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How To Create A Business Case For Social Selling

Chris Heffer

£20 note fanned outDo you work in sales?

Are you passionate about how social can help your organisation sell more?

Do you want to know what role content marketing & content creation will play in the future way you will  communicate with your potential customers?

This post is going to explain to you how you can build a business case to help change the way your business sells it products and how your sales process works.

In my previous post on how to sell in a social era I explained some of the differences between a traditional sales person and person selling in the social era. I mentioned that up to two thirds of buying process is done before you speak with a salesperson. With this post I want to go into a bit more depth and help you demonstrate the return on investment for whoever it is in your business that you need to get buy in so you can focusing in this area. This post will give you some ideas how you can demonstrate the concept to the following people to allow you to either spend more of your time in your current role or create a new role for you to help the whole company/department/team do it better.

  • CEO
  • CMO
  • Managing directors
  • Sales directors
  • Sales managers

For the purpose of this post

I define social selling as:  using the social web to help you sell your products/services

I define content as:  material used to convey a message such as a blog, video, podcast ebook etc

Teaching vs selling

abc writing

There is a phrase which I learn from thesaleslion.com post – assignment selling. The higher the value item you sell the more relevant this is.

The concept works like this. When a salesperson goes to a sales appointment they spend a great deal of their time trying to inform the customer what their product does and why they need one. If the prospect doesn’t know this information before you go to the call you risk wasting time your time with a potential client who is never going to be a customer.

Assignment selling works by giving some responsibility to the potential client to do some specific research that you ask them to do before you will go to meet them. You send them a link to an ebook explaining the answers to the top 20-30 questions you normally get asked on sales call or a video explaining similar things or at the very least a couple of relevant blog posts you have written.

If they do not seem interested or do not bother reading the content you send them, then they are not that interested in doing business with you and are just looking to buy on price. If you are selling a product which is more expensive or better than your competitors, then this customer is obviously not interested and only wants a cheap price.

Selling is what helps you hit your targets, keeps you in a job and pays the bills. Spending time travelling to your customers location and having a meeting with them to teach them about your product is not what helps you achieve your objectives.

If you can do the teaching with your content before you get there you can save you time to do the selling.

Increase productivity

As a continuation of the teaching vs selling I want to elaborate how it can help improve your productivity. When you are in a senior position within a company you have the luxury of being able to delegate work to your PA or to your team. Most salespeople do not have that luxury. I want to explain how creating content can help you delegate parts of the process to your content, to enable you to do more selling.

This is the typical steps in a sales process

  • Generate awareness for your product
  • Generate leads
  • Initial discovery of requirements
  • Presentation of recommendation
  • Evaluation of different options
  • Negotiation
  • After sales support

All of these, with exception of negotiation, could be done to some extent or entirely with content. If you was to publish the answer to every question you ever get asked in a blog or a video and then bundle up the content to give to people at different points of the sales process you could automate almost the whole sales process.

Depending on the complexity of your solutions and how much customisation you need to do, you may not be able to present a recommendation. If you were to create content to fully educate your potential client then they may be able partially or fully figure out what they need.

Negotiation is one thing you couldn’t do with content. However if your content did a good enough job of demonstrating the value of your product or service then the potential client would understand the value as well as the cost and be able to make a decision as to whether they think it offers value to their business. If done well enough may remove the need for negotiation. 

Increase credibility of salespeople

In a short space of time you can establish credibility as an individual. If you read my post why use social media it explains what you can achieve in a very short space of time. I know personally that blogging can, within a short space of time, escalate you to be viewed as an expert in some people’s eyes. It can help you gain access to share your content with a larger audience if you content is good enough.

If you wrote an article and it was featured in your national newspaper or industry trade magazine it would position you an an expert because you have had third party recognition that your content is of good quality.

There are varying degrees of credibility you can achieve which I have depicted below. You can easily create the first two on the ladder by writing an email or telling your marketing department to send out a communication. I think when you start to see content published independently for the world to see and find it, it gains credibility.

