SINGAPORE – Microsoft recently gathered over 40 brand leaders and senior media agency executives at The Power of Human Data event on 22 April. Speaking on topics close to the hearts of marketers in a hyper-connected digital world, senior Microsoft executives spoke about the key challenges faced by marketers in the new world of marketing, and outlined how marketers can leverage the data, insights, tools and consumer experiences enabled by technology to deliver impact in today’s challenging landscape.
Frank Holland, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Advertising, started the session with a keynote address on how marketers can take a more consumer-centric approach to marketing by creating “moments that matter” to consumers. Following this, Justin Spelhaug, Chief Marketing and Operations Officer at Microsoft Asia, continued the conversation by sharing about his own best practices as a lead marketer for Microsoft in the Asia Pacific region, and elaborating on how technology can play a bigger role in helping marketers deliver impact.
The session ended with a panel discussion involving Holland and Spelhaug. Moderated by Adam Anger, General Manager for Asia Pacific at Microsoft Advertising, the panel members came together to discuss the wide range of challenges faced by marketers today, while taking questions from the floor.
Here are the three key takeaways from the event:
1. Making marketing more personal
With cloud, mobility and the Internet of Things disrupting traditional marketing practices, marketers are now operating in a hyper-connected, always-on environment where new modes of communication arise daily. While this offers amazing new opportunities for marketers to connect with consumers, it also creates tremendous challenges for marketers to reach distracted consumers with short attention spans effectively in the noisy marketplace.
In his role in Microsoft, Spelhaug is both a user and provider of new marketing technologies. What’s clear to him is that marketing should be made more personal in order for it to be effective in a mobile-first, cloud-first world.
“On the consumer side of it, we are constantly trying to understand them more as an individual in order to create connected experiences that can serve them the information, product and services they need, just when they need them. To do this we need to create systems that understand their distinctive needs and desire in order to be able to engage them in a personal way at scale,” said Spelhaug.
Recounting his recent experience at the Seattle Airport where he was buying his favourite smoked mac and cheese, Holland shared that he was ‘pleasantly surprised’ with the point-of-sales experience. While the cashier was scanning his smoked mac and cheese at the checkout counter, the customer-facing screen asked him if he wanted a pack of gum to go with it. And when his salad was scanned, a bottle of water was suggested, offering him a personalized retail experience at the airport.
“This moment requires the marriage of business rules, IT, customer service, and marketing in a way that most organizations couldn’t fathom just a handful of years ago,” said Holland. “This is a prime example of how brands can turn ordinary consumer moments into “moments that matter” by providing a relevant piece of information at the appropriate time and manner that adds value to the consumer experience. And marketers can do so much more with this,” he added.
2. Making data work harder for you
In order to understand consumers better and position brands where their consumers are to provide value, data is key in delivering the insights that can make this happen.
“For us marketers, it is also about gathering deep marketing insights from the sea of data to help us take action quickly in response to customer needs and to out-manoeuvre the competition. It’s about making your data work harder for you,” said Spelhaug.
“By unifying thousands of sources of information to get a composite view of Microsoft customers, we can get feedback on how well our marketing efforts have been, which then allows us to make adjustments,” he added.
However data collection is only one part of the equation. “With the use of a Microsoft Kinect, data sensors, beacons, combined with machine learning and contextual data, a retailer can now recognize you as a customer if you wanted them to, know what products you’re interested in, how to lay out their store better to help you find the things you need, find out who comes into all their stores each day and why, correlate store visits to advertising and marketing campaigns, anticipate better when they will need some help, and provide the most up-to-date information on their products without having to print a load of new marketing materials,” said Holland.
“This will not only make for a more memorable experience for the consumer, it also provides scalable insights to the retailer, such as the actual customer flow, range display effectiveness, informed customer interactions, validation of store design, rapid store experimentation, testing of store layouts, probabilistic retailing and much more,” Holland added.
3. Owning the brand-consumer conversation
While technology is transforming the marketing landscape, at the end of day, marketing hasn’t changed. Marketers still need to attract an audience and engage them – no matter where consumers are, what device they are using, and when they use it. However, with so many new possibilities available to marketers today, businesses now expect more from them than ever before.
“As marketers, we understand better what makes a good experience for customers than many others in our organizations. Every experience – from the ads, to the product, packaging, retail and customer service – is a consumer experience touch point. If just one hiccup happens at any one point, it can undo all the work that has been put in to build up the brand,” said Holland.
“With the understanding of consumer experience also comes with the feeling of pressure. The rest of the business is looking to marketing to create and own these moments. And the good news is that we can intervene in ways that can truly shape the future consumer experience, by using tools unprecedented in the history of marketing, to create amazing experiences for our consumers. We can take it a step further to connect the whole journey together. We can use data, insights and technology to stitch together something that extends beyond the world of traditional marketing – creating experiences that transcend online and offline, ads to apps, when we take into account the full view of the person and take action on it. The future of marketing is amazing,” Holland added.
In closing, Holland submitted that everything that marketers do is about “making it awesome”. “Though there are Chief Marketing Officers, Chief Digital Officers, Chief Information Officers, Chief Technology Officers, the reality is, we can’t make great experiences unless everyone is looking to their left and right, upstream and downstream, to craft the consumer experience together as a whole. I hope we can ultimately all be Chief Make-It-Awesome Officers. Let’s own the brand-consumer conversation from the start till the end, and make those moments that matter,” said Holland.