Steve Earl is the Senior Director of Product Marketing for Oracle’s Customer Experience Cloud.
In his role, Steve focuses on the go-to-market strategy for CX products and solutions. With almost 30 years of experience in the technology industry, Steve has handled responsibilities spanning marketing, product strategy, software development, and strategic consulting.
Over this time, Steve has worked with digital executives, digital marketers and analytics professionals at many medium- to large-sized companies worldwide. With a passion for data, Steve says that he enjoys discovering new ways to improve marketing results through the application of data.
MarTech Vibe caught up with Steve before his session at the Vibe Marketers Fest. He chats about the impact of a customer on a brand in terms of innovation, why he believes data-driven AI to be important, and what do brands need to focus on before investing in technology. Excerpts from the interaction:
Marketing is now increasingly personalised and data-driven, what are the critical tools to achieve success at scale?
We believe that marketing excellence today and, therefore, the tools they use, require adherence to a few core principles:
- That DATA is the most fundamental ingredient to success
- That intelligence must be purpose-built and fully integrated to drive business value
- That the consumer is now in control, and intelligent orchestration must deliver reliably at scale in each and every micro-moment
- That integration amplifies value, ensuring that relevant data flows freely between related platforms, enabling more in-depth insights and better decision-making
- That marketers must think beyond the traditional bounds of marketing to the entire customer experience
You recently said that the customer journey is dead. Is that true?
Yes, the traditional “linear” customer journey that was once predictable is a thing of the past. Because your customer doesn’t see a journey, they see a brand experience. They are constantly in motion and expect an experience that is real-time, personalised and contextual. The way they interact with a brand is no longer predictable, and now, more than ever, they expect an immediate and relevant experience each and every time they interact with you. So, the problem of understanding and engaging with your customers has only become more challenging. This introduces real problems for the traditional CRM-centric customer journey.
According to you, what has left a lasting impact on the evolution of marketing technology in the last couple of years?
This is simple – the customer. What’s very different now (and what may seem surprising) is that the customer is now the innovator, not the brand. The innovative customer is readily adopting new channels and buying habits. They are continually experimenting with new methods and technologies to make their lives easier and their decisions more informed. They learn from their friends and networks and are quick to switch brands if something seems better. More than ever before, they are even willing to share the most personal data if it leads to a better experience. But with that exchange comes increasing expectations. Not only do customers expect more from the experience they receive, they expect it at the very moment that is right for them on the channel of their choice. One bad experience is all it takes to lose a hard-earned customer. This is fundamentally changing the way brands do business with them and how marketers must think about their roles.
Is there a consolidation of MarTech solutions players dominating the space with multitudes of interdependent solutions?
Yes, this has been happening for a few years. As brands are moving toward competing on the “customer experience”, they see the value of integrated marketing clouds. It’s no longer sufficient to segregate acquisition programs from nurture campaigns from customer marketing from social marketing, etc. A customer sees one brand, so the modern marketer must act like one brand.
You had once mentioned that ‘‘The ‘magic’ of AI is in the underlying data and the ability to analyse that to help customers at critical inflection points”. Do you think AI holds the key to all of our customer experience woes?
I believe that “data-driven AI” holds the key. My point was that AI without data is useless, and the more data you can feed those AI models and algorithms, the more accurate the intelligence it will return. Marketers need to think very differently and to shift their focus to “micro-moments”, making sure that every moment matters. However, a shift to micro-moments raises serious challenges to marketers. This is how data-driven AI can help, and those marketers who embrace AI in this way will win.
Oracle has updated elements of the Marketing Cloud Suite, how will this better enable marketers?
The Marketing Cloud has evolved to help enterprises become mature digital marketers and to enable a business to grow in three key areas:
- Gain powerful insights based on the most comprehensive customer data and the most accurate identity resolution solution in the world.
- Hyper-personalise each communication to each individual customer to dramatically improve marketing lift
- Deliver exceptional content in the micro-moments when they matter most to your customers to increase customer conversion and happiness
What are the most pressing issues marketers are facing today? How can they be overcome?
Today, marketers are expected to:
- Know their customers better than they know themselves, while at the same time respecting their privacy
- Make marketing seem invisible but be sure to anticipate their needs before they do
- Engage with them on their terms at the time and channel of their choosing (Human interfaces, digital assistants, mobile, new channels)
- And think beyond his siloes of marketing, sales and service because his customers do
Today’s marketer cannot deliver differentiating customer experience at the very moment they need it without having a solid understanding of who that customer is and what they are looking for. A comprehensive understanding of your customer means putting them in the middle and understanding the world from their point of view – understanding their priorities, needs and preferences in the exact moment they choose to engage. This understanding begins when they are anonymous before you even have a relationship with them and continually evolves the more they engage with your brand. We, therefore, believe that data is the most fundamental ingredient to success and so brands must be thinking “data-first”. Without a solid data foundation, it’s just not possible to deliver an experience that is relevant, timely and consistent.
Does a brand need to be data-driven across all its departments? How can that be achieved?
This is a great question and probably the reason most data initiatives fail. Firstly any “customer” data initiative must start from the top of the organisation. It needs to have executive-level ownership and buy-in from all departments. Then, before the technology is put into place, the organisation must define a data strategy that clearly defines the business outcomes that are to be achieved, the data sources to be brought together and data governance processes to ensure it is always clean, accurate and up to date.
Investing in technology is a big decision; what questions should organisations ask before they decide to buy a solution?
The three key areas that are important in investing in marketing technology include:
- Is data a foundational component of your marketing technology solutions?
- How does marketing fit within the broader scope of customer experience?
- How do you ensure I can support the scale demands of my business and real-time expectations of my end customers?
You are speaking at the Vibe Marketers Fest, what can delegates hope to take away from your session?
I hope to inspire the audience to think about how they, as marketers, need to change to help their companies be successful in the Experience Economy. They are in the best position within their organisation to transform the way their brand engages with their customers and drives business growth.