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Preview: Customer Experience Matrix

Customer Experience Matrix



This is the blog of David M. Raab, marketing technology consultant and analyst. Mr. Raab is Principal at Raab Associates Inc. The blog is named for the Customer Experience Matrix, a tool to visualize marketing and operational interactions between a comp



Updated: 2017-09-19T06:56:21.459-04:00

 



Vizury Combines Web Page Personalization with a Customer Data Platform

2017-09-16T11:13:32.295-04:00

One of the fascinating things about tracking Customer Data Platforms is the great variety among the vendors. It’s true that variety causes confusion for buyers. The CDP Institute is working to ease that pain, most recently with a blog discussion you’re welcome to join here.  But for me personally, it’s been endlessly intriguing to trace the paths that vendors have followed to become CDPs and learn where they plan to go next.Take Vizury, a Bangalore-based company that started eight years ago as an retargeting ad bidding platform. That grew into a successful business with more than 200 employees, 400 clients in 40 countries, and $30 million in funding. As it developed, the company expanded its product and, in 2015, released its current flagship, Vizury Engage, an omnichannel personalization system sold primarily to banks and insurance companies. Engage now has more than a dozen enterprise clients in Asia, expects to double that roster in the next six months, and is testing the waters in the U.S. As often happens, Vizury’s configuration reflects its origins. In their case, the most obvious impact is on the scope of the system, which includes sophisticated Web page personalization – something very rare in the CDP world at large. In a typical implementation, Vizury builds the client’s Web site home page.  That gives it complete control of how each visitor is handled. The system doesn't take over the rest of the client's Web site, although it can inject personalized messages on those pages through embedded tags.In both situations, Vizury is identifying known visitors by reading a hashed (i.e., disguised) customer ID it has placed on the visitor’s browser cookie. When a visitor enters the site, a Vizury tag sends the hased ID to the Vizury server, which looks up the customer, retrieves a personalized message, and sends it back to the browser.  The messages are built by templates which can include variables such as first name and calculated values such as a credit limit.  Customer-specific versions may be pregenerated to speed response; these are updated as new data is received about each customer. It takes ten to fifteen seconds for new information to make its way through the system and be reflected in output seen by the visitor.Message templates are embedded in what Vizury calls an engagement, which is associated with a segment definition and can include versions of the same message for different channels. One intriguing strength of Vizury is machine-learning-based propensity models that determine each customer’s preferred channel. This lets Vizury send outbound messages through the customer’s preferred channel when there’s a choice. Outbound options include email, SMS, Facebook ads, and programmatic display ads. These can be sent on a fixed schedule or be triggered when the customer enters or leaves a segment. Bids for Facebook and display ads can be managed by Vizury’s own bidding engine, another vestige of its origins. Inbound options include on-site and browser push messages.If a Web visitor is eligible for multiple messages, Vizury currently just picks one at random. The vendor is working an automated optimization system that will pick the best message for each customer instead. There’s no way to embed a sequence of different messages within a given engagement, although segment definitions could push customers from one engagement to the next. Users do have the ability to specify how often a customer will be sent the same message, block messages the customer has already responded to, and limit how many total messages a customer receives during a time period.What makes Vizury a CDP is that it builds and exposes a unified, persistent customer database. This collects data through Vizury's own page tags, API, and mobile SDK; external tag managers; and batch file loads.  Data is unified with deterministic methods including stitching of multiple identifiers provided by customers and of multiple applications on the same device. The system can do probabil[...]



B2B Marketers Are Buying Customer Data Platforms. Here's Why.

2017-09-10T10:22:13.093-04:00

I’m currently drafting a paper on use of Customer Data Platforms by B2B SaaS marketers.  The topic is more intriguing than it sounds because it raises the dual questions of  why CDPs haven’t previously been used much by B2B SaaS companies and what's changed.  To build some suspense, let’s first review who else has been buying CDPs.We can skip over the first 3.8 billion years of life on earth, when the answer is no one. When true CDPs first emerged from the primordial ooze, their buyers were concentrated among B2C retailers. That’s not surprising, since retailers have always been among the data-driven marketers. They’re the R in BRAT (Banks, Retailers, Airlines, Telcos), the mnemonic I’ve long used to describe the core data-driven industries*. What's more surprising is that the B's, A's, and T's weren't also early CDP users.  I think the reason is that banks, airlines, and telcos all capture their customers’ names as part of their normal operations. This means they’ve always had customer data available and thus been able to build extensive customer databases without a CDP.By contrast, offline retailers must work hard to get customer names and tie them to transactions, using indirect tools such as credit cards and loyalty programs. This means their customer data management has been less mature and more fragmented. (Online retailers do capture customer names and transactions operationally.  And, while I don’t have firm data, my impression is that online-only retailers have been slower to buy CDPs than their multi-channel cousins. If so, they're the exception that proves the rule.)Over the past year or two, as CDPs have moved beyond the early adopter stage, more BATs have in fact started to buy CDPs.  As a further sign of industry maturity, we’re now starting to see CDPs that specialize in those industries. Emergence of such vertical systems is normal: it happens when demand grows in new segments because the basic concepts of a category are widely understand.  Specialization gives new entrants as a way to sell successfully against established leaders.  Sure enough, we're also seeing new CDPs with other types of specialties, such as products from regional markets (France, India, and Australia have each produced several) and for small and mid-size organizations (not happening much so far, but there are hints).And, of course, the CDP industry has always been characterized by an unusually broad range of product configurations, from systems that only build the central database to systems that provide a database, analytics, and message selection; that's another type of specialization.  I recently proposed a way to classify CDPs by function on the CDP Institute blog.**  B2B is another vertical. B2B marketers have definitely been slow to pick up on CDPs, which may seem surprising given their frenzied adoption of other martech. I’d again explain this in part by the state of the existing customer data: the more advanced B2B marketers (who are the most likely CDP buyers) nearly all have a marketing automation system in place. The marketers' initial assumption would be that marketing automation can assemble a unified customer database, making them uninterested in exploring a separate CDP.  Eventually they'd discover that nearly all B2B marketing automation systems are very limited in their data management capabilities.  That’s happening now in many cases – and, sure enough, we’re now seeing more interest among B2B marketers in CDPs.But there's another reason B2B marketers have been uncharacteristically slow adopters when it comes to CDPs.  B2B marketers have traditionally focused on acquiring new leads, leaving the rest of the customer life cycle to sales, account, and customer success teams.  So B2B marketers didn't need the rich customer profiles that a CDP creates.  Meanwhile, the sales, account and customer success teams generally worked with individual and account records stored in a CRM[...]



AgilOne Adds New Flexibility to An Already-Powerful Customer Data Platform

2017-08-31T13:04:02.366-04:00


It’s more than four years since my original review of AgilOne, a pioneering Customer Data Platform. As you might imagine, the system has evolved quite a bit since then. In fact, the core data management portions have been entirely rebuilt, replacing the original fixed data model with a fully configurable model that lets the system easily adapt to each customer.

The new version uses a bouquet of colorfully-named big data technologies (Kafka, Parquet, Impala, Spark, Elastic Search, etc.) to support streaming inputs, machine learning, real time queries, ad hoc analytics, SQL access, and other things that don’t come naturally to Hadoop. It also runs on distributed processors that allow fast scaling to meet peak demands. That’s especially important to AgilOne since most of its clients are retailers whose business can spike sharply on days like Black Friday.

In other ways, though, AgilOne is still similar to the system I reviewed in 2013. It still provides sophisticated data quality, postal processing, and name/address matching, which are often missing in CDPs designed primarily for online data. It still has more than 300 predefined attributes for specialized analytics and processing, although the system can function without them. It still includes predictive models and provides a powerful query builder to create audience segments. Campaigns are still designed to deliver one message, such as an email, although users could define campaigns with related audiences to deliver a sequence of messages. There’s still a “Customer360” screen to display detailed information about individual customers, including full interaction history.

But there’s plenty new as well. There are more connectors to data sources, a new interface to let users add custom fields and calculations for themselves, and workflow diagrams to manage data processing flows. Personalization has been enhanced and the system exposes message-related data elements including product recommendations and the last products browsed, purchased, and abandoned. AgilOne now supports Web, mobile, and social channels and offers more options for email delivery. A/b tests have been added while analytics and reporting have been enhanced.

