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by John Carione
Everyone knows Charles Dickens’ famous tale, “A Christmas Carol.” Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly, cold-hearted loan origination banker, all consumed with his business on Christmas Eve. Scrooge's former partner, Jacob Marley, who has been dead for seven years, visits him in the form of a ghost. Marley's spirit has been wandering as punishment for being constantly preoccupied with the minutia of his business rather than engaging his stakeholders while alive. He has come to warn Scrooge, whom he sees going down the same unfortunate path. Three spirits will visit, he tells Scrooge. But what does this timeless story have to do with the web and Drupal?
Well, believe it or not, the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and of Christmas Future may hold secrets to the future of open, integrated digital experiences on the web. Just as the visions brought forth by the three spirits exemplify how Scrooge visualized and then changed his own path through life, these insights can also help Digital Marketers uncover and influence a customer's journey online. My theory is that both Marley and Scrooge had a bad attitude stemming from the fact that while they were deeply mired in the day-to-day details of running their business. They couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Operational efficiencies and productivity were great goals and critically important, but at some point they lost focus on the lifeblood of the business: their customers. The moral in the original Dickens story was that upon self inspection and reflection on his own life, Scrooge yearned to alter his future. Similarly, in our version of a “A Digital Christmas Carol,” these visions depict a customer’s journey as the sum and history of all their digital experiences: past, present, and future and a desire to affect their outcomes.
Let’s envision Scrooge’s money lending business on Christmas Eve in 2014. In a digital sense, the visions offered by the first spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Past, are incredibly powerful to help understand the who, what, and where of a customer’s digital journey. The first Ghost shows Scrooge scenes from the past tracking Scrooge's development from a young boy, lonely but with potential, into a young man with the first traces of greed that would ultimately deny him true happiness. Looking at it from a from an integrated digital experience perspective, the visions for Scrooge’s credit and banking operations would have tracked prior loans a customer had taken, or when and where (in-store or online) the loans had been executed. It might even offer social sentiment analysis to give a glimpse into how satisfied customers were with the loan or their service and support at each moment in time. These insights could also offer a detailed view into what search terms the customer made prior to making the purchase. Did they simply search on home loans, or did they search terms for car loans as well? When exactly did this customer shop for their loan, was it in the evening and on weekends or was it during normal business hours? Perhaps they might be in the market for both a personal loan and a small business loan down the road. These visions can also depict the numbers of times support was engaged, what method (phone, chat, IM) and prior history of net promoter scores.
The visions offered by the Ghost of Christmas Present are equally as important for understanding the current context of the customer along their unique path. For Scrooge it was seeing the current state of the Cratchit household on Christmas eve. In the digital perspective, the real time view might be of a customer who has just executed a new loan, but is showing signs of considering another transaction in the near future. Has the customer just checked out a new promotional microsite depicting special holiday rates for a boat loan? Did they click into that promotion on their mobile device, which geo-locates the individual in the near proximity of a branch bank? Perhaps they just tweeted that they were considering buying a boat from a relative or simply self-identified as a new boating enthusiast in their Drupal profile. Or was a new IP address just added back to the customers unique identity in an analytics system indicating they might have a new residence in warmer climate where boating might be more popular.
Combining and integrating these insights (or “visions”) from the Ghost of Christmas Past and the Ghost of Christmas Present offers a powerful view of the customer to help determine their goals and help make a optimal decisions for the next interaction point (e.g. what location, what content, what tone, what time, what device, what message). Scrooge can now look beyond the operational bookkeeping and towards a current and historical contextual view of his customers to drive further engagement.
But there is one important spirit yet to visit Ebeneezer Scrooge: the Ghost of Christmas Future. In the case of “A Christmas Carol,” the spirits vision wasn’t a future that Scrooge wanted to accept, and certainly not one he wanted to play out. In our story, the vision is less about his own death and more about the death of his credit business as he continues to ignore his customer actions and their context along the customer journey. Scrooge expresses hope that he can change his own future and he does just that. In similar fashion, as he makes the changes to his business required to become a true Digital Enterprise, his customers begin to gain new feelings of brand loyalty and become transformed into raving fans -- and thus excellent advocates for Scrooges company. The future can be altered to an optimal state as the business incorporates and iterates on learnings and insights from the past, present, and future.
Back to our Christmas Eve 2014 example, what if the loan customer was instead pushed a targeted holiday boat loan promotion within his mobile application once he entered a mall where Scrooge just opened a new branch? Would that possibly alter future business prospects and conversion rates? What if the customer was found to have moved to a warmer climate based on geolocation services tracking. Would automatically rendering a targeted warm weather campaign affect the likelihood of future cross-sales? Or could the business predict the precise moment to deliver online self-service and support tips post-purchase and positively affect future customer satisfaction scores? The answer is yes, you can use insights or visions to affect and predict future results just like in Dickens' original tale....
Acquia will be making some exciting announcements in early 2014 around personalization, content targeting, and an integrated view of the customer that make this story much more of a reality than vision for digital leaders leveraging Drupal. Stay tuned…. and be sure to have a Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas!