Today’s digital marketers are at the crossroads of a paralyzing data paradox. For years, brands have sought new ways to gather customer insights and personal data. But now that new technology has made accessing all this data possible, they aren’t quite sure what to do with it.
Digitas, the connected marketing agency and Acquia partner, understands how to use technology to drive connections between a brand’s creative vision and customer data. Recognized as a leader for four consecutive years in Gartner’s “Magic Quadrant for Global Marketing Agencies,” Digitas is acknowledged by Gartner for their commitment to “delivering data-driven customer experiences powered by a strong technology foundation.”
From B2B tech to financial services to major retailers and CPG brands, Digitas’ mission is to help brands better connect with people through truth, connection and wonder. Their team is deliberately diversified—with experts in data, strategy, creative, media and tech working seamlessly across capabilities and continents to make better connections and achieve ambitious outcomes through ideas that excite, provoke and inspire. Their team of data scientists consistently works to help clients deepen their customer understanding and glean insights that can be used to inform better customer experiences for some of the world’s best-known brands like Whirlpool and Taco Bell.
We recently spoke with Tony Bailey, SVP of technology at Digitas, about the future of data-driven digital transformation and how companies can strategically use the right data to build customer journeys that people value. At Digitas, Tony leads digital delivery across several offices from Chicago to NYC to San Francisco, and his technological advising spans multiple channels and industries. As more brands invest in data tools and technology systems, here’s what Tony feels are the most important factors in executing worthwhile experiences that live up to customer expectations.
Turning Data into Opportunity
With more than 20 years in the digital space with both agencies and consultancies, Tony has heard time and time again that “Everyone wants to be customer-centric.” But accomplishing this is a lot harder than it sounds.
Putting the customer at the center of your marketing starts with the right data strategy that not only identifies who your potential customers are but understands what they’re looking for from brands at different stages in the customer journey. It’s all about making sure what you’re delivering is aligned with audience expectations.
When crafting successful digital experiences, there are three major considerations Tony feels companies need to ask themselves before pursuing a solution:
- What do consumers want from your brand and what do they expect you to do for them?
- Do you have the data you need to meet these expectations?
- What can you do to remove friction in digital journeys? And where can technology help to meet your goals and support change?
Only once brands understand what the customer wants can they start building responsive and relevant solutions that meet and even surpass those expectations. By taking a thoughtful and purposeful approach to leveraging customer data to address business needs, Digitas has improved both bottom lines and customer satisfaction. Last year, Acquia customer Johnson Outdoors, partnering with Digitas for creative and technology, earned the Acquia Engage Award for Excellence in B2C Digital Marketing for the relaunch of their seven market-leading outdoor gear brands’ websites. Along with the corporate brand site, they were all migrated from separate experiences into a single, shared e-commerce and CMS platform.
Digitas produced several sets of modules and configurations to see which would provide the most robust and customizable solution for Johnson Outdoors. They used Acquia technology to connect each individual site together in a way that maintained each brand’s unique identity while managing content and business rules through a CMS and a unified user log-in and password system. The solution granted customers the ability to add products to their cart, checkout and view their account from across all of the brand sites.
The innovative new platform solution allowed Johnson Outdoors to offer immersive, omnichannel commerce experiences and increased their web team’s operational efficiencies across the entire enterprise. Not only was this beneficial from a customer experience perspective, but the project also vastly increased the client’s ability to drive brand control and adhere to a high level of brand governance.
Technology Trends to Watch
In such a rapidly evolving landscape of platforms, what are the key trends Tony feels all customers should be paying attention to?
“By the time this goes to press any trends I say will be out of date,” Tony laughed. “With new channels coming online all the time, you always have to be watching. You need to understand the trends, new platforms, consumer culture and more — it’s a lot to pay attention to.”
Rather than go all-in and design your marketing strategies around today’s biggest buzzwords like automation or influencer marketing, the best brands should study their customer patterns and deliver end-value based on what they observe. Tony believes that all tech decisions need to be made with the right context in mind to leave a meaningful impact.
“There’s a lot of hype, though even more potential, around machine learning and AI. AI is being branded and marketed as an out-of-the-box solution by a lot of companies. However, a pre-built algorithm isn’t going to do as much as if you understand data you have, so that machine learning models can find new patterns and trends that could unlock value. A former colleague once succinctly stated that AI is not automatic, it’s a force multiplier,” said Tony.
Overcoming Implementation Hurdles Together
In our multichannel world, new channels where consumers can interact with brands are coming online all the time and marketers have a lot to pay attention to. In addition to keeping up with tech, they also need to be deeply embedded with what’s happening in popular culture and how the public may look to connect with their brand moving forward.
In the past 10 years, companies have embarked on major capital-intensive IT projects to bring better experiences into the market at faster speeds. These large scale implementation efforts, from CRM to content management systems to e-commerce, all come with their own internal challenges and adjustments for existing employees and IT teams. To get these new systems into production with as little friction as possible, partners need to work together to define exactly what success means to their mutual customer base.
Tony feels that the key to Digitas and Acquia’s success has been establishing tight relationships between the agency and Acquia’s partner management and field sales teams at multiple levels. “Knowing when to bring each other in, and having open and candid conversations about how to best serve our customers, has been the key to growing our business together,” said Tony.
Evolving Tech and Elevating Expectations
Rather than be overwhelmed by the multitudes of data points at their fingertips, Tony is excited that new platforms are fueling stronger experiences and he says, “There’s always a new challenge to conquer and the bar for consumer expectations keeps moving.”
Tony’s vision for the digital landscape is one where every business has a flexible digital platform that can quickly be rewired to solve the problems their customers face in real-time. Open source solutions give their clients the ability to modify and adapt these technical solutions and even build their own stack from the ground up.
“Acquia and Drupal have a great vision and understanding of what customers are doing in digital and the kind of flexible infrastructure that’s needed,” said Tony. While open source options are growing and disrupting established legacy vendors, there’s a legacy perception among some customers that Drupal is not as secure as closed source options or lacks the support system needed to power major websites.
Yet, Tony is confident when Digitas recommends Drupal to clients because he’s seen it work and scale for major global organizations. “There’s an old recollection of scalability challenges because some companies don’t realize how much [Drupal] has matured and how many high traffic sites are already running on it. But it works, and it’s ready for the enterprise.”
As companies expand their data sources and seek out better methods to collect, secure and understand their data on a massive scale, Tony feels that mature open source projects can help IT teams get up to speed quickly and still meet their core requirements and systems needs.