What should be clear is that AgilOne has an exceptionally broad (and deep) set of features. This puts it at one end of the spectrum of Customer Data Platforms. At the other end are CDPs that build a unified, sharable customer database and do nothing else. In between are CDPs that offer some subset of what AgilOne offers: advanced identity management, offline data support, predictive analytics, segmentation, multi-channel campaigns, real time interactions, advanced analytics, and high scalability. This variety is good for buyers, since it means there’s a better chance they can find a system that matches their needs. But it’s also confusing, especially for buyers who are just learning about CDPs and don’t realize how much they can differ. That confusion is something we’re worrying about a lot at the CDP Institute right now. If you have ideas for how to deal with it, let me know.(image)



Self-Driving Marketing Campaigns: Possible But Not Easy

2017-08-25T20:18:54.133-04:00

A recent Forrester study found that most marketers expect artificial intelligence to take over the more routine parts of their jobs, allowing them to focus on creative and strategic work.That’s been my attitude as well. More precisely, I see AI enabling marketers to provide the highly tailored experiences that customers now demand. Without AI, it would be impossible to make the number of decisions necessary to do this. In short, complexity is the problem, AI is the solution, and we all get Friday afternoons off. Happy ending.But maybe it's not so simple. Here’s the thing: we all know that AI works because it can learn from data. That lets it make the best choice in each situation, taking into account many more factors than humans can build into conventional decision rules. We also all know that machines can automatically adjust their choices as they learn from new data, allowing them to continuously adapt to new situations.Anyone who's dug a bit deeper knows two more things:self-adjustment only works in circumstances similar to the initial training conditions. AI systems don’t know what to do when they’re faced with something totally unexpected. Smart developers build their systems to recognize such situations, alert human supervisors, and fail gracefully by taking an action that is likely to be safe. (This isn’t as easy as it sounds: a self-driving car shouldn’t stop in the middle of an intersection when it gets confused.)AI systems of today and the near future are specialists. Each is trained to do a specific task like play chess, look for cancer in an X-ray, or bid on display ads. This means that something like a marketing campaign, which involves many specialized tasks, will require cooperation of many AIs. That’s not new: most marketing work today is done by human specialists, who also need to cooperate. But while cooperation comes naturally to (most) humans, it needs to be purposely added as a skill to an AI.*By itself, this more nuanced picture isn’t especially problematic. Yes, marketers will need multiple AIs and those AIs will need to cooperate. Maintaining that cooperation will be work but presumably can itself eventually be managed by yet another specialized AI. But let’s put that picture in a larger context.The dominant feature of today’s business environment is accelerating change. AI itself is part of that change but there are other forces at play: notably, the “personal network effect” that drives companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon to hoard increasing amounts of data about individual consumers. These forces will impose radical change on marketers’ relations with customers. And radical change is exactly what the marketers’ AI systems will be unable to handle. So now we have a problem. It’s easy – and fun – to envision a complex collection of AI-driven components collaborating to create fully automated, perfectly personalized customer experiences. But that system will be prone to frequent failures as one or another component finds itself facing conditions it wasn’t trained to handle. If the systems are well designed (and we’re lucky), the components will shut themselves down when that happens. If we’re not so lucky, they’ll keep running and return increasingly inappropriate results. Yikes.Where do we go from here? One conclusion would be that there’s a practical limit to how much of the marketing process can really be taken over by AI. Some people might find that comforting, at least for job security. Others would be sad.A more positive conclusion is it’s still possible to build a completely AI-driven marketing process but it’s going to be harder than we thought. We’ll need to add a few more chores to the project plan:build a coordination framework. We need to teach the different components to talk to each other, preferably in a language that humans can understand. They'll have to share information about what they’re doing and about[...]



Treasure Data Offers An Easy-to-Deploy Customer Data Platform

2017-08-20T17:42:56.637-04:00

One of my favorite objections from potential buyers of Customer Data Platforms is that CDPs are simply “too good to be true”.   It’s a reasonable response from people who hear CDP vendors say they can quickly build a unified customer database but have seen many similar-seeming projects fail in the past.  I like the objection because I can so easily refute it by pointing to real-world case histories where CDPs have actually delivered on their promise.One of the vendors I have in mind when I’m referring to those histories is Treasure Data. They’ve posted several case studies on the CDP Institute Library, including one where data was available within one month and another where it was ready in two hours.  Your mileage may vary, of course, but these cases illustrate the core CDP advantage of using preassembled components to ingest, organize, access, and analyze data. Without that preassembly, accessing just one source can take days, weeks, or even months to complete.Even in the context of other CDP systems, Treasure Data stands out for its ability to connect with massive data sources quickly. The key is a proprietary data format that lets access new data sources with little explicit mapping: in slightly more technical terms, Treasure Data uses a columnar data structure where new attributes automatically appear as new columns. It also helps that the system runs on Amazon S3, so little time is spent setting up new clients or adding resources as existing clients grow. Treasure Data ingests data using open source connectors Fluentd for streaming inputs and embulk  for batch transfers. It provides deterministic and probabilistic identity matching, integrated machine learning, always-on encryption, and precise control over which users can access which pieces of data. One caveat is there’s no user interface to manage this sort of processing: users basically write scripts and query statements. Treasure Data is working on a user interface to make this easier and to support complex workflows.Data loaded into Treasure Data can be accessed through an integrated reporting tool and an interface that shows the set of events associated with a customer.  But most users will rely on prebuilt connectors for Python, R, Tableau, and Power BI.  Other SQL access is available using Hive, Presto and ODBC. While there’s no user interface for creating audiences, Treasure Data does provide the functions needed to assign customers to segments and then push those segments to email, Facebook, or Google. It also has an API that lets external systems retrieve the list of all segments associated with a single customer.   Treasure Data clearly isn’t an all-in-one solution for customer data management.  But organizations with the necessary technical skills and systems can find it hugely increases the productivity of their resources.  The company was founded in 2011 and now has over 250 clients, about half from the data-intensive worlds of games, ecommerce, and ad tech. Annual cost starts around $100,000 per year.  The actual pricing models vary with the situation but are usually based on either the number of customer profiles being managed or total resource consumption.[...]



Blueshift CDP Adds Advanced Features

2017-07-17T17:49:03.880-04:00

I reviewed Blueshift in June 2015, when the product had been in-market for just a few months and had a handful of large clients. Since then they’ve added many new features and grown to about 50 customers. So let’s do a quick update.Basically, the system is still what it was: a Customer Data Platform that includes predictive modeling, content creation, and multi-step campaigns. Customer data can be acquired through the vendor’s own Javascript tags, mobile SDK (new since 2015), API connectors, or file imports. Blueshift also has collection connectors for Segment, Ensighten, mParticle, and Tealium. Product data can load through file imports, a standard API, or a direct connector to DemandWare.As before, Blueshift can ingest, store and index pretty much any data with no advance modeling, using JSON, MongoDB, Postgres, and Kafka. Users do have to tell source systems what information to send and map inputs to standard entities such as customer name, product ID, or interaction type. There is some new advanced automation, such as tying related events to a transaction ID. The system’s ability to load and expose imported data in near-real-time remains impressive. Blueshift will stitch together customer identities using multiple identifiers and can convert anonymous to known profiles without losing any history. Profiles are automatically enhanced with product affinities and scores for purchase intent, engagement, and retention. The system had automated predictive modeling when I first reviewed it, but has now added machine- learning-based product recommendations. In fact, it recommendations are exceptionally sophisticated. Features include a wide range of rule- and model-based recommendation methods, an option for users to create custom recommendation types, and multi-product recommendation blocks that mix recommendations based on different rules. For example, the system can first pick a primary recommendation and then recommend products related to it. To check that the system is working as expected, users can preview recommendations for specified segments or individuals. The segment builder in Blueshift doesn’t seem to have changed much since my last review: users select data categories, elements, and values used to include or exclude segment members. The system still shows the counts for how many segment members are addressable via email, display ads, push, and SMS. On the other hand, the campaign builder has expanded significantly. The previous form-based campaign builder has been replaced by a visual interface that allows branching sequences of events and different treatments within each event.  These treatments include thumbnails of campaign creative and can be in different channels. That's special because many vendors still limit campaigns to a single channel. Campaigns can be triggered by events, run on fixed schedules, or executed once. Each treatment within an event has its own selection conditions, which can incorporate any data type: previous behaviors, model scores, preferred communications channels, and so on. Customers are tested against the treatment conditions in sequence and assigned to the first treatment they match. Content builders let users create templates for email, display ads, push messages, and SMS messages. This is another relatively rare feature. Templates can include personalized offers based on predictive models or recommendations. The system can run split tests of content or recommendation methods. Attribution reports can now include custom goals, which lets users measure different campaigns against different objectives.Blueshift still relies on external services to deliver the messages it creates. It has integrations with SendGrid, Sparkpost, and Cheetahmail for email and Twilio and Gupshup for SMS. Other channels can be fed through list extracts or custom API connectors.Blueshift still offers its product in three differ[...]



