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Automation Uncovered II: Reinventing the customer journey

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In the second of our series of in-depth articles exploring automation, we examine how the explosion of eCommerce in the past two years has made customer experience the new frontier. Creating personalised customer journeys is now key to generating new opportunities and growth.

Having navigated the rapid acceleration of eCommerce driven by the pandemic, brands are now operating in a challenging new world, juggling increased competition, rising costs and, increasingly over the past 12 months, disrupted supply chains.

Getting ahead of the competition in these demanding and unpredictable conditions means delivering an unrivalled personalised customer journey. For today’s consumer, brand and customer experience are two sides of the same coin and meeting their expectations is paramount.

Making marketing more effective

Data is key to accessing the deep consumer insights needed to achieve this. But with a vast increase in the volume of detailed data generated by every consumer interaction, brands are faced with information overload. Automating some of the eCommerce, marketing and customer relationship management processes is the only way to keep pace with the speed and scale of data generated.

Meha Verghese, Growth and Innovation Lead at MediaCom China, believes automation has a significant role to play in creating meaningful customer experiences. She explains: “Brands should consider where automation can be applied to key touch points in their customer journey to create something unique.

“That is either by surprising and delighting consumers with something such as a new product, heartfelt advertising or engaging social media personalised to their needs and wants. Or it is by creating a frictionless experience in customer service and delivery.”

Scaling automated campaigns

At pharmaceuticals giant Bayer, the potential of data-driven automation in marketing is already clear through its use of geotargeting and dynamic creative. This has already been used to drive more relevant seasonal campaigns for allergy brand Clarityn in the UK and Sweden.

Using geotargeted pollen count data, its adtech team set up an automated campaign that could identify where and when the count was high. This triggered the right creative for Clarityn in the right places when it was most needed.

Eric Gregoire, SVP – Global Head of Digital & Media at Bayer, says: “Data and tech allow us to create more relevant engagement with our consumers while making our marketing significantly more effective.”

However, what has been truly game-changing about using data and artificial intelligence for campaigns is being able to operate at scale.

Data provides us with insights and triggers to work smarter, but AI offers a scale and speed that we could never achieve manually.

Eric Gregoire, SVP – Global Head of Digital & Media at Bayer

The potential of this scale can already be seen in China where cosmetics brand PerfectDiary is using AI influencers to host private WeChat groups. The influencer looks human and posts in the group, chatting with members and offering tips, hacks and tutorials.

Verghese adds: “It is customer relationship management as group members are new leads or possible repeat purchasers. It is automation with a human face being scaled on a high level.”

Data as a differentiator

For James Neale, Global Head of eCommerce at BLINK Consulting, this is where data, tech and automation are creating a grey area where eCommerce ends and marketing begins. As the lines blur, many brands once again hit a fundamental obstacle to digital transformation – silos.

He says: “A lot of brands are still grappling with data, especially the larger organisations, where you have disparate pots [of data]. It means many brands still haven’t got to grips with what it really means to have a single customer view.

“Having a full understanding of your customer in an omnichannel world is vital, particularly when you are collecting different sets of data on the same person. Bringing that together gives brands a real opportunity to understand customer behaviours.”

With customer acquisition costs so high - due to a combination of the pandemic and a sharp increase in competition online - data becomes the differentiator for brands, enabling them to continue the conversation with customers post-purchase and extend their lifetime value.

“Acquisition costs are horrifyingly high for a single purchase, but after four or five purchases it evens out. That is how data and automation help organisations outmanoeuvre their competitors,” explains Neale. “Using data to find ways to connect with customers post-purchase is really important.

Bayer’s Gregoire says its teams are continuously testing ways of working smarter with data and tech. “We are always looking for new solutions for consumers, such as how we can use data to automatically create personalised digital creatives, test and optimize them in real time to drive more relevant connection with our consumer alongside new applications and services.”

This has seen Bayer partner with Ada Health, an AI-based health assessment and care navigation platform that helps users to understand their symptoms, to identify and differentiate conditions with a high degree of medical accuracy, and to navigate safely to the right care, at the right time.

Gregoire says the growth in digital technology will impact how consumer access, uses and make health decision. “This will really impact how consumer interact with the category by removing friction points, offering real-time assessment or driving more personalised engagement and solution. There are opportunities to do that across different brands and in different regions.”

Elevating the customer experience

Josh Gallagher, Chief Product Officer at MediaCom Asia Pacific, believes data and automation will also have a significant role in helping to remove the friction between physical and online customer experiences.

“If you have already had a conversation online, you want the staff in-store to be up to speed on that. It will be important to not repeat that same conversation, especially on big purchases such as cars and consumer electronics.

“It makes existing customers feel valued,” Gallagher adds. “When you are in a long-term relationship with a brand, that doesn’t always happen as it should.”

Just as the customer experience is different for every brand, how data and automation can be used to elevate that experience is also different. One thing that is true for all brands, however, is that digital transformation is not about future-proofing.

Neale concludes: “It is about creating sustainable growth now and in the future by using data and automation to place the customer at the heart of the business.”

Continually having that conversation is the differentiator. Even for a mature eCommerce client, the conversation shouldn’t stop because there are always new ways and new tech to use that data more effectively.

James Neale, Global Head of eCommerce at BLINK Consulting

Bayer’s Gregoire says its teams are continuously testing ways of working smarter with data and tech. “We are always looking for new solutions for consumers, such as how we can use data to automatically create personalised digital creatives, test and optimize them in real time to drive more relevant connection with our consumer alongside new applications and services.”

This has seen Bayer partner with Ada Health, an AI-based health assessment and care navigation platform that helps users to understand their symptoms, to identify and differentiate conditions with a high degree of medical accuracy, and to navigate safely to the right care, at the right time.

Gregoire says the growth in digital technology will impact how consumer access, uses and make health decision. “This will really impact how consumer interact with the category by removing friction points, offering real-time assessment or driving more personalised engagement and solution. There are opportunities to do that across different brands and in different regions.”

Elevating the customer experience

Josh Gallagher, Chief Product Officer at MediaCom Asia Pacific, believes data and automation will also have a significant role in helping to remove the friction between physical and online customer experiences.

“If you have already had a conversation online, you want the staff in-store to be up to speed on that. It will be important to not repeat that same conversation, especially on big purchases such as cars and consumer electronics.

“It makes existing customers feel valued,” Gallagher adds. “When you are in a long-term relationship with a brand, that doesn’t always happen as it should.”

Just as the customer experience is different for every brand, how data and automation can be used to elevate that experience is also different. One thing that is true for all brands, however, is that digital transformation is not about future-proofing.

Neale concludes: “It is about creating sustainable growth now and in the future by using data and automation to place the customer at the heart of the business.”

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