Communicating one-on-one with the right message, at the right time, through the right channels, on the right devices, is a daunting task. It involves capturing and analyzing our prospects’ and customers’ background, behavior, and current situation, and responding to them, individually, with appropriate content that is integrated across multiple channels and devices. This can amount to thousands of interactions and decisions daily. For companies with more than a handful of prospects and customers, this cannot be accomplished manually. To pull off this state-of-the-art level of customer experience requires a major shift in thinking and some pretty sophisticated software.
“We’re talking about re-engineering your entire company to deliver great digital experiences,” explains George Colony, CEO of Forrester. “What It Means: In the future, every company will be a software company. Software is the new business currency more important than financial capital.”
Anyone involved in creating digital experiences understands the vital role that software plays in personalizing and contextualizing interactions with our prospects and customers across multiple touchpoints, channels, and devices. However, the majority of us currently interact via multiple, disparate software systems. E-mail communications are delivered by one system; social media by another; web communication via another. While we may be getting the message out, these technology silos prevent us from creating the type of synchronized and predictive interactions that our prospects and customers are increasingly coming to expect and that lead to increased revenue.
Technology fragmentation also prohibits us from being able to accurately understand the impact of our marketing efforts. Lacking integrated analytics, organizations often employ a first-click or last- click attribution model, which allocates full credit for revenue generated to the first or last interaction leading to a sale. While easy to apply, this model ignores the combination of content and channels that contribute to securing a new lead or customer. Tremendous insight is lost due to this measurement inadequacy.
“These point systems create disconnected ribs and vertebra, not the backbone that companies need,” explains Alan Trefler, Founder and CEO of Pegasystems. Pega software offers an integrated solution, connecting back office business operations and real-time data to omni-channel customer interactions. Specifically, Trefler believes that the enabling integrative software must have three components that he likens to the human body:
- Like the human brain, which has memory, the software must be able to capture and integrate many separate data sources. It must serve as the system of record, enabling a consistently refreshed 360-view of our prospects and customers.
- Like the mind, it must be capable of judgment, employing sophisticated and predictive analytics to continually make sense of the data and offer fresh insight. This insight is what enables marketers to anticipate what a customer needs now and the best way to meet that need.
- Like muscles in the body, the software must be able to enable ongoing engagement directly with the customer across every point of customer contact throughout the customer journey, including optimization of pricing on ecommerce platforms and customer fulfillment.
What is more, Trefler believes that these systems must have automatic coding capabilities. That is, they must allow business people, rather than IT folks, to develop new business applications using flowchart tools and smart graphical user interface. From these designs, the software itself can write the necessary underlying HTML code. Trefler argues that writing code in this way is more effective and accurate than manual coding. It also democratizes software creation by enabling it to be created by the business people who use it to make decisions.
No one disputes the need for integration among point systems—how else can we achieve a coherent way of interacting with our prospects and customers?—but there is debate about the best way to achieve integration. Some companies are choosing a best of breed solution in which they purchase the best stand alone point software and rely upon their corporate IT departments, or companies like Pega, to integrate their multiple software systems. Others are choosing an “end-to-end” integrated solution.
Their reasons for taking the best of breed approach are many. Some have not wanted to replace their existing software as they have invested substantial time and money in operationalizing their current software. Some feel that the best of breed approach provides them with the best tools available, which is preferable to an integrated system with fewer features. Others feel that the all in one products are not fully developed enough yet to warrant a commitment.
In a recent study of 13 digital experience deliver providers (Forrester Wave for Digital Experience Delivery Platforms: Q3, 2014), Forrester concluded that the truly integrated all in one platform is presently “more myth than reality.” “Overall completeness and adoption” in the space has not happened. Most vendors have focused on the acquisition phase of the customer journey to date, but are building out their offering across the broader customer journey. As a result, a clear leader in the all in one space is yet to emerge, however there are many strong players. Forrester believes that those that those vendors that are able to support the entire journey will have an advantage in the future as companies understand the importance of software in allowing them to successfully integrate interactions across the entire customer journey.
Whatever software purchase companies ultimately make, one thing is clear: every organization is now in the software business.
How might a commitment to remarkable customer experience across the entire customer journey impact our marketing operations and software integration needs? Will this shift create additional silos of information and partial solutions for which we will need to create solutions or facilitate an integrated and predictive customer experience? How might our relationship with technology change as software becomes even more integral and accessible to marketing?
Hear Alan Trefler speak about The Future of Marketing Software with Larry Weber on MarketEdge.
By Lisa Leslie Henderson