Using Data to Compete at New Heights: Marketing Insights from IBM Amplify

Editors Note: As a member of the IBM Futurist group, I was an invited guest of IBM to this conference. This post offers my thoughts and views from the conference, and are my own.


“We’re sitting on a goldmine of information. We’re talking about hundreds of zettabytes every year. But for that data to be useful, it needs to be analyzed in real time… it needs to be understood, in all its complexity… and it needs to supply us with reasonable, actionable, insight.” This was how Harriett Green, the General Manager of the Watson Internet of Things, kicked off a day of marketing insights at IBM Amplify.

The gathering last week in Tampa, Florida coincided with the rollout of Version 10 of IBM Marketing Cloud, with a focus on the tools it offers to help you leverage data to improve your company now, and what those tools might look like in the future. With the right insights and strategy, delivered in real-time, it’s now possible for your company to compete at a higher level than ever before.

Getting Smarter about Data

“According to a recent study 68% of marketers believe they understand their customer while 70% of consumers believe that marketers aren’t engaging them personally,” noted Kareem Yusuf, Vice President of Offering Management & Development at IBM Commerce. Looking to the future, Yusuf continued: “We will infuse our tools with cognitive technologies that work alongside and help you make better, and more informed, decisions with expert advice, insights, and recommendations.

The problem is no longer getting the data. We have more information than we know what to do with, about more aspects of our lives than ever before. The problem is figuring out how to use that information to make decisions.

An Omnichannel Approach

The first speaker was Alex Alexander, CIO of Yoox Net-A-Porter, a high-end fashion brand with clients including Armani, Valentino, and Moncler. Their wide array of offering draws 2.5 million unique customers, driving a purchase every four seconds and generating about two billion dollars in revenue every year.

Right off the bat, one of the most surprising stats that Alexander mentioned was related to where Yoox’s orders are coming from: 40% of orders are mobile, and they expect that to more than double in the next four years. These products are orders of magnitude more expensive than movie tickets or an in-app purchase, so Yoox is focused on providing seamlessness between their mobile experience and their physical stores.

This omnichannel approach is the gold standard, and Entrepreneur has a great write-up of ways that smaller businesses can get moving in that direction as well.

The Age of the Experiential Consumer: Marketing Insights from the Happiest 5K on the Planet

Next up was Kiley Newbold, VP of Marketing at The Color Run—a 5K recreational race event popular on social media in which participants are doused in colored powder at checkpoints throughout the race, turning it into a wild and fun celebration.

One of the unique challenges for Color Run is the flexibility they need to maintain in order to organize events in so many different locations, With runs happening all over the world  and with anywhere from 4,000 to 30,000 participants per event, being able to use cloud resources to stay organized has been a lifesaver.

Asked how they’ve been so successful at growing, Newbold observed: “We’re living in the age of the experiential consumer. People want experiences more than they want things sometimes. And those experiences are important to them for their personal identity, but also as a part of their social fabric. So we strive from the very first touchpoint all the way to the end to give them a reason to share and talk about us, to create an emotional connection—something that gives them social capital for being attached to us as a brand.”

By creating an event with that naturally has such amazing images, they naturally promote the kind of viral marketing through social media photo-sharing that other companies can only dream about. They focus on making the event memorable, and the proliferation takes care of itself.

“You Cannot Be All Things to All Customers”

Lisa Claes, Executive Director of Customer Delivery for ING Direct Australia, also took the stage to share her insights. The company faced a unique problem, because of their original investment focus, they were universally the number two choice for consumers – the bank they’d invest some money in only after their basic banking needs were met elsewhere.

In trying to figure out how to expand out of the niche they had carved for themselves, ING came to a major realization: “You cannot be all things to all customers.”

The change to the business model wasn’t going to happen because they had completely reinvented themselves in the eyes of the world. Instead, it would only happen if they could convince a critical mass of people to buy into their story. As Claes explains: “When you understand what you are trying to achieve, you need to identify which customers are going to get you there. You cannot be all things to all customers. Nor can you elicit loyalty, value, or profit from your entire customer base.”

Segmentation is not a new idea, but the game has changed substantially with the capabilities that data and cloud computing offer to us. IGN has adopted marketing analytics and propensity modeling into its strategy, which helps them to “target the right customer with the right offer at the right time and in the right way.” As Claes summarizes: “The spray and pray days of marketing are over.”

How You Can Apply Insights from IBM Amplify Right Now

IBM Amplify was quite an inspiring time, offering useful marketing insights, and the promise of more powerful tools to come. The important thing to remember is that even though the tools are better than ever, the ideas are based in .

  • Use data and analytics to test your theories about your customers.

  • Take advantage of cloud capabilities to make a seamless, omnichannel approach

  • If you make the experience something people will want to share, they will share it

  • Identify the customers you need to make the changes you want to make, and then find ways to specifically reach them
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