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Onboarding Is The Holy Grail Of Employee Retention, Engagement, And Productivity

Doug Coull

How does effective onboarding relate to retention, engagement, and customer satisfaction? Simply put, in every way.

Onboarding is a widely misunderstood practice. Some companies believe it’s a handshake on Day One, with a pile of papers for the new hire to complete. In actuality, great onboarding begins at the first touchpoint in the relationship. This means the first time the company representative engages with a job candidate, the onboarding begins. Further, should this touchpoint result in a hire, it should carry through to the first day of employment and all the way through the employee’s tenure.

Onboarding is not brain surgery

I read many horror stories about how job candidates and employees alike are treated like commodities rather than contributors. This mistreatment stems from the apathy and disregard many experience when starting a new job. Lack of communication and the feeling of being lost among a crowd of other disregarded co-workers are commonly heard remarks. Without a connection to help employees feel part of the organization, disengagement often results in a lack of productivity because employees don’t understand how their role contributes to the company’s mission, vision, and values.

According to researchers at the Abderdeen Group, 62 percent of companies that have a solidified onboarding program experience faster time-to-productivity, with 54 percent claiming to have better employee engagement.   These stats make it clear that it is counterproductive for companies to forego having an onboarding program. Yet many do not.

We don’t know where to start

For leaders to fully appreciate the value of an onboarding program, they first need to understand what they’re missing. An analysis of relevant employment data is a good start. Tracking the following metrics is advisable for businesses of all sizes:

  • time-to-hire
  • time-to-productivity
  • client retention
  • referrals
  • contributions to problem solving
  • synergy with co-workers
  • promotability, and
  • tenure

In today’s business world, there’s no excuse to not track this type of employee data. There is no shortage of systems that enable organizations to track and review the numbers at regular intervals, so there’s really no excuse not to do so. But here’s where the tough part comes into play. Once you have the data, how do you interpret it, and what should be done?

  • First, you need to decide what you want to accomplish. Decide on what success and failure will look like; this helps steer the understanding of the data and guide your action.
  • Second, organize and formalize when you’ll review and interpret the data. Incorporate user-friendly technology that allows easy input or seamless conveyance of the metrics. If you plan to use a manual input methodology, be warned, this may lend itself to human error or worse, lack of compliance to follow through on the input.
  • Third, be consistent. Set a schedule for when you’ll review the data and stick to it.
  • Fourth, have a plan of action on how to adjust for changes. The data may not present the results you wish to see. You’ll need to be prepared for this by having a plan-of-action to achieve what goals your organization wants. For example, initiating short, informal performance reviews more often during the first year to maintain open lines of communication can make a significant difference in retention and employee engagement. Conversely, the results may come in favorably, so be prepared to capitalize on that information and take it to the next level.
  • Fifth, be patient. It takes time to gather significant data and more time to look for noteworthy trends.

So what’s really in it for the company?

In a word, everything. Take customer service, for example. Companies with unproductive customer representatives inevitably lose market share due to decreased customer loyalty and/or a bad reputation. According to Gallup, when employees are engaged, they will be more productive and more likely to experience good relations with customers.

This behavior can be supported by getting off on the right foot with new employees. Set the stage for how their customer involvement is pivotal to the company. Ensure all employees understand the mission, vision, and values of the organization and are able to convey this sentiment to customers (by the way, customers should also be onboarded). The same factors are in play regardless of the industry or occupation. Keep the lines of communication open and keep “recruiting” your employees to show them how they are valued and always strive to align personal goals with the company’s. Adding these simple communications and tactics can make all the difference in both employee and customer retention and satisfaction.

Knowing that great onboarding leads to a more productive and engaged employee, which in turn creates happier and more productive workers, should be an established initiative for all companies. Unfortunately, there are still too many organizations that have not adopted this train of thought, even though the research and even common sense supports it.

It really comes down to this: Everyone wants to feel valued.

For more insight about onboarding, see Why Take Onboarding Digital? 3 Benefits You Need To Know About.

The post, Onboarding Is The Holy Grail Of Employee Retention, Engagement and Productivity, appeared first on TalentCulture.

Image credit: Gratisography

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How To Design Your Company’s Digital Transformation

Sam Yen

The September issue of the Harvard Business Review features a cover story on design thinking’s coming of age. We have been applying design thinking within SAP for the past 10 years, and I’ve witnessed the growth of this human-centered approach to innovation first hand.

Design thinking is, as the HBR piece points out, “the best tool we have for … developing a responsive, flexible organizational culture.”

This means businesses are doing more to learn about their customers by interacting directly with them. We’re seeing this change in our work on d.forum — a community of design thinking champions and “disruptors” from across industries.

Meanwhile, technology is making it possible to know exponentially more about a customer. Businesses can now make increasingly accurate predictions about customers’ needs well into the future. The businesses best able to access and pull insights from this growing volume of data will win. That requires a fundamental change for our own industry; it necessitates a digital transformation.

So, how do we design this digital transformation?

