Gilbane Conference 2017: Marketers Must Compete on Customer Experience

BOSTON — Speakers on day two of the 2017 Gilbane Conference stressed the notion that marketers must compete on customer experience, and data and artificial intelligence (AI) are the tools they have to embrace.

“Like the Internet itself and smartphones—the Internet 20 years ago, smartphones 10 years ago—AI is really going to change everything about marketing and about customer behavior,” said Gerry Murray, research director at IDC. He added that customer expectations are evolving beyond product and price to include privacy and personal value, and asserted that data-as-a-service is the new model for marketers to go beyond messaging and targeting.

Mark Smith, president at Kitewheel, illustrated customer experience’s importance by noting that customers will often pay more for a great experience. “We know lots of research talks about how customers will pay more—not only will they like having a good experience, they’re actually willing to pay more—if you give them a good experience,” he said. “They will buy more from you, and actually pay more for the same product if it’s delivered to them via a great experience. There’s a lot of money to be made—customers are willing to buy your products or pay more for your products if you can give them a great experience.”

And there lies the rub: This is harder than it sounds. “The problem is that almost no one is succeeding at doing that—there’s a very small handful of real leaders that are doing a great job of changing the game about customer experience,” he said.

For Aaron Kechley, president, Platform & EVP, Marketing & Product Management, at dataxu, marketers are essential to delivering great customer experiences, but it's a huge task that requires good use of data. “The conditions out there for marketers are challenging, and at the same time, companies are really counting on their marketing teams to be the difference makers—when you’re in a hypercompetitive category, marketing actually may be the most important thing you can get right,” he said.

He went on to outline some steps for using data to better compete. “First of all, find some partners that can work with you to activate the data that you have. My guess is that there’s a lot more that you could be doing with it than you are. Two, deliver a seamless customer experience. Make sure you’re being really thoughtful about what message your showing where, on what device and what format, and create something that’s cohesive. If you can do those two things, you’ll outrun your competition.”

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