Although anyone can publish a blog or white paper, for you to put your name to an idea or theory and publish it, gives it more credibility. Most people would have more confidence that what you saying is correct because otherwise you may find you get some public criticism about the content. When you start generating high quality content you can start to submit content to third party publishers. If they like your content they will add more credibility by distributing it through their platform.

If you are seen as a leading opinion on your chosen topic then one day, you may be contacted by national press to give you thoughts/opinions on a story they want to run. This won’t happen very often but you need to build your credibility and profile before you would ever be found let alone asked to be part of any such coverage.

importance of information source

 

 

Improve your closing ratio

marcus_sheridan_the_sales_lion

There is a great example of how a sales cycle can be changed by using content to improve your closing ratio. The example is borrowed from thesaleslion.com post where he talks about how he has changed the sales process of his swimming pool company

1. Customer calls and asks us to come out to give them a quote.

2. We respond by explaining our process is different—we educate more than anyone in the world with our website, videos, blog articles, and eBooks—which gives consumers everything they need to know about us, our products, and what pool/options suits them the best.

3. Once a potential customer educates themselves through our content, they tell us the pool and options they want, at which point we send them via email an actual quote.

4. If the customer reviews the quote and agrees to its terms, we then go out to their home to confirm there are no hidden costs and write up the contract.

This process was designed around the fact that they realised that the typical closing ratio of their industry (30%) was improved to 80% if they could get their prospects to read 30 pages of their blog. They then made it their mission to build content into the sales cycle to boost the closing ratio.

Cynics may  doubt if their customers would spend $50k on a swimming pool without meeting the salesperson but they actually found out more about the company and why they would want to do business with them than if they had met them  couple of time.

Increase your profit margin

As part of a salesperson’s role they have to demonstrate the value in what they sell. More often than not the salesperson gets to the end of the process having spent a lot of their time on the deal. The price then gets negotiated down which devalues the product/service you offer and the time you have spent with that customer.

If salespeople could demonstrate the value of the product/service they are selling then they could demand the fair price they started the sales process with. This would rely on companies setting a realistic, fair list price.

If you are selling a product or service which costs more because it is worth it, then be proud of the fact you are better than everyone else in the market. Tell people you are more expensive and prove to them why you are worth the extra investment. The earlier you do this in the sales process the less time you will waste with customers who do see the value in your product to pay what it costs.

If you tell someone your product is £1000 and they say they only have a budget for £250 you can either suggest a cheaper product you sell or qualify out. You might go through the sales process and increase their budget to £500 but you will never get £1000.  If they say they don’t see the value in spending £1000 on your product when you can buy similar products for £250 it is a different conversation. You then need to educate the potential client in the value your product can add to his company.  They can then decide if they think the value proposition is right for their business. You can decide if you move forward or qualify out.

Help people buy and don’t sell = Build trust

Think of the last time you went to buy a car or a mobile phone or anything else where you speak with a sales person. Did they help you buy or did they sell? If you make the ultimate goal to help the customer and not to make the sale then you will begin to earn trust.

build trust - falling man caught by team

If you as a salesperson have the ultimate goal of helping a customer buy, then you are more centered around their objective of buying the right product/service than your objective of making a sale.

To gain trust you need to be comfortable to do the following

  • Tell customers when your product is not right for them
  • Be honest about the weaknesses you may have
  • Recommend a competitors product if it is better for the customer
  • Be transparent around costs

If you can do these things you may not win the battle but you will win the war. You may not get every deal but trust is something which you earn and it will help you sell when your products are right for the customer. It will help you get referrals from the people you haven’t sold to when one of their friends wants to buy something you sell.

Some great examples of content that builds trust are linked below

Understand who your customers are and what they want

This is one of the most common themes you would find if you were to google social selling. I think creating content is equally, if not more useful in the sales process and is a topic less frequently spoke about.  A great resource in this area is the Social selling university.

It is a great idea to use the social web to research your potential clients. You can find out information about who they are, what they are doing and how you may be able to help them. I do not know one salesperson who would not want a good reason to call a potential customer at the right time with the right approach. Researching your customer through the information they share on social networks is a great way to do this.