It starts with the customer and an application of design thinking throughout an organization – blending business, technology and human values to generate innovation. Business is already incorporating design thinking, as the HBR cover story shows. We in technology need to do the same.

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Design thinking plays an important role because it helps articulate what the end customer’s experience is going to be like. It helps focus all aspects of the business on understanding and articulating that future experience.

Once an organization is able to do that, the insights from that consumer experience need to be drawn down into the business, with the central question becoming: What does this future customer experience mean for us as an organization? What barriers do we need to remove? Do we need to organize ourselves differently? Does our process need to change – if it does, how? What kind of new technology do we need?

Then an organization must look carefully at roles within itself. What does this knowledge of the end customer’s future experience mean for an individual in human resources, for example, or finance? Those roles can then be viewed as end experiences unto themselves, with organizations applying design thinking to learn about the needs inherent to those roles. They can then change roles to better meet the end customer’s future needs. This end customer-centered approach is what drives change.

This also means design thinking is more important than ever for IT organizations.

We, in the IT industry, have been charged with being responsive to business, using technology to solve the problems business presents. Unfortunately, business sometimes views IT as the organization keeping the lights on. If we make the analogy of a store: business is responsible for the front office, focused on growing the business where consumers directly interact with products and marketing; while the perception is that IT focuses on the back office, keeping servers running and the distribution system humming. The key is to have business and IT align to meet the needs of the front office together.

Remember what I said about the growing availability of consumer data? The business best able to access and learn from that data will win. Those of us in IT organizations have the technology to make that win possible, but the way we are seen and our very nature needs to change if we want to remain relevant to business and participate in crafting the winning strategy.

We need to become more front office and less back office, proving to business that we are innovation partners in technology.

This means, in order to communicate with businesses today, we need to take a design thinking approach. We in IT need to show we have an understanding of the end consumer’s needs and experience, and we must align that knowledge and understanding with technological solutions. When this works — when the front office and back office come together in this way — it can lead to solutions that a company could otherwise never have realized.

There’s different qualities, of course, between front office and back office requirements. The back office is the foundation of a company and requires robustness, stability, and reliability. The front office, on the other hand, moves much more quickly. It is always changing with new product offerings and marketing campaigns. Technology must also show agility, flexibility, and speed. The business needs both functions to survive. This is a challenge for IT organizations, but it is not an impossible shift for us to make.

Here’s the breakdown of our challenge.

1. We need to better understand the real needs of the business.

This means learning more about the experience and needs of the end customer and then translating that information into technological solutions.

2. We need to be involved in more of the strategic discussions of the business.

Use the regular invitations to meetings with business as an opportunity to surface the deeper learning about the end consumer and the technology solutions that business may otherwise not know to ask for or how to implement.

The IT industry overall may not have a track record of operating in this way, but if we are not involved in the strategic direction of companies and shedding light on the future path, we risk not being considered innovation partners for the business.

We must collaborate with business, understand the strategic direction and highlight the technical challenges and opportunities. When we do, IT will become a hybrid organization – able to maintain the back office while capitalizing on the front office’s growing technical needs. We will highlight solutions that business could otherwise have missed, ushering in a digital transformation.

Digital transformation goes beyond just technology; it requires a mindset. See What It Really Means To Be A Digital Organization.

This story originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.

Top image via Shutterstock

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Sam Yen

About Sam Yen

Sam Yen is the Chief Design Officer for SAP and the Managing Director of SAP Labs Silicon Valley. He is focused on driving a renewed commitment to design and user experience at SAP. Under his leadership, SAP further strengthens its mission of listening to customers´ needs leading to tangible results, including SAP Fiori, SAP Screen Personas and SAP´s UX design services.

How Productive Could You Be With 45 Minutes More Per Day?

Michael Rander

Chances are that you are already feeling your fair share of organizational complexity when navigating your current company, but have you ever considered just how much time is spent across all companies on managing complexity? According to a recent study by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the global impact of complexity is mind-blowing – and not in a good way.

The study revealed that 38% of respondents spent 16%-25% of their time just dealing with organizational complexity, and 17% spent a staggering 26%-50% of their time doing so. To put that into more concrete numbers, in the US alone, if executives could cut their time spent managing complexity in half, an estimated 8.6 million hours could be saved a week. That corresponds to 45 minutes per executive per day.

The potential productivity impact of every executive having 45 minutes more to work every single day is clearly significant, and considering that 55% say that their organization is either very or extremely complex, why are we then not making the reduction of complexity one or our top of mind issues?

The problem is that identifying the sources of complexity is complex in of itself. Key sources of complexity include organizational size, executive priorities, pace of innovation, decision-making processes, vastly increasing amounts of data to manage, organizational structures, and the pure culture of the company. As a consequence, answers are not universal by any means.

That being said, the negative productivity impact of complexity, regardless of the specific source, is felt similarly across a very large segment of the respondents, with 55% stating that complexity has taken a direct toll on profitability over the past three years.  This is such a serious problem that 8% of respondents actually slowed down their company growth in order to deal with complexity.

