By David Yee

Digital transformation has irrevocably changed marketing and retail industries for the better. Not only have brands embraced digital, they’ve completely reshaped their business models bridging the digital and bricks-and-mortar experiences to empower and engage customers wherever they are.

Future success in marketing and retail will lie in providing an omnichannel customer experience (CX). Used effectively, today’s CX platforms are capable of not only targeting high-value consumers, but tracking each customer along multiple paths, combining the information collected from those paths into a single account and using analytics to extract real-time insights from them. The result: a frictionless omnichannel experience that delights customers: while allowing marketers and retailers to continuously optimize their services.

Here are three trends that illustrate how digital platforms are transforming Canadians’ customer experience.

1. Artificial intelligence (AI): stitching together the customer journey across multiple paths. It’s no secret that any brand’s long-term success depends on consistently making the right calls in the everyday decisions that affect customer service. But with those customers increasingly moving between multiple digital and physical worlds, picking the right course of action has never been more difficult.

AI and machine learning technology offers a solution by allowing brands to stitch their customer data into a comprehensive canvas that allows them to see and consequently consistently deliver the right message, through the right channel and at the right time. As examples, applying AI to their operation allows retailers to identify specific user segments and target each one with the right service. Also, applying retention scoring to a subscription service with millions of users allows the service provider to identify which customers are most likely to cancel their memberships and offer perks designed to keep them engaged. Additionally, AI presents an opportunity to view the impact of owned, earned and paid media across the full customer journey in real-time and allocate resources accordingly.

2. From account-based marketing (ABM) to account profiling. ABM has proven to be a successful strategy used to reach high-value targets, with 85% of marketers saying their activations outperformed some of their other marketing, according to an ITSMA survey1. However, ABM adoption has also been slow, as the time and resources required to build the right target account list, but this is where AI comes into play.

Account profiling combines AI with fit- and intent-based data to create an ideal customer profile that reveals which accounts sales and marketing should focus on, thereby taking the guesswork out of their ABM strategies. As a result, sales and marketing teams can work together to build data-based account lists that identify and focus on the accounts that matter most to their business and start closing deals faster.

Account profiling also allows business-to-business (B2B) marketers to accelerate their CX management capabilities, which was previously thought to be useful only in business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing. By using an easy-to-use predictive account profiling such as Marketo Engage, teams can build target account lists, orchestrate personalized experiences across channels and measure success across a single platform. As a result, businesses will spend less time trying to pull together disconnected ABM solutions, and more time engaging customers with a smooth, connected experience across the entire account.

3. Near-field communication (NFC) technology: a new way to apply mobility. Most discussions about incorporating mobility into the retail or marketing experience are centered around making online purchasing easier for mobile users or optimizing ads for mobile devices: all of which are critical in today’s omnichannel approach. However, they aren’t the only mobility-based options available to retailers or marketers. App or label-based NFC solutions offer marketers a direct channel for delivering dynamic experiences to customers that opt in. It can also be used to gather deep insights into a customer’s offline behaviour. Although emerging elsewhere, the Canadian marketplace is still awhile away from effectively adopting NFC technology. It is, however, an early stage technology to keep an eye on.

NFC-powered tools can allow marketers to share content, such as exclusive product information, promotional videos and contests directly with customers. The data collected through these interactions helps marketers not only improve the CX, but sharpen their customer segmentation, which can help create even more relevant, targeted content for future interactions. For example, engagement data gathered from NFC-enabled smart liquor bottles revealed the unforeseen popularity of a company’s beverages in a market that it hadn’t previously targeted. The actionable information and increased visibility into its supply chain helped the craft distillery modify its marketing programmes and expand its distribution network.

NFC tags or labels can also be used to launch unique experiences on Apple or Android smartphones, while cloud-based analytics track consumer interactions before, during and after sales. If your preferred colour isn’t available on the shelf, the tap of a smartphone can instantly order the colour you want. Or, scanning an NFC tag can set up a notification for when it’s back in stock. Following a purchase, analytics can determine what triggered the sale and can be used to tweak marketing messages and advertising campaigns.

As consumers’ daily lives become increasingly digital, it is absolutely critical that retail marketers embrace digital transformation. At the end of the day, to effectively engage customers, retailers need the tools and knowledge to engage them anywhere, anytime and on any device.

As head of enterprise digital marketing at Adobe Canada, David Yee is committed to helping clients change the world through digital experiences. He has helped several Canadian companies such as National Bank, Manulife and RedTag.ca be recognized as digital leaders in their industries.

1 Julie Schwartz, “Account Based Marketing and ROI: Building the Case for Investment”, Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA), survey, January 16, 2014.

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