, but here it goes: you need to be aiming for a “win-win” situation where both you and the sponsor benefit.

Just remember – it takes time to build up trust and support. It’s no longer just about touting your tens of thousands of followers, or your impressive list of viral hits online – it’s also about showing how your supporters are very similar to those customers a company might be attempting to court, and how your approach and philosophy are a very natural fit for the message or mission of a partnering organization.

Oracle Social Relationship Management (SRM) is the only solution ready to meet your immediate and future social media management needs, enabling your organization to innovate and extend social across your business.​ Learn more here.

Please Take a Number! New Oracle Responsys Asynchronous API

You probably have gone to a restaurant and had to wait in line to sit down or took a number (or received an electronic device) to find out when your table is ready. Waiting in line is synchronous processing, while being notified after your request has been processed is asynchronous processing. Same thing applies when you submit API requests to be processed by a platform like the Oracle Responsys Marketing Cloud. If you make a synchronous API request, you must wait for your request to be processed in order to get a success or failure status back. But for an asynchronous API request you immediately get an ID for the submitted request and later can either make another API request with that ID or get a call-back from the API platform to check the status of the original request

The main advantage of an asynchronous API is that you don’t have to wait for the status of the request to come back thus freeing up your thread. This is particularly helpful for requests that may take a while to process, e.g., updating hundreds of records in a table with hundreds of millions of records. But the disadvantage is that you have to make an extra API request in order to get the status of the original API request. Furthermore, it could get a bit more complicated if your API requests must be processed in a specific order and the API platform’s queueing mechanism cannot keep track of the desired order.

The majority of Oracle Responsys APIs are synchronous but recently we released a number of asynchronous REST APIs for merging profile records combined with triggering transactional email and SMS messages. Once an asynchronous API request is received, the syntax of the input parameters are validated and if OK, a unique ID is generated and immediately passed to the API caller. Subsequently the API request is put on an internal queue to be processed, and after the processing is complete, the result is stored to be retrieved through a polling API request (which requires the unique ID issued by the first API request). The results are only stored for a limited time (e.g., 10 hours) and discarded to free up valuable space.

These new asynchronous APIs eliminate the need for setting high timeout limits. This is particularly valuable for customers who process thousands of transactions per minute (like purchase confirmations during busy shopping periods) and require to communicate with their clients as quickly and efficiently as possible. Responsys also offers the high-availability (or AFTM) version of the above asynchronous API for email and soon for SMS.

Learn more about and try the new Oracle Responsys Asynchronous APIs by reading its developer guide available here and contacting us with any questions or feedback you may have.

To find out more about the further benefits of marketing automation, look at “Six Reasons You Need Marketing Automation.”

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Learn How to Prevail in the Experience Economy at Modern Customer Experience 2019

There’s a shift in power happening across the customer experience landscape. The enterprise is no longer driving innovation, your customers are. And they’re raising the bar at a rapid pace. This is the Experience Economy.

In this new paradigm, consumers are reinventing how they select, shop, prepare, track delivery, and seek services. Their expectations are in a constant state of innovation, and their experience with your brand reigns–it’s inseparable from the goods and services you provide. Whether you’re in marketing, sales, commerce, or service, you’re on the front lines of this revolution.

Learn how to succeed in the Experience Economy this spring at Modern Customer Experience 2019. From March 19-21, thousands of customer experience practitioners, partners, and industry experts will congregate in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay.

Together, we’ll explore the key elements of this new landscape, and discuss how to create connected, data-driven experiences. As the EVP of Oracle CX Cloud, I’ll illustrate our vision, mapping Oracle’s strategy to your priorities so that you can position your company for success.

We’ll also hear from leading brands, who are harnessing cutting-edge and customer-driven innovations. Dozens of analysts and thought leaders will contribute to the event’s comprehensive curriculum, sharing their perspectives of working with small and large brands to drive legendary customer experiences. Lastly, an inspiring lineup of speakers will reinvigorate us with stories of risk, failure, and success.

The time has come to radically change the way you think about the customer experience. We’ll see you in Las Vegas.

Register for Modern Customer Experience with the CXINSIDER Code for a discounted rate of $1295 through March 1, 2019. And don’t forget to share your customer experience story by nominating your organization for a Markie Award by January 18, 2019.

4 Resources for Your Team to Get Up to Speed on Mobile Marketing

The more you know, the more likely you are to succeed at whatever you do. And, that includes mobile marketing. The investment in learning and training will pay off. That's because it will provide a way for you and your team. The result will be better decisions about new technology investment and effective strategic actions that deliver results.

Here are four mobile marketing resources I've found useful but have no affiliation with except that I incorporate them in my own company to enhance our efforts:

1. Research Reports

There is a wealth of information available from research firms that produce annual and quarterly research reports on mobile marketing. Research firms, such as Global Information Inc., Spendedge, Forrester, and others, devote considerable expertise and energy to collecting qualitative and quantitative data. Buying one or more of these reports makes more financial sense than doing all the research ourselves. Many of the mobile marketing reports available for purchase include specific statistics that can inform and guide decision-making around where to invest marketing dollars. The research keeps us current on what consumers think about the mobile environment and aware of new technology. It also provides insights into their mobile behavior and preferences.

2. Swrve

This mobile marketing resource company also provides access to a comprehensive library of past and current materials about mobile marketing. Their collection includes webinars, white papers, and video content to direct your mobile marketing effort even if you don't choose to use their products.

For example, their webinars include measuring customer satisfaction in a mobile world, mobile ROI and the first-time user experience, and how to test and release new mobile features. The focus on video content makes this mobile marketing resource particularly effective. My team finds the videos easy to follow and they retain more. Also, numerous white papers deliver best practices that can be directly implemented.

3. Amazon

Although I enjoy all the digital resources available, I'm still an avid reader. I believe books are a great way to absorb the necessary knowledge and skills. I regularly visit sites like Amazon to find out about the latest mobile marketing books to continue enhancing my education in this area and encourage my team to do the same. Just plugging in the search term, "mobile marketing," reveals over 4,000 books and e-reader content that is readily available.

There are handbooks, textbooks, manuals, and guides from well-known mobile marketing specialists and researchers. Plus, you can focus on one type of mobile marketing or enjoy a wider picture of the mobile environment, including the latest consumer and business trends related to the mobile world. Some books even feature key issues related to mobile marketing and potential ways to solve these challenges for your business.

4. Mobile Marketing Association (MMA)

This is a global non-profit trade association that has over 800 member companies from fifty countries. This is an ideal resource for learning from each other and sharing on-the-job insights. Plus, this collaborative resource environment can help propel the mobile marketing world and drive a higher standard of best practices.  Members include brand marketers, marketing agencies, mobile marketing technology firms, and media companies.

Although this mobile marketing resource does cost money to join, including an annual membership, it does give a considerable return in the form of education, research and insights, events and networking, case studies, programs, tools, and more. The depth of information available to leverage can be particularly useful as it provides a global perspective that is critical to more businesses that want to serve a larger audience.

More Mobile Marketing Resources

However, these four mobile marketing resources are just the start of what you can find to help you and your team improve your mobile marketing strategies. Also, online courses, conferences, trade publications, blogs, social media discussion groups, and forums are other resources to consider that are made to fit your time and budget. I make time each week to study mobile marketing resources so that I can further refine my own mobile marketing strategy and optimize the incredible results that are out there.

Did you know 65% of marketers have no official mobile strategy? Don't let that be you. We have some helpful guides to started.

 

Breaking the Consumer Stress Cycle

Since the beginning of time, people have made decisions based on their emotions, regardless of age, gender or location. We know that up to 90 percent of the decisions we make are based on emotion, rather than rational thought and measured consideration.

