Marketing Is Outdated — Here’s Why and What to Do.

Marketing Cloud

While at a trade show in Chicago more than 20 years ago — when I was the global director of The Coca-Cola Company’s first Strategic Innovation Group to look for human-centered innovations — I recall seeing a new brand of kitchen tools: OXO. The founder, Sam Farber, was a pioneer of ‘design thinking’, long before that term came into vogue. He noticed that his wife found it difficult to grip a can opener. To make it more comfortable for her, he worked with a design firm to develop a very functional and elegant, soft, black handle that became the signature design for OXO’s products. The handle felt better in people’s hands, was easier to use, and looked good. Incorporating empathy for what the person using the product might need, this was design thinking at its finest.

To compete in today’s experience era, businesses need to understand the situations people are in nowadays and work from there — like OXO did — to help provide solutions to their problems. They can’t rely on traditional push marketing anymore. Marketing like that is outdated. Instead, everyone must become an ‘engager’. Regardless of title or functional role, everyone needs to not only understand how a product goes to market but also who’s buying it, touching it, using it, and talking about it — and then engage with them. This is the new ‘engager marketing.’

Everyone’s a Marketer, but Let’s Call Them Engagers.
Good engagers are also good listeners and observers. They not only listen to people and examine their needs but also listen digitally and analyze and interpret the data. By implementing all of these active words, you are paying attention to the people who matter for your product or service. You must understand — on a personal level — what is important to those who buy, use, discuss, promote, and advocate your product or service.

Let’s think back to OXO again. The founder understood his wife’s situation and worked from there, designing from her perspective to find the right solution. Finding the need and then the solution must have come easily for Farber, but others had to be taught. And the earlier they could learn this design-thinking discipline, the better, as it prepared everyone to handle this shift in business. Even children in elementary school can learn to listen for and understand problems before coming up with solutions.

How do you do it? According to OXO, “We study people — lefties and righties, male and female, young and old — interacting with products and we identify opportunities for meaningful improvement. Our thoughtful, “question everything” process and relentless attention to detail uncover the best solutions for life’s everyday tasks.”

Use Science to Know the Need and Art to Solve It.
Growing up in the business world at The Procter & Gamble Company, I learned to use a very disciplined set of marketing tools. Science has always been a part of brand management, and most companies today have adopted that focus on science and data to some degree. Experience businesses also need to rely on data science to consider what their customers think first.

This may seem like a slow process in a fast-paced world. Fortunately, artificial intelligence (AI) makes it possible to identify both needs and solutions at the necessary pace. But, for competitive differentiation to happen, we still need the human touch — the art. For example, if you have two competitors in the same category — and both are equally competent, well-funded, and have good brand reputations — the difference is going to be the experience that each company provides. The company with the most compelling, personalized experience is going to win. One is going to look better, feel better, and work better, and much of that will come from the creative layer. That’s where the art comes in.

This combination of science and art is part of the design thinking concept. Use science to understand the need and art to solve the problem you precisely identify.

Fine-Tune Your Thinking — and Each Experience.
Just as OXO has done, experience businesses need to work from empathetic perspectives and continuously repeat. As you fine-tune, you will also have other functions, inside and outside the company, involved in designing, manufacturing, and distributing product. Let’s say you design the best kitchen appliance, and it fits in your hand perfectly. However, the type of rubber you used is slippery and prevents your wet hands from getting a good grip. That means your design is wrong, so you will need to involve an engineer and others who can spec the right rubber. It takes a village — including the user.

Remember the following points, and you’ll be well on your way to thinking like an experience business:

  • Start by Asking “What Do Customers Want?” — Pay very close attention so you can truly understand how they use your products or services. It’s really that simple.
  • Ensure Personal Filters and Preconceived Perceptions Don’t Interpret What Consumers Are Viewing, Saying, or Thinking. — Understand as much as you can about each customer’s world, using observation, data, and behavioral analysis (qualitatively and quantitatively).
  • Use a Cross-Functional, Collaborative Team Approach to Categorize Groups and Understand What Works Best for Each. — Imagine you are working with large-scale brands, each with millions of customers from diverse countries and cultures all around the world. Categorizing groups based on similarities will help you determine the most effective approach to take.

Marketing Is Outdated — The New Engager Marketing Is Where It’s at!
Creating experiences needs to be a thoughtful process, carried out across all functions in the organization and across all online and offline touchpoints. This is true for any business that wants to thrive in today’s experience era. There will be a time and place to add your perspective, but for now, it’s all about the customers and what they want. That’s the new engager marketing.

Read more ideas about the future of experience business from our #AdobeTT participants.

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Real-Time Interaction Management – Simple Terms For a Tall Order

Marketing Cloud

Have you noticed? Real-time interaction management (RTIM) is picking up steam to become one of the top marketing buzzwords of 2017.