Social research has limited use when your potential client is not active or has no presence on the web. These techniques rely upon mining information to provide some context around a contact.

I feel that generating content is a more universal technique that could help the sales process across a wider range of industries and customer types. If someone is not on social networks you could still email them the content or even print it off and post the content in hard copy.

Summary

All of this can be done without one call, meeting or email to a customer. They can do this research and find the answers they need before they even talk to you as a sales person. If done well you can influence the whole buying process and not just the last bit when they want to talk to a sales person.

The result is perfectly qualified leads, who are ready to buy or are very close. The deals you close will be more profitable, more forecast-able and you will close more deals. Sales people have more time to sell because they are only talking to people who want to buy and not wasting so much time.

Other great resources to help you on your social selling journey

Social Selling university

Marcus Sheridan’s eBook on the Sales Lion website

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Amazing Digital Marketing Trends And Tips To Expand Your Business In 2015

Sunny Popali

Amazing Digital Marketing Trends & Tips To Expand Your Business In 2015The fast-paced world of digital marketing is changing too quickly for most companies to adapt. But staying up to date with the latest industry trends is imperative for anyone involved with expanding a business.

Here are five trends that have shaped the industry this year and that will become more important as we move forward:

  1. Email marketing will need to become smarter

Whether you like it or not, email is the most ubiquitous tool online. Everyone has it, and utilizing it properly can push your marketing ahead of your rivals. Because business use of email is still very widespread, you need to get smarter about email marketing in order to fully realize your business’s marketing strategy. Luckily, there are a number of tools that can help you market more effectively, such as Mailchimp.

  1. Content marketing will become integrated and more valuable

Content is king, and it seems to be getting more important every day. Google and other search engines are focusing more on the content you create as the potential of the online world as marketing tool becomes apparent. Now there seems to be a push for current, relevant content that you can use for your services and promote your business.

Staying fresh with the content you provide is almost as important as ensuring high-quality content. Customers will pay more attention if your content is relevant and timely.

  1. Mobile assets and paid social media are more important than ever

It’s no secret that mobile is key to your marketing efforts. More mobile devices are sold and more people are reading content on mobile screens than ever before, so it is crucial to your overall strategy to have mobile marketing expertise on your team. London-based Abacus Marketing agrees that mobile marketing could overtake desktop website marketing in just a few years.

  1. Big Data for personalization plays a key role

Marketers are increasingly using Big Data to get their brand message out to the public in a more personalized format. One obvious example is Google Trend analysis, a highly useful tool that marketing experts use to obtain the latest on what is trending around the world. You can — and should — use it in your business marketing efforts. Big Data will also let you offer specific content to buyers who are more likely to look for certain items, for example, and offer personalized deals to specific groups of within your customer base. Other tools, which until recently were the stuff of science fiction, are also available that let you do things like use predictive analysis to score leads.

  1. Visual media matters

A picture really is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes, and nobody can deny the effectiveness of a well-designed infographic. In fact, some studies suggest that Millennials are particularly attracted to content with great visuals. Animated gifs and colorful bar graphs have even found their way into heavy-duty financial reports, so why not give them a try in your business marketing efforts?

A few more tips:

  • Always keep your content relevant and current to attract the attention of your target audience.
  • Always keep all your social media and public accounts fresh. Don’t use old content or outdated pictures in any public forum.
  • Your reviews are a proxy for your online reputation, so pay careful attention to them.
  • Much online content is being consumed on mobile now, so focus specifically on the design and usability of your mobile apps.
  • Online marketing is essentially geared towards getting more traffic onto your site. The more people visit, the better your chances of increasing sales.

Want more insight on how digital marketing is evolving? See Shutterstock Report: The Face Of Marketing Is Changing — And It Doesn’t Include Vince Vaughn.

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About Sunny Popali

Sunny Popali is SEO Director at www.tempocreative.com. Tempo Creative is a Phoenix inbound marketing company that has served over 700 clients since 2001. Tempos team specializes in digital and internet marketing services including web design, SEO, social media and strategy.

