Does Marketing Technology Improve The Customer Journey? :Interview with Jamie Beckland

Interviewer: Today I am very pleased to welcome Jamie Beckland who is VP of Marketing and Customer Success for Janrain, and I do love that title. Jamie has been delivering custom web solutions for more than 10 years and built his first social media community in 2004 which is pretty stunning when you think about it. James speaks frequently about technology trends and writes for Mashable, Social Media Examiner, iMedia Connection, Ad Age and other publications, so we’re really pleased to welcome you here Jamie.

Beckland: Thanks Glenn, it’s good to be here.

Interviewer: Janrain is a user management platform that provides SaaS-based solutions to help organizations improve customer acquisition, so that’s very compelling. And we’re not going to talk specifically about your product today, but I would like to talk about the elements of the mobile technology stack you and I were talking about earlier and integrating it into the entire marketing infrastructure. So, please share us a little bit some of your thought leadership in that area Jamie.

Beckland: Sure, thanks for bringing me on and thanks for giving us an opportunity to talk a little bit more about mobile. It’s really, I think, an inflection point in the last 18 months that I’ve seen in the landscape where, I think in the past, in 2009, 2010, and even into 2011 everyone said oh it’s going to be the year of mobile, it’s going to be the year of mobile.

Interviewer: Right.

Beckland: And in 2013 what we saw was that all of a sudden something like 20 to even 60% of website traffic started coming from mobile devices for many of our customers, and this is also true of our own website at Janrain. And I think that everyone was anticipating that it was going to pop at some point and now we’re there right? So you do see some teams struggling to come up to speed and get back up to speed quickly with what their users are expecting, and where their customers are actually interacting with them. So, what that’s meant is that we have an infrastructure that is sort of parallel to most of the marketing technologies stack, because mobile, if you think back to 2007 and the launch of the iPhone and then the development and growth of Android over those several years, since that what we’ve seen is the operating systems are different; the interaction design is very different, and so you have a whole suite of marketing technology tools that have grown up around these specific devices.

Interviewer: Right.

Beckland: That poses some challenges when you’re trying to get a unified understanding of your customer experience. An obvious way to think about this is a user, in their customer journey, may be touching your website at one point of the journey, and touching your website via mobile device and touching an app, a mobile app later on right? Those three different touch points are very difficult to see who that same user is across multiple channels.

Interviewer: Right and we want to know that that was the same person if there is any way possible to figure that out.

Beckland: Right absolutely, I think this focus in the last year on the notion of the customer journey is the reason that understanding where users interactions with you is so critical, and that’s pretty squarely where the focus is for I think most of marketing technology right now. So, what we’ve seen is you have this parallel infrastructure and you have a separate device and now you have this multi-screen world where it’s not only the desktop and laptop, but you have the mobile device, you have the television screen, and you have the print media that you’re used to. And from a digital perspective seeing that user across multiple devices is basically impossible. Cookies don’t really work right?

Interviewer: Right.

Beckland: I mean a cookie is inherently a device centric way of identifying someone. And there are lots of – we can talk for a long time about the problems with cookies. They’re challenging to work with for a whole host of reasons, but what we’ve seen is tying together this notion of the customer’s identity, usually through a log-in and a registration, somewhere where the user is opting in, is that sort of solid, secure way to understand this is the same person on multiple devices.

Interviewer: Right.

Beckland: The challenge that I mentioned before about the marketing technology stack is that that these stacks have grown up in parallels. Now you have very advanced and sophisticated apps on [00:05:06 – Inaudible], and phone gap, and titanium, and then people who are building directly within the operating systems themselves; and then separately you have a parallel infrastructure that’s made to deal with the web. And bringing those two worlds together is turning out to be a really interesting challenge for a lot of our customers, and a lot of focus on that area, because they’re trying to paint that customer journey picture. I think somebody like Whole Foods does a really good job bridging that divide. So, what they’ve done is they actually thought about what is the customer going to expect to do on a mobile device and what are they going to expect to do on the website. So they have recipes on the website, and then as you save those recipes into your profile, when you launch their mobile app you actually have an ingredients list that turns into your shopping list, so all the recipes you selected on their website automatically turn into your shopping list on the mobile devices. When you’re in the store you can just tick them off one by one. And so I think it’s those kinds of smart interaction designs that work across multiple channels that we’re going to start seeing more of in order to unify the data on the back end.

Interviewer: Now in that case with Whole Foods I do need to register with them for them to be able to give me that experience right?

Beckland: What we’ve seen with Whole Foods is that they’re trying to find valuable experiences to offer to the consumer in order to get them to log in, in order to raise their hand and become identified. And I think this kind of example with the recipes on one side and the shopping list on the other side is a great way that we see – that more and more of marketers are thinking. They’re thinking about what’s the value of having a customer profile, and what should we give the consumer on the other side of it. I think that reflects as another great example of they’ve done a good job bringing your content to every device that you interact with. So, of course, you’re going to want to log in, you’re going to want to register, because you’re going to want to have access to the product.

Interviewer: Right, right good, so they’re giving you good reason to become a known entity to them.