Yet, I’d argue that the concept of real-time interaction management is worthy of our attention and useful to all marketers. Why? What’s the big deal? Real-time interaction management represents a golden opportunity to deliver value to customers in their immediate context. And let’s face it: even when marketing messages and offers are personalized and orchestrated across channels, marketers often struggle to predict when customers will experience them—which makes it nearly impossible to deliver experiences that anticipate what customers want, in the moment they want it, wherever they are.

In his Forrester’s 2017 Wave for Real-Time Interaction Management report, analyst Rusty Warner provides a formal definition for RTIM:

“Enterprise marketing technology that delivers contextually relevant experiences, value, and utility at the appropriate moment in the customer life cycle via preferred customer touchpoints.”

Put simply, in RTIM, a system delivers the next best offer or action at the right time, coordinated between channels, based on current context and a high definition view of a customer’s behavior, history, and preferences.

Simple terms, but a tall order.

That’s why Adobe is particularly proud to feature as a Leader in this year’s Forrester RTIM evaluation. Lauded for “bridging the martech/adtech gap with channel-focused RTIM”, Adobe Campaign — the solution that allows marketers to plan, orchestrate, and measure personalized, contextual, real-time, cross-channel offers and messages — and sister solutions from the Adobe Experience Cloud help customers leverage real-time analytics and insights and orchestrate contextually relevant interactions, across anonymous and authenticated channels.

In the report, Adobe differentiates in three ways:

  • Our truly integrated cross-channel capabilities. We integrate functionality from our marketing, analytics, and advertising cloud portfolios to enable RTIM on a channel-by-channel basis. Adobe Campaign received perfect scores for both “Inbound channels” and “Outbound channels.” This includes everything from mobile app to email to SMS and even wearables. Additionally, Adobe scored perfectly on “Emerging channels” (such as IoT) and “Paid advertising channels.”
  • Our cross-solution integrations. A customer reference quote reprised by Forrester says it all. Adobe was credited for doing “a really nice job of integrating its acquisitions to create a complete solution.” The integrations across cloud and solutions work and deliver value. Forrester also recognized the predictive and machine learning capabilities associated with Sensei as a strength across the Experience Cloud to see patterns and predict next best actions/offers.
  • Our vision is rock solid. With perfect scores in vision, technology road map, performance, supporting services, and partner ecosystem, Forrester believes in our market, solution, services, partner and roadmap strategy. RTIM is a crowded field, with heavy hitters who have been around for a long time, but Adobe’s strategy and vision sets us apart time and again.

Customers already expect real-time interactions, where brands deliver what they need in the moment they need it. The brands that will win in the future will go even farther than this, continually raising the personalization and contextualization bar, delivering experiences that anticipate audience desires. Done well, real-time interaction management has the potential to blow customers away. It is consistent across digital and offline channels, populated with relevant and engaging content, and delivers meaningful and elegant experiences at just the right time.

To learn more, download the full report The Forrester Wave™: Real-Time Interaction Management, Q2 2017.

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Adobe Named a Leader in Forrester’s latest Real-Time Interaction Management Evaluation

Marketing Cloud

Marketing is no longer about brand awareness, it’s about brand purpose. We have gone from telling consumers what we think they need, to them telling us exactly what they want, and when, where, and how they want it. And what they want, are amazing experiences that close the gap between people and the things they want to do and the people they want to be with. Makes them feel something. Perhaps feel a little special.

Leading analyst firm Forrester recently released their report, The Forrester Wave™: Real-Time Interaction Management, Q2 2017, in which, Adobe is positioned as a leader, Forrester says:

Orchestrating the appropriate experience during customer-initiated interactions creates value exchanges often lacking in marketing-driven campaigns. But the two are deeply entwined. B2C marketers must align next-best-action capabilities for inbound channels with highly personalized outbound communications to deliver deeper levels of engagement throughout the customer life cycle. RTIM enables this alignment by integrating systems of insight (customer data and analytics) with systems of engagement (automated content and interactions) to deliver contextually relevant marketing.

Well, that’s a mouthful, and it turns out, that is pretty much Adobe’s raison raison d’être. We exist to orchestrate amazing customer experiences. No surprise to us we are recognized as a leader.

An amazing experience can take many forms, but there are a few common elements. It’s personal. It’s consistent. It’s elegant. And it’s everywhere you are. Companies who can do this will forge stronger connections with their customers, resulting in brand loyalty and growth. A great customer experience is the differentiator that separates market leaders from the pack.

Forrester offers this advice to companies looking to become market leaders:

RTIM encompasses five functional areas — 1) cross-channel identity resolution; 2) contextual understanding; 3) decision arbitration; 4) offer orchestration; and 5) measurement and optimization — critical technologies at the core of any effective EMT (enterprise marketing technology) ecosystem.

You might call that list of capabilities serendipitous. But it’s no accident that Adobe Experience Cloud matches each one of those 5 criteria. We believe the modern Experience Business needs a modern platform — a new central nervous system for the enterprise. One that sets the standard for how creative content, customer data, and channel orchestration come together to deliver exceptional experiences. Adobe is stepping up, because we know your transformation requires more than marketing.

