All/Ways/On: Adapting to Permanent Change in Digital Marketing

by Jessica Ramesh

Figaro Digital’s All/Ways/On Seminar took place earlier this year. Among the speakers were experts from Barclaycard, Forrester Research, CBS Interactive, Sift and sponsors Claranet UK. We report on the challenges and opportunities associated with a digital environment where consumers expect your content and services to be available on demand

Among the most dramatic consequences of the digital revolution has been an irrevocable change in consumers’ attitudes to brands online. Mobile devices and social networks mean that what was once a passive, one-way relationship is now permanently active. Whatever your sector or industry, everything, everywhere, is always on.

In February this year Figaro Digital partnered with Claranet UK to host a seminar exploring the impact and implications associated with what Forrester Research describe as the ‘always-addressable consumer.’ On hand were Anthony Mullen, Senior Analyst for Interactive Marketing (EMEA) at Forrester Research, Adrian Garcia-Sierra, Head of Digital Content at Barclaycard, Steve Wing, Head of Consumer UK at CBS Interactive UK, Ben Heald, CEO at publishers Sift and Simon Bearne, Sales and Marketing Director at Claranet UK. Their brief: to guide us through the technical, commercial and creative issues currently confronting brands and digital marketers, and to present some clear, market-oriented advice to brands who recognise the opportunities as well the challenges of an environment where consumers expect your content and services to be available on demand.

“The connected customer is most definitely here,” says Steve Wing at CBS Interactive UK. “We’re now moving into what I’d call ‘the end of constraint’. It’s had a profound impact on how people perceive what they get and what they expect from you and your brand.”

“Digital services are omnipresent in consumers’ lives,” says Anthony Mullen from Forrester Research. “Brands are increasingly obliged to be available when consumers want them.” He explains that the perpetually connected customer regularly goes online via multiple devices and from multiple locations. What’s more, he says, the figures for this type of user are growing. “It’s the customers’ choice about when they want to engage,” says Adrian Garcia-Sierra at Barclaycard. “Our challenge is how. It’s up to us to give them a bank of different options and solutions that suit different types of users.”

Disruptive impact vs. opportunity

So, how can brands adapt and target this surge of always-on customers? “People increasingly have more than one device,” says Wing. With users moving seamlessly between those devices it is necessary to develop relevant products which build reach, loyalty and reputation. Where different devices are used for varying time periods and content consumption purposes, says Wing, they “not only allow us to stay relevant to people at different bits of their day but also at different points in their purchase cycle. It allows us to iterate and change our products continuously.”

Wing says that developing platforms, partnerships and programmes are powerful ways to appeal to the increasingly connected consumer. Developing platforms which aren’t in your normal operating domain and programming for specific platforms is also important for targeting, accessing and building audiences. “Users’ expectations of what you need to give them have completely changed forever,” says Wing. “You need to understand how you can keep pace with that. Recognise what they need, what they require, what motivates them, what frustrates them and make sense of different experiences for them.”

What does Wing make of the always-addressable consumer? “It’s having an enormously disruptive impact on the publishing model for lots of people, but it’s an enormous opportunity because we can get our consumers to spend more time with us, more often, across more devices, in more places across the internet and build a revenue model around that. That’s the big win around the connected consumer. There’s no impediment to people getting access to your content.”

The importance of context

“Brands need to use context in order to be relevant to always-on customers,” says Mullen, who recommends looking at past as well as present location data. “Context is informed by the past. It’s also about what’s happening in the present. Using the past and the present we can begin to work out what consumers may respond to in the future.”

Mullen emphasises the need for marketers to understand when, where and why a consumer is engaging with a brand, and then to think about the needs which that brand can fulfil. “This flips marketing on its head somewhat,” he says. “Think about existing, adjacent and new touch-points in your customer journeys. Inflate the context that you’re trying to address.”

Agility and flexibility

Responding efficiently to customers’ needs requires greater agility, as Ben Heald, CEO at online publishers Sift, discovered when the company shifted to the cloud to accommodate flexible hosting. “Our strategy was to do more agile stuff, be more resilient, cost-effective and de-risk things,” says Heald.

Almost all of Sift’s internal business systems have now been moved to the cloud. The hosting system for clients uses a hybrid model, split between the cloud and managed services. “If we want to go further into the cloud, having made this managed services leap, we can,” he says. “Once you start using the cloud services you can use enterprise tools.”

Making the right choices

Adrian Garcia-Sierra at Barclaycard also details a shift in focus. In the past, he says, the brand was centered on its card, but this is changing. “We’re now about payments. Getting away from cash is absolutely vital to move forward,” he explains. “Spend behaviour is the bit we’re really getting into and where digital is really assisting us.”

Garcia-Sierra also emphasises the importance of mobile. With 15-16 per cent of Barclaycard’s customer base using its site from mobile devices in 2012, he expects to see one third of their traffic coming from smartphones by the end of this year and over half by the end of next year.

As well as rebuilding their CMS and creating a mobile-optimised site, Barclaycard are using social as a customer service tool. He explains that social opens dialogue and relationships as consumers are able to post queries on Twitter and Facebook.

Barclaycard has targets for very high percentages of digital engagement with their customer base by 2015. “We need to be consultative and responsive to the needs of individual users,” says Garcia-Sierra. “The final challenge is the pace of change and therefore us making the right choices. It’s about choosing where customers are most likely to want to engage with us digitally.”

Watch all the presentations from the Figaro Digital All/Ways/On seminar

Article by Julia Richardson