Guest Blogger

Steve Martin, Vice President and Managing Director of Consulting and Analytics, Europe at Acxiom

The business focus on customer experience has significantly increased and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, a recent Gartner report[1] found that two thirds of marketers consider that they now compete and differentiate mainly on customer experience alone. In two years’ time, the report predicts that this number will rise to over eighty percent of businesses.  It’s no surprise that brands are looking to provide consumers with personalised experiences, both online and offline to meet customers’ evolving expectations. People no longer measure brand relationships based solely on their experience with a product, but on a much wider basis including the quality of interactions across every touch point.

This drive for a unified and consistent customer experience needs to be reflected in the marketing strategy, making sure each customer is being looked after regardless of the type of communication channel used. It is the Chief Customer Officer that will be driving this change at board level and this marks a change to the business structure.

Few in customer experience would claim that the road to becoming truly integrated is a smooth one. The growth in appointments of CCOs therefore go a long way to ensure that the customer is front and centre in board decision making and to acknowledge the value of customer experience with senior management. Still, despite this increased focus, the Garter report discovered a critical lack of ownership and authority within organisational structures[2]. For example, marketing had the greatest overall responsibilities for CX delivery within an organisation, but other departments were still regularly getting involved in their activation. This risks a confused blurring of lines when it comes to customer ownership that inhibits the ability to present a united and consistent front to the customers themselves.

It’s good to create customer ownership at the board level but there remain challenges with integrating different elements of marketing activity, as digital and CRM have traditionally existed in silos. When you combine your CRM and digital data, you have a truer picture of the customer – but traditionally, this information does not sit together within an organisation. This is why businesses placing their focus on connected, relevant one-to-one, often real-time interactions must remove these barriers between departments and technologies, encouraging a one customer, one data approach to both thinking and action.

Now, with GDPR, there is an even stronger case for a holistic approach and for organisational change. With compliance and ePrivacy hot on the agenda, businesses have further reason to take a unified approach to make compliance with regulations more realistic. There has been a great deal of work into enhancing the customer journey, but we are yet to see the full impact of this influence trickle down through company structures. Yes, there are challenges with integrating different elements of marketing, technology and customer facing activity but if businesses do not evolve their thinking when it comes to linking up digital and CRM, you have to expect an incomplete view of the customer, a lack of clear ownership and in turn, most likely a below par customer experience.  The lack of a unified approach clearly risks duplicated, wasted and irrelevant marketing, missed opportunities and disgruntled customers; if they stay customers.

Some organisations will face greater challenges than others. If you are a long-standing brand, you probably need to unpick a lot of history to make this work. Similarly, if you’ve evolved through the CRM and digital revolutions, it is likely you’ll have a lot of IT and systems to resolve; something that’s not at all easy as the volume, variety and velocity of customer data continues to rise, as does the growth in shiny new technologies.

Two things can help any Chief Customer Officer, Chief Marketing Officer or Chief Technology Officer. The first is being oriented to and guided by Data Ethics. Today, your customers are 1s and 0s and the 1s and 0s are your customers. It is the only way to engage customers at scale and across the wide range of channels and devices they use. As we strive to use data to deliver a better customer experience while being transparent about how we do that, a belief in the ethical use of data helps all users of data treat it so that it is not only compliant with the law but is used in the balanced interests of the customer.

The second is to unify at the data layer. It is very necessary to connect technology and software to provide that unified customer experience, but that is not the end in mind. The end in mind has to be to serve the customer. As explained, the data is the customer so, the focus has to be on what data needs to come together across what technologies. This unification across whatever systems, legacy or new has to be at the heart of any customer and marketing strategy that aims to deliver a connected customer experience.

One data. One marketing – is what the customer expects.

[1] 2017 Gartner Customer Experience in Marketing Survey


Steve Martin is Vice President and Managing Director of Consulting and Analytics, Europe, Acxiom. He is responsible for enhancing and expanding Acxiom’s consulting and analytics offering across Europe and driving business growth within the region, as well as helping develop and enhance Acxiom’s global position as a strategic business partner and leading provider of data and analytics solutions.

Steve joined Acxiom after spending five years as VP of Analytics, Strategy and Innovation at AIMIA heading up their EMEA Analytics function, working with clients such as Sainsbury’s, eBay, Homebase, Expedia and British Gas.  He led a team of 120 Analysts in delivering loyalty programme analytics, SKU level retail analytics and marketing analytics. Steve has over a decade of experience in advising clients in data driven performance improvement across both the public and private sectors.

Steve is currently working on linking together online advertising to offline transaction data to help understand what the impact of one is on the other. There is a really dangerous tendency with the “digital world” to come up with questions and methodologies that only consider the digital ecosystem. The reality is that whilst this is the fastest growing area, it isn’t the place where the vast majority of consumers and business spend all their time and money so, we have to find ways to join the two. We are also working on making market research much more actionable. He believes that this is an area ripe for revolution – there is so much customer insight created by market research and the reality is that much of it either ends up on the shelf or gets very diluted. As a result, Acxiom is creating direct links between research and what a customer actually experiences. His immediate focus is in helping to bring interesting data assets into the marketplace – getting them out of the silos and into a place where they can add value.

He has run some of the biggest analytics teams in the country which include AIMIA which employ over 100 analysts / data scientists and has worked across multiple industries with blue chip clients such as Sainsbury’s, ebay, American Express, British Gas, BP, Virgin, Heathrow, Rakuten.

Steve has a BA in Economics and Management from Cambridge University and completed a Leadership and Management programme at Harvard Business School.

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