TechBytes with Neil Michel, Chief Strategy Officer, Wire Stone

Neil Michel

Neil Michel
Chief Strategy Officer, Wire Stone

If the year 2017 was the year of ‘Customer Experience’, 2018 is slated to be the year of ‘Contextual’ Customer Experience. Most marketers are focused on striking a balance of creative marketing with the science of data management and analytics. To understand how brands can leverage an agency in stitching together a vision around the execution of data analytics across tools to deliver more seamless CX, we spoke to Neil Michel, the Chief Strategy Officer at Wire Stone.

What’s your role at Wire Stone, what does the agency focus on, and what’s your strategy for leveraging marketing technology in the agency’s services?

The strategist plays an essential role in an integrated digital marketing agency. In our client projects, the strategist is really the bridge between the business and the customer experience. We start with establishing a vision for the customer experience across journey stages, and that sets the requirements for martech.

What are some of the core marketing technologies that Wire Stone leverages?

With an experience map (vision) in hand, we turn first to existing technologies in the client marketing stack. Most of the time, clients have more than 80% of the tools they need to deliver relevant experiences. The barriers tend to be integrating the tools (and the departments that own them) in a way that is seamless to the customer. So, we’re really acting as an orchestrator much of the time.

We find ourselves integrating web CMS platforms like Adobe and Sitecore with marketing automation platforms like Eloqua or Marketo, and experimentation engines like Optimizely. And, of course, tag management sits under it all, so we’re also commonly integrating tools like Tealium. We try not to advocate too hard for any particular technology unless there’s a gap in the stack. Working with what we’re handed is usually the fastest path to results.

How does Wire Stone approach the balance of creative marketing with the science of data management and analytics?

It is easy to get caught up in the hysteria of data-driven marketing. Really, it’s the safest point of view: follow the data. And we absolutely make experimentation part of every creative execution, whether we’re talking about testing various themes, visuals, headlines, calls to action. But one of the things you learn when you spend enough time around creative geniuses is that you have to let the creative magic happen outside of the test tube. Providing the creative team with enough data to understand the customer – and a little context on what’s worked before – is sometimes enough. But yes, we typically ask for an A and B approach to creative executions and spend a good amount of time analyzing what’s working.

Looking a little further out, what do you see as emerging marketing technologies you’re excited about within Wire Stone? What does your martech innovation roadmap look like over the next 4-5 years?

Mixed Reality, Artificial Intelligence, and Blockchain are the biggest technologies on the horizon that stand to impact marketing. Accenture Interactive is fully invested in these technologies and they are encouraging us to continue pushing the envelope with our Wire Stone experience labs. We’re building mixed reality experiences using Hololens, for example, and the results are just amazing. We’re bringing 3-dimensional models of Boeing airplanes into boardrooms and letting customers interact with them to test various design and configuration ideas.

How do you leverage AI/ML capabilities at Wire Stone and implement them into how you’re helping brands?

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are coming into maturity at a perfect time to help marketers lift companies from the trough of disillusionment that is forming around big data. Companies have done a pretty good job over past five years collecting and saving their data. But mining insights from huge data stores is a completely different activity. Machine Learning is showing some promise as a way to begin seeing patterns in massive data sets – patterns that even the best marketer or merchandiser would never detect. We believe that it takes a partnership between humans and machines to turn these patterns into insights and opportunities like smarter lead nurturing, lead routing, and attribution modeling that helps optimize creative and other investments.

What are your predictions for customer experience platforms and campaign performance tools over the next year or so?

Personally, I think we are going to see more consolidation and strategic partnerships between technology vendors who have mastered individual digital touchpoints. Point solutions are going to find themselves on the sidelines if they don’t get designed into solutions that are capable of orchestrating and reporting on CX across digital channels and surfaces.

Thanks for chatting with us, Neil.
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