So, if complexity oftentimes impacts productivity and subsequently profitability, what are some of the more successful initiatives that companies are taking to combat these effects? Among the answers from the EIU survey, the following were highlighted among the most likely initiatives to reduce complexity and ultimately increase productivity:

  • Making it a company-wide goal to reduce complexity means that the executive level has to live and breathe simplification in order for the rest of the organization to get behind it. Changing behaviors across the organization requires strong leadership, commitment, and change management, and these initiatives ultimately lead to improved decision-making processes, which was reported by respondents as the top benefit of reducing complexity. From a leadership perspective this also requires setting appropriate metrics for measuring outcomes, and for metrics, productivity and efficiency were by far the most popular choices amongst respondents though strangely collaboration related metrics where not ranking high in spite of collaboration being a high level priority.
  • Promoting a culture of collaboration means enabling employees and management alike to collaborate not only within their teams but also across the organization, with partners, and with customers. Creating cross-functional roles to facilitate collaboration was cited by 56% as the most helpful strategy in achieving this goal.
  • More than half (54%) of respondents found the implementation of new technology and tools to be a successful step towards reducing complexity and improving productivity. Enabling collaboration, reducing information overload, building scenarios and prognoses, and enabling real-time decision-making are all key issues that technology can help to reduce complexity at all levels of the organization.

While these initiatives won’t help everyone, it is interesting to see that more than half of companies believe that if they could cut complexity in half they could be at least 11%-25% more productive. That nearly one in five respondents indicated that they could be 26%-50% more productive is a massive improvement.

The question then becomes whether we can make complexity and its impact on productivity not only more visible as a key issue for companies to address, but (even more importantly) also something that every company and every employee should be actively working to reduce. The potential productivity gains listed by respondents certainly provide food for thought, and few other corporate activities are likely to gain that level of ROI.

Just imagine having 45 minutes each and every day for actively pursuing new projects, getting innovative, collaborating, mentoring, learning, reducing stress, etc. What would you do? The vision is certainly compelling, and the question is are we as companies, leaders, and employees going to do something about it?

To read more about the EIU study, please see:

Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @michaelrander

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About Michael Rander

Michael Rander is the Global Program Director for Future Of Work at SAP. He is an experienced project manager, strategic and competitive market researcher, operations manager as well as an avid photographer, athlete, traveler and entrepreneur.

Live Businesses Deliver a Personal Customer Experience Without Losing Trust

Lori Mitchell-Keller, Brian Walker, Johann Wrede, Polly Traylor, and Stephanie Overby

Trust is the foundation of customer relationships. People who don’t trust your business are not likely to become or remain customers.

The trust relationship has taken some big hits lately. Beloved brands like Chipotle and Toyota have seen customer trust ebb due to public perception of their roles in safety issues. Consumers continue to experience occasional data breaches from large brands.

Yet these traditional threats have short half-lives. The latest threat could last forever.

Most customers claim they want personalization across all the channels in which they interact with companies. Such personalization should create long-term loyalty by creating a new level of intimacy in the relationship.

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images2But that intimacy comes at a high price. For personalization to work, brands need to gather unprecedented amounts of personal information about customers and continue to do so over the course of the relationship. Customers are already wary: 80% of consumers have updated their privacy settings recently, according to an article in VentureBeat.

Companies must get personalization right. If they do, customers are more likely to purchase again and less likely to switch to a competitor. Personalization is also an important step toward the holy grail of digital transformation: becoming a Live Business, capable of meeting customers with relevant and customized offers, products, and services in real time or in the moments of customers’ choosing.

When done wrong, personalization can cause customers to feel that they’ve been deceived and that their privacy has been violated. It can also turn into an uncomfortable headline. When Target used its database of customer purchases to send coupons for diapers to the home of an expectant teen before her father knew about the pregnancy, its action backfired. The incident became the centerpiece of a New York Times story on Target’s consumer intelligence gathering practices and privacy.

Straddling the Line of Trust

Customers can’t define the line between helpful and creepy, but they know it when they see it.

Research conducted by RichRelevance in 2015 made something abundantly clear: what marketers think is cool may be seen as creepy by consumers. For example, facial-recognition technology that identifies age and gender to target advertisements on digital screens is considered creepy by 73% of people surveyed. Yet consumers were happy about scanning a product on their mobile device to see product reviews and recommendations for other items they might like, the survey revealed. Here’s what else resonates as creepy or cool when it comes to digital engagement with consumers, courtesy of RichRelevance and Edelman Berland (now called Edelman).

Creepy

  • Shoppers are put off when salespeople greet them by name because of mobile phone signals or know their spending habits because of facial-recognition software.
  • Dynamic pricing, such as a digital display showing a lower price “just for you,” also puts shoppers off.
  • When brands collect data on consumers without their knowledge, 83% of people consider it an invasion of privacy, according to RichRelevance’s research, and 65% feel the same way about ads that follow them from Web site to Web site (retargeting).

