Elizabeth Cooke: Jeff, please tell us about your role at Experian Marketing Services.
Jeff Hassemer: Before I define my role, let me define Experian Marketing Services.A lot of people know Experian as a credit bureau, but we’re also the largest marketing services provider in the world. Experian is the largest compiler of consumer and business information. We help our customers use that information alongside their data to build segmentation strategies that help our clients better understand the people that they’re marketing to and transacting with.
We are proud of our expertise and heritage in the direct-to-consumer marketing space and take great pride in our ability to bring organizations and customers closer together through actionable consumer insight, targeting, and integrated marketing across all media. In fact, we send more highly relevant and integrated emails in a day than many other ESPs combined. We work with our clients to drive cross-channel marketing campaigns that deliver more relevant, targeted communications. Our global footprint gives us a unique perspective as it offers clients unparalleled global reach with local expertise, so we have a strong understanding of where the market is heading and the key trends marketers must prioritize. In my role as senior vice president of product strategy, I manage Experian Marketing Services’ integrated cross-channel suite of offerings, including email, mobile, social, display, and its omnipresent linkage to our robust data library.
Has Experian Marketing Services grown primarily through acquisitions?
We’ve grown through acquisitions as well as organically. Consider what we’ve done with CheetahMail; we bought that company in 2004 and turned it into the largest ESP in the world. Our most recent acquisitions, Techlightenment, a social media CRM platform that helps manage a company’s social media components, and Conversen, a leading cross-channel campaign management execution system, have allowed us to add rich features and functionality to our current offerings while also accelerating our speed to market in launching the industry’s most flexible and powerful integrated cross-channel marketing platform. The strategy behind all of our acquisitions and development efforts has always been to provide our clients with groundbreaking insight and technology to help them make meaningful connections with their customers at every point of engagement.
Consumers are gaining more power in the marketplace now that they have multiple ways of interacting with corporations, which is forcing marketing executives to shift more time and energy into understanding consumers’ constantly changing wants and needs. What are the best tools available to help chief marketing officers with this ongoing challenge?
We’ve been talking about the consumer-in-control paradigm for more than a decade, but it never really came to fruition until the growth of mobile and social media occurred. Those two phenomenons cemented the notion of the consumer being in control. Even though we talked about consumers having control and choices, consumers interacted with companies using a single channel back in the late 2000s. Consumers would receive an email, go online to the store website, and make a purchase. That interaction was fairly easy for marketers to manage. Today, consumers have more technology at their fingertips, like smartphones and tablets, and of course social communities like Facebook and Twitter that serve as platforms for them to advocate or disavow a brand. Consumers’ opinions and experiences with brands have become instantly accessible and sharable. Given this paradigm shift, marketers are adapting the new rules of engagement and the focus on enchanting and delighting the consumer — consistently and every time. However, most marketing organizations are still trying to use current technology, which is typically very channel-oriented, to manage a multichannel relationship with their customers. Customers don’t see in channels and neither should marketers.
What we’re advocating now is that we build communications systems that are not centered toward the channels that we’re executing into, but around the consumer and what we know about that consumer. It’s critical for marketers to have the ability to send an email, manage social media, conduct mobile marketing, or communicate with consumers wherever they are interacting with us. We call this the “Dana Paradigm.” Dana is basically the representation of your best customer who’s hyper-connected using multiple channels, is opinionated, and knows what she wants. Managing the Dana Paradigm means managing the consumer interaction, regardless of channel, and based on what the consumer wants.
Given the shear amount of information from all those different channels that companies are inundated with daily, how does Experian Marketing Services help CMOs determine how to reach consumers in a meaningful way?
Our approach centers on three core concepts. First, you need to be able to integrate the data you receive from the customer. Experian Marketing Services helps clients integrate a consumer’s identity in two ways. The first one is through programmatic matching — matching email addresses to physical addresses. The second approach is what we call referential matching — determining consumers’ identities based on their email address, physical location, and, in some cases, with their social media ID. Following all government and industry regulations on consumer privacy, and allowing consumers to choose what information they share, we collect that data where and how we can and then help our clients integrate the consumer information and identify matches based on data that they don’t necessarily have access to. For example, if a client hands us a transaction from a retail store that has a name and a zip code, we can match who that individual is and show the client that the person who came into the retail store was actually their best customer.
Second, you have to analyze customer behavior. We not only know how to manage and analyze customer data, but we also can store that data for our clients using Experian Marketing Services’ first-party data management capability. We offer reports that show what’s going on in a client’s ecosystem. We can conduct customer analyses within our systems. We help our clients not only better understand who their customers are, but also better understand what their customers are doing and how they’re interacting with the brand.
Third, you have to be able to communicate with your customers. Execution systems like CheetahMail, Conversen and Techlightenment can help. We have the ability to reach customers in any channel that they might be interacting with the brand and inform that interaction with all the opted-in intelligence that we’ve gathered about the customer.
Are there any channels in particular that CMOs should focus on?
CMOs should focus on the channels that produce the most revenue for them. We get tied up in metrics around click-throughs and impressions but what really matters is what drives profit. Clearly, email is a big revenue driver. Nobody is suggesting that you stop communicating through email. That will remain a hefty part of the marketing mix. But you need to start looking at mobile apps and how your customers are interacting with your brand via those apps. That’s going to be a huge revenue driver in the next two or three years.
We talk a lot about bringing social media into the mix. Before you go heavy and hard into that channel, though, you need to understand how your customers are using social media with your brand and how that drives your return on investment. For example, if you’re a manufacturing CMO, social media may not be that important to you. If you’re a retailer like Victoria’s Secret and you have more Facebook likes than anybody else, you should be more advanced in social media because there’s money to be made there. The most important thing is to be able to tie that interaction back to revenue, and that comes with integrating your data first.
Traditional marketing is not dead. If you’re a retailer, the physical catalogue or direct mail should still be in your marketing mix, because from an acquisition standpoint that brings in the most valuable customers. Don’t forget about personalized web experiences either. Personalizing the web experience can drive three to five times the conversion rate than having just a static web presence.
Many marketers organize their messaging through channel-specific silos. How has the digital age changed the effectiveness of silos?
Getting back to the Dana Paradigm, what’s happened is what I call multiscreen purchasing. Consumers are sitting on their couch with their phone and iPad and seamlessly moving between channels. What tends to happen is consumers get a disjointed experience whether they’re looking on the iPad, their phone, or in a retail store. The biggest problem that I see — and I don’t know if anybody’s really measuring this today — is consumers who game the system. As a consumer, I might get an email on my smartphone that offers a 10 percent discount at store X. I go to store X to purchase the item for 10 percent off, but once I get there, I discover that the store is offering a 20 percent discount for the same item, so I try to combine both discounts. How do stores reconcile that? Some reconcile by applying the “last click” reference code in the URL. However, some brands could have a coupon conflict and potentially double discount customers because they have a coordinated experience across these channels and consumers know that. More advanced consumers are gaming the system and going for multilevel discounts by finding better coupons on coupon sites or via email, mobile, and social channels. Most companies I see are giving up ROI because, while they’re going to get the transaction, now they have to give multiple discounts to get it when they could have gotten away with one or maybe no discounts.
A more personal example is a recent purchase that I made at a major retailer. I bought a refrigerator. In the retail store, I got a discount, plus zero percent financing for 18 months. The next week, I received an email offer that showed me the same refrigerator for less than what I paid. I contacted the store directly, complained, and got not only the zero percent financing, but also 10 percent off the new price. Had that store not notified me of the new price on the item, I would have never come back and would have been happy with my purchase. The question is, how much money do we give up by not coordinating our consumer information? Or worse, if the new offer isn’t honored, you’ve now created a distracter and potentially lost a valuable customer — an avoidable situation altogether. The power of truly integrated marketing is here and it is available, so marketers need to begin embracing and leveraging it.
How have some exceptional brands you’ve worked with moved away from this siloed model and developed a more integrated marketing strategy?
A lot of brands are struggling with this problem today. Most have not been able to pull together a coordinated experience. Some of the more iconic brands, like Starbucks, are doing a very good job of pulling together a coordinated experience using their loyalty card information. If you have a loyalty card with Starbucks, you can get a consistent experience whether you’re on the web or in the store buying coffee. They reward you for being a loyal customer.
Will privacy become a much bigger issue going forward?
