Author, management consultant and educator Peter Drucker is credited with the famous saying “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” The widely acknowledged father of modern management, who died in 2005 (at 95), enjoyed the bulk of his career well before ubiquitous data ruled the business world, but the aphorism holds true in the digital age.
The implication is that human beings – businesspeople – are ultimately responsible for executing business strategy, but often row in different directions. The reason for the aphorism’s staying power is that then, as now, strategy execution is ultimately dependent on people, but it is difficult for a fixed business culture to keep pace with the rapid influx of big data, automation and complex technology in era of digital transformation.
NewVantage Partners 2021 Big Data and AI Executive Survey sheds light on how data complicates the marrying of culture and strategy. Consider that 92 percent of companies continue to identify culture (people/process/change mgmt.) as the biggest impediment to becoming data-driven organizations, with the predictable result that just 24 percent of companies have forged a data culture or otherwise created a data-driven organization.
The reason culture is such an impediment is because businesspeople (vs. their IT counterparts) aren’t conditioned to relate data – more specifically, the quality of data – to business outcomes. When the business side engages with data and sees first-hand the transformational business outcomes produced by the virtuous cycle of data, insight and action, it will spark the needed cultural change. Businesspeople will understand their pivotal role in managing data as a business asset, which in turn will help forge a data culture with universal support for a well-articulated data strategy.
Why a New Mindset is Needed
What is a data-driven strategy, and how does it differ from the prevailing cultural mindset around business strategy? A look at the evolution of data-driven marketing reveals the magnitude of change in recent years, and the need for a different mindset. For years – decades even – creating a customer experience by matching people to content was a one-way push. Direct mail and email blasts are opposite sides of the same coin, and marketing technology was developed along this paradigm.
The problem, of course, is that audiences are not lists, they are comprised of unique individuals with various interests, behaviors and preferences. Lists do not capture the dynamic nature of how an individual customer engages with a company or a brand. Content, too, is no longer a static piece of mail, or an email. Like the dynamic audience it is created to serve, bi-directional content must be displayed on different devices in different moments and cadences, with various resolution, structure, size, etc.
The bottom line is that a data-driven culture and strategy must be in place to meet customer expectations for personalized, omnichannel experiences that better captures the dynamic nature of a customer journey, particularly with an increase in digital-first engagements and a digital acceleration.
Consider a new McKinsey study that suggests that companies shifting into the top-quartile performance in personalization would generate over $1 trillion in value across US industries, and that companies excelling at personalization generate 40 percent more revenue from those activities than their peers.
To shift into the top-quartile in performance, it’s important to understand that a true personalized experience – the kind that drives new revenue – must be omnichannel. It’s a key distinction. A brand might personalize an experience on one channel, but not another. An omnichannel customer experience, by contrast, is as if the brand is conversing with the customer with one consistent voice across every interaction over the complete customer lifecycle.
An omnichannel framework presupposes having a deep, personal customer understanding, and is measured across three dimensions. The first is a recognition that the customer must be at the center of everything. Second is ensuring that a holistic experience is equal on every channel. The third dimension is a cross-channel awareness. If a customer abandons a shopping cart on one device, will that instantly be taken into the context of the customer journey if the customer contacts service on a different device minutes or seconds later?
Capitalize on the Magical Moments
Accepting that data is a strategic asset is the first step toward building a new structure to allow for personalized experiences at any moment, on any channel, and consistent with a singular brand voice irrespective of how a customer engages. A data-driven culture maps a strategy for matching a dynamic audience to dynamic content or assets.
With a firmer understanding of what omnichannel entails – including the rules-based, bi-directional, real-time construct – we can start to think differently about audiences and assets, and how they manifest themselves to create moments in an omnichannel experience (See Figure 1). Because that is really the end goal – creating a magical moment of marketing where the asset (a real-time decision, a next-best action, an engagement with a person) meets the customer at exactly the right moment in their particular journey.
Figure 1: The Omnichannel Customer Experience Framework
If we think of a magical moment as being made possible by a release of energy, the trigger causing the reaction has three parts. One is through the sequencing of a campaign that may have a flow, a sequence, timing, branch logic. Another is real time, a crucial element that recognizes moments are just that – brief moments in time that appear and disappear in a flash. They are not happenstance, but rather flow from marketers being prepared for any set of circumstances, recognition, context or cadence, and having the absolute latest data accessible. A third context is the human-to-human element. This is often overlooked in a digital construct, but it’s important to remember that a consistent brand voice also includes how actual employees engage with customers, whether through service, a call center, a front desk, etc. It’s an important part of a holistic omnichannel experience.
Chemical reactions, of course, must have a source of energy. When dynamic audiences and assets combine to create a magic moment, the potential or stored energy that is ultimately released comes from the rules that built in both. There are rules for audiences (logic, timing, structure, cadences and rules for who/when/why) and rules for assets (types/sizes of images/content, sequencing, exposure or inventory limits, etc.).
From a marketing perspective, these pre-built, structured, scalable assets and audiences that are filled with business rules are now ready to go – ready for use anytime and anywhere. At the precise time when their release will create a magical marketing moment, they take on the principles of kinetic energy in motion, coming together to delight a customer with a superior omnichannel experience that is consistent with every action and decision that has come before, and that will persist over time.
A Single Focus: Data as a Strategic Asset
In a previous blog, I wrote about how Redpoint rgOne is architected as an omnichannel customer experience platform-as-a-service, and detailed what that means for creating consistent experiences, particularly through having a comprehensive, single view of the customer and pristine customer data.
Technology can certainly help solve some of the biggest challenges enterprises face in knowing everything there is to know about their customers and delivering meaningful – and yes, magical – experiences, but I thought this addendum important to point out that technology alone is generally only as effective as the users who interact with it.
That’s why a culture change is so important, which is why rgOne is unique as a customer experience platform in that it gives users unprecedented visibility into, and control of, their customer data. With exposure to a new structure for dynamic audiences and assets, and the context for how this structure brings omnichannel experiences to life, marketers will have a new appreciation for data as a strategic asset. With culture and strategy in harmony, a major roadblock will be removed for creating innovative and transformational business outcomes.