Brands share secrets to breaking through technology’s chaos to reach the consumer

The single biggest problem in communications is the illusion it's taken place. Google, Microsoft, Contagious and M&S are among a raft of brands exploring how technology can help them burst this bubble to get closer to consumers.

From having conversations at the speed of market to crafting sustainable disruption, marketers are no longer by limited by technology, they are limited by creativity. Brands therefore need to adapt accordingly and speakers at Tug’sTech Week conference this week shared their advice on how to cope with the shift.

Digital is a tool, not a media type

This is the approach publisher Contagious has taken to surviving in a publishing world having to react quickly to how mobile is changing the way readers consume content. “We are used to having fast access to information, facilitated through digital, said Alex Jenkins, editor of Contagious. “There is now a need to move from digital information to digital, facilitated by speed of product i.e. use digital to get content more quickly.”

His talk reflected on Domino’s new technology where you can order a pizza from anywhere including a car, which he described as the greatest digital campaign ever. It highlights the need to build scenarios for the future and the importance of evaluating the brand's right to exist.

Non more so is this prevalent than at RBS. The beleaguered bank is trying to repair decades of decline in customer confidence in order to become the number one for customer trust and advocacy by 2020. It is focused on building mobile experiences backed up by frontline people that help customers. For example, the bank has created a photo ID checker so that it can process potential applications for RBS accounts and reduce the need for people to have to go into its stores.

RBS’ director of digital at Christ Popple said there were “powerful experiences” in digital but “customers don’t see channels as something that compete they just see brand”. “There is a role for people in [digital communications]. A dialogue isn’t purely through mobile baking or online. We want to be different by stringing channels together in a way others are not to give us the context of the humanity around financial services.”

Technology is not just about creating content, it’s about building audiences

Building an audience at scale and at speed is the norm for marketers though the breadth of technology at their disposal is both a blessing and a curse on their efforts. To get the understanding needed to reach that scale, marketers need look no further than what people are searching for, said Microsoft’s search advertising lead in the UK James Murray. “The many are smarter than the few and search allows you to understand people’s needs and wants,” he continued. “People don’t lie when they are typing into search engines, so it’s more useful than survey based data.”

Advancements in search, social and personality profiling now means that it’s not necessarily about ‘big data’, but finding the little pieces of data that combine to create valuable insight. Google’s client development lead Dave Power agreed and attributed it the mindset of “being less wrong”. Programmatic has a role to play here, particularly when it comes to humanising brands through personalised content.

Personality profiling is being developed to capture more reliable data, meaning advertisers are able to target customers based on personality, not just demographic. Of those people that are taking personality quizzes, social media is instrumental with 90 per cent of traffic to these posts viral as well as high engagement between 85 to 95 per cent completion rates according to Visual DNA’s vice president of global advertising Jon Hewston. “Start looking at targeting via personality type rather than basic demographics,” he continued. “One of the key data sets for programmatic is psychology”.

Having conversations with customers at the speed of market

The sheer speed at which people are adopting technology means marketers are increasingly having to weigh up the benefits of doing it faster versus doing it better. The answer differs from business to business but in banking there is definite shift from the sector’s key players to doing technology better in an attempt to thrive at a time when banking is necessary but banks are not. To do this, Terry Cordeiro, head of proposition development for digital transformation at Lloyds Banking Group, said banks have to work out how to shift the “paradigm from banks making [people] prove who they are to us recognising who you are”.

“[Banks] need to rely more on using technology to use what [people] have and what [they] are as a way of recognising them. The challenge is for [banks] to more and [customers] do less,” he added.

Much of Lloyds future digital endeavours will revolve around looking at ways it can recommend products and tailor services based on customer data. So if a Lloyd’s customer is looking at a TV for example, the bank could show them how the purchase would impact on their account if they decide to do so.

“At the moment we do very little with that data,” admitted Cordeiro. “All we do is present it back to you as a statement. We need to use it in the right way such that we can help you make smarter decisions.”

It points to bigger principles at play. Banks used to view customers as either in the system or out whereas now they’re trying to break beyond the payment chain and engage with those people outside the purchase circle.

It chimes with the scope not scale approach energy providers are quickly adopting following the introduction of smart meters. Companies are more willing to try lots of innovative projects rather than focus on one major initiative in order to get billpayers to show more interest in their energy use, and consequently build better loyalty.

Claire Maugham, Smart Energy GB, the government’s marketing body for smart meters, said the products arrival could see a ‘pay as you go’ evolution in energy consumption, like we did for the mobile phone”.

Finding the right kind of 'new’

OpenMarket’s senior market development manager Oisin Lunny, said there are currently more mobile connections in the world than people and yet retailers could be doing more to bake it into their marketing strategies. He then highlighted IMRG’s eRtail guide, which predicts that mcommerce sales will top £19.9bn in 2015, along with the power of SMS. SMS has a higher open rate than emails, and people read texts within 10 minutes of receiving, Lunny continued and retailers that are "running limited promotions should use this tactic for quick response".

Marks & Spencer used its panel to shed light on how digital is powering its CSR efforts to connect at a local level with communities, while RBS and Lloyds touched on the importance of humanisation when communicating with customers.

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