Four Questions For: Greg Green

What are the biggest issues facing Big Data and marketing in 2017?
There are three primary issues currently facing “Big Data” and Marketing. First, the issue of irrelevance regarding the vast majority of collected data – and conversely, the power of focused, actionable insights from the right slice of data. The pressure on today’s data and analytics professionals continues to grow, forcing them to sift through the noise to find the hidden diamonds.
Second, consumers are changing their behavior faster than data collection and algorithms teams can handle. This leads to marketers chasing trends and opportunities, as they are overwhelmed with data from older paradigms. For example, marketers with a 360-degree view of the customer built in the 1990s, rebuilt in the 2000s and updated again after 2015, completely miss the power of social media while reacting to real-time events.
Third, and most importantly, while the behavioral data shared from our devices gives us some information, the intuition and insights from data science, operations and customer service teams remain equally, if not more so, important. Each business, whether an auto manufacturer or a local pizza pub, needs both the data and the on-the- ground insight to find the golden nuggets and avoid potential disasters.
What new technologies should marketers be using to better analyze and act on data?
It’s no longer a question of if marketers are adopting technology; it’s a matter of what kind of technology. Technology is critical for connecting data silos and catching shoppers’ attention. Brands should tap solutions that help them better understand consumer behavior across print, digital (mobile, video, etc.), in-store, TV and e-commerce channels to get the full scope of their audiences’ actions.
We are especially interested in technology that helps us visualize trends and detect changes in consumer behavior quickly. Consumers tend to lead brands into new arenas by adopting technologies, apps and devices faster than clients can adapt. Marketers have access to this comprehensive data intelligence and ultimately need to adjust their media strategies to take advantage of new behavior patterns, dynamically changing consumer segments and shopper preferences. Segmentation tools, technology that accounts for both integrated online and offline targeting and utilizing vendors with open partner ecosystems should all be part of a marketer’s arsenal. By not accounting for all media channels, marketers are missing the bigger picture. They are formulating a customer profile based on a partial view – technology must be utilized to gain a more holistic audience overview.
It’s important to note that while technology can clearly improve marketing results, it must be combined with a human touch to ensure it’s a more nuanced experience.
How can marketers tread the line between personalization and targeting while ensuring consumer privacy is respected?
It’s no surprise that privacy is a major issue today – consumers increasingly feel “creeped-out” as marketers aim to provide a relevant experience. We especially see this across mobile platforms with location data. Many consumers actually don’t mind sharing this data – it’s when brands use the information in unintended manners or without providing a relevant ROI for customers, so to speak, that brand/consumer friction appears. To avoid this, marketers need to build trust with their audience. This can be achieved by ensuring that the collected data benefits the consumer.
Another way to build trust is to establish a clear opt-in option. Marketers shouldn’t be luring their audience into opting-in – it should be a transparent process laying out exactly what the consumer can expect to receive in return. What if a consumer says “no?” Leave it be. Don’t annoy them with constant opt-in requests. If and when they’d like to share data, you can bet a new app or value proposition will draw them in.
What are some strategies that brands/marketers can leverage to make data as valuable as possible for consumers?
As shoppers, we all want to feel valued and understood. Knowing this mindset, it’s up to marketers to engage their audience in meaningful ways across the channels they prefer. Brands should use the data at their disposal for a catered experience. If a shopper has a birthday coming up, send a special discount code. Want to take it a step further? Allow them to share the code with up to five friends. This ends up being a win-win for the consumer and brand. The shopper feels valued, and the brand extends its reach to five potential new customers.
Data should also be tapped to include real-time offers in marketing campaigns. Imagine a consumer is departing work for the day and looking for a local spot to pick up some pizza for dinner. A simple mobile alert offering a pizza coupon in that exact neighborhood can be the needed influence to spur a shopper to make a purchase decision. Making data relevant for consumers shouldn’t feel like a hassle for marketers. The little extra effort can go a long way in customer engagement, retention and happiness. Yes – happiness.

Fluent in applying data science to business applications and driving revenue, Greg possesses nearly 25 years of industry experience. In his role as Chief Data and Analytics Officer at Valassis, he brings a unique combination of expertise across disciplines including data management, consumer analytics, marketing tech, sales operations and product development.
 

Four Questions For: Sara Spivey

In what ways is technology changing marketing today?
In every way. I can’t think of an area in marketing that technology hasn’t changed in some way. From research to social media to everything in between, technology is omnipresent and essential to today’s marketers. Technology has enabled marketers to better identify our target audiences, track their behavior across the spectrum of touch points, provide customized offerings to our clients, work faster to move our audiences through the sales funnel, build better products based on real-time feedback, engage with customers on their preferred medium and much more. However, for all its benefits, I think technology can also be a crutch that we rely on too much at times. Like any tool, it should be used for a specific purpose, but not over relied upon to do everything for us. The human element still provides the competitive advantage to take all the benefits and insights technology offers and decide how and when they should be used.
 
How do you see big data influencing marketing in 2017? Any trends that you expect to see?
Big data has already played a tremendous role in helping marketers provide personalized offerings for their clients and respond quickly to changes in the industry. Yet I think it has also led to a loss of creativity in marketing. In today’s world, marketers are measuring every single thing with tools and systems trying to find an underlying analytical theme. This is leading to an abundance of data that doesn’t necessarily have any meaning or practical application. With a profusion of automated services collecting information, I think marketers have reached a point of saturation. For instance, we don’t need 25,000 data points about a consumer; we need the 12 that matter in their purchase journey. I think marketers will soon realize the need to distill the most important insights from data being collected and to use it to develop thoughtful, actionable, creative strategies to engage and reach their target audiences more effectively.
 
What role do you believe artificial intelligence will play in marketing?
Let’s take chatbots as an example of artificial intelligence in marketing. While there will still be a place for chatbots, companies will be much more selective about using them. Many companies have implemented these AI programs, but in some areas, they hurt the customer experience. Though automation technologies will still be used in marketing, I don’t think chatbots will be applied unilaterally. Companies are realizing that human interaction is still crucial to engaging consumers and sustaining relationships with the ones they already have. As far as virtual reality goes, it definitely has made a major splash, but I’m not sure how it leads to sales conversion, particularly in retail. For example, when consumers use Oculus devices in-store, they might be interested in purchasing that specific VR device, but it rarely leads to lateral purchases for clothes, electronics, etc. There’s a gap between correlating the VR experience between general interest and purchase intent. It’s also an incredibly expensive marketing tactic to employ.
 
How can marketers better incorporate data analytics into their strategies? Are consumers still as willing to share personal facts about themselves in hopes of receiving more personalized experiences?
Marketers must go the extra mile to provide more value to their companies by using their data to reach the customer when it matters most. I believe the industry will only continue to build and sharpen its data focus. The more marketers can learn about their consumers through data, the easier it is to personalize the outreach for a customized experience. That’s how they go the ‘last mile’ with consumers – by reaching them when they are actually in-market with personalized offers.
I am amazed by consumers’ continued willingness to share data, even with growing concerns around privacy. Consumers are sharing personalized facts about themselves at a much higher rate, and while they know companies are using this data to market to them, they are hoping that it will lead to more personalized experiences. It is crucial for companies, brands and retailers to take the data customers are sharing and apply it in a meaningful way that leads to better, more personalized experiences. Whether these organizations offer coupons based on consumers’ past purchases or exclusive access to certain products due to brand loyalty, these little factors can make a significant difference. Our recent study found that more than 70 percent of US internet users said their purchase decisions were influenced by coupons and discounts. What’s more is that 54 percent of consumers claim to have made a purchase as a result of brand outreach regarding abandoned shopper cart items or recommendations based on past purchases. When we have so many tools and data at our disposal, we owe it to our customers to get it right when reaching out to them and providing content that matters to them.

As Chief Marketing Officer, Sara Spivey is responsible for overall leadership of Bazaarvoice’s global marketing programs, including demand generation, solutions marketing, brand strategy, and communications. Sara has more than 30 years of marketing, strategy, and leadership experience with industry-leading organizations.

