1. Consumer expectations from brands has soared over the last few years, and brand have been struggling to keep up with product, marketing and consumer experience. How can brands really catch up and go above and beyond to create customer delight?

When customers experience interactions with brands like Uber, Netflix, Amazon, and Paytm, several times a day where cars arrive in minutes, videos stream in seconds, packages arrive next day, and payments can be made instantly, it obviously changes their expectations. The biggest challenge faced by customer experience (CX) professionals today is these changing and increasingly high customer expectations. This new generation of customers expect instant solutions, 24/7 availability, digital and mobile access, flexibility and efficiency. That’s more than building an app, great web usability or fluid point-of-sale systems. It starts by knowing who your customer is. When an enterprise knows everything about their customers, and can predict what they are likely to do, or buy, or when they need service and support – it becomes the impetus for changing how we interact and serve the customers. The single 360 view of the customer, available in real-time is now portable and pervasive, from the armchair to the shopping aisle. We call this Customer Intelligence.

Modern customer is looking for experience rather than just a product or service. And delivering memorable customer experience is not an easy task. Managing interactions with prospective as well as existing customers is critical – in fact, it can make or break the relationship. Today customers are being bombarded with marketing messages via various channels. A brand might consider itself lucky to get a few precious seconds of attention from their customers, whenever they are able to stand out in the clutter. Today, customers leave digital footprints that are enough for brands to glean through to derive insights that can help them to delight their customers. Data, when analysed correctly, is at the heart of this genuinely connected customer experience. However, companies need to carefully adopt technologies while ensuring customer trust.

Even before smart businesses launch a product, they are tracking consumer voices, analysing huge amount of data and incorporating the inputs into new product designs. Customer feedback has allowed numerous ground-breaking companies to find a solution to a market need, even before the consumers themselves are aware of that need.

2. While everyone has a lot of data, data mining to create the right insights still stays a challenge. How can brands use technology to create the right insights that can be acted upon to create ROI?

It indeed is a challenge. In conversations with our customers, we noticed that even mature organizations are struggling with collecting data from variety of sources, bringing it together, cleansing and de-duping it, normalizing it, and then being able to put it to work in a variety of ways – for use in personalization, segmentation, real-time actions, and applying the data to all kinds of AI models. It requires a lot of technology and infrastructure, engineers, data scientists, and even more time and effort. Not everyone is equipped to make this a reality. So we embarked on building a product that makes it much simpler. Just a month ago we announced a brand new product called CX Unity, which is Oracles Customer Intelligence Platform, which creates a richer understanding of the full customer journey , for a 100% of the customers, across an entire organization, in real-time. Growing adoption of these technologies is creating a higher level of customer experience maturity, connecting systems and removing silos to create a single source of truth that drives more effective ways to engage customers and propel business growth.

Feeding this rich customer intelligence into marketing operations requires processes and teams that focus on collecting and making sense of the data, as well as quickly delivering the analysis in a digestible form to the right decision makers—often continuously. Scaling this capability means organizations need to automate processes that don’t require human intervention, for example, personalizing web pages, delivering e-mail, or generating dashboards for managers to track customer behavior.

3. As media buying becomes increasingly complicated, the cost of technology is also rising, and marketers tend to spend a lot of their marketing budgets on buying the right tech. How can marketers balance the cost of media vs tech?

All decisions around buying tech and media should be informed by ROI. Marketing is the lifeblood of a company and delivers revenue through acquisition at the right price points, nurturing existing customers, increasing LTV of Loyal customers, increasing average order size, and so on. This starts with the goals that the CEO and CMO are setting for the company. Working backwards form it can determine how much money should be spent in omni-channel marketing, ad: tech spending, etc. Most good marketing automation and ad:tech vendors today don’t charge for tech. Their pricing structures are based on volume of usage – which is aligned with the goals to begin with. It is easy for organizations to calculate what is the price for sending a 1000 emails or SMS messages, and what ROI does that deliver. Then you can create calculations to say what volume of emails or SMS or both you need to deliver in the Calendar Year in order to meet your omni-channel marketing goals. So you see, at the end of the day it all boils down to customer interaction and outcome. Enterprises that are goal and data oriented are well set up to make the right decisions in their spend.

4. As data security, trust and brand & consumer safety become buzzwords in the marketing era, how can brands build a healthy relationship with their consumers, to be able to proactively solicit data?

First and foremost organizations have to deliver value with every interaction they have with customers, and make it positive. Organisations need to earn the trust and confidence of their customer through these positive interactions, and when they do that the customers share their data willingly. When a retailer says at the Point of Sales, would you like a 5% discount today – all you need to do is give me your phone number, and I will send you a 5% discount coupon on your phone. The chance that customers give you their phone number willingly is very high in this interaction. But transparency in business and especially in marketing is the key, much like making sure that customer data is secure and safe.

While technologies like AI, automation can help do things faster and better, giving a human face to the brands and creating profounder connections with customers will always be the job of humans. AI can take care of activities that are beyond human capabilities, whereas humans will be needed to do the more valuable aspect of the job by using their creativity, judgement and emotions in forming long lasting connections with customers, while ensuring transparency and accountability.

5. As more and more companies are undergoing a ‘digital transformation’ in the marketing function, what are some of the challenges and opportunities for brands here?

In modern world, the biggest challenge that organizations are facing is the ever-accelerating pace of change – and quite interestingly the opportunity also lies there. Personalized experiences have become a basic expectation today; we need to get to a level deeper. The customer today and tomorrow has higher expectations. To transform businesses in the digital world, companies have to add value by collecting more data that can be used to enhance the customer experience with capabilities such as hyper-personalization and real-time recommendations. The goal is to build a single view of your customer, use location data to add precision and context and create relevant communications at the right time on the right channel.

Almost every day, it seems, novel technologies emerge which allow brands to delight their customers in new ways. Sometimes knowing which technologies to invest in, and which to ignore, can be the difference between success and failure. An integrated platform built on cloud-based systems give brands the flexibility to transform at a fast pace.