In naming Adobe a leader in the RTIM market, Forrester particularly called out Adobe’s integration efforts:

Adobe bridges the martech/adtech gap with channel-focused RTIM. Adobe differs from RTIM vendors with centralized real-time decision engines, as it integrates functionality from its marketing, analytics, and advertising cloud portfolios to enable RTIM on a channel-by-channel basis. Adobe’s RTIM implementations require multiple separately licensed products, depending on channel requirements, and we spoke with customer references who started with web analytics and content management before adding campaign management and advertising modules. One reference credited Adobe for doing “a really nice job of integrating its acquisitions to create a complete solution.”

This report also follows a string of recognition from analyst firms for Adobe’s capabilities to help brands become experience businesses. Adobe was recently named a leader in Gartner’s 2017 Magic Quadrant for Multichannel Campaign Management and The Forrester Wave™: Web Content Management Systems, Q1 2017.

That makes a lot of sense to us, because at Adobe we’re about helping you create and deliver amazing experiences, this time and every time. That means the right content to the right person, in the right moment. In real time. We used to call this “marketing in the last millisecond” where you have to listen, predict, assemble, and deliver the amazing experience, and do it right now. No matter when, no matter where.

Come to think of it, that’s still what we do. Marketing is hard. Adobe can help.

To learn more, download the full report The Forrester Wave™: Real-Time Interaction Management, Q2 2017.

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Hey Brands, We’re Busy Lifecasting. Why Aren’t You?

Marketing Cloud

MGM resorts are everything you’d expect them to be — glamorous, posh, and ultra cool. But when MGM Grand in Las Vegas wanted to promote itself as the ‘Times Square of the West’ for celebrating New Year’s, they turned to lifecasting. The plan was to show millennials that Vegas is the “it” place to ring in the New Year by immersing them in the experience.

The Twitter campaign, #LiveFromLV showcased the intensity and excitement of New Year’s Eve in Vegas by following three influencers streaming on Twitter and Periscope. Live broadcasts or ‘lifecasts’ boosted campaign impact and created a conversation with the millennial audience—a nearly impossible feat through more conventional techniques.

Okay. But we all know how to stream video. How is lifecasting any different?

Sharing details from your life via webcam on the Internet is nothing new. But lifecasting is different. Rather than selecting and uploading specific clips, lifecasting is uninterrupted streaming directly to the web. Uncut. Every detail intact.

Why should brands pay attention to this new millennial pastime? With tons of social apps to fuel the trend — think Instagram Stories, Snapchat, Facebook Live, and more creeping up all the time — millennials are broadcasting their experiences and people are paying attention.

Here’s the kicker for brands:

What sets lifecasting apart is that it does a much better job at communicating affect, or the different spheres of human experience. Rather than representing through traditional means like photos or status updates, lifecasting lets viewers feel the experience, as if they were right alongside the actual participants — and it’s exhilarating.

Traditional advertising tells you how to think and feel But, lifecasting lets your audience draw their own conclusions, while opening up a community of likeminded enthusiasts. For brands, this is an opportunity to build credibility, communicate intensity, and connect on a completely new level.

Lifecasting is now. Here’s how it’s taking shape—three trends brand should start thinking about.

Trend No. 1: Live Video—Boost The Millennial Affinity Tor Authenticity
Live video has been around for awhile, but it’s reached mass popularity due to social media. Video takes lifecasting to a more authentic level, creating opportunities for brands to connect with their customers through emotion and intensity — part of the human experience that’s difficult to get across in text. Brands can use lifecasting alone or partner with influencers to showcase authenticity and experience.

Through its outreach with influencers, MGM Resorts captured the excitement of New Year’s in Vegas. More importantly, lifecasting dispelled millennial FOMO (fear of missing out), while turning envy into aspiration. Viewers were driven by heightened emotion. Millennials found themselves wanting to recreate this exciting experience and MGM’s fantastic Vegas destination came through loud and clear.

The Chief Experience Officer at MGM Resorts credits lifecasting with helping them do a better job at getting the message out to millennials. “MGM Resorts is in the experience business. Combining influencers with live video broadcasting allowed us to give our perspective audiences a taste of what they are missing and a better understanding of our brands.”

Restore the Human Element
As MGM learned, influencers yield tremendous power when sharing experiences on behalf of brands. But, the opportunity that lifecasting creates is really about adding that missing human element. General Electric (GE) live streamed a peek inside their industrial workshops. An authentic, behind-the-scenes look allowed the brand to connect with customers on a human level as opposed to just pushing traditional advertising their way.

Live video also allows brands to communicate emotion in a way that’s less likely to be misconstrued. Text is tricky. People read an ad or a tweet and interpret it in multiple ways. With video, people see what you see and emotion is conveyed in a more real and consistent way.