Looking at the Dana Paradigm of the consumer being in control, savvy consumers are going to understand that their data is an asset. They also know that the information that they provide actually improves their experience with the brand. Consumers are going to end up controlling the information a little bit more than they do today. And they’re going to be able to determine what information they want to share with the brands that they interact with to help give themselves a better experience throughout all the channels.
Consumers who want to share a little bit of information about themselves are going to have a more targeted and more relevant web experience. The same thing is going to happen with brands. If I’m a fan of Target, for example, and I want Target to know more about me, when I go to its website, I’m going to offer more information to help tailor my web experience. In exchange, when I go into the store, I want to be recognized that I am one of its better customers and should be treated as such.
The industry is doing a fantastic job with self-regulation today. You see that through the Digital Advertising Alliance interest-based advertising controls (aboutads.info), which offer the ability to control the information you’re broadcasting through the same browser. You’ve got opt-in, opt-out types of mechanisms for consumers across channels. The privacy statements on many websites have become clearer and less full of legalese. A lot of people criticize Facebook but they’ve made great strides in giving consumers more granular controls. You can now set personalized privacy settings at a customized level about when and with whom you share information on Facebook. You’re going to see more of those kinds of privacy settings across channels.
What do consumers expect from the content they receive and how are marketers catering to these expectations?
We talk about trying to create a dialogue with our customers, but I think that premise is incorrect. Think about how you interact with a brand. When you’re making a purchase, what you want is information. And what consumers are trying to do when they interact with the brand, whether they’re on a website or on their mobile device, is to know more about what they’re looking at. The paradigm becomes less about you saying who you are and more about what you’re looking for. It’s less conversation and more about getting the right information into the hands of the consumer at the point of interaction.
How are marketers measuring the value of their content, the engagement, and the results that are being driven by this engagement?
Today we’re still measuring results based on clicks to conversions within a single channel. I work with a lot of brands, and over and over again, I see brands looking at their marketing efficacy in a channel-centric manner. When you look at some of the more multichannel measurements on the web, very few organizations are getting a holistic view of their transactions across multi-interaction platforms. In the next two to three years, we’re going to start seeing all transaction and point-of-sale systems brought together with all the channels that consumers interact with. As we move from channel-centric systems to cross-channel campaign management and measurement systems, we’ll see a convergence of how we measure ROI to be cross-channel. We won’t talk about email having a 98 percent response rate. We’ll talk about email plus mobile. We’ll mix our budgets based on personas and the way our consumers are interacting with us. But we’ll measure those more across channels.
It’s so hard to cross-measure anything; everybody wants to take credit for a transaction. For example, if a customer receives an email, then launches a search on the website, and finishes the purchase in the retail store, many people want credit for that transaction. The retail store might point out that the insert in the newspaper drove the customer to purchase the item. The mobile marketers want to take credit because they noticed the customer was on the website. The email marketers want credit because they sent the customer an email yesterday and that customer ended up in the store today. The truth is that everybody’s got a right to a fraction of that story instead of a fraction of that purchase. Terms like fractional allocation are going to become the norm. The key is you have to have a system that brings together all the promotional history with all the purchase history across multiple channels.
Data is inextricably tied to marketing, and the paradigm of information driving our transactions will become more important as customers demand a more personalized experience. It’s really about being able to sort through and find those nuggets of information that are going to drive results for your business.
Jeff Hassemer is senior vice president of product strategy at Experian Marketing Services.For more than 20 years, Jeff has been obsessed with the customer experience. He is an expert in the use of data to define the right customer experience across all customer interactions. From Jeff’s role in product strategy, he defines the right systems, processes, and toolsets to help Experian Marketing Services clients make the most of their marketing budgets. In addition to setting the vision for marketing services, Jeff is the father of two and an activist for Asperger’s Syndrome awareness in his hometown of Denver, CO.
Elizabeth Cooke is a member of Argyle Executive Forum’s content team. Argyle Executive Forum is a professional services firm that convenes and connects business leaders from highly targeted business-to-business communities for strategic collaboration and business development. More than 25,000 executives participate in one or several of Argyle Executive Forum’s communities, with more than 200 new members joining every month.
Prior to joining Argyle Executive Forum, Elizabeth worked as a senior search consultant for a boutique executive recruiting firm covering the investment banking and private equity markets. Additionally, she was a senior sales executive at the New York Stock Exchange, calling on C-suite executives and venture capital firms. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder.