MarTech Interview with James Riess, SVP, General Manager Loyalty & Messaging @ Merkle Inc.

It’s becoming more crucial for B2B marketers to deploy AI powered martech to drive various customer experiences and buying journeys today. James Riess, SVP, General Manager Loyalty & Messaging at Merkle Inc. weighs in with a few thoughts:

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Welcome to this MarTech Series chat, James, tell us about yourself and your role at Merkle…

Throughout my career, I’ve taken on various roles, but my main focus has always been on helping brands grow their businesses through data-driven, technology-enabled marketing. As the General Manager of Loyalty and Messaging, I have the same opportunity on a larger scale. I support our clients in leveraging Merkle’s unique data and experience capabilities to elevate the customer experience and propel business growth.

At Merkle, we remain future-focused and have a steady pulse on the market for emerging technologies and innovative ways to enhance the services we offer our clients. To put it simply, my mission is to develop innovative strategies that deliver better outcomes for our clients.

Why are today’s consumers demanding more personalization from brand messaging and what can brand marketers do to enhance this experience in today’s crowded market?

With the growing abundance of options in the market and advancements in technology, today’s consumers are increasingly demanding more personalization from brand messaging. The heightened competition for consumer attention underscores the need for brands to stand out and connect with their audience on a deeper level. Additionally, consumers now expect tailored experiences, influenced by personalized recommendations and interactions prevalent in social media and e-commerce platforms.

To create a better consumer experience in today’s crowded market, brand marketers can utilize data-driven insights to better understand their target audience and create relevant, personalized content. Leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms can help analyze consumer behavior and preferences, allowing brands to deliver customized messages across various channels effectively.

Additionally, fostering genuine relationships with consumers through interactive engagement and personalized communication can build trust and loyalty, ultimately driving brand success in the competitive landscape.

We’d love to hear more about Merkle’s new end-to-end messaging solution and how it enables unified brand experiences?

Brands are seeking new ways to make experiences more personal, make shopping more seamless, and shorten the path to purchase by better integrating media with CRM. Consumers want consistent and relevant experiences that help them meet their goals and to be able to engage and transact with brands in their preferred channels. Intelligent Messaging meets these objectives by offering 1:1 connected customer experiences through messaging and chat apps that blend AI assistance, human interaction, technology integration, and proven CX strategies to deliver an end-to-end solution. ​With Intelligent Messaging, brands can create turnkey chat experiences that automate the entire customer journey, facilitating natural interactions through conversation.

Merkle offers the strategy, experience design, development, integration, and management of Intelligent Messaging solutions all in one place.​ We also have a unique and differentiated offering through dentu’s Global Messaging Alliance with Meta, which allows our clients to take advantage of alpha and beta Messaging products as well as industry insights from Meta.​

As Intelligent Messaging is a new solution, first piloted in 2023 and launched in Q1 2024, clients who leverage this solution now are gaining first-to-market advantage over their competitors who are not effectively engaging with customers on these important channels.

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How in your view can modern marketers use AI more optimally to scale and drive marketing goals?  

AI is the rocket-fuel that helps us accelerate client outcomes, and we are just getting started. Here are some strategies we are leveraging at Merkle to help our clients drive business growth. AI solutions like Merkle’s GenCX efficiently process vast amounts of data, offering insights into customer behavior, preferences, and trends for informed decision-making in targeting, messaging, and product offerings.

AI-powered algorithms customize marketing content based on past interactions, driving customer engagement and conversions.

AI also forecasts future trends from historical data, enabling marketers to adjust strategies for optimal campaign performance; streamlines content generation, allowing marketers to focus on strategy and creativity while ensuring consistency; facilitates customer segmentation for targeted messaging and offers.

Chat Experiences and Virtual Assistants, like our Intelligent Messaging solution, use AI to provide instant responses, guide users, and make personalized recommendations for enhanced customer service and support.

By incorporating AI into their marketing strategies, modern marketers can gain a competitive edge, streamline operations, and achieve their goals more efficiently and effectively.

Can you talk about the state of modern marketing and and what trends will dominate the space in 2024?  

It’s an understatement to say that advances in technology and innovation are revolutionizing marketing. Today, we have the ability to identify, connect, and converse with consumers in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. Early adopters of these new capabilities will transition from siloed campaigns to always-on conversations, fostering more human and empathetic interactions with consumers. These interactions, guided by consumers based on their needs and goals, whether overtly expressed or observed passively, are shaping the future of marketing. Here are a few examples of how technology enables the humanization of marketing:

Personalization with Purpose: Artificial intelligence, data analytics, and automation enable us to understand consumer behavior at a granular level and deliver hyper-personalized experiences. However, personalization without purpose falls short of consumer expectations. Companies that leverage data to anticipate consumer needs and provide timely, relevant experiences that assist them in achieving their goals at every stage of their journey will earn consumer trust and loyalty.

Conversational Commerce: We can now design AI-powered interfaces, interactions, and experiences that feel natural, empathetic, and intuitive for users. For instance, chat experiences can employ virtual ambassadors to offer consumers information, support, and service through consumer-directed conversations that aid them in achieving their goals while delivering a more pleasant and engaging user experience.

Phygital Experiences: Emerging technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) enable brands to engage customers in immersive ways, blurring the lines between physical and digital experiences. Some brands are already integrating AR and VR to enhance the online shopping experience, allowing users to virtually try on products. Others are utilizing VR as a substitute for in-person events or conferences, offering the opportunity for personal engagement without the need for travel.  At Merkle we leverage AR and VR in gamification to transform routine interactions into immersive and unique customer experiences – motivating behavior, creating emotional connections, and earning consumer loyalty.

These examples highlight just a fraction of the advances that are making marketing more dynamic, interactive, and customer-centric than ever before.

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Merkle, a dentsu company, powers the experience economy. For more than 35 years, the company has put people at the heart of its approach to digital business transformation. As the only integrated experience consultancy in the world with a heritage in data science and business performance, Merkle delivers holistic, end-to-end experiences that drive growth, engagement, and loyalty.

James Riess, is SVP, General Manager Loyalty & Messaging at Merkle Inc.

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