All sorts of emotions drive our behavior. Depending on how people are feeling at any given moment, they may make completely different decisions. After a good day at work, for example, you might head out for a drink with colleagues to relax. But after a long stressful day, you might want to just go home and binge watch Netflix. Emotions drive our decisions and actions, from day-to-day decisions on what we eat and drink to long-term actions on what we choose to do with our lives.

Stress, in particular, is a huge driver of strong emotion and irrational behavior. Those who are stressed may become withdrawn, irritable or anxious. In the world of online retail, this sort of emotion can have huge implications for the bottom line of brands.

Stress leading to more stress

The therapeutic and addictive nature of retail therapy is already well documented. The process of filling up a basket (whether physical or digital) provides instant gratification and an escape from the stresses of everyday life, boredom, sadness, and hunger.

However, research by Clicktale has found that instead of alleviating stress, many brands are exacerbating it through a poor digital experience. For example, 12% of consumers say that online shopping actively makes them feel stressed, while 15% have actually lost their temper online. Couple that with slow loading times (which irritate 81% of customers), checkout codes that don’t work (annoying 86% of customers) or checkouts that freeze (stressing out 75% of customers), consumers often find themselves stuck in a cycle of looking for a great digital experience without retailers actually providing them with one.

Which means looking at conversion rates alone is not a great idea. Even if one customer has a great experience and converts, there could be a dozen more who come, get frustrated by a confusing page layout or a complicated search feature and close the browser, never to return.

Breaking the stress cycle

The causes of this stress in the customer journey exist because brands haven’t finessed the digital shopping experience they provide, nor have they effectively used data that is readily available to inform them about what customers really want from a digital experience.

The fact is that data from these customer footprints are there, readily available but often untapped. When consumers go online, they display a ‘digital’ body language in a similar way they portray actual body language when they go into a shop. If retailers can tap into that data, they can start to understand customer behavior better, and uncover what part of their digital experience is stressing customers out.

The digital body language manifests itself in multiple ways, which, when combined, give marketers a more complete picture of consumer behavior and any potential sources of stress. The indicators of digital body language include mouse movements, hovers, app taps, scrolls and more. For example, stressed customers often display a unique digital body language with angry ‘rage’ clicks when links are slow to open, and then aggressive, fast and directionless mouse movements. Marketers can see exactly where these occurrences happen and can iron out the stressful parts of the experience.

The key is to use experience analytics to examine these mouse movements, taps, swipes, and ‘rage clicks’ to build up a picture of the digital body language. Because sometimes even the smallest of stimuli can have a strong impact on customer emotions, especially when it comes to irritatingly slow search speeds or poor page layouts. By resolving pain points along the customer journey, brands can truly provide a great digital experience and achieve better business success as a result.

After all, given that so many consumers are using shopping as a way to alleviate stress, the last thing you’ll want to do is to cause them more stress!

Want more? 

Context impacts customer's online behavior. Find out why, and how to understand it by downloading our ebook.

 

It’s Time to Let Go of Your Brand Message on Social Media

Advertising and promoting your products on social media requires an entirely new mindset from advertising on other platforms. If you’re used to advertising in print media, on radio or on TV, be forewarned: social media is a much different animal. For one, advertisers are no longer in control, consumers are. And secondly, advertising is much more of a two-way street, with brands evolving as part of a continual feedback mechanism. So how exactly can you let go of your brand message on social media?

1. Be authentic

There’s nothing like a lack of authenticity to turn off consumers. People are just too smart these days. In other words, a slick advertising message from a restaurant proclaiming that it has “the best food in town” is not going to go over very well if people check the place out on review platforms and find that customers are leaving bad reviews. So always be authentic in anything that you say or promise. And that extends to the type of visual imagery that you use, too.

2. Listen to social media chatter

Brands have to become good listeners if they want to succeed on social media. It’s no longer a case of pushing out a message and expecting consumers to accept it without a little feedback and conversation. On Twitter, for example, you are just one angry tweet away from a potential PR disaster. And people actually expect a response when they fire off a tweet or upload a photo with a certain hashtag. At the very least, you need to be monitoring the hashtags that people are using to define your brand.