Redbull captures the human piece of video effortlessly by communicating intensity through exciting video clips of fans skydiving, bungie jumping, canoeing, and more. Live video taken from the participant’s perspective, makes it easy to feel raw emotion. Viewers are in the moment as opposed to looking at a photograph with some emotive words on it.

Learn more about my perspective on live video here:

Trend No. 2: Short Term Content—Embrace the Antithesis of Traditional Advertising
Where the goal of traditional advertising is longevity, lifecasting is the exact opposite and short-term content defines the best campaigns. A bite-sized lifecast is often seen as more authentic because it replicates real life timing. For brands looking to humanize, short form content gives them a way forward — but only for 24 hours.

The popularity of short term content speaks to the changing attention span of today’s audiences who turn to Instagram or Snapchat because they’re tired of the non-stop drip of advertising. Smart brands need to recognize that the millennial generation isn’t into this. Instead, we want quick hits. Show me what you’ve got and then get out of my feed.

Taco Bell masters the art of Snapchat storytelling by thinking out of the box. They draw attention to their products in novel ways (remember the infamous taco head filter?). They’ve captured the heart and imagination of their audience — and they’re rewarded for it. Like Taco Bell, Amazon uses short-term content to offer exclusive money-saving deals and promotional content to their best customers.

Trend No. 3: Artificial Intelligence—Let Them Integrate Your Brand Into Their Story
Facebook just launched a new research lab that’s entirely dedicated to advancing Artificial Intelligence (AI). And LinkedIn acquired Bright, which focuses on algorithm-driven job matches. The relationship between AI and lifecasting is evolving and it’s centered around user-generated content.

Lifecasting with AI increases flexibility by letting users decide how they want to incorporate a brand into their own experiences. What brands may lose in control, they gain in authenticity — and that’s appealing to the millennial generation.

Lifecasting creates a platform for brands to connect with consumers directly, build trust, and convey emotion. An opportunity to learn from user-generated content, some brands will successfully become lifecasters themselves or with the help of influencers. Others may only be able to use live content for consumer insights. At the end of the day, it’s really about connecting with your audience on a different level and being real — and that’s something all brands can benefit from.

This post originally appeared on  

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Bringing the Adobe-Microsoft Partnership to Life

Marketing Cloud

When two companies announce that they’re working together in a strategic partnership, the question on many lips is, “Is it real or is it marketing hype?” Our partnership with Microsoft is very real. In the six months since the initial announcement was made in September, we’ve brought to market the first set of joint offerings; and, at Microsoft’s Build event earlier this month, Adobe’s CTO, Abhay Parasnis, joined Microsoft’s EVP of Cloud and Enterprise, Scott Guthrie, onstage in the keynote to share the details of the partnership with Microsoft’s developer community.

What’s in It for Developers?
The partnership presents huge potential for the developer community. Building on both companies’ strong track records in enterprise applications, data science, and machine learning, Adobe and Microsoft are collaborating on a semantic data model that promises to transform enterprise integration — aimed at understanding and driving real-time customer engagement. This model will standardize how data is structured and vastly expedite the process of gaining insights from massive amounts of data, providing developers with opportunities to innovate and deliver new, reimagined solutions for their customers.

This is how enterprises will enrich customer experiences.

With Adobe Experience Cloud, Creative Cloud, and Document Cloud, we’re using massive volumes of content and data in incredibly rich ways. A big part of the attraction of this partnership with Microsoft was Azure and the rich services it enables — such as Data Lake and Data Factory, both of which make it easier and faster to develop solutions that store data of any size or shape and to compose and manage data services at scale. We are incredibly excited about what it will enable us to do internally with our Adobe portfolio.

This is how digital transformation will be accelerated.

While we’re still in the early stages of our partnership — and so much possibility remains with regard to what could be done (as was shown in the Adobe Creative Cloud and Microsoft Teams’ and Adobe Sign and Microsoft Teams’ ‘technology concept’ demos at Build) — we can already point to tangible deliverables in our joint offerings today and those still on the developmental roadmap. We share a lot of joint customers, so it’s in both our interests to provide incremental, differentiated value to these customers.

So, when people ask, “Is this partnership just marketing hype,” we answer, “Heck, no!” This is a partnership with a foundation in deep, joint engineering; combining the best in sales/customer relationship management (Microsoft Dynamics) and experience-marketing technology (Adobe Experience Cloud) on one best-in-class platform (Microsoft Azure) that has global scale, security, and trust at the core.

Just think of the possibilities.

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Measuring Success in the Experience Era

Marketing Cloud

When I think about brands that truly understand the meaning of ‘experience business’, Sephora always comes to mind. The beauty chain knows everything I’ve purchased, so I receive fantastic recommendations online, on my mobile phone, and even while shopping in-store. They seem to understand perfectly whether I’m online and even with which device — they all elicit different experiences, and Sephora knows it. They make the interactions easy and, thus, delightful, ensuring I continue to return for more.

As I’ve said before and still believe, “If you’re not working on customer experience, then you’re working on the wrong thing.” Some companies aren’t yet focusing on customer experience, because they haven’t quite figured out how to define and measure the success of experience. Individual anecdotes (like mine) certainly help, but they don’t give companies the full story — not enough, anyway, to convince the C-suite or company investors that the way they’ve been conducting business for years must change.

Experience businesses need to learn to define success outside of traditional marketing metrics — and they need data to do it. Creating metrics to prove the value of experiences would translate better to all involved. If they can’t define success, they won’t gain the support and results they need to continue.

Defining Success for the Experience Business
There are two ways to view company outcomes:

  • The Business Outcome — what the organization sees, and
  • The Consumer Outcome — what the consumer sees.

Experience is from the customer perspective and yet, the business must also see real financial results. The trick is to understand where the two align, so we all win. If you don’t gain financial results, it’s possible to go out of business creating great experiences for your customers. You need to be able to recognize experiences that will benefit clients and create business results, so you’ll know confidently and strategically where to devote your resources.

Consider how we measure television viewing for advertising purposes. We measure it using gross rating points (GRP) or, basically, how many people might see an ad at any given time. We can tie the everchanging GRP to business results, knowing we can expect a certain business outcome when we run ads during a particular show because 30 million people could potentially see it (according to GRP). So, we have a precedence for measuring how successful these types of marketing activities are, but we haven’t yet made the connection between specific experiences and which business outcomes they produce. That needs to change.

Finding Relevant Data and Measuring Outcomes
There are traditional measurements such as the completion of the customer journey — the customer buys what we are selling. Ultimately, though, it’s all about customer satisfaction — did we make the customer happy? The experience should be a ladder leading up to a relationship that keeps the customer returning for more. In fact, an experience isn’t a one-off; it’s a sum of all the interactions leading into the relationship your company has with each customer.

To measure these experiences, brands must start with data. Following are three ways to find the relevant data you need.

1. Measuring Activity
By conducting regular surveys and polls (like those I often receive from Sephora), you can keep notes that measure each customer’s activity at each touchpoint. Was that touchpoint successful? Did customers complete what they wanted to do? Do they respond to the emails and notifications we send? That’s the nice, simple way to understand experience — letting companies continuously collect and analyze data and understand which things customers are learning.

2. Measuring Emotions
How did you feel about that experience? Did it make you feel happy? Did the quality meet your expectations? In our Think Tank discussion in March, Lightwave CEO, Rana June brought up the discussion of emotional data and whether it can be trusted to measure experiences.

“We are irrational actors, but at the same time, we’re very predictable,” Rana said. “The way that we’ve historically examined emotional data has been in a lab, which is an unnatural environment measuring maybe 10 individuals. If you can take this outside the lab and get authentic data looking at thousands if not millions or even billions of people, that’s when you can start to really gain some useful insights into the emotional dynamic. Even measuring emojis, for example, can provide so much value.”

It isn’t easy, however. If you are measuring customer experience and satisfaction through a survey, and the customer gives the company an 8 or 9 (or even a 7) in the survey, how do you determine the real issue that kept it from getting a 10? It goes back to measuring the emotion or satisfaction. Here’s an example of how emotion is being measured now: Certain restaurant chains place a button near the door that customers can hit to express customer satisfaction — green = happy, yellow = meh, red = unhappy. The minute someone chooses red, restaurant staff receives immediate feedback letting them know that something is wrong. Or, if it happens multiple times, then something is very wrong. So, it is possible to collect this emotional data in a pretty simple way with mini-pulse feedback online and offline.

3. Measuring Relationships
This is the intangible part and is even more difficult to measure. How did the experience (or series of experiences) impact the customer’s overall relationship with the company? Was it “just fine,” or was it “mind-blowing?” Did it change what the customer thinks of your organization? How would the customer say the relationship changed after the experience? There isn’t a simple behavior metric you can use to measure this. However, you can measure it on the backend by tracking whether certain customers are buying more, are referring to the company more, or are calling more frequently.

Maturing Experience Measurement
While surveys and polls are still a major source of the data companies collect, and the mini-pulse buttons I mentioned previously continue to help provide some emotional data, technology makes measuring these experiences even easier. Some companies are now using artificial intelligence (AI) to understand the tone in customers’ voices over the phone — how quickly they are speaking, their intonations, pitches, volumes, and more — to decipher how happy or upset they are. You can actually assign each a numerical score and decide from there how to react to keep that customer happy based on this score.

Most companies still struggle to tell whether customers see something that actually moves them. Affectiva in Boston is aiming to change that, using cameras to understand and categorize people’s emotions. Its software can take video calls at the call centers or even on various devices. Imagine having an Xbox or computer camera on (with permission, of course) and someone being able to tell how you feel — upset, happy, or confused, for instance. Surprisingly, AI is becoming better than humans at understanding and communicating emotions. This absolutely applies to experience businesses, helping businesses understand the state of people who are walking into their stores by noticing their pace and level of nervousness, for example. The company can then take immediate action to make the experience easier for the customer.

