Alegria Adedeji Senior content writer
Posted 17th December 2019

Upgrading your ESP in 2020: the four essentials to look for

Topics: Marketing technology

Introduction

The relationship between brands and their customers is changing rapidly. And, as marketers, knowing which tech to buy to support this changing relationship can feel like an exceptional challenge – especially in the marketing space, where everyone seems to be saying they can do the same thing.

In our download ‘The modern retention marketing stack in retail’, we noted some common hurdles created by an ill-fitting retail marketing stack; siloed and broken customer data, a heavy reliance on other stakeholders – insights agencies, engineers, providers themselves – to get campaigns out the door, the fear of a disjointed customer experience and the inability to personalise at scale being a few examples.

Does any of this feel familiar? We understand that a tech stack that isn’t built for purpose will cause a major headache later on down the line, as you work to create the best possible experiences for your shoppers.

In 2020, more than ever, customer experiences need to become consistent and exceptional across all channels. Customers expect you to recognise their tastes, which channel they’d like to be engaged with on; so much so in fact that 32% would rather you don’t contact them at all if it isn’t going to be relevant.

This blog post is going to guide you through the four essential components to look for when purchasing marketing tech; including the benefits they offer to your marketing campaigns.

A specialist tool for the job

It might be tempting to opt for a provider that appears to be able to work across multiple verticals – if it’s good enough for travel or finance or telco, surely it’ll be good enough for you as a retailer?

But as a retailer, the specific ways that you use marketing tech will be completely different to those of verticals like travel or finance. For example, replenishment campaigns – notifying a customer when they are likely to be running out of a consumable item to encourage a follow up purchase – are something unique to retail and are essential to keep customers coming back.

Use cases like replenishment can drive significant revenues and improve the customer experience – but a cross-vertical, generalist tool that serves everyone is unlikely to specialise in retail-specific functionality that not all of its customers will pay for.

By choosing a platform that is created around the retail customer, you know everyone you’re speaking to understands the language of retail. You have the assurance that the platform features – ranging from simpler everyday must-haves like product recommendations to the more innovative and AI-led predictive segmentation – are part of a product roadmap that is crafted around the retail marketer and the changing preferences of their consumers

Questions to ask:

  • Is a provider able to demonstrate a retail-focused roadmap that is dedicated to innovating to solve your specific needs?
  • Will key touchpoints (e.g. sales, customer success and support) be trained to understand your specific needs as a retailer?

Data at its core

Customer data is becoming the lifeblood of creating amazing customer experiences that delight shoppers and keep them coming back. Many solutions on the market are channel-centric (i.e. focused on a single channel, like email) rather than customer-centric (i.e. focused on building a holistic customer experience based around unified data).

Customer data should be at the core of a solution rather than bolted on later, or available as a module rather than flowing through the whole platform. This means that you will be able to create amazing cross-channel experiences and most importantly, trust your data insights.

While reporting on channel engagement is good to have, the ability to report on customer-specific metrics like CLV and retention rate is even better (and predictive insights like predictive churn and taste profiling even better yet). Using what you know about the customer, from the data, you create predictive experiences before they even have to ask for it, rather than relying on reactive responses. 

Questions to ask:

  • Is this marketing tech channel-centric, or customer-centric? Was it originally built with a foundation in data, or to send messages via a specific channel?
  • What types of customer data is your marketing provider able to ingest? Does it create a unified picture of all customer interactions, or is the view only partial? Does it take into account behavioural data?
  • Is the provider able to report on customer-centric metrics, and give you insight into the health of your entire customer base and key segments, or is reporting restricted to channel-based metrics?

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Fewer buzzwords, more results

It seems like every solution provider under the sun is talking about how their platform incorporates artificial intelligence, but retail marketers should take heed.

Firstly, it’s important that any AI-based features are built to solve a retail marketer’s specific use cases, rather than to solve ‘problems’ that they don’t have in the first place.

The true power of artificial intelligence is that it gives marketers the ability to access a level of customer insight that previously wouldn’t be available to them; whether predicting an individual customer’s next purchase, if they have VIP potential or when they become at risk of lapsing. This, in turn, should be directly actionable in personalised marketing campaigns.

Not only should marketing technology use AI to help marketers create better customer experiences that drive additional revenues, it must reduce inefficiencies in their day to day processes.

Personalisation has the potential for inefficiency – greater amounts of content creation; time spent segmenting and identifying the correct audiences for messages; ensuring campaigns are mutually exclusive and make sense as part of the customer experience, but to name a few. A marketer-friendly platform that does the heavy lifting makes all of this easier to achieve and empowers you to have more freedom to execute campaigns on time.

Above all, the benefits of AI-based personalisation and should demonstrated in real-world uplift.

Questions to ask

  • What specific AI-based functionality does the provider offer?
  • Are they able to back up the benefits of such functionality with case studies and uplift figures?
  • Does the provider make it easy to personalise and segment campaigns? Does it remove inefficiencies in the process of creating multiple personalised versions of campaigns?

Time to (full) value

How quickly will you be able to enjoy the most from your chosen platform? It’s important to consider the length of time a solution takes to integrate, or whether it has limits on how quickly you’ll be able to make the most of its features.

But being able to quickly get off the ground is just part of the picture. While you may be able to send mass emails from day one, it’s important that you’ll be able to get full value from any marketing tech that you buy, and quickly.  This means choosing a solution that can provide actionable insights that ensure you can hit the ground running (and personalising) and not be left in stalemate for months as you wait to be able to actually action your data in personalised campaigns.

But, as a marketer you too are also a customer. Your platform provider should also be able to offer you account management services to ensure you get the most value out of a platform, and there should be support  empowering you to innovate your marketing messages. It’s important that you are supported with vital elements of the rollout process, such as deliverability, should have a team which understands your challenges and are dedicated to resolving them.

Questions to ask

  • Will the provider be able to ingest all existing customer data that you hold, and enable you to put it into action to personalise your campaigns?
  • Will you get dedicated support in onboarding onto the new provider?
  • Will you get advice and guidance on key areas, such as deliverability?

Conclusion

Purchasing marketing tech is as much a strategic decision as it is a financial one. The right platform will either make your campaign execution seamless or add to the challenges of getting them out the door. Here is a reminder of the four key things to remember, and look out for, when making that all important purchase.

A specialist tool for the job (i.e. retail specificity)
A platform that is built with you in mind, will grow and advance with you in mind. If you purchase a solution that aims to solve everyone’s industry pains, you will end up with low-level solutions at a high cost.

Data at its core
A platform should be able to readily ingest custom data and adapt as your insight requirements change. You need flexibility to segment, filter and deep-dive into your date so you are able to truly learn about what customers want, without fear of error or solution limitations.

Fewer buzzwords, more results
Autonomy is key to marketers being able to create advanced campaigns they want to, without a reliance on external stakeholders. Your chosen solution should do all of the ‘heavy-lifting’, enabling you to focus on getting the campaign out without needing to get specifics from other departments.

Time to (full) value
How long will it be before you can make the most of the platform? It’s important to remember that you too are a customer and your chosen solution should have a dedicated customer team who understands the unique challenges of retail marketing and the expertise to help you address them.

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CRM Manager at Sigma Sports

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