Ad Blocking and Tackling: What 2015’s Ad Blocking Means for 2016’s Marketing

2015 was the year when an unprecedented number of users took action against the ads that slowed web pages and turned the online content experience into a frustrating game of close-that-ad. According to a PageFair and Adobe report, U.S. ad blocking grew 48% in the twelve months leading up to June 2015. That’s 45 million users—16% of the population—who just said no to digital and, in particular, mobile web advertising by downloading ad blocking applications.
With eyeballs and revenue on the line, thought leaders debated whether the ad blocking trend would destroy or save advertising. The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) blamed the digital ecosystem. The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) blamed themselves for having “lost track of the user experience.” (They also notably took ad blockers to task for disingenuous practices, most specifically paid “whitelists” for publishers.)
The cost of ad blocking is significant, with an estimated $781 million dollar loss for the industry. But another resonating impact of the Great Ad Rebellion of 2015 will be found in its influence on marketing investments. What will marketers do differently to navigate the digital/mobile landscape in 2016?
Revisiting advertising
Lest there is any question, ad blocking will not prompt an all-out surrender by the ad ecosystem. Some publishers, like GQ, Forbes and more recently Wired, are fighting fire with fire, by blocking users with ad blockers. But the longer term strategy is to address the issues with ad experience. Some of this responsibility falls on publishers, who determine the degree of disruption that must be tolerated to access content, as well as the ad tech landscape, where fierce competition can inspire extreme approaches to ad engagement. (To steer publishers and platforms to a more user-friendly approach, and as part of its mea culpa, the IAB introduced new guidelines that emphasize ‘light, encrypted, ad choice supported, non-invasive ads’.)
But no change can succeed unless marketers direct ad dollars to those that are innovating in favor of an improved experience. This isn’t a simple task, given that site-by-site scrutiny can work against the efficiency gains of programmatic buying, a practice that has itself been blamed for the surge in ad blocking. As such, there will also be other moves to optimize ad impact, including increased investment in emotionally-aware ads, where data is used to extrapolate insights about a user’s psychological state in a given moment. Incorporating a measure of receptivity into ad delivery could prove to be the much-needed difference between engaging a consumer and ticking them off.
Thinking beyond advertising
Ongoing concerns about ad ROI will prompt more marketers to deepen investments in other approaches. Native advertising, the modern day equivalent of the advertorial, offers a worthy complement to traditional ads. Content marketing and branded content will help brands meet the need to feed social channels. Influencer marketing will gain practitioners as marketers struggle to connect with elusive millennial audiences. We’ll also see more brands practicing corporate social responsibility and, of course, promoting those good deeds via social channels.
Each of these tactics offer a subtler alternative to the traditional advertising message. And while this can be a strength in an oversaturated landscape, there is a fine line between subtle marketing and the calculated manipulation of audiences. The FTC tuned into this, releasing guidelines to ensure consumers can distinguish native advertising from content. But marketing’s most powerful critics are the consumers themselves, which leads to the next point…
Embracing feedback—in all forms
In a world of 24/7 marketing, brands are constantly challenged to creatively and authentically engage consumers in “conversation”.  The always-on dialogue represents tremendous opportunity, but it doesn’t come without risk. Today consumers are quick to call brands out when they’ve missed the mark, even when it’s as seemingly innocuous as Red Lobster’s slow response to a shout out from Beyoncé. Success doesn’t grant immunity either, as is evidenced by the less than warm welcome REI received on Reddit following its widely-celebrated #optoutside campaign.
This vulnerability could make one want to crawl back into the safe confines of traditional marketing, but of course that’s not an option. In 2016, more marketers will have strategies in place that allow them to creatively participate in the two-way dialogue while also managing the inherent risk. This means more than having an ear to the ground; brands need a plan that allows them to quickly gauge when and how—or if—it makes sense to engage or respond. (Arby’s farewell to their consistent critic Jon Stewart is a stellar example of a brand creatively and effectively steering into negative feedback.)
It may be that consumer ad blocking is really only part of this feedback cycle— less a mass exodus from advertising than it is an aggressive critique of its current form. Either way, it is a milestone in the ongoing transition from one-way marketing, perhaps one of the last nails in the coffin. Today, consumers have more than just a voice—they control the levers on which messages they receive and when. Marketers will need to keep in mind throughout the execution of every strategy and tactic to have an edge in 2016 and beyond.

People-based marketing is key to humanizing the consumer experience

 Tim is CEO at DataSift
Cookies were once the kings of the advertising industry, but times are changing.
Once upon a time in the world of online marketing (or five years ago), every time you visited a website, a pixel would drop a web cookie into your browser. Cookies served as a tagging device to identify your computer among the millions of other users browsing the Internet, tracking your activity as you visited pages online. This meant marketers could use this “cookie profiling” to reach you via an ad exchange, or an automated pool of ad impressions. Marketers targeted potential customers based on their browsing patterns, displaying ads tailored to age, marital status, or political affiliations. When one person equaled one browser, this targeted ad model worked.
Fast-forward to now, with consumers spreading their digital time among various devices and apps. Today’s consumer is a multi-tasking, multi-talented research expert who communicates, researches and shops on multiple devices.
In fact, industry reports estimate that consumers spend an average of three hours each day on their mobile devices. For marketers, following a consumer’s journey across digital destinations and touch points is difficult. And for those marketers who rely on cookies to track your digital trail, their task is a difficult one. They must connect all the cookies across all of the devices and apps that you use. How can companies track consumer demand as well as anticipate and meet consumer needs? How can marketers best listen to customers?

Traditionally, marketers relied on pixel tracking, a cookie-based technology that uses code to anonymously follow people around the Web as they visited webpages. When a potential customer visits a page, the code drops a browser cookie. The cookie then determines when to serve ads, ensuring ads are sent only to those who have previously visited a particular site. Pixel tracking provides information on who is clicking through on ads and ending up on a sales page.
However, five years from now, we’ll look at companies that use pixel-based marketing in the same way we view someone who still has a GeoCities email address — another addition to the Wayback Machine. eMarketer estimates that by 2018, mobile will account for 70 percent of digital marketing spend. Mobile is complicated, as mobile browsers don’t support cookies. Given consumer mobility, pixels and cookies fail to connect users as they shift between their various devices.