Moving Forward With Patience
To succeed as an experience business, you need to measure experiences in the context of customer relationships and how they matter to the business. Otherwise, you’re wandering around in the dark — and might measure and, thus, optimize the wrong thing. There’s no magic bullet. Just as measuring television ads has shown us, it’s going to take multiple levels, many years, and a tremendous amount of perfect patience and careful listening. We all measure things differently, but in the end, it all comes down to keeping your customers close by, developing their trust — and constantly measuring the relationships to ensure your experience business is still on the right track.

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How Travel Brands Can Use and Safeguard Customer Data

Marketing Cloud

The Travel Industry Toes the Line Between Using Data to Its Full Potential to Create Customer Experiences and Safeguarding That Data to Preserve Customer Trust.

Travel is, and always has been, about the experience — it’s why concierge desks exist, hot towels are handed out on intercontinental flights, and chocolates are placed on pillows. In today’s digital age, travel companies have more powerful tools than ever before to deliver truly standout customer experiences.

The travel industry is, thus, at a crossroads of digital self-discovery. Customers expect digitally enhanced, personalized travel experiences — whether they’re browsing targeted content as they plan, receiving customized mobile offers from their hotel mid-stay, or posting trip photos for social media to salivate over.

Savvy travel companies are leaning on data-driven insights to power the unified digital foundations that can support the customer experience, and data and security go hand in hand to bring this to life. Although security is far from glamorous, the capabilities data unlocks for travel brands enable the opportunity to delightfully surprise throughout the entire guest journey.

Qantas Airlines, for instance, gathers information on each one of its customers, their preferences, their flight histories, and their frequent-flier data. Then, it shares that information with its flight attendants, so they can positively personalize each passenger’s flight experience as much as possible.

In another example, Marriott Hotels has established a series of “predictable data points” for each of its guests, searching for ways it can improve everyone’s stay. The data anticipates simple touches — such as anticipating how a guest takes his or her coffee or remembering that he or she always arrives on a redeye flight and would appreciate an early check-in.

These brands are putting troves of data to brilliant use, but any digital asset is only as good as it is secure. To drive a great customer experience, these brands must maintain sensitive and personal data about travelers who are placing their trust in the brands who collect this data. While most customers don’t care how their profiles, payments, and room-service proclivities remain secure, they absolutely expect it to be secure throughout their digitally enabled experiences.

This leaves the travel industry toeing the line between using data to its full potential to create customer experiences and safeguarding that data to preserve customer trust. Insecure data puts companies’ reputations at risk — and, according to IBM, the average cost of a data breach in 2016 was $4 million.

The burden is, thus, on travel companies to stay abreast of data-security standards to limit the impact of a breach. Travel companies should be able to identify requirements specific to online booking, payment compliance (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards), and customer profile information. The industry is a particular hotbed of credit card fraud — a recent study found that 38 percent of data-breach attacks were aimed at hotels.

Large organizations with expansive marketing programs need to align resources for security programs and personnel that can monitor and protect both customers and intellectual properties.

The great news is that a strong digital foundation lends itself well to data security. Brands with unified platforms are off to strong starts when it comes to reducing risks over time. Content and information can then be updated or modified across all channels, within moments, and at scale — allowing speedier go-to-market delivery and eliminating IT and developer resources.

Travel brands playing host to sensitive data should also have weekly risk-management assessments to determine where improvements might be needed. They can prioritize compliance initiatives, find ways to minimize potential downtime for services, and keep communication lines open with customers regarding risks and prevention measures.

If travel brands chart paths to digital-marketing greatness, using smart platforms with security measures that stay one step ahead, they’re poised to do what they really do best. They can smooth the blistery pain points of travel and dish up jaw-dropping moments that would do the most discerning concierges proud — and, they can do it all while upholding customers’ confidence and trust. Because that’s what hospitality’s all about.

Pulling off both great experiences and ironclad security all starts with a solid digital foundation. Read “Solving Travel’s Biggest Problems With a Digital Foundation” to empower your customer experience.

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How NBC Sports Delivered the Most Watched Digital Event in History

Marketing Cloud

During last year’s Rio Olympics, over 100 million viewers streamed 3.5 billion minutes of coverage on web, mobile, and other connected devices, setting a new worldwide standard for live digital events. NBC’s coverage included more than 2,000 distinct events with 50 concurrent livestreams — all in just seventeen days. By anyone’s measure, NBC Sports put the scale in scalable with this achievement.

While most of us lack a tentpole event such as the Olympics, we are all dealing with similar challenges. Today’s media and entertainment consumers demand their content when and where they want it, expecting continuous, consistent experiences across devices that rival broadcast quality — and, they’re moving to digital platforms in greater numbers. According to NBC, the number of digital users rose 29 percent from the London games, for instance; and among millennials, the percentage of streaming viewers was even higher: more than one-half of the digital audience for the Olympics was under the age of 35. The future will see continued convergence between linear and digital.

