As digital publishers diversify revenue strategies and develop ecommerce businesses, it is important to understand the consumer purchase process. For many publishers, ecommerce is more than just affiliate links, branded content, and online stores. Publishers are exploring investments in online shops, unique product offerings, wellness programs, virtual learning, and events. With new ecommerce businesses and multiple digital touchpoints consumers, expect an efficient and personalized shopping experience.
BlueVenn, a provider of tools and analytics for marketers, explores consumer purchase behaviors and engagement in a new report, Digital Divide. They partnered with OnePoll to survey 4,000 consumers and 500 marketers in U.S. and U.K.
Key findings include:
Over half (55%) of all respondents in the U.S. report that having a personalized shopping experience with a brand is important to them. Interestingly, only 27% report that brands provide a similar and cohesive shopping experience across all channels.
While marketers report that their businesses collect a lot of consumer data, only four in 10 report using the information. Clearly, it’s important to analyze the data and incorporate the findings to improve the consumer experience.
Fifty-seven percent of U.S. consumer report that they prefer to share their data directly with a brand they trust. This offers a unique opportunity for publishers to grow their ecommerce businesses since they already have a direct and trusted relationship with consumers.
Mobile ecommerce is the new norm in the U.S. Six in 10 U.S. respondents (61%) agree (32% “strongly agree” and 29% “somewhat agree”) that they’ve increased the amount of time they shop on mobile compared to last year.
The top two digital channels that U.S. consumers use to interact with brands include email (61%) and desktop/laptop web browser (51%). Interestingly, Facebook placed fifth (39%).
Close to two-thirds (63% “very important/somewhat important”) of U.S. respondents report that they think it is important for a brand to create a personalized shopping experience.In fact, 58% of U.S. consumers report that they are likely (23% “very likely” and 35% “somewhat likely”) to stop buying a product/service online due to the lack of a personalized experience.
Less than half (43%) of U.S. respondents report that brands understand their shopping need.
Browsing and browsers
When shopping for specific goods and services, U.S. consumers prefer overwhelmingly their desktop/laptop browser. Ranking and ratings:
Clothing, homeware, and exercise equipment – desktop/laptop browser (#1, 48%)
Holiday or leisure – desktop/laptop browser (#1, 54%)
TV, movies, or entertainment – desktop/laptop browser (#1, 38%)
Diversifying product offerings and revenue streams is helping publishers deepen their audience relationship. As publishers continue to build their direct-to-consumer ecommerce portfolios, it’s important to monitor the consumer’s digital shopping experience. Understanding the process of multiple touchpoints and shifts in online shopping behavior provides insight into consumer needs and expectations. There is a growing opportunity for publishers to play an important role in offering consumers a cohesive digital shopping experience.
Held virtually and expanded to five days, the 2021 edition of the member’s-only DCN Next:summit (February 1-5) was certainly unlike any that came before. Fittingly, CEO Jason Kint kicked things off by reflecting on all that has changed over the past year and, perhaps more importantly, what has not.
“Publishers have been covering three of the biggest stories of our generation, all intersecting at the same time,” he said. “Your ability to stay true to your brands and to the public trust, despite personal and professional obstacles, has been remarkable.”
Amid all of this, Kint reminded attendees that the industry will need to keep its priorities straight to fuel a stronger digital media marketplace. Indeed, a broad theme of the event was the many ways publishers are adapting to shifts accelerated by the pandemic by deepening their direct relationships with audiences.
Platform power plays
Constellation Research founder and chairman Ray Wang expanded on that topic in the opening session, an interview by BBC correspondent Larry Madowo. Noting increased competition from outside the industry, Wang called for greater cooperation among media companies.
“What we have is a fracturing in the marketplace, which is making it very hard to compete with the digital giants,” he said. “In order to succeed, you have to band together.”
Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner told Axios media reporter Sara Fischer that the “immensely powerful position” of tech platforms will need to be addressed by regulators. At the same time, he shared an optimistic outlook for the future of journalism. Unlike the print-centric business he took over 20 years ago, digital journalism carries lower costs, he said, allowing media companies to invest more heavily in editorial.