People, and why they matter more than ever

We are moving from pixels to people — more specifically people-based marketing.
People-based marketing allows the marketer to learn – from actual humans — about an audience’s sentiments and reactions to a company’s products, performance and prices.
For example, Facebook Atlas demonstrates that there is a simpler way to enable marketers to reach people that does not involve using pixels. Atlas represents the two foundations of people-based marketing: allowing consumers to establish their identity through opt-in/log-in and accounting for consumer cross-device and cross-channel activity. Brands and agencies, with Atlas, can measure ad campaigns across screens and solve the cookie issue, targeting real people across mobile and the Web. Atlas uses Facebook’s ID (rather than a cookie) to follow a user’s journey from mobile to desktop and back.
Humans are at the core of people-based marketing, of course, and mining human data intelligence is integral to marketers understanding their audience. Human data, which includes real-time feedback from real humans, is quite valuable. Brands can analyze this information to track customer responses, patterns and trends to refine their competitive edge.
The ubiquitous nature of social media has prompted businesses to adjust their marketing strategies accordingly. Recent research indicates the average American spends 37 minutes per day on social media. Also, 46 percent of web users look towards social media when making a purchase. Meanwhile, 65 percent of B2B marketers invest in social media to gain market insights.

Human marketing requires human input

The marketer’s goal has moved beyond serving ads to the same people on the same device toward gaining a greater understanding – and even anticipating – consumer buying patterns. When you consider that more than half of all site visits are not even made by people, but by bots, it’s clear active human participation is vital to successful marketing.
For example, to properly engage with potential customers regardless of device, ask their permission by requesting their email address. Urge customers to opt-in and provide product preferences so that you, the marketer, can personalize and improve the customer experience.
Brands and agencies must first understand their audience before they can build and nurture customer relationships. This “understanding” involves going where customers are (social media on mobile devices), listening, communicating the value they offer to the consumer, and enabling user control. Modern marketing is really people-based marketing and should involve choice and convenience across multiple devices. Only then will today’s marketers gain an accurate understating of their market, customer, and future customers.

Consumer Data: Are Attitudes about Sharing with Brands Shifting?