Cool

  • Shoppers like mobile apps with interactive maps that efficiently guide them to products in the store.
  • They also like when their in-store location triggers a coupon or other promotion for a product nearby.
  • When a Web site reminds the consumer of past purchases, a majority of shoppers like it.

There are no hard-and-fast rules about which personalization tactics are creepy and which are cool, but trust is particularly threatened in face-to-face interactions. Nobody minds much if Amazon sends product recommendations through a computer, but when salespeople approach customers like a long-lost friend based on information collected without the customer’s knowledge or permission, the violation of trust feels much more personal and emotional. The stage is set for an angry, embarrassed customer to walk out  the door, forever.

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images3It doesn’t help that the limits of trust shift constantly as social media tempts us to reveal more and more about ourselves and as companies’ data collection techniques continue to improve. It’s easy to cross the line from helpful to creepy or annoying (see Straddling the Line of Trust).

Online, customers are similarly choosy about personalization. For example, when online shoppers are simply looking at a product category, ads that matched their prior Web-browsing interests are ineffective, an MIT study reports. Yet after consumers have visited a review site to seek out information and are closer to a purchase, personalized content is more effective than generic ads.

Personalization Requires a Live Business

Yet the limits of trust are definitely shifting toward more personalization, not less. Customers already enjoy frictionless personalized experiences with digital-native companies like Uber, and they are applying those heightened expectations to all companies. For example, 91% of customers want to pick up where they left off when they switch between channels, according to Aspect research. And personalization is helpful when you receive recommendations for products that you would like based on previous in-store or online purchases.

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images-0004Customers also want their interactions to be live—or in the moment they choose. Fulfilling that need means that companies must become Live Businesses, capable of creating a technological infrastructure that allows real-time interactions and that allows the entire organization—its structure, people, and processes—to respond to customers in all the moments that matter.

Coordinating across channels and meeting customers in the right moments with personalized interactions will become critical as the digital economy matures and customer expectations rise. For instance, when customers air complaints about a brand on social media, 72% expect a response within an hour, according to consulting firm Bain & Company. Meanwhile, an Accenture survey found that nearly 60% of consumers want real-time promotions; 48% like online reminders to order items that they might have run out of; and 51% like the idea of a one-click checkout, where they can skip payment method or shipping forms because the retailer has saved their preferences. Those types of services build trust, showing that companies care enough to understand their customers and send offers or information that save them time, money, or both.

So while trust is difficult to earn, once you’ve earned it and figured out how to maintain it, you can have customers for life—as long as you respect the shifting boundaries.

“Do customers think the company is truly acting with their best interests at heart, or is it just trying to feed the quarterly earnings beast?” asks Donna Peeples, a customer experience expert and the former chief customer experience officer at AIG. “Customer data should be accurate and timely, the company should be transparent about how the data is being used, and it should give customers control over data collection.”

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images-0005How to Earn Trust for a Live Business

Despite spending US$600 billion on online purchases, U.S. consumers are concerned with transaction privacy, the 2015 Consumer Trust Survey from CA Security Council reveals. These concerns will become acute as Live Businesses make personalization across channels a reality.

Here are some ways to improve trust while moving forward with omnichannel personalization.

  • Determine the value of trust. Customers want to know what value they are getting in exchange for their data. An Accenture study found that the majority of consumers in the United States and the United Kingdom are willing to have trusted retailers use some of their personal data in order to present personalized and targeted products, services, recommendations, and offers.
    “If customers get substantial discounts or offers that are appealing to them, they are often more than willing to make that trade-off,” says Tom Davenport, author of Big Data at Work: Dispelling the Myths, Uncovering the Opportunities. “But a lot of companies are cheap. They use the information but don’t give anything back. They make offers that aren’t particularly relevant or useful. They don’t give discounts for loyalty. They’re just trying to sell more.”
  • Let customers make the first move. Customers who voluntarily give up data are more likely to trust personalization across the channels where they do business. Mobile apps are a great way to invite customers to share more data in a more intimate relationship that they control. By entering the data they choose into the app, customers won’t be annoyed by personalization that’s built around it.
    For example, a leading luxury retailer’s sales associates may offer customers their favorite beverages based on information they entered into the app about their interests and preferences.
  • Simplify data collection and usage policies. Slapping a dense data- use policy written in legalese on the corporate website does little to earn customers’ trust. Instead, companies should think about the customer data transaction, such as what information the customer is giving them, how they’re using it, and what the result will be, and describe it as simply as possible.
    “Try to describe it in words so simple that your grandmother can understand it. And then ask your grandmother if it’s reasonable,” suggests Elea McDonnell Feit, assistant professor of marketing at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business. “If your grandmother can’t understand what’s happening, you’ve got a problem.”
    The use of data should be totally transparent in the interaction itself, adds Feit. “When a company uses data to customize a service or offering to a customer, the customer should be able to figure out where the company got the data and immediately see how the company is providing added value to the customers by using the data,” Feit says.
  • Create trust through education. Yes, bombarding customers with generic offers and pushing those offers across the different Web sites they visit may boost profits over the short term, but customers will eventually become weary and mistrustful. To create trust that lasts and that supports personalization, educate the customers.

