BrandArena: Reimagining Marketing: Customer experience in the next normal

Tuesday 1 December 2020

Reimagining Marketing: Customer experience in the next normal

By Chrystele Dumont - CMO and COO Lead, Microsoft Middle East and Africa Emerging Markets

As the coronavirus crisis progressed, producing ongoing challenges and unprecedented situations, most CMOs had to throw tried-and-tested marketing strategies out the door to respond to the pandemic with immediacy. 

Now as we’re entering a recovery phase, where brands and businesses are having to reimagine their future in a post-COVID-19 world, so too are CMOs having to rethink their role. With the crisis disrupting regular consumer behaviour and businesses operations, the CMO’s function has to go beyond producing a great marketing strategy. They have to be leaders of innovation, accelerating digital transformation and connecting with customers in a more meaningful way. 

Technology can assist CMOs in strategies to meet these demands and improve the overall experience for customers.

The need for fresh, accurate data now 
In a COVID-19 shaped world, where there’s been constant changes in consumer behaviour and media consumption, businesses have to keep a constant finger on the pulse of their market to retain, and increase, their share of it. The CMO is critical now more than ever in understanding what the consumer wants and how to deliver it. Staying abreast of what consumers are up to will drive successful marketing strategies for the future.

To build a better consumer experience, CMOs need to implement new ways to capture real-time information about their customers, and just as importantly their competitors, and use this insight to support decisions throughout an organisation. This means collecting and analysing data from a range of sources, which can include retailers, digital platforms and the media, responsibly, securely and quickly. 

Cloud-based data analytics services, and other developments powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), can help CMOs in this process. Technology such as Microsoft Azure Synapse Analytics, gather, organise and analyse huge amounts of data across a business, where with just one click CMOs can access relevant insight immediately, saving time and costs.

Innovation and agility in the new normal
Most marketers could not have predicted the events that transpired this year. Facing unprecedented obstacles in an ever-changing consumer landscape, as well as staff shortages and budget cuts, CMOs have had to be agile to stay in the game, pivoting their skills, showing creativity, and managing their workforce effectively.

In challenging times, marketing activities have to be linked to business results, which requires CMOs to move between roles and teams to increase growth across the whole organisation. If they are to get most from their network, partner on innovation, and share resources, they need to bridge internal siloes and build relationships with colleagues and other departments, all within the current work-from-home environment. 

To achieve this, CMOs have to be the drivers of digital transformation in business. Implementing digital tools across the organisation, such as Microsoft Teams and Windows Virtual Desktop, allow for constant collaboration and communication between teams remotely, to boost productivity and synergy. Implementing customisable business apps, like Power Apps, can streamline processes further, solving specific problems and digitising paperwork and manual tasks.

Consumer-led digital change

But it’s not just internally that CMOs are having to push for digital change. The stay-at-home culture of online shopping, e-learning, virtual events and remote work has shown that consumers are ready for brands to engage with them in a digital space. CMOs have to assist their brands in adapting to more meaningful ways to deliver exceptional customer experiences digitally.

When it comes to customer service, AI and machine-learning can deliver effective, real-time assistance for brands. Through intelligent insight, the virtual agent of Microsoft Dynamics 365  generates a 360-degree view of customers, recognising relevant support topics and incorporating them into self-service FAQs, chatbots, and other automated responses to help customers out of office hours and reducing workloads for support staff. AI-based cloud solutions can also help prevent fraud and protect revenue and customer experience through learned patterns and practices.

Additionally, social selling is a key way for CMOs to find and nurture sales prospects through the use of social media. Social selling, however, is not social media advertising nor is it social marketing, it is the use of social media platforms to attract and develop meaningful relationships with potential customers by building brand affinity, trust, and showcasing expertise so that your brand is the first one that comes to mind when they’re ready to buy.

This method to building relationships that generate value can help a business better understand its customers, as an overview of a customer base will help to narrow down the targeted audience for more laser-focused lead generation. In fact, 78% of salespeople engaged in social selling are currently outselling their peers who are not.

David Ogilvy, one of the founders of Ogilvy & Mather advertising agency once wisely said, “Don’t count the people you reach; reach the people that count.” These words are especially important today. These words are more indispensable now. Marketers are quickly shifting focus from mass marketing and sales to putting the customer and their priorities at the center and this is where Account-Based Marketing (ABM) becomes an extremely effective  strategy to employ and in turn create a connected customer journey 

Custodians of brand messaging 

In the new normal, consumers are seeking more than just products and services from brands, but are wanting assurance that brands have their best interests at heart. While social media, video and other interactive digital platforms utilise e-commerce possibilities for marketers, they also have the power to place more emphasis on social values through engaging, instant, and authentic story-telling. 

To attract and retain customers, CMOs are central in ensuring that their brands are portrayed as trustworthy, empathetic, and fulfilling consumer needs, and are equipped with the technology to deliver this message. They have to use digital technology to not only know who their customers are, but to engage with them in a positive way.

There’s no doubt the impact COVID-19 has had on marketers, who have had to adapt to challenges in face of uncertainty. But with greater investment in digital technology, increased emphasis on internal collaboration, and more focus on delivering a meaningful customer experience, CMOs should be able to meet the demands of the post-pandemic world in years to come. 

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