Lexer Customer Data Platform Grows from Social Listening Roots

2017-07-10T07:43:01.017-04:00

Customer Data Platform vendors come from many places, geographically and functionally. Lexer is unusual in both ways, having started in Australia as a social media listening platform. About two years ago the company refocused on building customer profiles with data from all sources. It quickly added clients among many of Australia’s largest consumer-facing brands including Qantas airlines and Westpac bank.

Social media is still a major focus for Lexer. The system gathers data from Facebook and Instagram public pages and from the Twitter follower lists of clients’ brands. It analyzes posts and follows to understand consumer interests, assigning people to “tribes” such as “beach lifestyle” and personas such as “sports and fitness”.  It supplements the social inputs with information from third party data sources, location history, and a clients’ own email, Web site, customer service, mobile apps, surveys, point of sale, and other systems. Matching is strictly deterministic, although links based on different matches can be chained together to unify identities across channels.  The system can also use third party data to add connections it can’t be made directly.

Lexer ingests data in near-real-time, making social media posts available to users within about five minutes. It can react to new data by moving customers into different tribes or personas and can send lists of those customers to external systems for targeting in social, email, or other channels.  There are standard integrations with Facebook, Twitter, and Google Adwords advertising campaigns. External systems can also use an API to read the Lexer data, which is stored in Amazon Elastic Search.

Unusally for a CDP, Lexer also provides a social engagement system that lets service agents engage directly with customers. This system displays the customer’s profile including a detailed interaction history and group memberships. Segment visualization is unusually colorful and attractive.

Lexer has about forty clients, nearly all in Australia. It is just entering the U.S. market and hasn’t set U.S. prices.(image)



The Personal Network Effect Makes Walled Gardens Stronger, But There's Still Hope

2017-07-08T08:51:18.130-04:00

I’m still chewing over the role of “walled garden” vendors including Google, Amazon, and Facebook, and in particular how most observers – especially in the general media – fail to grasp how those firms differ from traditional monopolists. As it happens, I’m also preparing a speech for later this month that will touch on the topic, which means I’ve spent many hours working on slides to communicate the relevant concepts. Since just a handful of people will see the slides in person, I figured I’d share them here as well.In pondering the relation of the walled garden vendors to the rest of us, I’ve come to realize there are two primary dynamics at work. The first is the “personal network effect” that I’ve described previously. The fundamental notion is that companies get exponentially increasing value as they capture more types of information about a consumer. For example, it’s useful to know what’s on someone’s calendar and it’s useful to have a mapping app that captures their locations. But if the same company controls both those apps, it can connect them to provide a new service such as automatically mapping out the day’s travel route.  Maybe you even add helpful suggestions for where to stop for fuel or lunch. In network terms, you can think of each application as a node with a value of its own and each connection between nodes having a separate additional value. Since the number of connections increases faster than the number of nodes, there’s a sharp rise in value each time a new node is added. The more nodes you own already, the greater the increase: so companies that own several nodes can afford to pay more for a new node than companies that own just one node. This makes it tough for new companies to break into a customer’s life. It also makes it tough for customers to break away from their dominant network provider.My best visualization of this is to show the applications surrounding an individual and to draw lines showing how many more connections appear when you add nodes.  If it looks like the customer is trapped by those lines, well, yes.The point that’s missing from the discussions I’ve seen about walled gardens is that personal networks create a monopoly on the individual level. Different companies can coexist as the dominant networks for different people.  So let’s assume that Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple each manage to capture one quarter of the population in their own network. If each member spends 100% of her money through her network owner, the over-all market share of each firm would be just 25%. From a classical viewpoint, that’s a highly competitive market. But each consumer is actually at the mercy of a monopolist.  (If you want a real-life example, consider airline hub-and-spoke route maps.  Each airline has an effective monopoly in its hub cities, even though no airline has an over-all monopoly.  It took regulators a long time to figure that one out, too.)   In theory the consumer could switch to a new network. But switching costs are very high, since you have to train the new network to know as much about you as the old network. And switching to a new network just means you’re changing monopolists.  Remember that the personal network effect makes it really inconvenient to have more than one primary network provider.The second dynamic is the competition among network providers to attract new customers. As with any network, personal networks hold a big first mover advantage: whichever provider first sells several apps to the same consumer has a good, and ever-growing, chance of becoming that consumer's primary network.Once the importance of this becomes clear, you can recognize the game of high-stakes leapfrog that network vendors have been playing for the past two decades. It starts with Amazon[...]



Amazon Buys Whole Foods: It's Not About Groceries

2017-06-21T15:16:43.331-04:00

Most of the comments I’ve seen about Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods have described it as Amazon (a) expanding into a new industry (b) continuing to disrupt conventional retail and (c) moving more commerce from offline to online channels. Those are all true, I suppose, but I felt they missed the real story: this is another step in Amazon building a self-contained universe that its customers never have to leave.That sounds a bit more paranoid than it should. This has nothing to do with Amazon being evil. It’s just that I see the over-arching story of the current economy as creation of closed universes by Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple, and maybe a couple of others. The owners of those universes control the information their occupants receive, and, through that, control what they buy, who they meet, and ultimately what they think. The main players all realize this and are quite consciously competing with each other to expand the scope of their services so consumers have less reason to look outside of their borders. So Amazon buys a grocery chain to give its customers one less reason to visit a retail store (because Amazon’s long-term goal is surely for customers to order online for same-day delivery). And, hedging its bets a bit, Amazon also wants to control the physical environment if customers do make a visit. I’ve written about this trend many times before, but still haven’t seen much on the topic from other observers. This puzzles me a bit because it’s such an obviously powerful force with such profound implications. Indeed, a great deal of what we worry about in the near future will become irrelevant if things unfold as I expect.Let me step back and give a summary of my analysis. The starting point is that people increasingly interact with the world through their online identities in general and their mobile phones in particular. The second point is a handful of companies control an increasing portion of consumers’ experiences through those devices: this is Facebook taking most of their screen time, Google or Apple owning the physical device and primary user interface, and Amazon managing most of their purchases. At present, Facebook, Apple, Google, and Amazon still occupy largely separate spheres, so most people live in more than one universe. But each of the major players is entering the turf of the others. Facebook and Google compete to provide information via social and search. Both offer buying services that compete with Amazon. Amazon and Apple are using voice appliances to intercept queries that would otherwise go through to the others. Each vendor’s goal is to expand the range of services it provides. This sets up a virtuous cycle where consumers find it’s increasingly convenient to do everything through one vendor. Instead of a conventional “social network effect” where the value of a network grows with the number of users, this is a “personal network effect” where the value of a vendor relationship grows with the number of services the vendor provides to the same individual. While a social network effect pulls everyone onto a single universal network, the personal network effect allows different individuals to congregate in separate networks. That means the different network universes can thrive side by side, competing at the margins for new members while making it very difficult for members to switch from one network to the other. There’s still some value to network scale, however. Bigger networks will be able to create more appealing services and attract more partners, The network owners will also provide sharing services that make it easy for members to communicate with each other (see: Apple Facetime) but harder to interact with anyone else. So the likely outcome is a handful of large networks, each with members who are incre[...]