Social Media Matters: 6 Content And Social Media Trend Predictions For 2016 [INFOGRAPHIC]

Julie Ellis

As 2015 winds down, it’s time to look forward to 2016 and explore the social media and content marketing trends that will impact marketing strategies over the next 15 months or so.

Some of the upcoming trends simply indicate an intensification of current trends, however others indicate that there are new things that will have a big impact in 2016.

Take a look at a few trends that should definitely factor in your planning for 2016.

1. SEO will focus more on social media platforms and less on search engines

Clearly Google is going nowhere. In fact, in 2016 Google’s word will still essentially be law when it comes to search engine optimization.

However, in 2016 there will be some changes in SEO. Many of these changes will be due to the fact that users are increasingly searching for products and services directly from websites such as Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

There are two reasons for this shift in customer habits:

  • Customers are relying more and more on customer comments, feedback, and reviews before making purchasing decisions. This means that they are most likely to search directly on platforms where they can find that information.
  • Customers who are seeking information about products and services feel that video- and image-based content is more trustworthy.

2. The need to optimize for mobile and touchscreens will intensify

Consumers are using their mobile devices and tablets for the following tasks at a sharply increasing rate:

  • Sending and receiving emails and messages
  • Making purchases
  • Researching products and services
  • Watching videos
  • Reading or writing reviews and comments
  • Obtaining driving directions and using navigation apps
  • Visiting news and entertainment websites
  • Using social media

Most marketers would be hard-pressed to look at this list and see any case for continuing to avoid mobile and touchscreen optimization. Yet, for some reason many companies still see mobile optimization as something that is nice to do, but not urgent.

This lack of a sense of urgency seemingly ignores the fact that more than 80% of the highest growing group of consumers indicate that it is highly important that retailers provide mobile apps that work well. According to the same study, nearly 90% of Millennials believe that there are a large number of websites that have not done a very good job of optimizing for mobile.

3. Content marketing will move to edgier social media platforms

Platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat weren’t considered to be valid targets for mainstream content marketing efforts until now.

This is because they were considered to be too unproven and too “on the fringe” to warrant the time and marketing budget investments, when platforms such as Facebook and YouTube were so popular and had proven track records when it came to content marketing opportunity and success.

However, now that Instagram is enjoying such tremendous growth, and is opening up advertising opportunities to businesses beyond its brand partners, it (along with other platforms) will be seen as more and more viable in 2016.

4. Facebook will remain a strong player, but the demographic of the average user will age

In 2016, Facebook will likely remain the flagship social media website when it comes to sharing and promoting content, engaging with customers, and increasing Internet recognition.

However, it will become less and less possible to ignore the fact that younger consumers are moving away from the platform as their primary source of online social interaction and content consumption. Some companies may be able to maintain status quo for 2016 without feeling any negative impacts.

However, others may need to rethink their content marketing strategies for 2016 to take these shifts into account. Depending on their branding and the products or services that they offer, some companies may be able to profit from these changes by customizing the content that they promote on Facebook for an older demographic.

5. Content production must reflect quality and variety

  • Both B2B and B2C buyers value video based content over text based content.
  • While some curated content is a good thing, consumers believe that custom content is an indication that a company wishes to create a relationship with them.
  • The great majority of these same consumers report that customized content is useful for them.
  • B2B customers prefer learning about products and services through content as opposed to paid advertising.
  • Consumers believe that videos are more trustworthy forms of content than text.

Here is a great infographic depicting the importance of video in content marketing efforts:
Small Business Video infographic

A final, very important thing to note when considering content trends for 2016 is the decreasing value of the keyword as a way of optimizing content. In fact, in an effort to crack down on keyword stuffing, Google’s optimization rules have been updated to to kick offending sites out of prime SERP positions.

6. Oculus Rift will create significant changes in customer engagement

Oculus Rift is not likely to offer much to marketers in 2016. After all, it isn’t expected to ship to consumers until the first quarter. However, what Oculus Rift will do is influence the decisions that marketers make when it comes to creating customer interaction.

