DMA14 - The Evolution of Engagement: New Media and the Changing Face of Interactive Marketing
At DMA 2014 in San Diego, Gary Laben brought Air Canada and Shell to the Tuesday morning keynote to talk about how they're igniting engagement with their customers using today's technology. For the following article, which appeared in the DMA 2014 Official Magazine and Insider's Guide, we spoke with Laben and his co-presenters before the show about how they build that connection, and why it pays off for their businesses.
Consumers are demanding more immediacy from brands as advances in technology and social media increasingly shape how they want to interact with just about everyone and everything in their lives.
"The challenge of today is for companies to adopt the ways that consumers are now engaging with brands as a result of the proliferation of technology that drives everything for consumers—their ability to socialize and network, to shop, to essentially conduct their entire lives," says Gary Laben, chief executive officer of Richardson, Texas-based KBM Group and president of Wunderman Data and Insights. "In the process, consumers are increasingly engaging with brands, and now, consumers have us on the run."
Laben and top executives from Shell and Air Canada will discuss how brands can use data-driven insights to develop better relationships with customers through an "orchestrated series of interactions" across channels, at DMA2014's Monday morning keynote, "The Evolution of Engagement: The Modern Reality of One-to-One."
Today, engagement is really all about creating a meaningful and sustained experience that, in turn, creates value for the consumer, Laben says. This concept is also being embraced by brands that may not always have direct relationships with customers, because they sell their goods through retailers. Smart marketers are now analyzing just what attracts consumers to them, so they can better develop relationships with the consumers themselves.
"Experiences can't just be about selling products or services, but more about creating the relationship and the engagement," says Laben. "The best way we know how to do that is by using data and insights that exist in our collective ecosystems to help drive that personalized, meaningful experience."
Brands like Shell and Air Canada "create those ecosystems and inject them with data insight so they can meet the consumers on their own terms," he says.
Shell Goes 'Glocal'
Shell's retail business—which sells gas, as well as food, beverages, and other retail goods in more than 43,000 locations in more than 70 countries—is aiming to have a single view of its customers' purchases of both fuel and retail products, says Francois Orhan, head of global CRM at the London-based oil company. To accomplish this, the company is pushing a "Glocal" concept, which blends global capabilities with local approaches.
"We want global economies of scale, best practices, simplicity, common architecture, and cost effectiveness, but also local flexibility and reactivity in a way that allows local implementation to meet local challenges," Orhan says. "This is applicable to everything we do, including CRM, loyalty, direct marketing, digital, insight, and analytics."
In its quest to become "the best fuel retailer in the world," Shell's retail division is applying these concepts to develop "great relationships" with its customers, much like Shell's other business lines in the energy sector are doing with their respective customers. Orhan calls this "a massive transformation journey," in which Shell is developing the organizational architecture, capabilities, and processes to create valuable relationships across the enterprise.
While Shell Retail continues to engage customers through direct mail, email, and text messaging, the division is also exploring how to best leverage mobile technology, particularly in innovative applications within "connected cars," Orhan says. Such cars are connected to the Internet, mobile apps, and other technologies, which enable the vehicles to "talk to multiple systems." Shell is aiming to "talk" to these cars and ultimately to the drivers at "the moment of truth"—the moment when they decide to stop for fuel or other goods at Shell, or another gas station—so the company can influence them with appropriate messaging.
"The energy level within the company is currently really high as we get ready for the big changes that customer mobile usage is going to bring, and this makes the focus on data, IT, capabilities, and site systems more important than ever," Orhan says. "The key question for Shell Retail is going to be about the integration of this new channel within the CRM architecture and ecosystem that we have built, as well as the way we are going to engage with our customers via this new channel."
The Air Canada Journey
Ian Di Tullio, director of loyalty marketing at Montreal's Air Canada airlines, sees customer engagement as "a journey" that starts when someone "aspires to travel and ends when one gets home, winds down, and maybe writes about their trip experience on Facebook or Blogger."
Capitalizing on this journey requires thoughtful planning and robust data, Di Tullio says. Given the slim profit margins of the airline industry, Air Canada has been "behind the times" in this endeavor, but is now playing catch-up by aggressively investing in organizing its data and customer interaction capabilities.
"It's all about engineering the right customer experience using data as an enabler of customer interactions—digital, social, or face-to-face," he says. "It's a constant learning process as we not only better understand our customers, but also better understand the enterprise applications of a customer- and data-centric strategy."
The airline is using price and promotional sensitivity models to determine appropriate promotional incentives, as well as competitive vulnerability and attrition scores in order to better re-engage "at-risk customers."
Air Canada is also segmenting its customers to gain insight into not only what affects experience—priority check-in at the airport, loyalty program status, business class upgrades, onboard personalization—but also to determine what type of new loyalty products it should be developing.
Designing both short-term and long-term experiences using these methods "is how we are planning to continue differentiating our brand and strengthening our customer relationships for long-term sustained profitability," Di Tullio says.
Note: Laben, Di Tullio and Orhan will be speaking at DMA14 in San Diego, be sure to go see them if you're attending the conference.