“You have no deadline. You have unlimited space,” Döpfner said. “And you can combine all aesthetic forms of journalism. It can be video, it can be audio, it can be text, it can be all combined. I think we are still in the early days of digital journalism and its creative potential.”
Monopolies and media models
Döpfner added that there’s a future for both subscription- and ad-supported journalism on the web, and that many organizations will continue with a mix of both. The future of advertising, however, depends on the role of platforms.
On the contrary, NYU marketing professor Scott Galloway said the key to survival for media companies will be subscriptions. He said that giving content away for free to “innovators and algorithms” was “the biggest mistake journalism ever made.”
Interviewed by Henry Blodget, the CEO of Axel Springer-owned Insider Inc., Galloway added that regulators should further address platforms’ data collection capabilities to mitigate their harmful effects.
POLITICO antitrust reporter Leah Nylen and Yale economist Fiona Scott Morton then explored potential regulatory remedies to the anti-competitive practices of tech companies. Scott Morton encouraged media companies to help educate regulators on the impact of “dominant advertising intermediaries,” such as Google.
“These markets for digital advertising are not something that most people understand,” she said. “It requires effort on the part of the affected parties to help move the conversation forward and push regulators in a direction that’s good.”
“There’s plenty of room for other digital journalism outlets to survive and thrive,” she said.
“We’re still in the early days of the pay model. It wasn’t that long ago that everybody said things like ‘digital news wants to be free.’ Some of our journalistic competitors are having great years for subscriptions. We look at all of that as making a market.”
To build on the 2.3 million digital subscriptions the Times sold in 2020, Kopit Levien said the outlet will be investing in covering live and developing news. Additionally, she suggested that publishers should work to reduce their dependence on third-party data to help create better digital experiences for subscribers.
Meeting audiences whenever, wherever
CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter sat with CBS News president Susan Zirinsky for a discussion on how the pandemic has accelerated shifts in the TV news business. Gone are the days of holding major scoops or interviews for primetime, Zirinsky said. Even broadcast news must adapt to a 24/7, cross-platform model.
“We want to give people facts,” Zirinsky said. “We want to share information. This is really what it’s about: being on every platform that is available, taking our unique content and putting it in as many places as a consumer is.”
One of those rising platforms, audio, was the topic of conversation between Gimlet Media head of content Lydia Polgreen, Pineapple Street Studios co-founder Jenna Weiss-Berman, and Recode’s Kafka.
While advertising remains a lucrative source of revenue, Polgreen said the medium needs some advancement in terms of measurement and audience-based selling, similar to other formats. Weiss-Berman added that the mechanisms for connecting ad buyers with content creators need development. Both agreed that there is still tremendous room for growth. The next big challenge will be reaching people who don’t currently listen to podcasts.
“If you look at the research, podcast listening has tripled since 2014, in terms of share of time, but only from 2% to 6%,” Polgreen said. “In a world where audio is completely on-demand, the possibilities are pretty endless.”
The future of media and journalism
Elsewhere on the program, Snap CMO Kenny Mitchell and Clubhouse CEO Paul Davison each explored growth strategies for their respective platforms. They also touched on the importance of creator relationships and the intersection of content and community.
Julia Angwin, editor-in-chief and founder of The Markup, took attendees behind the scenes of The Atlantic’s highly successful COVID tracking project. Staff writer Alexis Madrigal, who co-founded the project, reflected on the many challenges involved in merging numerous disparate sources of data to meet a critical need for information in the early months of the pandemic.
Angwin noted that the project exemplifies the tangible benefits that journalistic endeavors can provide to the public, particularly when providing information that might be “politically inconvenient.”
On the final day of the Summit, Stacy-Marie Ishmael, editorial director at The Texas Tribune, led a lively conversation with 2PM Inc. founder Web Smith and The Washington Post’s VP, commercial, Jarrod Dicker, on the future of media. In line with the trends, the discussion largely focused on the rise of independent creators.
“Twitter and other platforms have enabled individual people to build their own reputation. It’s created an entirely new landscape,” Dicker said. “Creators can see what their individual value is. I think that’s a change in the discourse.”