3. Celebrate brand champions

In the old days of analog advertising, brands hired celebrities to pitch their products. Now, they use social media influencers. And these influencers can be quite important in guiding and shaping your image. The best influencers, of course, are those that actively love and use your products (see point #1 above about authenticity). There are many different names for these people – brand ambassadors, evangelists, brand champions – but they are all equally important. They are the ones who can help to amplify your message. They give you a certain amount of control, but also enable creative individuals to play with and interact with your brand.

4. Search out niche communities of like-minded users

On social media, everyone has a place they like to hang out. It’s the job of brands to discover these communities of like-minded individuals, and find ways to nurture them. Again, this marks a departure from the status quo. The old days of analog were all about mass markets, the current days of digital are all about niche. Brands that do a good job of nurturing niche communities of users include Red Bull and Go Pro – they are both hip, young brands that play well to the young social media generation and are excellent at finding niches where they are hanging out online.

Final Thought

The big takeaway lesson here is that brand managers need to feel comfortable about losing control. Advertising and branding is no longer a one-way street, and brands need to be very receptive to the comments, suggestions and requests of their users.

Oracle Social Relationship Management (SRM) is the only solution ready to meet your immediate and future social media management needs, enabling your organization to innovate and extend social across your business.​ Learn more here.

Talent and a Team for Our Times

At this time of year, we all have a tendency to look back and assess the past 12 months. So, I’d like to take the opportunity to touch on something my thoughts have increasingly been returning to in the latter half of 2018.

Talent

I’m referring to talent that runs towards the cerebral, analytical, and smoothly efficient. You know, the kind of talent not usually profiled in glossy online business magazines or ever considered eligible for company awards. Yet this kind of talent often has an arguably larger, yet quieter, and more difficult to measure impact on our business world than most others. Unfortunately, the business world seems to have a sparse supply of the kind of patience it takes to consider, assess, and celebrate value generation at the level played by people in the roles I’m thinking of.

Let’s highlight one such area where roles like this live.

Customer Programs

Forward-thinking, customer-centric high-tech companies pay close attention to the customer and the digital signals they emit, and endeavor to anticipate and proactively execute programs that address their needs. Such companies all possess people whose job it is to own and govern customer engagement and customer service processes. These people operate under a charter that typically says that the work they do must result in a downstream service that:

  • Delivers faster and more consistently accurate results
  • Includes meaningful outcomes that positively impact the customer’s business.
Thou Shalt Heed thy Customers’ Feedback

For example, these people often face the challenge of coming up with ways for ensuring that processes:

  • Respectfully gauge customer feedback
  • Improve the experience that customers have while using the firm’s products and services,
  • Push content to customers is relevant and timely for where they are in their journey with the product.

The underlying philosophy revolves around this pertinent fact: If a customer has a more frictionless experience with the product or service, they will then be more inclined to make more use of it in an effort to derive more value from it for their business.

More value derived typically equates to a subscription renewal.

Charlie Brown Syndrome

People in customer programs are largely unsung heroes. While they are responsible for designing and building the process infrastructure that enables the organization to run at scale, they themselves are not directly attached to the firm’s products, its revenue, nor (interestingly enough) its customers. Their work, therefore, remains largely unseen. However, just as all great physical structures need the support of walls, pillars, beams, and other forces of strength that defy gravity, strong business processes also require support from the streamlined, efficient use of people, data, computing power, and other assets.

In other words, though the work of customer programs is hugely important, due to an almost intentional and necessary byproduct of design, it is vastly under-noticed. Still, do not feel guilty if you haven’t recognized the people designing these programs for their efforts. Ask yourself: When was the last time someone looked at a grandly-lit building and gave thought, let alone credit, to the electricians and the interior designers? If any role at all came to mind, it was likely that of the architect. The same holds true for those individuals who design, build, and administer processes utilized by customer-facing organizations like sales, marketing, and customer success.