Procter & Gamble’s (P&G’s) Mean Stinks campaign for Secret deodorant encourages girl-to-girl anti-bullying posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The pages let participants send apologies to those they have bullied; view videos; and share tips, tools, and challenges with their peers.

P&G has said that participation in Mean Stinks has helped drive market share increases for the core Secret brand as well as the specific line of deodorant promoted by the effort. Offering education without pushing products or services creates a sense that companies are putting customers’ interests before their own, which is one of the bedrock elements of trust. Opting in to personalization seems less risky to customers if they perceive that companies have built up a reserve of value and trust.

“Companies that do personalization well demonstrate that they care, respect customers’ time, know and understand their customers and their needs and interests,” says Peeples. “It also reinforces that interactions are not merely transactions but opportunities to build a long-term relationship with that customer.”

Laying the Foundation for Live, Personalized Omnichannel Processes

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images-0006Creating a personalized omnichannel strategy that balances trust and business goals starts with knowing the customer. This can happen only when multiple aspects of your business are coordinated in a live fashion. But marketers today struggle to collect the kind of data that could drive more meaningful connections with customers. In an Infogroup survey of more than 500 marketers, only 21% said they are “very confident in the accuracy and completeness of their customer profiles.” A little over half of respondents said they aren’t collecting enough data overall.

Collecting enough of the right types of data requires more holistic data-collection techniques:

  • Take advantage of the lower costs for processing and storing terabytes of data, and develop a data strategy that combines and crunches all the customer data points needed to drive relevant interactions. This includes transactional, mobile, sensor, and  Web data.
  • Social media analytics is also a central tactic. Social profiles and activity are rich sources of data about behavior and character, merging what people buy or look for with their interests, for instance. Such data can feed predictive analytics and personalization campaigns.
  • Experiment with commercial tools that can filter and mine the data of customers and prospects in real time. This is a significant step beyond basic demographic data collections of the past.

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images-0007Once the necessary data is available, companies need the technology, processes, and people to make sensible use of it in an omnichannel personalization strategy. Only when a company is organized as a Live Business can that happen. Here’s how your company can move toward being a Live Business:
Be live across channels. Having a consistent customer journey map across channels is core to omnichannel personalization. It requires integration across multiple systems and organizational silos to enable core capabilities, such as inventory visibility and purchase/pickup/return across channels. This integration also constitutes a major chunk of the transition to becoming a company that can act in the moments that matter most to customers. If all channels can sync in real time, customers can get what they want in the moment they want it.

Free the data scientists. Marketing rarely has full control over the omnichannel experience, but it is the undisputed leader in understanding customer behavior. While data science is part of that understanding, it has traditionally played a background role. Marketers need to bring the data scientists into efforts to sort through the different options for digitizing the omnichannel experience. The right data scientists understand not only how to use the tools but also how to apply the data to make accurate decisions and follow customers from channel to channel with personalized offers.

Walgreens’ Technology Approach to Personalization

Walgreens is a leader in building the kind of technology base that can enable real-time, omnichannel personalization. Its digital transformation is 16 years in the making, according to Jason Fei, senior director of architecture for digital engineering at Walgreens. At the heart of its infrastructure is a Big Data engine that feeds many customer interaction and omnichannel processes, including customer segmentation. The company adds third-party systems in areas such as predictive analytics and marketing software. Walgreens has a cloud-first strategy for all new applications, such as its image-processing and print-ordering applications. Other elements of the drugstore chain’s technology platform include:

  • Application programming interface (API)-driven architecture. Walgreens’ APIs enable more than 50 partners to connect with its apps and systems to drive customer-facing processes, including integrations with consumer wearables to drive reward points for healthy habits, as well as content partnerships with companies such as WebMD. “With APIs we can be an extensible business, allowing other companies to connect to us easily and help in the digital enablement of our physical stores,” Fei says.
  • Responsive Web sites. The company’s Web site is built using responsive and adaptive design practices so that the site automatically adapts to the consumer’s device, whether that is a mobile phone, tablet, or desktop computer. “We have a single code base that runs anywhere and delivers a consistent, optimized experience to all of our customers,” Fei says.

Making the Most of the Technology Base

This technology foundation has allowed Walgreens to push forward in personalization. For example, according to Fei the company uses sophisticated segmentation and personalization engines to drive outbound e-mail and text campaigns to customers based on their purchase history and profile. “We don’t blast out messages to customers; we use our personalization recommendations to be relevant,” says Fei.

The next phase of this strategy is to develop live inbound personalization tactics, such as recognizing customers when they come back to the Web site and tailoring their experience accordingly. These highly automated, self-learning systems improve over time, becoming more relevant at the moment a customer logs back in.

“When you search for a product, the Web site will take a good guess of what you might actually want. If you always print greeting cards at the same time of year, for example, the system would automatically deliver content around that,” Fei explains. “Everyone comes to Walgreens with a mission, so we can be very targeted with our communications.”