New year, same values
In closing, Kint said that, despite adapting well to a virtual event, he hoped to see everyone back in Miami for the 2022 DCN Next: Summit. In the interim, he advised those in attendance to focus on three key things: strengthening bonds with audiences and partners, understanding the core needs of both, and emphasizing agility in response to change.
“Every member of DCN has a direct and trusted relationship with their users and advertisers,” he said. “Our Summit is the one place where, in the comfort of a closed-door environment, surrounded by others who share our values, we can also share our successes and vulnerabilities.”
Over the past 20 years, the “digital transformation” of the publishing industry has been—for the most part—a slow, incremental process. For too long, the publishing industry was mostly concerned with digital replicas, ebooks, and other superficial “transformation” efforts which, in fact, didn’t so much transform the business as copy legacy models in electronic form.
Suffice it to say that legacy media models are oriented around the process of producing a book, magazine, or newspaper and not necessarily based on the experience and circumstances of the digital consumer. As digital transformation enters a new, more advanced phase, many publishers are recognizing they have an opportunity to provide products that raise the value proposition to customers.
What does it all mean?
The term digital transformation can be defined as a multitude of activities and attitudes that a business could potentially pursue. But what digital transformation really requires is that business owners adopt the customer’s viewpoint and change their business philosophy accordingly – from a process orientation to one that is customer-centric.
Publishers in education, reference and professional segments are beginning to execute operational change which supports this evolving viewpoint. And of course, there are “born digital” media organizations that aren’t wedded to legacy models. However, some of the best examples come from sectors outside media. Amazon.com is frequently cited as a proponent of the customer-centric view and their willingness to continue to rethink their operations from the customer perspective results in initiatives such as ‘one-click’ ordering to their recently announced wireless checkout process. Payment is made automatically via the Amazon app as the customer leaves the store. And we’ve seen what Amazon-owner Jeff Bezos has done in terms of transforming processes at The Washington Post since he acquired it.
Creating an environment where change can occur is no easy thing. Detailed and comprehensive change management activities need to be adopted to help guide an organization through this process. By definition, a legacy business model carries with it deeply entrenched legacy processes that need to be changed, adapted, or discarded in order to forge a new environment for success. Engaging in a formal digital transformation initiative endorsed and supported by the highest level of management is a requirement, and nothing less will suffice if the business is going to succeed.
Where to start
Before this can happen, though, it’s important to understand your starting position. A complete review of the current state of the business is critical to defining your future objectives and targets. Digital transformation is a process that takes place over time, along a spectrum of capability, where the endpoint is a business (or a product line) that has been digitally transformed. Points along that spectrum should be predetermined, well-defined objectives, which also serve as opportunities to reevaluate and reassess whether the business is going in the right direction.
Recently, I was asked to conduct a workshop with an educational publisher that recognized the business imperative of digitally transforming their business. This is not an unsophisticated publisher; they realize they are still too far removed from the consumer experience and must establish new business processes, product development strategies, and distribution/access models to remain competitive over the next 20 years. That’s a tall order for any organization, which is why the digital transformation process needs to be embedded into the organization in a consistent and repeatable manner. So, I took a team of senior executives through a day session to explore how this transformation process could be executed within their organization. An important takeaway from our meeting was the recognition by the group that taking on too much to quickly will doom a transformation project before it has started.
On a project I worked on several years ago, we avoided this trap in three ways. We:
recognized that our content and editorial workflow needed to become digital-first;
identified three to four workflow products to implement early in the transition; and
implemented a number of quick wins such as metadata improvement, copyright clearance integration and the implementation of process improvements with our distribution partners.
Doing the first brought uniformity and control to the creation and management of content, while the second enabled the team to learn by experience. The third built confidence in our ability to execute. During the first and second year of this project, as progress was made on these initial initiatives, the team gained the time necessary to test their market and product assumptions directly with customers.
As a result, toward the end of the third year, the publisher had established and expanded range of integrated products combining traditional textbook and reference content with assessment, collaboration, and other tools that improved their effectiveness and established a sound foundation for further digital growth. Across a variety of products, they had begun to adopt a customer-centric publishing model with revenue models to match.