You don’t have to have been an internet user fifteen years ago to know things were different then; it was the time of dial-up and buffering videos, when ecommerce was novel and social media had yet to lay its claim on our souls. Personal data was something to be guarded closely and so when ad platform DoubleClick purchased catalog data collection agency Abacus, the first major privacy scandal of the digital age erupted. Privacy advocates rallied against merging offline and online data and ultimately inspired a set of rules that would help safe-guard personally identifiable information (PII) from marketers.
Fast forward 15+ years and behavioral and location targeting are standard fare in advertising. Marketers are using in-store transaction data to optimize digital retention programs and, conversely, gauging the success of online campaigns with in-store data. Yes—they are marrying online with offline data, the same idea that ignited the milestone scandal. This widespread shift recently prompted privacy expert Allen Chappell to raise the question whether or not it was time to revisit the controls put in place as a result of the DoubleClick/Abacus deal.
More intriguing is the fact that, unlike fifteen years ago, consumers are now freely and frequently sharing personal photos of their pets, homes and children, announcing political and religious views, medical conditions and their location online. They’re surrendering personal information for the sake of learning what their zombie name would be, or what career they might have had had they been born left-handed. Is it possible that the tide against sharing has turned?
A new study released by Columbia Business School and AIMIA investigates this. “What is the Future of Data Sharing: Consumer Mindsets and the Power of Brands”, authored by Matthew Quint and David Rogers, surveyed 8000 respondents across four generations (Millennials, Generation X, Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation) and five countries (US, UK, Canada, France and India) to gain insight into what, how, and why consumers are willing to share their personal data with companies.
By examining attitudes around different kinds of data—name, address, phone number, email, purchase history and lifestyle info—the study showed that consumers are able to make distinctions between personally identifiable and other types of information, and that they understand sharing some data points makes them more vulnerable than others. However, even with this knowledge, 70% of those surveyed would still consider sharing that personal information. They offered a framework on which to better understand the range of attitudes around sharing.
The Data Sharing Mindset
By comparing respondents’ level of defense and happiness about sharing, the study identified identified 4 “data-sharing mindsets”.
DataSharingMindsets_ColumbiaBusinessSchoolStudy
“Defenders”, or those that are unwilling to share data and/or take defensive action against sharing (such as giving false information or making efforts to limit how they are tracked online) represent the largest of the four segments. Still, their active resistance leaves them in the minority; 67% of those surveyed were either willing to share data or, somewhat pessimistically, resigned to sharing it. While it didn’t prevent consumers from sharing, that negative attitude toward sharing characterized the majority (66%) of respondents.
So, essentially, consumers are sharing data even when they aren’t necessarily “happy” about doing so. What, then, is driving this action?
The Motivation for Sharing Personal Data
Naturally, trust plays a role here; 75% of those surveyed were more likely to share data with a brand they trust. The study presented a fairly optimistic view of the state of brand and consumer relations in that most of those surveyed acknowledged at least one brand they trusted across the six industries presented, including Financial Services, Retail and Airlines.
BrandTrust_ColumbiaBusinessSchoolStudy
Interestingly, Financial Services stood out as the industry for which most consumers identified a trusted brand, perhaps suggesting they believe that these companies are more conscientious when it comes to safeguarding the information with which they are entrusted.
Another key factor is value. The study showed that offers have an influence on whether or not consumers shared data with brands, as well as what data they shared. An offer might entail signing up for a newsletter to get a discount, registering for a “shopping club”, joining a loyalty program, or gaining access to special events. Not surprisingly, financial incentives like cash back and discounts scored most effective. (In a sense, this becomes more of a barter than sharing. Along these lines, as authors Quint and Rogers noted, the World Economic Forum is researching personal data’s potential as a new asset class.)
The study also recognized the trend toward “non-traditional, data-enabled benefits”, such as Security, User Experience, Societal and Insight benefits.  Product recommendations, as offered by Netflix and Amazon, fall into this group. So do services like Mint and Billguard which, in their promise to support financial decisions, aggregate data that’s more sensitive than your late night Narcos binge-viewing. And, any content marketer will find validation in the role that Insights play in acquiring customer data. (There is some irony in the fact that, among the non-traditional benefits that drive consumers to share their sensitive personal information, Security topped the list.)
Sharing is Not a Reflection of Comfort
Despite a willingness to share, the survey reflects the general sense that consumers aren’t comfortable with how companies handle their data. Even among Millennials who—correlating to a recent Nielsen survey—weighed in as the most trusting age group, only 51% felt comfortable with how companies handle data. And, across generations, the vast majority of those surveyed expressed the desire to have more information about the data companies collect (85%) and (86%) wanted greater control over that data. The study posits that “due to increasing attention drawn to data theft, loss and monitoring… many people with Happy Go Lucky or Resigned mindsets in the past would have become Savvy and In Control or Defenders.”
The recent surge in downloads of ad blocking applications supports this. While the IAB and Digiday have each noted the motivation for ad blockers is more about user experience than privacy, the act of downloading—and even paying to download—ad blockers demonstrates that consumers are more aware of, and increasingly taking action against, unsatisfying relationship with brands online. This, in turn, puts brands on the defensive. What can they do to to make consumers more comfortable?
What the Future of Data Sharing Means for Brands
Just because consumers share pictures of their family vacation on Facebook or pin their Thanksgiving dinner menu, brands shouldn’t assume that they’ll benefit from any general trend toward sharing. Instead, they need to focus on building trust, which means being transparent about their collection and use of data and respectful of consumers’ fear and desire for control. This isn’t groundbreaking stuff, and in broad strokes mirrors the guidelines that came into play some fifteen years ago.
More exciting, however, is the opportunity to create data-enabled incentives that make sharing with brands worthwhile, and maybe even irresistible, to consumers. This is both compelling and challenging because, unlike the traditional email-for-discount exchange, the best expression of data-enabled incentives isn’t one-size-fits-all. Some will be experiential and deeply tied to the product—think of anyone who has easily surrendered their location to catch an Uber—while others might be more complementary. For example, Saatchi’s recent “Digital Pawprint” campaign aims to match users with their perfect pet by targeting banners based on digital behavior.
Either way, brands are challenged to dig deeper. They must apply the insight they already have on audiences to construct worthwhile incentives that draw further insight and, ultimately, grow their business. By offering creative and value-driven benefits, supported by transparency and trust, brands can build a more meaningful exchange with consumers today. They’ll also be better prepared for the next, bigger wave of data that’s coming with our wearable and IoT future.
 

Hightail to a Defensible Niche

It’s hardly news that enterprise file sharing technology has become commoditized. That process has very visibly played out in the tech media over several months now. However, most of the articles written have assumed that pure play file sharing startups have a bleak future, if any, as Microsoft, Google, Citrix and other platform vendors continue to commoditize both functionality and pricing.
Reality begs to differ. Box has convincingly moved beyond commodity file sharing by offering ready-made, industry-specific solutions and a developer platform chock full of APIs for organizations that prefer to build their own applications using Box technology. Accellion and Egnyte have focused on the sharing of content in hybrid environments that combine cloud-based and on-premises file storage.