Walgreens’ mobile app combines real-time personalization with convenience. You can scan a pill bottle to refill a prescription, access coupons, send photos from your phone to print in the store, track rewards, and find the exact location of a product on the shelf.

Walgreens also recently deployed a new integrated interactive voice-response system that includes a personalization engine that recognizes the individual, says Troy Mills, vice president of customer care at Walgreens. The system can then predict the most probable reason for the customer’s call and quickly get them to the right individual for further help.

How to Get Started with Live Customer Experiences

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images-0008As Fei can attest, getting Walgreens’ omnichannel and personalization infrastructure to this point has involved a lot of work, with much more to come. For companies just now embarking on this journey, especially midsize and large companies, getting started will mean overhauling an outdated and ineffective technology infrastructure where duplicate systems and processes for managing customer data, marketing programs, and transactions are common.

A bad internal user experience often transcends into a bad customer-facing experience, says Peeples. “We can’t afford the distractions of the latest app or social ‘shiny penny’ without addressing the root causes of our systems’ issues.”

Live Business Requires Striking the Right Balance

The boundaries of trust are a moving target. Sales tactics that used to be acceptable decades ago, such as the door-to-door salesperson, are unwelcome today to most homeowners. And consumers’ expectations are unpredictable. At the dawn of social media, many people were anxious about their photos unexpectedly showing up online. Now our identities are tagged and our posts and photos distributed and commented on regularly.

But while consumers are getting more comfortable with online technology and its trade-offs, they won’t put up with personalization efforts that make use of their data without their knowledge or permission. That data has value, and customers want to decide for themselves when it’s worth giving it away. Marketers need to strike the right balance between personalization and a healthy respect for the unique needs and concerns of individuals. D!

 

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Lori Mitchell-Keller

About Lori Mitchell-Keller

Lori Mitchell-Keller is the Executive Vice President and Global General Manager Consumer Industries at SAP. She leads the Retail, Wholesale Distribution, Consumer Products, and Life Sciences Industries with a strong focus on helping our customers transform their business and derive value while getting closer to their customers.

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100 Top Digital Marketing Influencers And Brands

Michael Brenner

New technologies and social media in the last two decades have fundamentally changed the way consumers think, behave, and engage with brands. While traditional marketing models are still applicable, marketers today are learning a whole new set of digital marketing skills and strategies to better connect with consumers.

It’s no surprise then that digital marketing spending is forecasted to account for at least 35% of total marketing budget this year, and is predicted to grow another 12% next year. This increase in digital marketing investment has created a surge in demand for digital marketers. These digital marketers are marketing nerds who are obsessed with analytics and Big Data, but are also highly creative and skilled in everything from copywriting to graphic design, photography, and videography.

If you are a digital marketer or aspire to become one, what are some of the top digital marketing trends or ideas you’ll need to know this year? Onalytica asked seven of the influencers identified in its Top 100 Influencers And Brands research to share their views; check out what they have to say! In full disclosure, I was identified as one of the influencers and was asked to share my opinion on the topic. You can find last year’s list here and 2014’s list here.

What the experts are saying about digital marketing

Jeff-BullasJeff Bullas – CEO at Jeffbullas.com Pty Ltd

“There is an elephant in the room for many digital marketers. They love the vanity metrics of traffic, social media sharing, and follower growth. They are hooked on the engagement and feedback that cool content provides to the brand. But they often don’t work on the last few hard yards. It isn’t seen as sexy and it can be boring. It’s converting that traffic and engagement into leads and sales. It’s is time for many social media and content marketers to grow up”

sam-hurleySam Hurley, Founder of OPTIM-EYEZ

“This saturated, fast-paced digital world in which we live can seem overwhelming for business owners and marketers alike. Aside from the sheer amount of information and data we force ourselves to consume each and every day, there’s one precious unit of measurement which we most commonly neglect: Time. To become a successful business owner, brand, solopreneur, marketer… you have to become a master of time. Digital marketing is evolving at incredible rates, which only feeds our fixation with shiny new objects such as virtual reality and the newest social media platforms. My advice for this year onward? Focus your time and energy into three key revenue generators which suit your business model (and you!). Become exceptional at nurturing these generators and don’t veer off course. Take heed of the new digital trends and adapt, but don’t divert. For these three revenue generators, funnel effort into three primary traffic channels (paid, owned, and earned) that will gain qualified exposure for your business — exposure that converts into sales. That’s all! Test what works and stick with it. Don’t waste your time being a jack of all trades. Finally; build relationships, be yourself, and push your name through social media. I cannot express enough how important this is. Personal branding is absolutely critical for trust, credibility, and inbound leads. Spend time on yourself and everything else will follow. Seriously, I’m living proof of this methodology. I’ve never had to advertise to attract my own clients. My website isn’t even live yet! If this seems crazy to you, it’s time to alter your approach to business. Concepts of marketing will always remain unchanged. It’s only the tools, buzzwords, and technologies that form and shift around us…don’t be dazzled by them. Digital marketing is fun. Profit as a result (and your continued sanity) is better.”