Cheetah Digital Debuts in Las Vegas

2017-06-12T21:04:57.621-04:00

I spent the latter part of last week still in Las Vegas, switching to the client conference for Cheetah Digital, the newly-renamed spinoff of Experian’s Cross Channel Marketing division. Mercifully, this was at a relatively humane venue, the big advantage being I could get from my hotel room to the conference sessions without walking through the casino floor or a massive shopping mall. But it was still definitely Vegas.The conference offered a mix of continuity and change. Nearly every client and employee I met had been with Cheetah / Experian for at least several years, so there was a definite feeling of old friends reconnecting. Less pleasantly, Cheetah’s systems have also been largely unchanged for years, something that company leaders could admit openly since they are now free to make new investments. Change was provided by the company’s new name and ownership: the main investor is now Vector Capital, whose other prominent martech investments include Sizmek, Emarsys, and Meltwater. There’s also some participation from ExactTarget co-founder Peter McCormick and Experian itself, which retained 25% ownership. The Cheetah Digital name reflects the company’s origins as CheetahMail, which Experian bought in 2004 and later renamed, although many people never stopped calling it Cheetah.Looking ahead, newly-named Cheetah CEO Sameer Kazi, another ExactTarget veteran, said the company’s immediate priorities are to consolidate and modernize its technology. In particular, they want to move all clients from the original CheetahMail platform to Marketing Suite, which was launched in 2014. Marketing Suite is based on the Conversen, a cross-channel messaging system that Experian acquired in 2012. Kazi said about one third of the company’s revenue already comes from Marketing Suite and that the migration from the old platform will take four or five years to complete.Longer term, Kazi said Cheetah’s goal is to become the world’s leading independent marketing technology company, distinguishing Cheetah from systems that are part of larger enterprise platforms. Part of the technical strategy to do this is to separate business logic from applications, using APIs to connect the two layers. This will make it easier for marketers to integrate external systems, taking advantage of industry innovation without requiring Cheetah to extend its own products. Cheetah will also continue to provide services and build customer databases for its clients. Products based on third party data, such as credit information and identity management, have remained with the old Experian organization. With $300 million in revenue and 1,600 employees, Cheetah Digital is already one of the largest martech companies. It is also one of the few that can handle enterprise-scale email. This makes it uniquely appealing to companies that are uncomfortable with the big marketing cloud vendors. The company still faces a major challenge in upgrading its technology to optimize customer treatments in real time across inbound as well as outbound channels.  It's a roll of the dice.[...]



Pega Does Vegas

2017-06-07T13:36:33.380-04:00

I spent the first part of this week at Pegasystems’ PegaWorld conference in Las Vegas, a place which totally creeps me out.* Ironically or appropriately, Las Vegas’ skill at profit-optimized people-herding is exactly what Pega offers its own clients, if in a more genteel fashion. Pega sells software that improves the efficiency of company operations such as claims processing and customer service. It places a strong emphasis on meeting customer needs, both through predictive analytics to anticipate what each person wants and through interfaces that make service agents’ jobs easier. The conference highlighted Pega and Pega clients’ achievements in both areas. Although Pega also offers some conventional marketing systems, they were not a major focus. In fact, while conference materials included a press release announcing a new Paid Media solution, I don’t recall it being mentioned on the main stage.**What we did hear about was artificial intelligence. Pega founder and CEO Alan Trefler opened with a blast of criticism of other companies’ over-hyping of AI but wasn’t shy about promoting his own company’s “real” AI achievements. These include varying types of machine learning, recommendations, natural language processing, and, of course, chatbots. The key point was that Pega integrates its bots with all of a company’s systems, hiding much of the complexity in assembling and using information from both customers and workers. In Pega’s view, this distinguishes their approach from firms that deploy scores of disconnected bots to do individual tasks. Pega Vice President for Decision Management and Analytics Rob Walker gave a separate keynote that addressed fears of AI hurting humans. He didn’t fully reject the possibility, but made clear that Pega’s official position is it’s adequate to let users understand what an AI is doing and then choose whether to accept its recommendations. Trefler reinforced the point in a subsequent press briefing, arguing that Pega has no reason to limit how clients can use AI or to warn them when something could be illegal, unethical, dangerous, or just plain stupid. Apart from AI, there was an interesting stream of discussion at the conference about “robotic process automation”. This doesn’t come up much in the world of marketing technology, which is where I mostly live outside of Vegas. But apparently it’s a huge thing in customer service, where agents often have to toggle among many systems to get tasks done. RPA, as its known to its friends, is basically a stored series of keystrokes, which in simpler times was called a macro. But it’s managed centrally and runs across systems. We heard amazing tales of the effort saved by RPA, which doesn’t require changes to existing systems and is therefore very easy to deploy. But, as one roundtable participant pointed out, companies still need change management to ensure workers take advantage of it.Beyond the keynotes, the conference featured several customer stories. Coca Cola and General Motors both presented visions of a connected future where soda machines and automobiles try to sell you things. Interesting but we’ve heard those stories before, if not necessarily from those firms. But Scotiabank gave an unusually detailed look at its in-process digital transformation project and Transavia airlines showed how it has connected customer, flight, and employee information to give everyone in the company a complete view of pretty much everything. This allows Transavia to be genuinely helpful to customers, for example by letting cabin crews see passenger information and resolve service issues inflight. Given the customer-hostile approach of most airlines, it was nice to glimpse an alternate reality. The common thread of all [...]



SessionM Expands from Loyalty to Full Customer Engagement Management

2017-06-03T14:52:07.873-04:00

SessionM launched in 2012 as a platform that increased user engagement by adding gamification and loyalty rewards to mobile apps. The system has since expanded to support more channels and message types. This puts it in competition with dozens of other customer engagement and personalization systems. Compared with these vendors, SessionM’s loyalty features are probably its most unusual feature.  But it would be misleading to pigeonhole SessionM as a system for loyalty marketers. Instead, consider it a personalized messaging* product that offers loyalty as a bonus option for marketers who need it.In that spirit, let’s break down SessionM’s capabilities by the usual categories of data, message selection, and delivery. Data: SessionM can gather customer behaviors on Web and mobile apps from its own tags or using feeds from standard Web analytics tools. It can also ingest data from other sources such as a Customer Data Platform or CRM system. Customer data is organized into profiles and events, which lets the system store nearly any type of information without a complex data model.  SessionM can also accommodate non-customer data such as lists of products and retail stores. It can apply multiple keys to link data related to the same customer, but requires exact matches. This works well when dealing with known customers, who usually identify themselves when they start using a sytem. Finding connections among records belonging to anonymous visitors would require additional types of matching.Message Selection: SessionM is organized around campaigns.  Each campaign has a target audience, goal (defined by a query), outcome (such as adding points to an account or tagging a customer profile), message, and “execution” (the channel-specific experience that includes the message). SessionM describes the outcome as primary and the message as following it: think of notification after you've earned an award. Non-loyalty marketers might think of the message as coming first with the outcome as secondary. In practice, the order doesn’t matter. What does matter is that campaigns can include multiple messages, each having its own selection rules. Message delivery can be scheduled or triggered by variables such as time, frequency, and customer behaviors. This means a SessionM campaign could deliver a sequence of messages over time, even though the system doesn’t have a multi-step campaign builder.  Rules can draw on machine learning models that predict content affinity, churn, lifetime value, near-time purchase, and engagement. Clients can use the standard models or tweak them to fit special needs. Automated product recommendations are due later this year.  Messages are built from templates that can include dynamic elements selected by rules or models. Delivery: Campaign messages are delivered through widgets installed in a Web page or mobile app, through lists sent to email providers or advertising Data Management Platforms (DMPs), or through API calls from other systems such as chatbots. Multiple campaigns can connect through the same widget, which raises the possibility of conflicts.  At present, users have to control this manually through campaign and message rules. SessionM is working on a governance module to manage campaign precedence and limit the total number of messages.The system can generate presentation-ready messages or send data elements for the delivery system to transform into the published format. It supports real time response by loading customer profiles into memory, limiting itself to information required by active campaigns. External systems can access the customer profiles directly through JSON API calls or file extracts, but not through SQL queries. A[...]



Coherent Path Auto-Optimizes Promotions for Long Term Value

2017-05-24T19:34:42.806-04:00

One of the grand challenges facing marketing technology today is having a computer find the best messages to send each customer over time, instead of making marketers schedule the messages in advance.  One roadblock has been that automated design requires predicting the long-term impact of each message: just selecting the message with the highest immediate value can reduce future income. This clearly requires optimizing against a metric like lifetime value. But that's really hard to predict.

Coherent Path offers what may be a solution. Using advanced math that I won’t pretend to understand*, they identify offers that lead customers towards higher long-term values. In concrete terms, this often means cross-selling into product categories the customer hasn’t yet purchased.  While this isn’t a new tactic, Coherent Path improves it by identifying intermediary products (on the "path" to the target) that the customer is most likely to buy now.  It can also optimize other variables such as the time between messages, price discounts, and the balance between long- and short-term results

Coherent Path clients usually start by optimizing their email programs, which offer a good mix of high volume and easy measurability. The approach is to define a promotion calendar, pick product themes for each promotion, and then select the best offers within each theme for each customer. “Themes” are important because they’re what Coherent Path calculates different customers might be interested in. The system relies on marketers to tell it what themes are associated with each product and message (that is, the system has no semantic analytics to do that automatically). But because Coherent Path can predict which customers might buy in which themes, it can suggest themes to include in future promotions.

Lest this seem like the blackest of magic, rest assured that Coherent Path bases its decisions on data.  It starts with about two years’ of interactions for most clients, so it can see good sample of customers who have already completed a journey to high value status. Clients need at least several hundred products and preferably thousands. These products need to be grouped into categories so the system can find common patterns among the customer paths. Coherent Path automatically runs tests within promotions to further refine its ability to predict customer behaviors. Most clients also set aside a control group to compare Coherent Path results against customers managed outside the system. Coherent Path reports results such as 22% increase in email revenue and 10:1 return on investment – although of course your mileage may vary.

The system can manage other channels than email. Coherent Path says most of its clients move on to display ads, which are also relatively easy to target and measure. Web site offers usually come next.

Coherent Path was founded in 2012 and has been offering its current product for more than two years. Clients are mostly mid-size and large retailers, including Neiman Marcus, L.L. Bean, and Staples. Pricing starts around $10,000 per month.

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* Download their marketing explanation here or read an academic discussion here. (image)



Dynamic Yield Offers Flexible Omni-Channel Personalization

2017-05-20T16:15:44.531-04:00

There are dozens of Web personalization tools available. All do roughly the same thing: look at data about a visitor, pick messages based on that data, and deploy those messages. So how do you tell them apart?The differences fall along several dimensions. These include what data is available, how messages are chosen, which channels are supported, and how the system is implemented. Let’s look at how Dynamic Yield stacks up.Data: Dynamic Yield can install its own Javascript tag to identify visitors and gather their information, or it can accept an API call with a visitor ID. It can also build profiles by ingesting data from email, CRM, mobile apps, or third party sources. It will stitch data together when the same personal identifier is used in different source systems, but it doesn’t do fuzzy or probabilistic cross-device matching. Data is ingested in real time, allowing the system to react to customer behaviors as they happen.Message selection: this is probably where personalization systems vary the most. Dynamic Yield largely relies on users to define selection rules. Specifically, users create “experiences” that usually relate to a single position on a Web page or single message in another channel.  Each experience has a list of associated promotions and each promotion has its own target audience, content, and related settings. When a visitor engages with an experience, the system finds the first promotion audience the visitor matches and delivers the related content. This is a pretty basic approach and doesn’t necessarily deliver the best message to visitors who qualify for several audiences. But dynamic content rules, machine-learning, and automated recommendations can improve results by tailoring the final message to each individual. In addition, the system can test different messages within each promotion and optimize the results against a user-specified goal.  This lets it send different messages to different segments within the audience. Product recommendations are especially powerful.  Dynamic Yield supports multiple recommendation rules, including similarity, bought together, most popular, user affinity, and recently viewed.  One experience can return multiple products, with different products selected by different rules.  In other words, the system present a combination of recommendations including some that are similar to the current product, some that are often purchased with it, and some that are most popular over all.  Channels: this is a particular strength for Dynamic Yield, which can personalize Web pages, emails, landing pages, mobile apps, mobile push, display ads, and offline channels. Most personalization options are available in most channels, although there are some exceptions: you can’t do multi-product recommendations within a display ad and system-hosted landing pages can’t include dynamic content. Implementation: this also varies by channel. Web site personalization is especially flexible: the Javascript tag can read an existing Web page and either replace it entirely or create a version with a Dynamic Yield object inserted, without changing the page code itself. Users who do control the page code can insert a call the Dynamic Yield API.  Email personalization can also be done by inserting an API call, which lets Dynamic Yield reselect the message each time the email is rendered. The system has direct integration with major ad servers and networks, letting it send targeting rules with different ad versions for each target.Dynamic Yield’s multi-channel scope and easy deployment options will be appealing to many marketers. The company has more than 100 customers, primaril[...]



Will Privacy Regulations Favor Internet Giants?

2017-05-14T16:28:41.161-04:00

Last week’s MarTech Conference in San Francisco came and went in the usual blur of excellent presentations, interesting vendors, and private conversations. I’m sure each attendee had their own experience based on their particular interests. The two themes that appeared the most in my own world were:- data activation. This reflects recognition that customer data delivers most of its value when it is used to personalize customer treatments. In other words, it’s not enough to simply assemble a complete customer view and use it for analytics.  “Activation” means taking the next step of making the data available to use during customer interactions, ideally in real time and across all channels. It’s one of the advantages of a Customer Data Platform, which by definition makes unified customer data available to other systems. This is a big differentiator compared with conventional data warehouses, which are designed primarily to support analytical projects through batch updates and extracts.  Conventional data warehouse architectures load data into a separate structure called an “operational data store” when real-time access is needed. Many CDP systems use a similar technical approach but it’s part of the core design rather than an afterthought. This is part of the CDPs’ advantage of providing a packaged system rather than a set of components that users assemble for themselves. CDP vendors exhibiting at the show included Treasure Data, Tealium, and Lytics.- orchestration. This is creating a unified customer experience by coordinating contacts across all channels. It’s not a new goal but is standing out more clearly from approaches that manage just one channel. More precisely, orchestration requires a decision system that uses activated customer data to find best messages and then distributes them to customer-facing systems for delivery. Some Customer Data Platforms include orchestration features and others don’t; conversely, some orchestration systems are Customer Data Platforms and some are not. (Only orchestration systems that assemble a unified customer view and expose it to other systems qualify as CDPs.) Current frontiers for orchestration systems are journey orchestration, which is managing the entire customer experience as a single journey (rather than disconnected campaigns), and adaptive orchestration, which is using automated processes to find and deliver the optimal message content, timing, and channels for each customer. Orchestration vendors at the show included UserMind, Pointillist, Thunderhead, and Amplero.Of course, it wouldn’t be MarTech if the conference didn’t also provoke Deeper Thoughts. For me, the conference highlighted three long-term trends:- continued martech growth. The highlight of the opening keynote was unveiling of martech Uber-guru Scott Brinker’s latest industry landscape, which clocked in at 5,300 products compared with 3,500 the year before. You can read Brinker’s in-depth analysis here, so I’ll just say that industry growth shows no signs of slowing down.- primacy of data. Only a few presentations or vendors at the conference were devoted specifically to data, but nearly everything there depends on customer data in one way or another. And, as you know from my last blog post, the main story in customer data today is the increasing control exerted by Google and Facebook, and to a lesser degree Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft. If those firms succeed in monopolizing access to customer information, then many martech systems won’t have the inputs they need to work their magic. That could be the pin that bursts the martech bubble.- new privacy regulations. [...]



Martech Vendors Can't Avoid Ad Audience Battles

2017-05-06T15:13:52.304-04:00

It’s been said that sports are soap operas for men. You can see business news the same way: a drama with heroes, villains, intertwining story lines, and endless plot twists. One of the most interesting stories playing out right now is online advertising, where the walled gardens of Google, Facebook, and other audience aggregators are under assault by insurgent advertisers who, like most rebels, aspire as much to replace their overlords as destroy their power. What they’re really fighting over is control of the serfs – oops, I meant consumers – who create the empires' wealth.Recent complaints about ad measurement. audience transparency, and even placement near objectionable Web content are all tactics in the assault, aimed both at winning concessions and weakening their opponents. More strategically, support for letting broadband suppliers resell consumer data is an attempt create alternative suppliers who will strengthen the insurgents’ bargaining position. Yet another front opened up last week with an announcement from a consortium of adtech vendors, including AppNexus, LiveRamp, MediaMath, Index Exchange, LiveIntent, OpenX, and Rocket Fuel, that they had created a standard identity framework to support personal targeting of programmatic ads. The goal was to strengthen programmatic’s position as an alternative to the aggregators by making programmatic audiences larger, more targetable, and more unified across devices.The consortium was quite explicit on this goal. To quote the press release:"Today, 48 percent of all digital advertising dollars accrue to just two companies – Facebook and Google," said Brian O'Kelley, CEO of AppNexus. "That dynamic has placed considerable strain on the open internet companies that generate great journalism, film, music, social networking, and information. This consortium enables precision advertising comparable to that of Google and Facebook, and does so in a privacy-conscious manner. That means better outcomes for marketers, greater monetization for publishers, and more engaging content for consumers."But behind the rallying cry, the alliance between advertisers and programmatic ad suppliers is uneasy at best. After all, programmatic threatens the core ad buying business of the agencies and faces its own problems of measurement and objectionable ad placement. How the two groups cooperate against a common enemy will be a story worth watching.Martech vendors have so far remained pretty much neutral in the ad wars, feeding audiences to both sides with the pragmatic indifference of merchants throughout history. But the new ad tech consortium brings the battle closer, since it involves the personal identities that have been the martech vendors’ stock in trade. In particular, LiveRamp (which links anonymous cookies to known identities) belonging to the consortium creates a connection that will likely pull in other martech players. Of course, the convergence between adtech and martech has long been predicted – it's more than two years since I oh-so-cutely christened it “madtech”  and the big marketing clouds started to  purchase data management platforms and other adtech components even earlier.  The merger is probably inevitable as programmatic advertising looks more like personalized marketing every day.  Martech vendors have growing reason to side with the programmatic alliance as it becomes clear that audience aggregators could threaten their own kingdoms by cutting off access to personal data and taking control of contact opportunities. In short, what seems like a remote, and remotely entertaining, conflict in adland is more clos[...]



Infusionsoft Announces Freemium Marketing Automation to Expand Its User Base

2017-04-27T22:27:58.362-04:00

Infusionsoft has always presented combined methodical management of its own business with evangelical cheerleading for its small business clients. The contrast was even greater than usual at the company’s annual ICON conference in Phoenix this week. For Infusionsoft managers, the big news was a new product called Propel, which delivers prepackaged programs for business owners who don’t want to get involved in the details of marketing. For attendees, who were a largely partners and power users, the most exciting announcements were improvements to the current product such as a vastly better Web form builder. Propel will let Infusionsoft serve business owners who find the current product too complicated or expensive. Pretty much by definition, those people weren’t at ICON. So while Infusionsoft managers and some far-sighted partners were almost giddy about the growth that Propel could create for their businesses, the larger audience was more interested in ICON’s usual training sessions and inspirational hoopla. Propel addresses a fundamental problem that has limited the growth of all small business sales and marketing systems: the vast majority of small business owners don’t have the time, money, skills, or interest to use them well.  Vendors have addressed this either by reducing the required effort through easier-to-use interfaces, content templates, and prebuilt campaigns, or by providing services that do the work on business owners’ behalf.  Infusionsoft has done both and also used a relatively expensive mandatory start-up package ($999 or higher) to screen out buyers who aren't serious about using the system. This has worked well for Infusionsoft – the company has grown steadily, although it no longer releases client counts as it positions itself for an as-yet-unscheduled Initial Public Offering. But it also limits the market to the most aggressive small business owners. Infusionsoft sees Propel as a third way to serve less-ambitious businesses: not just by making the product simpler to use, but by removing some tasks altogether. For example, prebuilt campaign templates typically require users to create or customize the actual content, and often require them to set up campaign flows following cookbook-style directions. Propel will include default content tailored to a particular industry or product. It will automatically scrape a client’s Web site to find a logo and brand colors and apply them. When customization is unavoidable, Propel will let campaign designers build wizards that ask users key questions. The system will then automatically adjust the campaign by inserting relevant information or changing the campaign flow. The goal is campaigns that can be set up in a few minutes with no training and deliver immediately visible benefits. Infusionsoft hopes these will entice business owners who don’t want to commit from the start to a long-term marketing plan.The success of this approach is far from certain.  Business owners must still take some initial steps that could be daunting. Infusionsoft managers are acutely aware of the issues and doing everything they can to remove start-up barriers. This includes making it easy to import existing email addresses from phone contact lists, personal email accounts, spreadsheets, accounting systems, or elsewhere. More radically for Infusionsoft, there will be a free version of the system and no start-up fee. This will clearly attract a new set of less-committed users. Delivering enough value for these to stick with the system will be difficult. So will making the system so easy to use that cus[...]



Here's Why Airlines Treat Customers Poorly

2017-04-22T01:16:38.257-04:00

Last week’s passenger-dragging incident at United Airlines left many marketers (and other humans) aghast that any company could purposely assault its own customer. As it happens, airline technology vendor Sabre published a survey of airline executives just before the event. It confirms what you probably suspected: airline managers think differently from other business people.  And not in a good way.The chief finding of the study is that the executives rated technology as by far their largest obstacle to improving customer experience. This is very unusual: as I wrote in a recent post, most surveys place organizational and measurement issues at the top of the list, with technology much less of an issue. By contrast, the airline executives in the survey– who were about 1/3 from operations, 1/3 from marketing, sales, and service, and 1/3 from other areas including IT and finance – placed human resources in the middle and organizational structure, consensus, and lack of vision at the bottom.  The chart below compares the two sets of answers, matching categories as best I can.It would be a cheap shot to point out that the low weight given to “lack of vision” actually illustrates airline managers’ lack of vision. Then again, like everyone else who flies, I’ve been on the receiving end of many cheap shots from the airlines. So I’ll say it anyway. But I’ll also argue that the answers reflect a more objective reality: airlines are immensely complicated machines whose managers are inevitably dominated by operational challenges. This is not an excuse for treating customers poorly but it does explain how easily airline leaders can focus on other concerns. Indeed, when the survey explicitly asked about priorities, 51% rated improving operations as the top priority, compared with just 39% for aligning operations, marketing and IT, and only 35% for building customer loyalty.There’s a brutal utilitarian logic in this: after all, planes that don’t run on time inconvenience everyone. The study quotes Muhammad Ali Albakri, a former executive vice president at Saudi Arabian Airlines, as saying, “Two aspects generally take precedence when we recover irregular operations [such as bad weather]: namely crew schedules and legality and aircraft serviceability. Passengers’ conveniences and connecting passengers are also taken into consideration, depending on the situation.” In context , it’s clear that by “situation” he means whether the affected passengers are high-revenue customers.But as you may remember from that college philosophy course, most people reject pure utilitarianism because it ignores the worth of humans as individuals. Even if you believe businesses have no ethical obligations beyond seeking maximum profit, it’s bad practice to be perceived as heartless beasts because customers won’t want to do business with you. So airlines do need to make customer dignity a priority, even at the occasional cost of operational efficiency. Otherwise, as the United incident so clearly illustrates, the brand (and stock price) will suffer. If you’re a truly world-class cynic, you might argue that airlines are an oligopoly, so customers will fly them regardless of treatment. But it’s interesting to note that the Sabre paper makes several references to government regulations that penalize airlines for late arrivals and long tarmac waits. These factors clearly influence airline behavior. There's even a (pitifully slim) chance that Congress will respond to United's behavior. So the balance between operational efficiency and c[...]



Monetate Adds Machine-Learning Based Real Time Ecommerce Personalization

2017-04-13T21:45:13.926-04:00

Monetate is one of the oldest and largest Web testing and personalization vendors, founded in 2008 and now serving more than 350 brands. Its core clients have been mid-to-large ecommerce companies, originally in the U.S. and now also in Europe. I’ve been meaning to write about them for some time but when we finally connected late last year they had a major launch coming this April, so it made sense to hold off a little longer. That day has come. Monetate last week announced its latest enhancement, a machine-learning-powered “intelligent personalization engine” that supplements its older, rules-based approach. Machine learning by itself isn’t very exciting today: pretty much everybody seems to have it in some form. What makes the launch so important for Monetate is they had to rebuild their system to support the kind of machine learning they’re doing, which is real-time learning that reacts to each visitor’s behaviors as they happen,Montetate now holds its data in a “key-value store” (meaning, instead of placing data into predefined tables and fields, it stores each piece of information with one or more identifiers that specify its nature). This is a “big data” approach that lets the system add new types of information without creating a new table or field. In practical terms, it means Monetate can give each client a unique data structure, can rapidly add new data types and individual pieces of data, and can maintain a complete, up-to-the-moment profile for each customer. These are all essential for real-time machine learning. (Of course, the system still has some standard events shared by all clients, such as orders and customer service calls. These are needed to allow standard system functions.)Important as these changes are, the basic operation of Monetate is still the same. First, it builds a database of customer information. Then, it draws on that database to help test and personalize customer experiences.The database is built using Monetate’s own Javascript tags to capture behavior on the client’s ecommerce site. Users can also add other first- and third-party data through file uploads, by monitoring real-time data streams, or by querying external sources on demand. Monetate stitches together customer identities across sources and devices to create a complete profile. It can also build a product catalog either by scraping product information directly from the Web site or by importing batch files. Customer browsing and purchase behavior are matched against this catalog.Testing and personalization rely on Monetate’s ability to modify each visitor’s Web experience without changing the underlying Web site. It achieves this magic through the previously-mentioned Javascript tag, which can superimpose Monetate-created components such as hero images, product blocks, and sign-up forms. Users manage this process by creating campaigns, each of which contains a user-specified target audience, actions to take, schedule, and metrics. Users can designate one metric as the campaign goal; this is what the system will target in testing and optimization. They can track additional metrics for reporting purposes.The campaign audience can be based on Monetate’s 150 standard segments or draw on Web site behaviors, visitor demographics, local weather, imported lists, customer value, or other information derived from the database. Actions can virtually insert new objects on a Web page, or hide or edit existing objects. Users can build content with Monetate’s own tools or import content created in other [...]



Do CMOs Really Spend More on MarTech Than CIOs? A New Study Says No.

2017-03-29T22:11:12.410-04:00

Like many people in the marketing technology industry, I was tickled in 2011 when Gartner predicted that CMOs would soon have bigger tech budgets than CIOs, and even more tickled when Gartner said in 2016 that it had happened.  But my recent pondering of the relationship of marketing and IT departments had me rethinking the question. On an anecdotal level, I’ve never seen or heard of a company where the marketing technology group was anywhere near the size of the IT department. And from a revenue perspective, there’s no way that marketing technology companies make up half the total revenue of the software industry. But just as I was working myself up for some back-of-the-envelope calculations, the good people at International Data Corporation (IDC) announced a report with authoritative figures on the topic. Actually, the study estimates spending on 20 technologies and 12 corporate functional areas across 16 enterprise industries in eight regions and 53 countries, comparing the amounts funded by IT departments and by business departments. They haven’t published the figures for marketing in particular but did graciously provide them to me with permission to reprint them here. Without further ado, they are:As you see, marketing technology expenses for 2016 are estimated at $82.3 billion, which is just 6.7% of the $1,235.3 billion for all categories. Slightly more than half of the marketing spend is business-funded, which presumably means it’s spent by CMOs. But that wasn't what Gartner had in mind: they were definitely comparing corporate IT budgets against marketing IT budgets.  I understand Gartner's logic but I find the IDC figures more plausible. One reference point is the known revenues of martech vendors. Adobe, which may well be the largest, just reported $1.6 billion in 2016 revenue for its marketing cloud (apparently including analytics and advertising products).  Even if there are ten other vendors as large as Adobe, the top ten would have just a 20% share of the $82 billion. It’s hard to imagine the market is really that fragmented, even allowing for expenses that are unrelated to software. Another reason I prefer the IDC figures is that surveys consistently show that marketing technology is far down the priority list of IT managers.  That wouldn’t be the case if martech spend were equal to all other tech spending combined. Indeed, one of the main reasons that marketers have been eager to take control of their technology has been the neglect, benign or otherwise, shown by corporate IT. So let's assume the IDC figures are much closer to correct.  Does it matter?  I'd answer it does because understanding the real relationship between martech and other systems is important.  Marketers need to recognize that their systems are a small part of a big picture and can’t work independently of the rest of the company. Yes, marketers should control their internal systems. But the IDC figures show that sales and customer service spend more on tech than marketing. So, when it comes to customer-facing systems, marketers shouldn’t expect other departments to simply adopt marketing systems as a new core.More likely, all departments will need to coordinate their existing systems with a shared, enterprise-level resource. This suggests that the common core / edge model of marketing systems needs to modified to distinguish an enterprise-wide core from a marketing department core.  In some ways, this isn't a huge change because marketers have alway[...]



Wondering How Customer Data Platforms Relate to Other Marketing Systems? Here's a Picture

2017-03-27T16:06:37.117-04:00

I was asked the other day about the distinction between Customer Data Platforms and Journey Orchestration Engines. My immediate answer was “Some CDPs are JOEs and some JOEs are CDPs. A CDP is a JOE if has journey orchestration. A JOE is a CDP if its data is accessible to other systems. Think Venn diagram with two intersecting circles.”  It's not clear the answer helped, but it did get me thinking about clarifying with a Venn diagram.  The diagram I originally had in mind was this one, showing that CDPs unify customer data and make it available, while JOEs unify customer data and select messages. Systems that do all three are both a CDP and a JOE.On reflection, that’s not the right way to draw a Venn diagram. Each circle should represent one set of traits. So the picture should really look like this:That's fine, but it seems odd that “unify customer data” has no system associated with it. Is there a type of system that just unifies customer data without making it accessible or selecting messages? Come to think of it, there is.  Systems that just do customer matching used to be called Customer Data Integration but I don’t hear that much any more.  Sometimes people talk about Identity Resolution but mostly it seems that Customer Data Integration has been absorbed by the larger category of Master Data Management (MDM) systems, which integrate all kinds of data. So let’s add MDM as the label for that.     But why stop there?  Let's see how other systems would fit into the diagram. First to come to mind was marketing automation platforms (MAPs), which also select messages (like a JOE) but don’t build a unified customer database or offer open data access. The diagram with MAPs included looks like this:The next is a Data Lake. It provides open data access like a CDP, but doesn’t build a unified view of the data.  Adding that to the diagram gives us:Hmm, what about CRM? In many ways its out there with MAP: another system that selects messages but doesn’t build a unified database. So we need to introduce a new split, of marketer-controlled vs. sales controlled. I'll give control a different color for clarity.  Apologies to CRM people that your circle is so tiny; I'm not suggesting anything about the importance of your systems.Still thinking about control, Data Management Platforms (DMPs) look a lot like Marketing Automation Platforms: they’re marketer-controlled systems that select messages (sort of) but don’t unify data from all sources or provide open access. So unless we want to further subdivide the marketer controlled space, they share the same location as MAPs.Since control has its own color, Data Lake and MDM jump out as not having an owner. In fact, they’re both typically owned by corporate IT, so we can easily add that circle.This raises one more question: is there an IT-controlled equivalent of a CDP?  That would be a system that unifies customer data and provides open access but is owned by IT not marketing.  You betcha.  It might be an Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) if that has all the access features of a CDP (high speed, flexibility, etc.). But most EDWs don’t meet that standard. So let’s just call it an Enterprise-controlled CDP, or ECDP, if you’re wild and crazy enough to accept a four letter acronym. You’ll remember there’s some debate about whether marketing or IT should really own the CDP.  This doesn't provide an answer but it does give a [...]



Is MarTech Too Important To Leave To The Marketers?

2017-03-21T12:32:04.218-04:00

I’m still pondering the relationship between marketing and IT: what it is, will be, and should be. A few new ingredients have kept the pot boiling:- a chat with Abhi Yadav, founder of Zylotech, a MIT-bred, artificial intelligence-driven Customer Data Platform and message selection engine.  Those roots made it seem a likely candidate for IT-driven purchases, but Yadav told me his primary buyers are marketing operations staff.  In fact, he hasn’t even run into those marketing technology managers everyone (including me) keeps talking about. On reflection, it makes sense that marketers would be the buyers since Zylotech includes analytical and message selection features only used in marketing.  A system that only did data unification would appeal more to IT as a shared resource. Still, Yaday's comments are one point for the marketer-control team.- a survey from the Association of National Advertisers that found marketers who control their technology strategy, vendors, and enterprise standards are more likely to have a strong return on martech investment. (The study is only available to ANA members but they gave permission to publish the table below. You can see a public infographic here).  That’s two points for Team MarTech.- a study by IT staffing and services provider TEKsystems that found senior marketers with more advanced strategy were more likely to control their own technology.  The difference wasn’t terribly pronounced but it’s still the same pattern. MarTech is now ahead 3-0.  (I was actually more impressed that 65% of departments with no strategy were in charge. Yikes!)So far, the game’s a blow out. Marketing is usually in charge of its technology and does better when it is.  A doubter might question if marketers really make better choices or are just happier when they’re in control. I do suspect that IT people would be less confident that marketers are making optimal decisions. Still, there’s no real reason to doubt that marketers are the best judges of what they need.But the game’s not over. Let's call in a recent Ad Week article about global tech consultancies buying marketing agencies. The article cites Accenture, Deloitte, IBM, KPMG, McKinsey and PricewaterhouseCoopers and notes that each already has huge agency operations.  To the extent that these firms are working with marketing departments, it’s still more evidence of marketing being in charge. But the real story, at least as I read it, is these firms are getting involved because they see a need to integrate marketing technology with over-all corporate technology, just as marketing strategy needs to support corporate strategy. “The consultants’ bread and butter has traditionally been large IT and business-transformation projects,” says Julie Langley, a partner at fundraising, merger and acquisitions advisor Results International, in the article. “But, increasingly, these types of projects have ‘customer experience’ at their center.” To me, this is the key. As every aspect of customer experience becomes technology-driven, technology must be integrated across the corporation to deliver a satisfactory experience. Marketing may be the captain, but it’s still part of a larger team. If marketing can be a true team player, it gets to call the plays. But if marketing is selfish, then a coach needs to step in for the good of the whole. I’ll spare you the extended sports analogy. In concrete terms, if m[...]



CrossEngage Orchestrates Customer Journeys Using Events

2017-03-15T15:56:53.186-04:00

It feels like forever since I first wrote about Journey Orchestration Engines (JOEs), although it is just one year. Orchestration was already a hot term when I started, so I take neither credit nor blame for its continued popularity. I will say that I’ve now seen enough orchestration systems to start making subtle distinctions among them.Subtle distinctions are needed because the systems are basically similar. They all ingest data from multiple sources; convert it into unified customer profiles; apply rules and analytics to find the best message for each customer in each situation; and, send those messages to external systems for delivery. Unified customer profiles make these products look like Customer Data Platforms. JOEs that expose their profiles for external access really are CDPs; JOEs that keep the profiles for their own use, are not. In theory, a JOE could connect to an external customer database rather than building its own, but I haven’t seen that configuration in practice.The main ways that JOEs differ include:Channel scope. Some systems are largely limited to online interactions, while others are built to combine online and offline channels. Some systems that look like JOEs work with only Web or email. But orchestration pretty much implies multiple channels so I’d probably exclude those from the JOE tribe.Decision methods. JOEs can work with conventional, rule-driven campaign structures or use automated techniques to customize the path followed by each customer. There’s also considerable variation in exactly what gets automated: some automate campaign assignments but use static content; some automatically run a/b tests and pick the winners; some automatically create customer segments that receive different content; some use machine learning to dynamically generate custom content. Journey framework. My original definition of JOE was quite rigorous: journey orchestration meant all campaigns were defined relative to a master model of the customer journey. This really means that stages in the journey are “states” that customers flow between, and campaigns are chosen in part based on each customer’s current state. I still think of JOEs that way and definitely see some systems organized along those lines. But when you start looking at some of the more automated decision methods, it’s harder to apply concepts of fixed states or journey flows. So I still check whether a system has a journey framework but don’t necessarily require a JOE to use it. I realize this means you could have a journey orchestration system without journeys. If that’s the silliest thing you’ve been asked to accept recently, you haven’t been watching the news.This is all a very long-winded introduction to CrossEngage, a Berlin-based firm that released its product about six months ago. CrossEngage works in online channels, using its own tags to capture Web interactions and API connections to ingest data from email providers, mobile apps, and other sources. It can also load CSV files if necessary. CrossEngage treats most data as either a customer attribute or event, using big data technologies that store inputs and to allow data access with minimal schema design. The system also stores some information that’s neither attribute nor event, such as products and locations. The vendor maps new sources into the system and can define logic to create custom events. (A self-service event builder is planned by Ju[...]



Forecast: Self-Assembling Application Bundles Will Manage Customer Experience

2017-05-14T14:10:20.524-04:00

I recently described a Deloitte paper on technology trends, focusing on their descriptions of IT management methods. The paper also covered broader trends including:Unstructured data, which they saw as a potentially bottomless source of insight. What’s interesting is they didn’t suggest many operational uses for it.  By contrast, traditional corporate data management is almost exclusively about business operations. Machine intelligence, which they described as broader than artificial intelligence. They saw deployment moving from offering insights, to interacting with people, to acting autonomously. They also described it as controlling internal business processes as well as customer interactions. That's not the way marketers tend to think but they're right: the bulk of company processes are not customer-facing.Mixed reality, which is a combination of virtual reality, augmented reality, and Internet of Things. They focused less on game-like immersive experiences than on new types of interfaces, such as gesture- and voice-based, and on remote experiences such as collaborative work. They also listed some requirements that aren't usually part of this discussion, including machines that can understand human expressions and emotions and security to ensure hackers don’t falsify identities or inject harmful elements into the remote experience (such as, telling you to make a repair incorrectly). Blockchain, which they presented as mostly in terms of easing security issues by verifying identities and allowing for selective sharing of information. Those are intriguing thoughts but don't present a specific vision of the future. A recent paper from Juniper Networks rushes in where Deloitte fears to tread.Juniper's term is "digital cohesion", which they desfine as "an era in which multiple applications self-assemble to provide autonomous and predictive services that continually adapt to personal behaviors.”  It somewhat resembles the ideas I offered in this post about RoseColoredGlasses.me and further elaborated here.  I guess that’s why I like it.Beyond having excellent taste to agree me, Juniper fills in quite a few details about how this will happen. Key points include:Disruptive competitors can use high speed networks, local sensor data, and centralized cloud processing to offer new services with compelling economics (e.g. Airbnb vs. Hilton). Smartphones provide pre-built mass distribution, removing a traditional barrier to entry by disruptive competitors.Consumers are increasingly open to trying new things, having been trained to do so and seen benefits from previous new things.Natural interfaces will eliminate learning curves as systems adopt to users rather than the other way around, removing another barrier to adoption.Autonomous services will self-initiate based on observing past behavior and current context.  Users won't need to purposely select them.  More barriers down.Services will be bundled into mega-services, simplifying user choice.Open APIs and interoperability will make it easy to add new services to the bundles. This is a key enabling technology. Better security and trust are essential for users to grant device access and share information with new services. Business relationships need to be worked out between the individual services and the mega-bundles. I’m sure you see the overlap between the Deloitte and Juniper pieces. Machine intelligence a[...]



Should Customer Data Platforms Be "Marketer-Controlled"?

2017-03-14T08:46:47.584-04:00

Thomas Wieberneit argues in a thoughtful blog post that companies need one platform for consolidated customer data, but that Customer Data Platform isn’t it because the CDP is “marketer-controlled” by definition, and thus doesn’t support other departments. This hits a nerve. Many of the CDP vendors have told me their systems are used outside of marketing. Just last week, RedPoint unveiled a “Customer Engagement Hub”* that it defines as extending beyond marketing to all customer touchpoints. When I was recently writing a paper for B2B CDP CaliberMind, they listed sales and customer success teams along with marketing as likely buyers of their product.As these examples suggest, CDP technology can support all customer-facing departments. It’s true that different departmental applications will probably need the CDP data to be presented slightly differently. But applications within marketing also need different formats, and it’s already standard for CDPs to reformat their data for access by external systems. So there’s no technical reason to limit CDPs to marketing.Indeed, as I argued in my last blog post, the era of isolated marketing technology systems may be coming to an end as companies return to centralized systems to ensure a seamlessly integrated customer experience. In this world, the CDP is a shared enterprise asset, and, as such, clearly not something that marketers build and control for themselves.So what’s holding me back from changing the definition? Three things:History. The fact is that CDPs evolved from systems that were built specifically for marketing. This matters because it means marketing needs drove their design. CDPs built to support sales or customer success teams would probably look a bit different, even if they used the same underlying technology. To give a concrete example, systems built for customer success don’t need to advanced identity resolution because almost all the data they care about arrives with a customer ID attached. I know that history by itself isn’t a good reason to retain the marketer-centric definition of CDP since CDPs have outgrown their origins. But it doesn’t hurt to have something remind users outside of marketing that they should look closely at whether any particular CDP can fully support their needs. User control. The primary reason the CDP definition includes “marketer-controlled” is to distinguish CDPs from enterprise data warehouse (or data lake) projects run by corporate IT. That matters because such projects were historically multi-year undertakings that often failed altogether or required so many compromises among enterprise stakeholders that they didn’t meet all of marketing’s particular needs. Moreover, once built, such systems were slow and costly to update, so they didn’t adapt quickly to marketers’ fast-changing environment. This responsiveness is really the biggest change that CDPs introduced into the world of customer data management. As I noted earlier, department-controlled systems may soon be lost in a new round of centralization.  In theory, these new central systems will be vastly more responsive to user needs than the old central systems. But if I were a marketer, I’d be reluctant to give up my own systems until the new ones had proven their agility in practice.Departmental buyers. Whatever the long-term future of centralization, CDPs today are a[...]