Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Can't wait for NRF's BIG Show 2014!

A retail show celebrating its 103rd edition by itself makes it an interesting show to attend. And when it has pretty much every who's-who in the world of retail is present, the crossroads can be interesting.

I kept a close watch on BIG Show 2013, I had written a short post last year on my TalkingTails blog about the themes that dominated conversations at NRF 2013. Among the key themes of interest were Omni-Channel Retailing, Personalization and how retailers are tackling showrooming. For details, I would recommend checking out Retail TouchPoints's coverage of NRF Big Show 2013.

According to me, the dominant themes this time will be very similar - and of course, very centred around using Technology well. The sessions along with the EXPO are things that I am getting geared up for. We've taken a booth space at Big Show 14, so I am going to be on the floor with the rest of Capillary Technologies' team. Come visit us in the Sponsor Area!

Was happy to download the BIG Show 2014 App to help navigate and keep track of everything that's going on! Let me leave you with a short video that captures the show in a nutshell:

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The case for the Chief Customer Officer: 3 reasons why

The debate for the need of a Chief Customer Officer has been around for a while now. While some organizations have such a position in place, there is very little published evidence on how these roles tie into the larger organization. There are 3 clear reasons why such a position becomes a necessity:

  1. - Firstly, the CMO and CIO are at loggerheads, and need to talk more often. Marketing has been increasingly investing heavily in technology. Gartner made a prediction last year that CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs by 2017. Industry Gurus have time and again stated that Marketing and IT have no choice but to get on the same page.While that is definitely the ideal scenario, it is harder to achieve in an organizational setup, simply because of the way the 2 KPIs are structured. While "Marketing" owns the brand and business growth, "IT" handles the task of keeping the business running optimally, and keeping costs low. The Chief Customer Officer, in many organizations, has begun to drive the "Customer" mandate and fill the gaps that often overlap these two functions.
  2. - Second, Marketing needs to reduce operational dependency on IT - for everything from the mundane to the extraordinary. In my conversations with retail marketers, I often get the sense that sometimes even basic reporting requirements from marketing can be in a "queue" of requests for IT/Systems, and that slows down analytics efforts. In an age marked by the cloud and big data analytics (and therefore super-fast response time to changing market trends), I am not sure if too many marketers will be willing to deal with this.
  3. - Third, there is a need for ONE function to be dedicated to the Customer.  The Marketing function has traditionally owned the "brand", "marketing communication" (PR, Media Relations, etc.) and "campaigns and offers". While they are busy fulfilling these higher-level mandates at an organziational level, the voice of the customer (if at all there was one in Retail, a la B2B companies) gets missed out. There is a need for ONE position that is customer-centric, "listens" to customer and keeps an eye on Customer Engagement, across channels - Social, Mobile, Web, Store. And also across functions - Sales, Marketing and Customer Service. A consistent customer experience is half the battle-won!

The on-going "digital transformation of Marketing" is a customer-centric phenomenon, marked by concepts like Personalization, Targeting, Micro-Segmentation and 1:1 Marketing. Customer-centric organizations from sectors across Retail, Airline companies and banks are beginning to realize the importance. With Social, Local and Mobile dominating this transformation, "be where your customer is" seems to be the Mantra.

This obviates the need for a Chief Customer Officer who can straddle both the boats of Marketing and Technology with ease, and most importantly, is empathetic to the customer, understands her pain points and turn them into opportunities, through data and data-driven engagement.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Marketing to Technology: Will you marry me?

As Marketers get deeper into exploring the role that "Digital" can play in their marketing mix, their dependance on "IT" becomes abundantly clear. To put it simply, I would like to quote from Chief Marketing Technologist Blog, which states the Reason D'Etre - Why the blog exists:
"Marketing has become a technology-powered discipline, and therefore marketing organizations must infuse technical capabilities into their DNA."
My previous role (in high-end luxury consumer marketing) had a typically large buying cycle and needed effective lead management, much like the efforts seen only in B2B marketing companies. Coupled with Digital Marketing, that was becoming more a necessity than "hygiene", it was clear the future of Marketing was a movie, with "Technology" as the protagonist.

In the last 3 years, marketing technology ideas, concepts, and hence companies operating in the space have seen quite a thrust. The "biggies" (Microsoft, Google, Oracle, IBM and (now!) Salesforce) have been investing considerably to grow a space what is now known as "Enterprise Marketing Management". The hottest news right now, of course, being Oracle's $1.5 billion acquisition of Responsys, a specialist in cross-channel marketing automation.

