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Marketing has evolved from finding customers for existing products and services to mining consumer data for new product and service opportunities. Understanding customer needs and designing a solution to match has become a predominant factor in marketing. There has never been more consumer data from more sources than there is today—online, offline, structured, unstructured —yet, the task of understanding customer requirements is more laborious, not easier. That's where the customer data platforms come into the picture. A customer data platform enables marketing teams to build and manage a single view of the customer that is fundamental to collect the data, analyze it, and execute against it.
Edmund Mackey, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer of Aptive Environmental, discusses the various strategies on a better understanding of customer needs, recent trends, and the future scope of the significant marketing strategies importantly, customer data platform. Edmund Mackey is a proven leader with a track record of increasing revenue, market share, and EBITDA in highly competitive consumer service businesses.
What are the major challenges of a customer data platform?
The marketing challenge is that consumer expectations for personalization have exponentially increased. To meet consumer expectations, brands' are faced with ubiquitous and massive amounts of data, the inability to tie these data sources to a prospect or customer ID, and that data, when it exists, is siloed in databases that do not speak to each other. While digital media platforms have increased reach to brands' target audiences, the fragmentation and complexity have grown faster than the ability to deliver personalized experiences. For example, a pre-smartphone brand could advertise on one television network and reach a large percentage of their target market. Now, your target audience access content from dozens of device types and an infinite number of channels: streaming apps, mobile apps, and websites. Collectively, these audiences are more abundant than before, but the task of collecting and analyzing data out of these platforms became much more complicated.
What do you think are some of the latest technological trends that help tackle the challenges you have mentioned?
The proliferation of cloud computing services and open API platforms that allow brands' to build applications and systems which can be insourced or third-party managed. For example, if you are using a customer relationship management (CRM) system with a customer data platform (CDP) that does not connect in real-time and can be accessed by campaign managers, you are still missing the boat. The real technological advances are cloud-based customer data platforms that enable application programming interfaces (APIs) that could exchange data and insights between two platforms. The routine email marketing campaign that includes sending emails to customers that have done a specific behavior on the website is enriched by appending data such as the lifetime value of that customer and the last item they purchased. Now I can further segment that audience and use technologies such as machine learning to understand the differences in revenue by those more in-depth segments. As a marketer, I know when we need more targeted communication and experiences; however, the cost of advertising to these niche audiences exceeded the ROI. A CDP centered technology stack with machine learning and automated actions can drive a personalized experience across all channels, web, mobile, phone at a much lower cost. As more companies invest in these platforms, the execution of one to one personalization to the target audience will become easier.
"Design use cases that enable quick-to-market solutions that emphasize profitability and scalability and iterate. Consumer expectations are dynamic and rapidly changing. If your technology ecosystem is not flexible, you will be behind an ever-evolving landscape"
Could you speak about your roles and responsibilities in the organization as a marketing and strategy officer and the strategies you go by to steer the company forward?
As Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer, my primary responsibility is revenue and profit growth. The role bridges the traditional department silos such as business development, sales, marketing, customer service, operations, and IT. From a strategic point of view, I think about what customer segments we should go after, which geographies and product segments we should enter and what kind of experiences we want to create with our customers. It's not just about growing two to three percent; it's about taking dramatic leaps with bold swift action. As a service-based company, our competitive advantage is rooted in the quality of service we provide our customers. The data we collect, the insights we gather, and the execution of those insights powered by the CDP, utilizing APIs to share data between different systems in our organization, enables our competitive advantage. For example, when a customer calls about an issue, the platform presents to our loyalty team: the last service event, if they have called in before with a problem, how long the customer has been with us, and probability to cancel. From there, we route a service professional to the home, through machine learning, we display information so that when our service professional conducts the service, they are armed with all the data they need for a flawless service in the home. It avoids consumers repeating the same story to different departments and helps us retain customers longer than our competitors. From my standpoint, to execute a differentiated strategy, you are obligated to have a focus on consumer data and providing those insights to your front line employees. Otherwise, your differentiation strategy is not going to work.
How do you see the future of this space and its evolution in a couple of years?
Data analytics is going to become crucial in an organization. Five years ago, I never thought about needing a separate data analytics team, and now I cannot imagine a world where I wouldn't have a data analytics team. Data analytics is going to play a more significant role in organizations because of all the advances in methods of analyzing data through machine learning, algorithmic learning, and AI. It's going to be more relevant to put the data in a place where the people that are interacting with your customers have access to it—we call this data activation. For us, it is our service professional that treats the home, and it is our solutions center professionals that answer the call. The access to data must be given to both of these roles as they are a team in delivering the service expectations of the customer.
What would be a piece of advice that you'd like to give your colleagues out there in the industry?
My chief advice would be, get started you are already behind. Design use cases that enable quick-to-market solutions that emphasize profitability and scalability and iterate. Build a customer data platform as a part of a marketing technology stack. Consumer expectations are dynamic and rapidly changing. If your technology ecosystem is not flexible, you will be behind an ever-evolving landscape. Build in a way you can add or take away components without disrupting the entire system.