Beckland: Right, exactly, and I think the long term promise around sort of getting to know your customer and giving them what they care about, is probably pretty obvious to people, but the journey or the path to get there, I think, is something that I see in the marketing landscape as being still a little bit murky right? So, we have this history of working in a campaign structure right, television 1950s was sort of built to this notion that we can bring one message to the market.

Interviewer: Right.

Beckland: And we don’t live in that world anymore. We live in a world where social networks are defining what a relevant digital experience is to an end customer. So, you have Instagram, and Facebook, and Google+ and Pinterest creating interesting and useful interaction designs. And then you have, on the other hand, you have brands that people have grown up with and have loved for decades right, and the consumer doesn’t expect to have a different experience with the brand that they know and love than with a brand that’s only been around for only a few years. And that causes a lot of pain for marketers, because what the customer is really saying is we expect you to be as innovative, and as forward looking, and as relevant to me in my everyday life as some of these technology companies. I mean, there’s and inherent challenge there to the way that marketers work.

Interviewer: Well let’s talk more about that. Let’s talk about what’s going to be happening in the future with the rest of the digital eco system and how you relate to your customers.

Beckland: Yeah, well I think we talked a little bit about this notion of interaction design, and I think that’s a core piece of the solution right. So, you see a lot of experimentation here in campaigns that exist today, so you see people doing things like hashtag battles, and working to bring your social grasp into the site by offering more relevant – reviews for example, I think Trip Advisor does a really good job here highlighting the reviews from places that people in your Facebook social grasp have actually stayed.

Interviewer: Right.

Beckland: So you see some good experimentation here. I think those experiences are going to get much more embedded into the customer experience and will start to move out of a traditional notion of a campaign right. And this is not something that is going to happen in 2015. This is what the next 20 or 30 years of marketing is going to look like, as we, as an industry, as we get more comfortable creating and developing personalized experiences, and we start to create a journey for each one of our own organizations and understanding the maturity of our own organizations and our ability to be successful with more personalization. So, I think, the way that you see this move from a campaign driven marketing structure to a one-to-one marketing structure is evolutionary. And so, maybe instead of a campaign with one central message that goes out in equal parts to all of your audiences, you might start with a campaign with four messages and you’re doing some basic segmentation. And then the next campaign after that maybe you’ll break those four into four and you’ll have 16 segments, and then you blow that into 100 segments. And you work your way into developing a more specialized or focused conversation with each individual over time.

Interviewer: And you do that by continuing to collect information about that individual as you get to know them better and ask them for more information about themselves, or collect more information about them?

Beckland: Right, I mean there’s sort of that campaign interaction data, social profile data.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Beckland: Even very traditional data like zip, age and gender, which is fairly easy to get, for example from the social login. That stuff comes automatically and it’s very high quality because it’s authenticated, versus buying or renting third-party data, which the fidelity of that data is probably 40-60% inaccurate.

Interviewer: Um hm.

Beckland: So, building that data set over time is really important, and I’m glad you brought it up, because what you see is that people’s interest and exposure to the brand, and if you’re an organization with multiple brands in your brand family, the potential for cross promotion and cross sale is really valuable. Somebody like Universal Music, I think, is a great example of this. I mean 300 different artists all under one label. And so, how do you find when a single drops or an album drops, how do you find the audience that’s going to be most receptive? The fascinating thing is that as they have been looking at their customer base and the social data that’s attached to it, even from one month to the next, the artists that people are listening to vary really dramatically. So, if you take an [00:11:57 – Inaudible] snapshot at one artist and then compare it to other people, or other artists that they’re listening to from one month to the next you’ll see some wild swings, but what that means is that having that sort of rolling understanding, rolling campaigns, rolling triggers to ask a user to take an action, builds that profile over time, so that when you’re ready to come in with a relevant message for them you’ll know that it’s ready to be received. Universal Music did this when the Great Gatsby soundtrack was released. They went and looked at all of the artists that had contributed a track to the soundtrack and instead of sending one email blast out to their fan base saying look at all 15 of these artists, doesn’t that sound like a really great soundtrack? They sent a targeted email focused on each one of those individual tracks. Each artist, each track got their own email.

Interviewer: Right.

Beckland: And it went to just an audience.

Interviewer: Right.

Beckland: The results are pretty incredible. Instead of about a 6% open rate they saw a 67% open rate, so about a 10x improvement open rate on those emails. And when you think about it in those terms the old adage of 50% of my marketing dollars are wasted, I just don’t know which 50%, that’s the kind of level of concreteness that you can get when you understand this is what the customer cares about. You see instead of 90% of your emails going directly into the trash, you see no, I’m actually making a connection that’s relevant to my audience.

Interviewer: Well let’s talk about that knowledge of the customer and let’s talk about the data, the sharing of data when data sits in silos and the complicated marketing technology landscape that all of us marketers are facing. So, how does that fit into this equation?

Beckland: Yeah, it’s a great point. I think what we’re all sort of feeling in our day-to-day lives right now in the office is this reality of this increasing fragmentation. I think Scott Bringhurst [Assumed Spelling] latest from Architectural Landscape showed something like a thousand vendors right?