Hightail Makes Its Move

Hightail is another enterprise file sharing pure play that was supposed to be put out of business as a result of market consolidation. It too is still standing and has just announced a new offering, called Spaces, that essentially repositions the company from commodity file sharing to content-based collaboration for creative professionals.
Spaces is an attempt by Hightail to help people who work at ad agencies, film and music studios, and in Marketing departments to not only share, but also to give and get feedback on audio and visual files. Collaborators can make annotations directly on visual files and comment in-context of one of its elements. Comments on audio and video files are also made in context, as they appear in the track’s timeline.

Spaces is really a project management tool for creatives, albeit one with only lightweight task management functionality. Individuals can establish a collaborative space in which the creative artifacts related to a specific project are shared, annotated and commented on, and distributed in final form. There is also a dashboard that lets the owner/administrator of the space monitor activities taken by it members on its assets, including comments made and downloads of files.

Darwin’s Theories at Work

Hightail is a clear example of Charles Darwin’s theories of evolution and specialization at work. From its inception (as YouSendIt, in 2004) the company has evolved from a provider of technology for sharing large digital files to one that also stored those files in the cloud. Now Hightail is specializing to ensure its continuing existing. Its CEO, Ranjith Kumaran, recently acknowledged that roughly 80% of the company’s revenue comes from creative agencies and firms, so focusing the company to serve those customers was a logical move.
Hightail is certainly not the first company to start as a purveyor of a general technology and then specialize to survive. It’s not even the first in the context-centric collaboration space. As noted above, Box has also created industry-specific solutions. The real question is whether or not this pivot will provide Hightail with a niche that is large enough for the company to not only sustain its current level of operations, but to grow as well.

We’ve Seen This Movie Before

Central Desktop may well serve as a historical example of Hightail’s future.  In 2011, Central Desktop launched SocialBridge, a new offering that repositioned the company from the generic social collaboration space to the same niche that Hightail has selected – creative and marketing agencies. While Central Desktop saw some success and growth as a result, it sold itself three and a half years later to PGi, who wanted to augment its existing solution for real-time meetings into a more holistic collaboration offering.
Hightail’s evolution may take a similar path. Adobe could combine assets from its Creative Cloud and Document Cloud offerings to create something similar to Hightail Spaces, but Adobe could also choose to buy Hightail. One of Adobe’s traditional foes, such as Corel or Quark, could acquire Hightail in an effort to better compete Adobe. It’s even possible that Apple could want to buy Hightail to augment its existing offerings for creative professionals.
Whatever happens to Hightail down the road, they’ve made a move this week that they needed to do to stick around a while longer as an independent company. They’ve also demonstrated that generic file sharing has become completely commoditized and that evolutionary specialization will be required of all the other pure play enterprise file sharing vendors if they want to continue in business.

Mobile & CRM: Your app is in your customer’s hand- how do you maximize that touch point?

Bridging the chasm between the app experiences you deliver and the customer data that is informing your sales and marketing
In this series we have identified a number of practical and business challenges in bringing CRM and other customer data into app experiences. Some companies are starting to bridge this gap, and we expect more and more will look to do this. In a world where the product a company sells is often indistinguishable from the ongoing experience the consumer has with the brand, especially now with pervasive and always-connected technology- mobile today and IoT tomorrow, it will be more and more important to make this linkage.
At Dreamforce (Salesforce’s annual event, with over 160,000 registered attendees) in San Francisco last week there were companies starting to push the envelop in linking consumer experiences on mobile with CRM, but relatively few providers and developers emphasizing this. Perhaps part of the challenge lies in traditional thinking about what brand marketing, direct marketing, and sales management systems do. What we are seeing, by delivering experiences directly into consumers’ hands (i.e. apps), is a blending of these various elements. It is hard to deliver a coupon-like special offer into a high end brand experience stressing luxury, and what do you do if your best direct campaign this month emphasizes skiing holidays, and you know this person is about to leave on a business trip to Dubai for three weeks, or just hates skiing?
So how are companies delivering across this chasm, and is it going to be become more important? Groupe Renault, a FollowAnalytics customer, is starting to see value in connecting customer data to experiences throughout the ownership cycle. At Dreamforce Gigaom Research got the chance to catch up with Patrick Hoffstetter, Chief Digital Officer at Groupe Renault. He described how the group is using digital to “transform the entire customer funnel from first consideration to repurchase,” and in addition he noted that as 40% of the group’s web traffic is on mobile, it has become a critical consumer engagement tool.
Groupe Renault started using FollowAnalytics as a reporting and analytics platform to manage internal apps. As consumer use of mobile has exploded in the last 12 months, the group has expanded their use of FollowAnalytics. An important part of this is using the consumer data in their Salesforce system to inform the mobile experiences they deliver to their customer. The group launched their My Renault loyalty program prior to the move to mobile and now it has moved to an app experience, powered by FollowAnalytics, which is an increasingly important part of the overall customer journey.
 My Renault
Personalized offers and vehicle servicing within the My Renault application
Groupe Renault is also thinking about the car as a connected device. This starts to point towards a real IoT set of experiences. CRM and other customer data is going to be informing the in-car experience. As Patrick commented “the car is becoming connected as well [as mobile]… increasingly we see the connected car creating a customer engagement opportunity.” This is part of an overall customer engagement effort. “We are connecting with consumers on digital for services during car ownership as well as at purchase and repurchase,” continued Patrick. “Much of the activity around CRM is in coordination with Groupe Renault’s 12,000 strong dealer network.”
As an aside- Patrick noted that after the positive experience working with FollowAnalytics, and spending time at Dreamforce and in Silicon Valley, one of his objectives for the coming 12 months was to start working with more early stage technology companies.
“Apps are not just ads”
Samir Addamine, Founder and Chairman of FollowAnalytics, is confident that more and more people will understand that “Apps are not just ads, companies need to connect them them to back into their business- CRM and other customer systems are not just data for salespeople, they can and should inform the entire consumer experience.”
In conclusion: There are good reasons why CRM and other customer data is only just starting to impact consumer app experiences. Companies that can execute on bridging these systems together will see competitive advantage on mobile today, and the multiple platforms of IoT tomorrow.


Customers are on mobile (too), is CRM data informing the cross-platform experience? — Your app is optimized, and push notifications are getting delivered as users get close to your store: why do you still feel you are missing that real 1:1 customer engagement?
Pulling consumer data into your app experiences — Is it time to stop worrying about presence and downloads and start asking whether your apps are delivering ROI?


This post is the third post in a series sponsored by FollowAnalytics. An upcoming report will consolidate these posts.

Mobile & CRM: Pulling consumer data into your app experiences

Is it time to stop worrying about presence and downloads and start asking whether your apps are delivering ROI?

Brand and retail mobile apps have moved rapidly from being brochureware and advertising to customer engagement and real commerce experiences. As we discussed in the first post in this series, many of the tools used to optimize these experiences still live in mobile silos, which delivers great apps, but not always great business results. Mobile optimization tools which integrate CRM and other customer data systems into the app experience are starting to deliver value for those working with them.
As Samir Addamine, Founder of FollowAnalytics puts it, ‘our customers have quickly gone from “I need an app” to “I need downloads” to “I need business impact”.’ He continues, “whether it’s helping transit companies starting to sell more tickets on mobile [than on the PC], or mapping ecommerce shopping cart abandonment to real-world shop visits, we are linking mobile app usage to the real business of [the company].” It’s perhaps telling that many of the requirements are framed in terms of multichannel activity with the PC as a strong component today. It’s likely that more and more of these companies will move to a mobile-first interaction model with their customers. But even as we see 50, 60 or 70 percent of customers on mobile, more devices (whether watches and fitness trackers or smart home thermostats) will deliver more data back to companies, and repay customized responses. That is to say even as we move to a mobile world, we are not going to be a single device world. Businesses and customer will do best with experiences optimized across all those devices, and where data from all those device interactions feeds back to enhance the next cycle of the the relationship. Under Armour’s acquisitions in the fitness tracking space are just one example of a non-technology consumer brand that is going to be able to think about about additional data points as it communicates with its customers.
“A mobile app is most effective when tightly focused”
Nothing about adding customer data from CRM or other business systems to optimize a mobile app experience should take away from a core principle: a mobile app is most effective when tightly focused. The best mobile apps are still going to be narrow and deep. Understanding when to break functionality into multiple apps can be challenging, especially when companies have customers with different roles (which might be as simple as buying different products, or a completely end user different workflow). In this context it’s interesting to see how many brands do have multiple apps (more than 60% of the companies a recent FollowAnalytics survey had more than one app, and many had more than ten (!)). A fun make-up tester app should likely not part of the same app as a store map and inventory checker, but the best customer experience should come from understanding both are being used by the same person. Apps which can do everything will rarely be as effective, even when optimized, as very focused apps, and consumers will get confused if the same app appears to be doing too much.
Actually enabling this level of integration has been a challenge. Perhaps because mobile apps have become much better instrumented in the past few years responsibility has often shifted, appropriately, into marketing departments from IT. Those teams still feel the pain of development cost and integration. Work done by FollowAnalytics 53 percent of the surveyed marketers cited IT costs and other development issues as reasons why they were not yet integrating customer data into apps. followanalytics-survey-what-crm-challengesYet because many the user experience elements being optimized in the apps are common (you don’t optimize one component based on mobile flow, another based on user location, and a third based on previous customer activity) it makes sense to look for consistent tools and ideally a single responsible party on the app owner side. As marketers get used to being able to A/B test and optimize apps without IT help, they are going to want to pull in customer data too. Not all of the mobile marketing optimization tools have caught up.
In conclusion- if you haven’t thought about how to integrate customer data into your app experiences already you should be. Such tools are emerging and even as customers spend more time in your mobile apps you’ll find more data from even more consumer touch points to integrate.