Larry-KimLarry Kim – Founder of WordStream

“We’ve reached peak social – a point at which the signal to noise ratio of social updates is unsustainable – companies, individuals, and automated tools are cranking out so many social updates that post engagement rate is getting crushed. At the same time, the social platforms are obviously looking to monetize their platforms with an increasing number of ads, which further diminishes organic visibility. As more content and ads floods social networks, the slice of engagement for the average brand must shrink because there’s only a finite amount of content consumption and engagement to be had. Social platforms are responding by creating and refining curated user timelines, and only the top brands with the most engaging content will survive.”

Rand-FishkinRand Fishkin – Founder of Moz

“Adblocking was part of a huge conversation in 2015, and my guess is that the reaction to this growing technology is going to mimic how entrenched players have reacted to technology leaps in the past — by trying to legislate it away. I anticipate that in either the U.S. or the EU, some form of government action will arise (in the U.S., most likely due to lobbying, a.k.a. our legalized system of bribery) to “protect the interests of publishers and journalists who serve the public good.”

Evan-DunnEvan Dunn – Digital Marketing Practice Lead at Transform

“The digital media landscape is complex. With new channels, media and technology popping up every month, it’s only getting more complex. The most critical component of success in today’s marketing universe is a cohesive strategy – a theoretical framework that makes sense of every marketing activity executed by your brand, and provides an architecture for measurement and optimization of every activity. After all, if you’re not sure whether an activity is driving ROI, is it really worth doing? Today’s marketing, whether online or off, must be a scientific art (or an artistic science, either one). It can no longer be gut-driven, dominated by creative, and powered by trendy jargon. Measurement, analytics, statistics, quantification, optimization – these are the stuff of proven strategies. Don’t be distracted by flashy ad-tech, although it is sometimes useful. If your digital marketing objective is growing numbers (customers, sales), then your means of accomplishing it must be by analyzing the numbers. Quantitative Marketing is the future of all forms of marketing, including digital.”

Michael-BrennerMichael Brenner CEO of Marketing Insider Group

“Ten years ago, you would have found it difficult to find anything labeled “digital marketing” on the job boards or even listed in the descriptions for openings companies were trying to fill. Now, digital marketing is the hottest job title in all of marketing. Digital marketing skills are in such high demand because we understand how to market to today’s always-connected, multi-device consumer. The top digital marketers today combine right and left-brain talents. We are one part content marketers, editors, and writers, who understand how to create the kind of content that people actually want to read and share. On the other hand, we are also one part data nerds, who understand how to analyze all the information available to us as we continuously create and promote content across email, search, social, and even offline platforms. Today’s digital marketer knows how to reach, engage, and convert new customers for our businesses. We defy the old notion that marketing can’t be measured. Because we’re doing it every day.”

Michael-J.-SchiemerMichael J. Schiemer – Founder at Schiemer Consulting

“In today’s ultra-competitive digital marketing landscape, differentiating your company from the competition is paramount. There are too many generic or mediocre digital marketers and digital marketing agencies out there that won’t stand the test of time. Other more established marketers will rest on their laurels, fail to adapt, and become obsolete in a short period of time. I think all digital marketers and agencies should ask themselves three questions: How are you going above and beyond for your clients? What value do you bring to the table that they can’t get anywhere else? What prevents your services from being outsourced or replaced by a few inexpensive software programs? If you can’t answer those questions quickly and confidently, then you need to step up your efforts or find a new industry.”