Leading long-term change
Generally, the critical components driving the success of the transformation effort will be collaboration, resources, leadership, a clear understanding of business value, creativity, and a deep understanding of customer wants/needs. No one person can affect all these factors. Therefore, a strong statement of intent from senior management, ownership of the process by the senior leadership team for the business unit, measurable performance factors, quick wins and identifiable success stories are critical to creating an environment for transformation success across the business.
Securing executive buy-in to support this transformation effort (led by the CEO reporting to the board) must be a given. The imposition of technology on businesses today is so vital to medium- to long-term business viability that this effort demands the active support of senior management. An effective tool in this process is the establishment of targets and key performance measures tied to the desired improvement in the customer experience. To drive change, these objectives should represent significant “step change” performance improvement. Setting these out clearly helps prevent back-sliding and guards against good-enough results masquerading as real change.
Taking an organization’s senior management through a workshop like this one is the first step in a good first step in driving a true digital transition process. But because digital transformation will ultimately touch every part of the organization in some way, all staff must be included in the process. All employees must understand the importance of the effort to the success of the business, how the process will unfold, its impact on their work and what their contribution will be.
And remember that a digital transformation effort is never over. In a truly customer-centric organization, the business will always be anticipating changing behavior, rapidly adapting, expanding capabilities, and building new and better customer solutions. Increasingly, legacy processes do not allow for that type of flexibility and that’s the imperative for digital transformation.
Michael Cairns has served as CEO and President of several technology and content-centric business supporting global media publishers, retailers, and service providers. He blogs at personanondata.com and can be reached here.
Few topics are as pervasive in marketing circles these days as those related to the “customer journey.” According to a new ebook from IBM, nearly 80% of consumers feel the average brand doesn’t understand them as individuals, so it is clear that CMOs are right to be focused on initial engagement.
First introduced by organizational design maestro IDEO in the late 1990s while working on a high-speed rail design project for Acela, the concept was quickly embraced and proselytized by consultants and leading companies around the world. The subsequent explosion of digital technologies had a dramatic effect on customer journey planning – increasing its complexity dramatically, and perhaps even exponentially – and fueled the growth of what is now effectively its own industry category.
What is the Customer Journey? In its simplest form, the (pre-acquisition) customer journey is the sum of the steps that an individual or company takes before becoming a customer. The “customer journey map” is typically a visual representation of that process, and often conveys considerable detail. This example neatly summarizes a customer’s path to purchasing broadband internet service, but the journeys differ dramatically according to the unique dynamics of customer type, product, price, and company (think: purchasing a new pair of jeans at Old Navy versus Bloomingdale’s).
The close cousin to the customer journey is the “customer experience,” which can be generally understood as the post-acquisition activities that place, and are aimed at maximizing client satisfaction and/or cross- and up-selling complementary goods and services.
What You Need to Know Given the myriad variables involved in the customer journey planning and optimization process, it’s easy to get off-track. The new ebook from IBM does a good job of identifying three common barriers, and tips for how to address them. Our take on its recommendations follows.
Stay Focused On What You Can Control. End-to-end customer journeys can involve just about every functional area of an organization – from product managers to IT resources and finance, as well as third party vendors with tightly defined contracts. Successfully implementing behavioral changes in any area you don’t have full management control over can be time-consuming and costly, if not in actually dollars than in political capital. For example, we recommend that marketers focus the bulk of their efforts on optimizing offers, content, on-page creative assets, forms, etc. (Barrier #1). Likewise, technology teams are best served by reworking applications and infrastructure.
Be Realistic About What Can Be Accomplished. Recommendations such as “use a single identity” and “stop doing channel-by-channel marketing” (Barrier #2) are generally agreed-upon industry best practices, but also exceedingly difficult to implement, especially at large companies with sprawling operations. Keeping these goals in the conversation as long-term aspirations makes sense for most companies, but are realistic goals for only a fraction of sizable organizations in the short term.
