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How IT can work alongside marketing to deliver on digital expectations

A recent digital customer experience summit hosted by Adobe has highlighted the link between IT, in-house talent development and change management

In the latest Adobe Digital Marketing Survey, 41% of the 750 marketers who participated in the research said they wanted to create a digital experience.

Only 7% of marketers in the UK rated their organisations’ digital maturity as advanced, but 81% said digital maturity has a real impact on their business.

Over half of companies (52%) said they are on a journey with skill and resources being the main issues limiting progress on digital maturity.

Speaking at the Adobe CX Forum in London at the start of July, Nina Jones, director, customer experience and partner experience programme at Microsoft, argued that companies should think differently rather than build on previous successes, when developing their digital customer experience strategies. “Engage your customers. Meet what they want and stretch their expectations,” she said.

Jones recommended that businesses should adopt a layered approach to developing a digital customer experience. She said the bottom layer comprises customer relationship management or an information fabric, which is used to get all the data in one place. Above this data layer, Jones said there needs to be supporting processes and workflows optimised for a customer focus.

The next layer in Jones’ model concerns empowering employees, which needs to cover recruiting and talent management. “Customer experience and employee experience are two sides of the same coin,” she said.

Finally, there is a feedback loop where data insights and artificial intelligence are used to continuously improve systems and processes

Changing a tradition

Education textbook and resources company Pearson is an example of a company going through such a digital transformation. Geoff Seeley, global vice-president of digital at Pearson, said the education sector is changing rapidly. “Education is a $6 trillion business. Kids want to rent books. There are now free online resources available, offering personalised learning, but we have a lot of legacy thinking, which holds us back.”

Specifically, he said there were huge duplications of costs and inefficiencies at Pearson. “We have 25,000 people in the business, and there is almost one website per employee, which is substandard from a customer experience perspective.”

Seeley said that among the issues for customers was the fact that to purchase a textbook required the use of websites and 17 clicks.

Traditionally, Pearson has focused on the learner. Seely said the company needed to become more customer-centric. “We needed a vision of how to bring a product to markets and my job is to poke the business.”

Seeley said the biggest challenge for Pearson was legacy thinking. “We need to fundamentally change the way we think and approach our business,” he said. “We need to be a software business.”

Getting buy-in was not a problem. “The job was to shine a light on the opportunity we would miss if we didn’t transform.”

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Seeley’s team needed to work closely with finance and the business around the world to show tangible business value. “We don’t invest without understanding the ROI [return on investment] since we cannot afford to waste money on things that don’t pay back.”

Another of the challenges he faced was taking a lead on the digital initiatives. “A lot of people had some power, which is not good as everyone interprets the brand in their own way,” he said. “It was not a power grab. Collectively we can get this fixed, but we need to work under a set of parameters.”

Like many large organisations, Pearson used a lot of outsourcing and major consultants, which left a skills gap in the business. “We didn’t have the talent we needed in the business, but we had to get talent in,” said Seeley. His goal was to build a pool of in-house talent to develop Pearson’s digital strategy. “I started with a team of three and we are now 300, who now own the digital presence of Pearson, giving us a strong position to keep building.”

Developing a joined-up digital strategy

According to the Adobe survey, 94% of marketers in mature organisations use data to understand the customer better, while 70% said automating the delivery of personalised content for the web has improved their key performance indicators.

A.S. Adventure is one such business. The retailer, which owns the chains CycleSurgery, Runners Needs and Cotswolds, has used technology from Adobe to help it improve customer experience and become more digital. It stores data and content in one platform to support operational and marketing emails. As such, a customer buying from one of its retail stores is sent a receipt by email.

Jaime Brighton of Adobe Digital Marketing said the retailer invested heavily in a seamless omni-channel and installed in-store digital signage to link the website and the in-store experience, putting the customer first across all channels. “A.S. Adventure has invested heavily in experts in-store and provides experiential content to inspire customers.”

Brighton said A.S. Adventure brought its digital experience team in-house, where developers and IT worked closely with marketing. The retailer used Adobe Analytics integrated with Adobe Campaign and pulled offline data into Adobe Analytics.

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