At the National Retail Federation Big Show in January, Adobe announced some interesting updates to its Marketing Cloud platform, including contextually relevant emails. Say you send an email to a customer living in Atlanta on a Monday, with a discount to your store closest to where he lives. But that person doesn't open the email until Wednesday, when he is in San Francisco on business. When he does open it, instead of seeing the Monday weather forecast for Atlanta that was originally included, he'll see Wednesday's forecast for San Francisco. He'll also see a discount offer, but now it will be for the store closest to his hotel. This is an example of a contextually relevant email.
It's developments like this that are helping to provide real-time context to customer/prospect interactions to create relevant, efficient customer engagement opportunities. This not only helps in stringing positive interactions together at the transactional level, but also creates more meaningful, connected experiences to build a more pleasurable, extended customer journey.
SMBS See CEM as a Growth Opportunity
Both large and small enterprises have been growing their investments in customer experience management (CEM) and customer journey development. In a blog post on trends to watch in 2015, Medallia, a cloud-based customer experience management platform, cited SMBs implementing CEM tools and strategies as a top-five development to watch for.
Medallia Entrepreneur-in-Residence Jasen Lew says that based on his experience within the hospitality industry, SMBs are not viewing CEM from a defensive posture. The small and midsize hotels he deals with see this as an opportunity for growth. They cannot fight large chains with deep pockets. But he says that smaller chains and boutique hotels feel that with the right tools, they can compete against any organization, whether it is a brand or not.
SMBs have an inherent advantage over larger enterprises in their ability to form more personal, intimate relationships with customers. And because online reviews are critical within the hospitality space, smaller hotels able to leverage their intimacy advantage with customers into postings on review/social sites can efficiently bring in new visitors. This also helps them grow their community of repeat customers. By using their personal, offline interactions as a foundation for online engagement, SMBs are able to scale their abilities to share their stories in a much more effective manner.
Data-Based Business Models Drive Experiences and Journeys
Companies are not just leveraging experience management and customer journeys to improve traditional interactions; they're creating business models with this strategy at the core. Denmark-based Mofibo bills itself as the "Netflix of e-books." The company, which features unlimited access to more than 10,000 e-books for about $16 a month, is built on understanding what customers want to read from start to finish.
Mofibo Analytics Director Martin Jonassen says the company has to pay an e-book's publisher each time a member reads a certain percentage of the book. So if the average member reads 1,000 pages each month, it's better for Mofibo if the member reads four complete 250-page books as opposed to reading only 100 pages of 10 books. This makes it critically important for Mofibo to know what subjects and authors members are really interested in, and to constantly put those books in front of them to increase the likelihood that they'll read to completion. Because this is a subscription service, Mofibo has to make sure its members have enough books that appeal to them that they will renew their membership every month.
Adobe also announced some interesting stats from its Digital Index Study of what took place during the 2014 holiday shopping season. It found that 34 percent of U.S. consumers received marketing promotions based on location, and that 55 percent are open to receiving a marketing message on their mobile device while in a physical store. These numbers illustrate how rapidly customer behaviors and expectations are changing. And why having email that dynamically updates its content with context will be a must-have sooner than we might expect. This poses huge challenges. But small businesses that see opportunity in what others might call chaos will benefit tremendously. And consumers are rewarding companies that help them create better experiences for themselves—which should make for a pretty good journey for all.
Brent Leary is cofounder of CRM Essentials, an Atlanta-based advisory firm focused on small and midsized businesses. He is also the author of Barack 2.0: Social Media Lessons for Small Businesses.