How the space continues to grow, and evolve, will be interesting to see. In fact, one interesting note here is, while B2B marketers have often thought about the lessons they can learn form their B2C marketing counterparts, it is now interesting to see B2C marketers learn the ropes of technology-enabled marketing (a.k.a. Marketing Automation) from their younger cousins.

How has your organization used digital technology in Marketing effectively?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Forrester Research Twitter Chat: #ForrIdeas in the Age of the Customer!

I participated the #ForrIdeas Open Twitter chat yesterday by Forrester Research. The core idea was to discuss habits that CMOs and Marketing Leaders should adopt in the #AgeOfTheCustomer.

A couple of interesting points that Forrester opened with:

Forrester Research @forrester
While 92% of companies say that customer exp is a top priority, 45% do not have the budget they need to get the job done.

The is the change in consumer expectations that anyone can access info, on any device, at any time.
The obvious implication being that companies want to but are "still not sure". That seemed to be a sentiment echoed by quite a few of those who were actively participating.

Here are the 4 questions posed by Forrester Research:
  1. What has your company done to innovatively delight customers and become more customer-obsessed? #ForrIdeas
  2. How is your company creating more digitally relevant content? What’s the key to making content more engaging? #ForrIdeas
  3. How does your company put customer-obsessed analysis, answers, and action into practice? #ForrIdeas
  4. In the #AgeoftheCustomer, what challenges do you face around becoming more customer-obsessed? #ForrIdeas
My 2 favourite responses that evening were:
A4: the better the technology gets, the more differentiation will depend on human factors like leadership.

A4: Many CMOs rely on gut instinct and experience to make decisions. That needs to change ForrIdeas

Monday, December 2, 2013

3 challenges for Retailers attempting "Test" and "Control" Campaigns

Campaign Management with A/B Testing seems to be quite the norm for eCommerce companies of late. But is it as easy to achieve for Brick and Mortar Retailers too?

Increasingly, I can see retailers being attracted towards products/services that integrated their CRM and their Campaign Management platforms. Among the many products that make this easy for eCommerce are Responsys (for executing email marketing campaigns) and Optimizely (for Website Optimization). They have incorporated the A/B Testing into the very DNA of their product, and this therefore, transforms into the way their clients use their products.

While it is easy to have all of the systems integrated in the context of eCommerce or web-retailers, this becomes a lot more difficult to achieve for Brick and Mortar Retailers. And that is where an opportunity lies for open systems who can automate campaign management and feed results directly back into the CRM.

In some of my conversations with retailers, I have observed that the number #1 problem that retailers today face when executing campaigns is the movement of customer data from one platform to another. Let alone A/B Testing, even executing campaigns is sometimes "put off" by retailers because "moving customer data from here to there is not that easy and time-consuming!"

In my mind, there are 3 reasons why this is difficult to achieve for Brick and mortar Retailers:
  1. 1. Legacy Point-Of-Sale Systems: A lot of the POS systems that many of the retailers still use are built on legacy hardware/software and therefore make it difficult "capture" data from. Besides, these store terminals often don't "speak" to each other, so maintaining a Single View of the Customer becomes a challenge.
  2. 2. eCommerce as a separate channel: while getting data from eCommerce is fairly easy to filter into the Campaign management system, at every step, there is a need to "de-dup" the customer data form eCommerce with the data from Retail Stores. This problem is, of course, pronounced only for Omni-Channel retailers (present across BOTH Brick 'n Mortar and eCommerce channels), which most mid-sized to large retailers are today.
  3. 3. Open Systems with well-documented APIs: While there are a bunch of integrated CRM/Campaign Management offerings in the market, integrating with store systems remains a challenge, since POS systems might not be as "Open" as their eCommerce counterparts and therefore might not be very easy to integrate with.
It is for these reasons that I believe the "Culture of Testing" (as Andrew F. Chen of the GILT Group refers to it) and the truly successful omni-channel retailer of tomorrow will be one that manages to run integrated campaigns with real-time measurement and is able to use results of A/B Testing towards getting engaging more meaningfully their store customers as well!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Money2020 and Capillary Technologies at Launchpad360

Among the conferences that I have attended this year, one of them (and perhaps one that had some pretty awesome content) was the Money2020 Conference at Las Vegas this October.

The show was very well done and I liked the fact that people from industries as diverse as Retail, Banking, Telecom and Technology were there - to mingle and explore how each of their respective spaces is converging (or in some sense, inter-dependent) on the other. A confluence of commerce, if you will, in the digitally disrupted age. Which is a good thing, when compared to so many of the other "niche" or audience-focussed conferences that seem to be around everywhere. Having a "broad audience" like this one does lead to a lot of exchange of ideas.

I have actually written quite a detailed write-up about the whole Money2020 experience on my other blog - TalkingTails. So, I am going to link back to that post and leave you with a picture of Capillary's InStore product that we presented at Launchpad360, the innovation showcase event at Money2020!

I found LaunchPad 360 itself to be quite an innovation in itself. It is easy for smaller companies or start-ups like Capillary to get lost with the "biggies" talking about the BIG stuff and of course, spending a lot more for sponsorships and visibility. Launchpad360 offers literally 360 seconds of fame to innovative up-starts to come in and show a quick demo to the audience. We also had a little "Launchpad 360 kiosk" at the area just outside the main Expo hall.

Both pictures used in this post here are from the Money2020's archives.

Here are some more links for reference:

Friday, November 29, 2013

CRMC 2013 - Retail Marketing and CRM Conference, Chicago

The CRMC is probably one of the most relevant  conferences if you are a retail or consumer CRM focused company, or a vendor providing other services in the space. Being a conference with a very niche subject area (unlike broader conferences on Retail/Consumer Marketing or Digital Marketing in general), the audience is very relevant and "targeted!" ;)

CRMC 2013 was held at The Hilton, Chicago and kudos to Devon Wylie and team for having created a perfectly programmed event with true, good content. With content coming in from virtually the who's who of Retail CRM, Loyalty and Analytics, there was much to learn and take home.

I particularly liked something Brian Solis (@briansolis), of the Altimeter Group, said in his talk around Digital Anthropology. He said Gen-C or "Generation Connected" is so used to devices that they find it hard to imagine how life would be without it. His daughter for instance, thinks a regular print magazine is an "iPad that does not work!"

Among other sessions there were some very interesting sessions from dunnhumby, a leader in analytics-driven customer engagement, and Epsilon, who had some interesting nuggets of information they shared from their work for Orvis and Chicos. I attended a couple of working sessions on TIBCO Loyalty/Loyalty Lab that I found quite informative. And of course, my favourite among the Retailer Presentations was the "IKEA Family" Loyalty Program. It brought forth how the Brand and the Loyalty Program aer virtually inseparable in today's digital environment.

Overall, great show, fantastic content, interesting conversations and an audience that most retail-focused companies will like! :)

I am sure the next version of the show in 2014 is going to be bigger and better. And of course, I will remain all-ears on some good content from them!

For more information on CRMC 2014, check out:
CRMC Website: www.thecrmc.com
Twitter: @CRMCRetail

Monday, November 25, 2013

RetailTech and more at Decoded Fashion, NYC

I was incidentally at New York during the last Decoded Fashion Meetup Event, so I decided to drop-in and check it out. And was mighty impressed. Good work Liz and team!

Decoded Fashion, in their own words, "..creates events and curated discussions that accelerate innovation at the intersection of fashion and retail."

True to its name, the event had a compact, and power-packed agenda of short, quick talks by people, sharing their experiences and innovations. It was hosted at the Midtown Manhattan headquarters of the GILT Group and was attended by 100 people, which is normally the capacity for such meetups.
The roster of speakers for the evening included founders of tech-startups, creating disruptions in the Fashion-Tech area.

Here is a file picture of the event, from the DecodedFashion Meetup Archives:

One of the interesting concepts I found was that of Stylitics, which aggregates user-created data to generate insights for retailers. Basically, consumers download an app and share/tag their purchases on the platform. They are creating a digital wardrobe for themselves, but in essence what they are also doing, is proving a huge bunch of data for cross-retailer understanding on products and categories that complement each other (and coexist in) inside each of our unique wardrobes.

The other thing I distinctly remember is Optimizely was pretty much mentioned in almost every other presentation as being the "go-to" people for a whole range of things. I even remember tweeting about this from the event, and was promptly RT-ed by the folks at Optimizely!

All in all, the event was fun, engagement and informative. Pretty much what I would want from an evening like that. Will definitely attend another DecodedFashion event if I can and if the agenda looks interesting!