Top 100 individuals

RANK TWITTER HANDLE NAME COMPANY INFLUENCER SCORE
1 @jeffbullas Jeff Bullas Jeffbullas.com 44.13
2 @Sam___Hurley Sam Hurley OPTIM-EYEZ 38.2
3 @MarketingProfs Ann Handley MarketingProfs 31.99
4 @AshleyFriedlein Ashley Friedlein Econsultancy 28.46
5 @Rocco_Zebra_Adv Rocco Baldassarre Zebra Advertisement 27.97
6 @iMariaJohnsen Maria Johnsen Golden Way Media 26.57
7 @larrykim Larry Kim Wordstream 21.45
8 @randfish Rand Fishkin Moz 21.07
9 @PamMktgNut Pam Moore Marketing Nutz 18.67
10 @leeodden Lee Odden Top Rank Marketing 16.82
11 @acfrank Andrew Frank Gartner for Marketing 15.73
12 @dknowlton1 Daniel Knowlton KPS DigitalMarketing 13.62
13 @DioFavatas Dio Favatas Truth Initiative 13.08
14 @evanpdunn Evan Dunn Transform 12.53
15 @BrennerMichael Michael Brenner Marketing Insider Group 12.43
16 @adamwoodsaus Adam Woods Reed Exhibitions 12.37
17 @WBB_13 Brent Bouldin Bank of America 11.47
18 @jaybaer Jay Baer Convince & Convert 10.41
19 @davidbnz David Bell University of Pennsylvania 10.32
20 @DaveChaffey Dr Dave Chaffey Smart Insights 10.24
21 @chuckaikens Chuck Aikens Volume Nine 10.18
22 @JenPolk1 Jennifer Polk Gartner 9.92
23 @AlexTachalova Alexandra Tachalova alextachalova.com 9.76
24 @ajalumnify AJ Agrawal Alumnify 9.6
25 @MikeSchiemer Michael J. Schiemer Colbea 9.23
26 @jeremywaite Jeremy ☁️ Colbea Enterprises 9.18
27 @azeckman Ashley Zeckman Top Rank Marketing 8.4
28 @MariSmith Mari Smith marismith.com 8.18
29 @MelonieDodaro Melonie Dodaro Top Dog Social Media 8.11
30 @augieray Augie Ray Gartner for Marketers 8
31 @krbenedict Kevin R Benedict Cognizant 7.93
32 @SimonYates Simon Yates Gartner for Marketers 7.82
33 @NealSchaffer Neal Schaffer Maximize Your Social 7.58
34 @Matt_Umbro Matthew Umbro PPCChat 7.35
35 @markwschaefer Mark Schaefer Schaefer Marketing Solutions 7.21
36 @FeldmanCreative Barry Feldman Feldman Creative 7.1
37 @BrianHughes116 Brian Hughes Integrity Marketing 6.76
38 @ItsDUHnise Jenise Henrikson Search Engine Journal 6.64
39 @DanScalco Dan Scalco digitalux 6.62
40 @neilpatel Neil Patel Crazy Egg 6.59
41 @martykihn Martin Kihn Gartner 6.47
42 @MarketingLetter Dr. Angela Hausman Hausman and Associates 6.41
43 @lacostejonathan Jonathan Lacoste Jebbit 6.37
44 @crestodina Andy Crestodina Orbit Media 6.29
45 @markfidelman Mark Fidelman Evolve! 6.2
46 @marktraphagen Mark Traphagen Stone Temple Consulting 6.06
47 @jacobvar Jacob Varghese jacobv.com 6.01
48 @marcusbowlerhat Marcus Miller Bowler Hat 5.89
49 @CynthiaLIVE Cynthia Johnson American Addiction Centers 5.87
50 @BrettRelander Brett Relander Launch & Hustle 5.65

Top marketing topics

Onalytica was interested in seeing which topics were most popular among their identified top influencers, so they analyzed their tweets and blogs from January 1st to April 19th this year, counting the number of mentions each marketing topic received.

Social Media dominated the list with 27% share of voice, with Content Marketing coming in at second with 12%, and Branding at 9%. Facebook, Twitter, and SEO were tied for fourth place at 8%, followed by Strategy and Advertising both at 5% and Analytics at 4%. Email Marketing, PPC, LinkedIn, and Planning all received 3%, with Growth Hacking rounding out the list at 2%.

Topic-Share-of-Voice-Among-the-Top-100-Digital-Marketing-Influencers-and-Brands

Mapping the digital marketing community

Onalytica also looked at which marketers and brands were leading the conversation on Twitter, so they analyzed over 1.5 million tweets from December 4th, 2015, to April 29th, 2016, mentioning the keyword “digital marketing,” and identified the top 100 most influential individuals and brands who were leading the online discussion.

Onalytica discovered that there was a very engaged community of high-profile marketers, business professionals, and brands. Below you can see the network map of the online conversation Onalytica created with its Influencer Relationship Management software (IRM), showing the No. 1 Influencer, Jeff Bullas, at the center and the conversations to and from the influencers in his field.

Network-Map-5-Jeff-Bullas

Here’s another network map with the No. 1 brand, Econsultancy, at the center, and the conversations to and from the influencers in its field.

Network-Map-6-Econsultancy

Disclaimer: As ever with these lists, it must be stressed that the ranking is by no means a definitive measurement of influence, as there is no such thing. The brands and individuals listed are undoubtedly influential when it comes to driving discussion in Digital Marketing.

The PageRank based methodology we use to extract influencers on a particular topic takes into account the number and quality of contextual references that a user receives. These calculations are independent of a user’s number of followers, but we do filter our lists based on how much a user is engaged in the conversation and the influence they drive through their networks.

Stop confining social media to marketing. To boost returns, it must be embedded into how companies do business. Learn more about this topic in our research inquiry In a Live Business, Social Gets Its MBA.

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About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is the CEO of Marketing Insider Group, former Head of Strategy at NewsCred, and the former VP of Global Content Marketing here at SAP. Michael is also the co-author of the book The Content Formula, a contributor to leading publications like The Economist, Inc Magazine, The Guardian, and Forbes and a frequent speaker at industry events covering topics such as marketing strategy, social business, content marketing, digital marketing, social media and personal branding.  Follow Michael on Twitter (@BrennerMichael)LinkedInFacebook and Google+ and Subscribe to the Marketing Insider.