Employ a ‘Ready, Fire, Aim” Philosophy. Customer journey initiatives go hand-in-hand with digital strategies, and the digital technology landscape continues to mushroom, with hundreds of affordable new solutions introduced each year. High-performing companies understand that frequent missteps are part and parcel of the process, and have learned to ‘fail fast’ by relying on data-based measurement strategies (Barrier #3). With the easy and often free availability of sophisticated tracking tools such as Google Analytics, companies of every size and stripe can confidently rely on performance statistics to drive behavior. While the adoption and learning curve can be steep – many of the free tools are complex – especially for companies overly reliant on old school tactics, the benefits are considerable.
This week nearly 7,500 people from 89 countries made their way to two airplane hangars in downtown Las Vegas for Collision, a “new kind of tech event,” in which tech is approached as an intrinsic part of every aspect of business. In addition to sessions on four main stages—Center, Enterprise, Builders and Marketing—the event attracts speakers and attendees from Fortune 500 companies to nascent startups, along with no small number of VC and Angel investors. What they all have in common is a focus on what’s next and driving the innovation that will take us there.
While tech was undoubtedly the underpinning of the vast majority of sessions and conversations, marketing was also central to many discussions—given that few of the “big ideas” brewing at Collision will go far without it.
Here are my three marketing takeaways from Day 1 of Collision:
Programmatic with polish: Without a doubt, speaker after speaker confirmed the growing dominance of programmatic. In fact, eMarketer founder and CEO Geoff Ramsey kicked off the day with a slew of stats, including that we can expect to see $15 billion worth of advertising bought programmatically this year, comprising 55% of all display. And while Digiday’s Ricardo Bilton pointed out that “The promise of programmatic is that it is intensely efficient,” a number of people throughout the day made clear that they were looking forward to the continued evolution of programmatic to be more creative and contextualized. Howard Pyle, VP of Marketing at IBM, said that while programmatic is “a convenient way to make marketing function more like a machine” he remains focused on creating customized experiences that best suit his different customer segments. Thus, he is exploring how he can create “unique experiences at scale.” And Anthony Mazzarella, SVP, Agency Sales, at Celtra says that this creates an opportunity to “bring marketers and the media closer together,” which can only make the experience better.
Data is a game changer: “The job of marketer is changing” according to Paul Berry, founder and CEO of RebelMouse, who believes that there used to be a lot more guesswork and intuition around which aspects of customer information would help them make good business decisions. However, giving the influx of real-time data and increased ease of use, “today’s marketers can swim deeply in all of the insights,” emerging with information that they can readily apply to their strategies. At L’Oréal Rachel Weiss, the company’s VP of Digital Innovation, says they’ve moved way past Facebook Likes and are focused on really getting to know their customers. To do so, the company recently began to hire data scientists, who help shape all aspects of customer experience and marketing.eMarketer’s Ramsey also emphasized the incredible potential that wearable data offers marketers though he noted that marketers are “struggling to manage the torrents of data pouring through all of these different devices.” But with the rise of increasingly personal data, Vivek Sharma, CEO of Movable Ink says he sees a rise in “data-inspired creativity.” And of course, there will remain the responsibility to use “data in a way that’s not creepy,” as Tariq Shaukat, EVP and chief commercial officer of Caesar’s Entertainment Corporation put it. “Data offers an amazing opportunity to do better things for customers,” he said. “You give your data in exchange for a great experience. When you explain it to customers and do it in a way that adds legitimate value for them, you will find that customers really do appreciate it.”
Customer experience and marketing collide: Pyle of IBM believes that it is essential for marketing to emerge from its corporate silo and be better integrated into the entire business so that the insights marketers have about customers are better reflected in product development and so that marketers can better create customized content experiences that fuel business objectives. L’Oréal’s Weiss noted that customers believe “they are their own brand first, and that every product they use should be built around them.” At Movable Ink, Sharma finds an increased demand for “personalization on the fly” because customers expect messages tuned to things such as location and weather. He sees content marketing intersecting with context to create value for the customer. “Rather than asking someone to buy trainers, tell them about road races around them. Then, when the time is right you can offer them the right shoes.” Berry at RebelMouse observed that “it turns out that it is very hard to capture people’s attention” and that brands must continually focus their marketing tactics on serving their needs. “Today, there’s no tolerance for a mediocre experience.”