Interviewer: That’s right.

Beckland: So, the reality of that manifests itself in all kinds of ways. The number of emails you’re getting from vendors in the space just saying hey let me show you what we do. And it’s very challenging to differentiate which one of these services is going to make the most sense for my business right now [00:14:23 – Inaudible]. So, I think the reality is that this is the world that we live in, and probably for the foreseeable future. And so the question is what do you do with it? The reality is when you’re email marketing platform has its own set of opt ins and opt outs related to newsletter subscriptions, and then separately you have a website with profile and registration that has terms of service and opt ins that are country specific, and those two data sources don’t know about each other you can run into problems.

Interviewer: Um hm.

Beckland: There’s legal and compliance and regulatory challenges, but even from a marketers standpoint, even more importantly, your ability to talk to your customer cross channel in the way they’re expecting, like we talked about before, is really hamstrung. And so, what we’re seeing is a big focus in marketing organizations to consolidate the notion of a customer profile into a central place where the data can be managed and shared with all of these individual applications.

Interviewer: Right.

Beckland: And when you move into that kind of a structure there’s a few really, really key benefits; one is the notion that you always have the freshest data. And if you’ve ever worked in direct mail you know that data decay and list decay is a real problem.

Interviewer: Right, right.

Beckland: If you’re thinking 30-40% of your emails may not be useable in 12 months that means that if you get data stuck in a silo somewhere and then try to use it later the chances of your campaign being successful are already hamstrung. But the other thing is this notion of scoped access, meaning that there are a whole host of data assets that you’re collecting and the data itself is different, and where it comes from is different. So, you may be collecting a validated email address from Facebook, and then the user may be entering in a web form their birthdates, and then you may be collecting campaign data from a [00:16:21 – Inaudible] platform.

Interviewer: Right.

Beckland: And then you may be collecting app specific data about an experience in a mobile app, so these data come from different places; there’s different rights and encumbrances attached to different data assets, and how that data can be used is different. So, it’ needs to be managed so that the system that’s receiving these data assets to take an action, whether that’s a personalization engine, an email marketing platform, a CMS is using that data in a way that’s compliant with the terms of service with where that data came from, and the rights that the user has given you. So, controlling and managing web data uses where ends up being a problem that really needs to be thought of discretely of marketers, so they have the tools they need to activate a customer base.

Interviewer: Right, so in addition to the tools what about the team? What about the skills on the people that are often not hired to have data management skills, but rather hired to have other very valuable marketing skills?

Beckland: Sure, sure, I mean, I think, this gets back to very fundamental questions about marketing, whether it’s an art or a science. And I think we all know the reality is that it’s somewhere in the middle, it’s both. And I also will concede that it starts with art right. There’s artistry and the ideation phase of marketing right. So, what are the core ways that we’re going to connect with customers? What’s going to be relevant for them? That’s the artistry of marketing, but you see this rise of the quant side of the equation right? So, you definitely need tools that are going to give you the data, but then you do need a team that’s going to be able to understand that data. So, I think, you’re seeing this happen across the hierarchy of marketing in a couple of different ways. The first is, the relationship with IT is deep and getting deeper, and those teams are coming closer together at a higher level in the organization.

Interviewer: Right, right.

Beckland: The notion that you need a technologically focused person to be able to interpret a complexity of the landscape, I think that’s a pretty accepted reality now.

Interviewer: Um hm.

Beckland: If you feel like your marketing leadership doesn’t have a good handle on the technology side of the equation that’s going to be a gap for you. But, then you have a sort of line brand managers and campaign managers who need to shift their mindset slightly and put this individual experience in the context of the broader customer journey like we’ve been talking about. And what I see there is that you need copywriters that can quickly iterate on versions of a central theme that are specific to the different audiences; that you need an analytics team that understands how to develop insights out of analytics and to not just report on gross numbers right?

Interviewer: Right.

Beckland: It’s really still surprising to me how often pure website traffic is seen as an end goal in and of itself, when really you want to be talking about what percentage of your target did you get to interact here, and then let’s look at that differently. So, there are some different skillsets that I hear marketers struggling with filling within the team, and I think those are skillsets that we will need more and more of over time. So, I think it’s about making that migration to bring the team along with you, also then when you have an opportunity to sort of shift the mix of the team structure, finding people who sort of natively and instinctively understand that. I think you get some of that. I hear a lot of that with the social teams, so you’re looking at people who understand social platforms instinctively, and those may be younger people, or they may just be just digital natives, regardless of their age . . .

Interviewer: Yeah.

Beckland: . . . sort of understand those platforms, but now we’re layering in another level which is using those platforms to create value for the business, not just within the channel itself, but for the overall business.

Interviewer: Alright, well Jamie we are out of time. Thank you very much for your insights and sharing your thoughts with us on where the world is going. This is really very helpful to us, thank you.

Beckland: Yeah, thanks to Glenn, I really enjoyed being here.

Interviewer: Alright, we’ll talk with you soon.