Sports has always been at the forefront of this change. A recent Q4 Digital Video Benchmark Report showed that sports are fueling video growth across screens: one-quarter of all sports-video content is viewed on mobile devices. Interestingly, game consoles are one of the fastest growing video-consumption devices — in general, we have seen viewing going back into the living room through these consoles and connected devices.

At last month’s Adobe Summit, Eric Black (CTO and senior vice president of NBC Sports/Playmaker Media) detailed how they delivered the largest, most successful digital event in history. Following are a few of his recommendations:

  • Be Scalable — NBC couldn’t have supported the demands of its vast audience on its own infrastructure using just its own technical staff. No budget would allow for that much elasticity. The cloud provided the redundancy to deliver a bulletproof experience. NBC Sports used Adobe partner, Microsoft Azure, for the Olympics. Microsoft used two major data centers — one on the west coast, and one on the east coast — where either center could reroute to the other, if needed. Using two centers also enabled data to be delivered closest to viewers.
  • Be Personal — For the streamed content, NBC replaced broadcast-TV commercials with targeted ads using data points such as device, type, audience behaviors, Nielsen segments, and even psychographic data to give audiences more relevant ads.
  • Be Connected — During his Summit session, Black discussed how people’s consumption patterns for sports are completely changing. NBC supported ten consumer platforms — including connected TVs for the first time via devices such as Rokus, Amazon Fire Sticks, Apple TVs, and Samsung virtual-reality platforms. They could achieve this by having one authoring interface that deployed content to multiple devices and a system that continually monitored performance from the cloud to the device.
  • Be Integrated — NBC used a unified data foundation to ensure one view of each viewer — no matter which device he or she was using — powering dynamic-ad serving, analytics, and performance monitoring. Unified data metrics can also unite your company across organizational silos, so everyone is shooting for the same goals and key performance indicators (KPIs).

While delivering an event of this scale takes many systems and partners, Black’s Summit session contained one overriding piece of advice: build a unified, flexible digital marketing foundation that allows your content to shine. Most businesses spend massive resources and time cobbling together different digital marketing tools instead of running campaigns or generating revenue. With an integrated digital foundation, companies reduce time to production, support multiple platforms, and can monitor and analyze integrated data to see a holistic view of their audiences. The technology should unleash your content — not stand in its way.

Adobe just published a guide — “Content Unleashed: A Digital Foundation for Media and Entertainment” — that outlines the concrete steps for building a flexible, robust digital foundation in media and entertainment, just as NBC did. The publication implores you to build the right base so your data, KPIs, and internal teams are integrated, aligned, and ready for the next profitable event. You may not have 100 million viewers, but you can still be prepared for your own version of the Olympics.

The post How NBC Sports Delivered the Most Watched Digital Event in History appeared first on Digital Marketing Blog by Adobe.

Five Ways to Make Sure Your Distributors Love You — The Benefits of Brand Portals in Manufacturer-Distributor Relationships

Marketing Cloud

You may love one, both, or even neither; but, most of us can agree that cats and dogs are fundamentally different. A dog is usually loving and loyal by default, while many cats reserve their loyalties and attentions for those who earn them.

Distributors today are like cats, not dogs. You don’t believe they give you the business they should; they spend much of their time requesting help and information (with few results); and you suspect your rivals are the ones who receive the real attention.

Maybe the problem, though, is that you’re not taking the first step toward doing something important for them — something that will earn their love and attention.

When selling the products that you manufacture, your distributors need real-time product information and better sales support to do the best job possible. This is where you — the manufacturer — can step in to provide digital solutions that will help your distributors boost their sales, marketing effectiveness, and operational efficiencies.

A personalized brand portal is a web-based system that combines digital catalogs, support for critical marketing and sales processes, and enhanced user experiences to deliver compelling benefits that your distributors might just find irresistible.

Five Benefits of Providing Distributors With Personalized Brand Portals
Following are five big benefits you deliver to distributors when you provide them with a personalized brand portal.

1. Save Your Distributors Time.
Distributors are in the information business. Sure, they are paid for selling your products, but they depend on having access to the right information, including pricing and availability. Distributors can no longer trust paper catalogs, which are out of date as soon as they are printed. Providing them with the information they need — and doing it fast enough to beat your competitors — is a huge challenge.

Online sources are better, but even they often have problems. Information may still be out of date, if it is not tied to product databases. A distributor may not be able to see all the specific prices and product availabilities for each of its (often varying) territories, especially when it comes to special deals, sales spiffs, geographic limitations on product sales, and regional inventories.

If you can’t send real-time information to your distributors, they won’t be able to afford to make you a priority. However, a brand portal can help you address all these issues. A personalized brand portal allows your distributors’ staff members to see not only the products that you’ve authorized for them; but also, accurate, up-to-date pricing and all the relevant content that can help them close sales. Further, pairing that portal with digital asset management (DAM) will enable you to automatically update product information as soon as it becomes available — resulting in significantly fewer missed opportunities and reduced chances for costly mistakes.