For example, companies that have not yet embraced storytelling may want to make 2016 the year that they do just that, because later in 2016 Oculus Rift may be the platform that their competitors will be using to tell stories while giving consumers a 360-degree vantage point.

For a deeper dive on engaging with customers through storytelling, see Brand Storytelling: Where Humanity Takes Center Stage.

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About Julie Ellis

Julie Ellis – marketer and professional blogger, writes about social media, education, self-improvement, marketing and psychology. To contact Julie follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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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The Future Of Medicine: Mass Customization

Sarah Harvey

A century ago, Henry Ford transformed the world with the Model T, the first mass-produced automobile. As other retail giants quickly realized the benefits of mass production, more goods became affordable, accessible, and standardized. Individualization took a back seat.

But by the 1990’s the individual was back in focus, under mass customization—a method that combines custom-made flexibility with the low unit costs of mass production. For example, Nike allows customers to choose colors for every element of a standard shoe. Japanese eyeglass retailer Paris Miki uses data, images, and preferences to recommend best-fit glasses. Automakers like Ford – whose founder once said that customers could have the Model T in any color, as long as it’s black – now offer millions of variations in style and functionality to cater to consumer needs. The customer is empowered to have a collaborative dialogue with the provider for a more personalized product.

But what about when the customer is a patient – and the product is a potentially lifesaving treatment?

Mass production has long been the norm in healthcare, too. As in manufacturing, economies of scale in healthcare have supported the development of mass-produced drugs to treat and cure disease.

But today a new approach is revolutionizing the industry. Called personalized or precision medicine, it uses genomics and Big Data to move beyond the one-size-fits-all model into more individualized care. It promises cost savings, better patient outcomes, and progress against diseases like cancer, diabetes, and even aging.

Mass-market medicine is not going away, but according to a new study conducted by Oxford Economics, more than two-thirds of healthcare professionals say that personalized medicine is already having a measurable effect on patient outcomes. Roughly the same number expect it to in the next two years.

Looking ahead

But to reach the full potential of personalized medicine, the healthcare industry and its stakeholders must accept a new landscape. Organizations need to adopt advanced technology and talent. The industry must adjust to new governance models. And we all must accept significant cultural shifts around data sharing.

Personalized medicine allows researchers and providers to segment large populations into smaller groups. Patients are then slotted into the appropriate group based on their own characteristics, including genetic information, age, and personal habits. Providers then can make decisions based on analysis of past successes, tailoring treatment for the smaller group – or even the individual.

But although healthcare organizations are investing heavily in tools like analytics, they still need to fully build out IT capabilities and find workers with the right digital skills. Advanced fields like genomics are not fulfilling their potential – though when tapped, the outcomes are impressive, as researchers at institutions like Stanford University have discovered.

Perhaps most significantly, however, personalized medicine requires adjustments to industry culture in key areas like privacy, data sharing, and governance. The patient is empowered in new ways, with an unprecedented level of involvement in all phases of care. Yet we’re still trying to balance patient privacy with data sharing, as institutions also address issues of collaboration. Finding meaningful trends using personalized medicine requires a huge amount of data, more than any single institution can access. Solutions such as CancerLinQ from ASCO attempt to tackle this problem by aggregating data from member institutions, but more must accept the reality that sharing data and research outcomes is the key to finding cures.

And while economic case for personalized medicine strengthening, it comes down to much more than cost savings. Customization of care will impact the lives of patients around the world. As mass customization of medicine is mastered, we’ll see even more individual courses of care. We’ll see treatment tailored to each and every single patient. We’ll see more lives saved. Personalized medicine puts patients first – and empowers them to be at the center of their treatment process.

To learn more about how SAP is making the world run better and improving people’s lives, visit the SAP Connected Health Center, or continue the discussion on Twitter @SAP_Healthcare.

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Sarah Harvey

About Sarah Harvey

Sarah Harvey is the Deputy Head of Strategy & Operations, Global Corporate Affairs at SAP. She focuses on engaging highly relevant influencers, cultivating skills, and ensuring operational excellence to drive overall success. She also drives integrated strategy, messaging, and content for communications campaigns on the topics of healthcare, sports, and youth.