Marketing through technology is an evolving blend of art and science, with amazing potential to elevate the brand experience, build powerful relationships and drive business impacts.
Yet, industry research indicates that only about 5 percent of executives feel that their analytics and technology implementation are well connected and strategic. Despite the fact that most customer interaction is becoming tech driven, the abundance of affordable tech options is leading to highly tactical and sometimes confusing customer experiences. What is often missing is a strategic guide with brand parameters to help select the right technologies and make the right activation decisions.
Let’s start with an illustrative example in travel. Airlines today can send travel alerts, suggest alternative flights and provide you with the ability to make changes based on your travel plans, loyalty status and seat preferences. Through mobile apps, they can even connect you to other transportation services, such as Uber or a taxi. In the near future, it may also be possible to connect you to a personalized “end to end” transportation experience including parking, shuttles and other needs, all driven by the marketing technology (or martech) stack. However, if we accept that the ability to provide services and options based on personal data is becoming widely accessible to even the smallest of companies, then we must also acknowledge that how you personalize will be critical to building your brand.
Examples of undifferentiated personalization can be seen even today along with examples of clever brands that are breaking through. Let’s take the flooded market of mobile apps as an example. In an effort to keep up with mobile-driven consumerism, companies are pushing out innovative apps designed to personalize the customer experience across channels. From customer data integration to beacons and augmented reality, app developers can easily get lost in the land of shiny objects. Yet, 95 percent of all downloaded apps are deleted in the first month and of those that remain, only a small percentage are used with regular frequency. If you are a sporting goods retailer and decide to develop a “branded” fitness app, your apps will be competing with apps created by wearable manufacturers and independent developers, and they all can personalize based on various sources of data.
The real challenge is to link your data and technology strategy effectively to your brand purpose and to design intelligently around your brand’s principles. Sticking with mobile apps, let’s take the example of Sephora’s shopping app. As a cosmetics retailer positioned between intimidating department store kiosks and the impersonal drug store cosmetic isle, the Sephora brand is about creating a less intimidating and impersonal place for customers to experiment with beauty products. Understanding this, Sephora created a highly successful mobile app that utilizes beacons to send surprise and delight offers that allow their customers to experiment with new products, offer in-store customers free perks, and give customers free beauty advice on their terms.
By effectively reflecting the brand voice and the brand proposition, Sephora’s app is ranked in the top 10 among shopping apps and averages a five-star rating among its users.
So how do you successfully build a brand using technology?
Don’t get lost in the land of shiny objects. Just because a technology enables you to do something exciting, it does not mean it will align with your brand. It is also critical to understand that most marketing technology was originally designed to optimize the sales funnel and increase customer conversions. As a result, it can supercharge marketing instincts that seek low-hanging fruit at the expense of long term brand equity development. That is not to say that the average martech stack is hostile to developing brand equity. However, as with any strategy focused on the short- and long-term game, it takes planning and vision.
Begin with a brand development strategy that is technology aware but technology agnostic. This involves planning out how your brand purpose, proposition and experience can be expressed through technology. And don’t be a slave to the data you have. Data is cheap to generate and collect and, more important, it reflects your brand principles. If data is needed to build the right brand experience or customer insight, then generate it.
Finally, humans develop better relationships by learning from their interactions, and so should your technology. Having a learning agenda for your technology-driven customer interactions will be critical to developing lasting customer relationships.
Data and technology can provide better insights and drive smarter interactions. While this can seem like a differentiator today, the cost of entry is getting lower for competitors. Smart brands are placing their brand purpose at the center of data and technology strategies, and, for some, it is leading to disruptor status.