Customers are on mobile (too), is CRM data informing the cross-platform experience? — Your app is optimized, and push notifications are getting delivered as users get close to your store: why do you still feel you are missing that real 1:1 customer engagement?
Your app is in your customer’s hand- how do you maximize that touch point? — Bridging the chasm between the app experiences you deliver and the customer data that is informing your sales and marketing.



This is the second of a short series of sponsored posts on integrating traditional CRM data into mobile app marketing strategies. It was brought to you by FollowAnalytics and opinions are my own.

Mobile & CRM: Customers are on mobile (too), is CRM data informing the cross-platform experience?

Your app is optimized, and push notifications are getting delivered as users get close to your store: why do you still feel you are missing that real 1:1 customer engagement?

As consumers move more and more of their media consumption to mobile it’s not surprising that brands have been following, both in their advertising (slowly but surely– mobile advertising is still lagging PC, but US spending increased 76% between 2013 and 2014) and also in having their own content, in particular mobile apps. Until recently these mobile apps have tended to exist in vacuums, often managed quite separately from other digital marketing efforts. Mobile has been thought of as a different, purpose-driven activity, and in that context it is understandable that marketers have treated optimizing the mobile experience as a goal in and of itself. Indeed, when marketers started with mobile apps this made complete sense, since mobile was a new interaction mode for most consumers, and even getting people to download an app was an effort. Now marketers are realizing they need to deliver a consistent experience across platforms.
What’s working today in the mobile space? Best practice involves at minimum two things: effectively instrumented app analytics and some degree of contextual content. In terms of driving the best experience a number of app optimization tools have emerged, and mobile aspects of Google Analytics remains a default offering for many. A/B testing, and heat maps, seeing where users interact with an app, are increasingly well understood and can deliver measurable results (a nice example of both was recently posted by Lonely Planet).
Making apps more contextually relevant can drive consumer engagement, and some level of apparent personalization. Ensuring that geography and time of day are accounted for in the experience is often seen as best practice. Companies like Starbucks and Starwood are making sure their users are soft notified on the iOS lock screen based on geography (near a hotel, near a coffee shop). iBeacons, QR codes, NFC tags and the like promise even more contextually relevant content, with more or less consumer interaction– these tend to be more specific, often down to the product level. A FollowAnalytics survey indicated at least 60% of large company marketers confirmed that they were already at least trying to deliver contextual and individual messages to customers. In-app notifications and mobile push customer messaging (which have replaced, for many marketers, the earlier direct mobile communication capability promised by SMS, and have good customer acceptance) are usually well integrated with app experiences, but still remain in the mobile silo.
What’s missing is the customer context of previous journeys. Was a consumer researching products or offerings last night on the PC? Are they in this location having received a promotional offer in the past few days? Customers are increasingly cross-platform, often most engaged on mobile, but coming back to the PC for more complicated interactions (I’m going to communicate with my Airbnb host via my Apple Watch, but I’m not going to spend 45 minutes with my wife working out where to stay in New York on anything but a PC screen).
followanalyticssurveygraph
By treating mobile as a silo, to be individually optimized, companies have not yet maximized the potential for the data within their CRM and other customer systems to inform what is increasingly the most common interaction mode. It’s ironic, for example, as more and more email is opened on mobile devices, that the personalization of those emails is not carried over into the same brands’ apps (indeed often the emails are barely mobile optimized). Marketers are clearly aware of the possibilities of this level of communication and interactivity, but are not yet satisfied with what they can get done here. In the same survey by FollowAnalytics, 91% of marketers (see graph above) they felt their app efforts would be more successful if they could better incorporate data from CRM or other customer systems. A true cross-platform experience will apply that customer data to as many touch points as possible. Even the most engaging mobile app exists in part to complement the overall brand experience.
That experience needs to be a two way street. For many consumers mobile is increasingly the most engaging interaction point with a brand. Being able to tie back a app interaction to a quote request or a phone call ought to deliver better experiences across all interaction channels.  What consumers does on mobile needs to be fed back into the broader CRM systems to inform the next cycle of the relationship.


Pulling consumer data into your app experiences — Is it time to stop worrying about presence and downloads and start asking whether your apps are delivering ROI?
Your app is in your customer’s hand- how do you maximize that touch point? — Bridging the chasm between the app experiences you deliver and the customer data that is informing your sales and marketing.


This is the first of a short series of sponsored posts on integrating traditional CRM data into mobile app marketing strategies. It was brought to you by FollowAnalytics and opinions are my own.