Thou Shalt Traverse the Digital Frontier

Customer programs people tend to be passionately interested in the work they do, and too few of them realize they should proudly view it as being symbolic of what it means to work on the digital frontier. If you know how customer-centric companies operate, you also acknowledge that there is an elegant and delicate beauty associated with the consumption of customer information and its conversion into process behaviors that benefit those very same customers. The work these people do involves helping to demonstrate how to move digital transformation successfully from the conceptual realm of strategy to the very real realm of tactics. This capability to move from strategy to tactics will become even more important in the months and years ahead.

"By 2023, 95% of entities will have incorporated new digital KPI sets—focusing on product/service innovation rates data capitalization, and employee experience—to navigate the digital economy."

- IDC, from FutureScape: Worldwide Digital Transformation 2019 Predictions Nov, 2018

So, If You Think You’ve Had Your Fill of KPIs, Just Wait a Couple of Years

All measurements and metrics will eventually chiefly concern the impact upon customers and vendors. The more digitized our companies become, the more digitization opportunities will present themselves. Even this blog post stands as an example. Sure, for right now, we are concerning ourselves with opens and click throughs, but we can imagine a day when even more scrutiny and tracking becomes possible through linked digitized processes across organizations and into the customer realm. At that point, my boss might be able to ask the ultimate business question:

Is that thought leadership blog thing you are doing on the side a valuable use of your time and our money?  

And then we might see something resembling an accurate answer because of empirical evidence showing a relationship between collected metrics about the blog and its influence on a customer’s willingness to buy or their eventual decision to renew. You can almost compare digitization to when electric lighting was invented and rolled out to the masses. Its ability to illuminate darkness created entire new ways of living and that’s probably how you should think of digitization in business.

Applying Human Intelligence to Determine What to Do Next

To adapt and exploit digital at the level being discussed here requires a high degree of human intelligence and empathy, both in equal measure. It might seem ironic to outside observers, but we are witnessing that the more digitized a customer engagement model becomes, the more critical it is that the humans operating behind it do so from a solid base of empathy. And therein lies the trick. A particular talent that exists within every human on the planet will prove to be the most important for the people who work in these kinds of customer program roles. It’s also likely the most difficult talent to develop and make appropriate for those kinds of roles. It factors critically into the process of selecting a team, though.

Temperament

How we come across to others is obviously important in business settings. The aim of business conversations should be to achieve outcomes that allow both individuals to walk away thinking that their time was usefully spent and that some aspect of their respective business responsibilities was positively impacted. If one person’s temperament is off-putting, dismissive, or cold, then the odds that both sides feel the time was usefully spent are probably pretty low. If both sides exhibit negative emotions, then the odds on the conversation lasting longer than two minutes are near zero. Ill- temperament does not accomplish much in the world of customer engagement process design. In fact, it is counter-productive and will more likely result in a fatally-flawed process design that reflects the ill-temperament of the person who created it. And customers would definitely feel this ill temperament coming through.

Remoteness Doesn’t Always Mean an Absence of Intimacy

All the time, you hear stories about how technology, or more specifically AI and machine learning, will kill scores and scores of jobs. While there will certainly be disruption, consider the activities of the people who work in customer program roles. Ask them what they think about when designing a process for customer engagement at scale. What do they think the customer needs at any particular point? How exactly do they know what the customer needs? And how did they find that out? How do they assess after the process has been in production whether how they went about understanding customer needs was helpful or not?

While there are mechanisms for soliciting customer feedback at scale, the people in customer program roles have to iteratively build a level of customer sensitivity into their processes at the outset that leverage:

  • Empathy
  • An intelligent, light-handed application of technology
  • An intense and authentic desire to make an impact

AI can’t do all that. Only people with the right temperament can articulate a human touch through technology—a touch that customers would appreciate and respond well to even if they never meet or even know the names of the people who designed the process in the first place.

Listening to your customers helps you improve their experience. Find out how by reading “Go Further with Customer Experience Optimization.”

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