2. Boost Your Distributors’ Operational Efficiencies.
As is the case with most people, distributors want to make as much money as possible. In addition to working within the constraints of tight margins, they must always be fully aware of everything that threatens to delay closing on sales — including any time that must be spent, either on the phone or via email, communicating with other employees from your company to gain information, learn about relevant items to cross-sell, or obtain pricing for requests for approval (RFPs). Having to cross-reference printed and online manuals and confirm products, prices, and availabilities leaves your distributors watching their money circle the drain.

When everything is available through a single brand portal, business is easier. Searching the portal provides firm, up-to-date answers; marketing tools help address special needs; and unifying the two means that distributors can get back to making more money much more quickly than ever before — thanks to you.

3. Drive Your Distributors’ Revenues.
From distributors’ perspectives, sales involve much more than just taking and filling orders. Oftentimes, they need to price out deals, create detailed proposals, respond to requests for quotes (RFQs), and analyze statements of work.

By integrating vital tools and processes into a single, all-inclusive company and product database, a brand portal allows your distributors to boost productivity. Instead of requiring distributors to not only flip and surf through both print and online catalogs to find all the necessary components to complete orders, but also then accurately transfer that information into sales documents, consider helping them out. Simplify and accelerate the sales process, as well as lower the risks of errors, by providing:

  • Relevant product recommendations based on distributors’ searches;
  • Convenient methods for downloading essential information into usable formats; and
  • An application program interface (API), which will enable distributors to tie your information seamlessly into their own enterprise systems for further efficiency.

Distributors may prefer for some customers to have direct access to brand portals, letting them implement a sort of self-service option and attract customers to their sites for research prior to contacting distributors to place orders. In fact, brand portals may also integrate e-commerce systems to fully automate routine sales.

4. Help Your Distributors Cultivate Great Customer Relationships.
As much as you want repeat business from your distributors, they want the same from their customers — and that involves continuing relationships long after the initial sales. Brand portals can help distributors in this area as well. To help address common issues, questions, and complaints, brand portals may include:

  • Frequently asked questions (FAQs);
  • Video tutorials;
  • Product manuals;
  • Technical support information;
  • Online warranty-claim filing;
  • Rebate processing; and
  • An area where customers can read and/or provide feedback and suggestions.

Providing post-sales support can also work to generate future sales and, thereby, increase revenue. Automatic replenishment, upgrade qualification, timed notifications for future add-on sales, maintenance scheduling, recall notifications, service options, and product training are just a few examples of ways you can help drive more value for your distributors and expand sales opportunities. Take some of the pressure off your distributors by offering these helpful tools.

5. Pump Up the Branding, Reach, and Reputations of Your Distributors.
Ultimately, because distributors sell the same third-party products their competitors have, they will need to focus on promoting their own brands. Everything you do for distributors should help them. Custom brand portals — containing more than just generic information anyone can find online — show your interest in distributors and help them project credibility and importance to their customers. This is particularly important when distributors’ customers can access portals directly; relationships with customers should remain with distributors.

When you use DAM to populate brand portals with accurate information, you can support your distributors’ brands with syndicated content. By feeding custom content that addresses any specifics of distributors’ businesses — such as local language, territory-appropriate pricing, product variations, regulatory requirements, and appropriate contact names and information — you give distributors the tools they need both to market and close sales successfully. Content can either be branded for your company or co-branded with distributors (depending on the particular relationship and that distributor’s needs).

DAM also enables you to deliver all materials in the file formats and sizes necessary to produce the best experiences possible — whether on a computer, a smartphone, or a tablet. At any time and from any location, distributors’ employees and customers receive relevant and optimized experiences. You also help distributors ensure their staff members only use authorized versions of materials, further reinforcing customer relationships and branding.

Here’s What You Stand to Gain in Return.
Everything you do for your distributors benefits you as well — your relationships deepen, and you gain more of their business, as turning to you continues to become more convenient and cost-effective. Greater efficiency in working with distributors translates into lower costs of doing business and higher margins for you. Automated information helps drive add-ons, opportunities for cross-selling, and potentially broader product sets (because they’re more visible to distributors), as you and your distributors expand the market and revenue.

Another key benefit is the usage data you’ll be able to gather. You’ll learn more about how your distributors work — where their interests (and those of their customers) lie — and be able to use that information to continually optimize distribution and sales. Best of all, it’s a win-win arrangement. Both you and your distributors are more successful — and with happier customers to boot!

Learn more about how to build a personalized brand portal and leverage its many benefits for you and your distributors.

The post Five Ways to Make Sure Your Distributors Love You — The Benefits of Brand Portals in Manufacturer-Distributor Relationships appeared first on Digital Marketing Blog by Adobe.