Tell us about your role and the team/technology you handle at SessionM.
SessionM has created a platform that helps enterprise brands to engage with people in better and smarter ways, ultimately building relationships and earning loyalty. We do this by giving them the tools to envision, create and execute on personalized experiences, rooted in customer data.
I lead marketing efforts for SessionM, which gives me an opportunity put the full range of my executive experience – from startups, major restaurants and retailers and international advertisers – to use.
Which Marketing Technologies are you current following now?
Marketing-specific technologies are evolving quickly, but what’s particularly interesting is how the traditional martech stack is expanding in exciting and unexpected ways by applying broader trends within marketing functions. Cloud, IoT and location-based tech as well as AI and machine learning are opening the doors to creative marketing efforts that were never possible before.
They’re also blurring the lines of where marketing ends and other departments begin. Part of tracking how marketing technologies are evolving today is paying attention to technologies deployed in other aspects of a business such as sales and customer service to find new and innovative cross-functional uses for them.
How do you see Customer Experience changing the paradigm of Customer engagement and loyalty?
Before technology got involved, engagement and loyalty were built by creating relationships with customers, one person at a time. The local store owner would get to know her customers based on what they bought, light conversation and interactions. It was about convenience, but also about the experience created by those interpersonal relationships. As companies grew, they started trying to quantify loyalty. Customers were measured by how many “points” they accumulated through purchase frequency or dollars spent. They’d be “rewarded” based on the outcome.
Today the tables have turned and in many ways returned back to their original state. What drives loyalty isn’t brands’ measurements and metrics, it’s customers assessing the experience that brands offer them. Put another way, the customer experience, when done right, is what leads consumers to engage with a brand and nurtures their brand loyalty.
How does SessionM fit into a modern CMO’s martech stack?
In many ways, SessionM is the engine behind the martech stack. We work to capture data across the organization – including other martech deployments – rationalize it into operational profiles for each customer and help clients take the next best action to engage with customers based on insights gleaned from that information. We aren’t trying to replace technologies embedded in an organization’s martech stack, we’re working with them to get more out of those investments.
How are CDPs evolving – how do they impact CRM and Marketing Automation platforms with their dynamic nature?
Data is the cornerstone of customer relationships and marketing efforts today. CDPs are increasingly necessary for ingesting data from the numerous sources of information across an organization, which is then fed into other technologies such as CRM and marketing automation platforms. As new data streams emerge, CDPs need be able to adapt, ingest and rapidly apply that information to various business functions.
Why are B2B marketing teams steadily moving toward Applied Data Science for Sales and Marketing initiatives?
Applying data science to fields like sales and marketing is all about personalization at scale. For enterprises and large global brands, it’s impossible to create literal one-to-one relationships and service through sheer manpower. We need to find ways to automate some of those processes without losing sight of the individual person behind the numbers. There are so many factors that go into something as complex as building a relationship; applied data science is helping us capture those factors and convert them into results for sales and marketing teams.
What roles does Loyalty Management play in this journey?
Loyalty management is really the execution arm that puts data to work in guiding the customer along the path to engagement and purchase along their loyalty journey. It’s where data turns to action. We need to understand what makes customers act the ways they do – whether through internal or external experience – and then apply data to encourage desirable behaviours. Loyalty management gives us those insights, and when done well, also helps brands take the next step towards their sought-after outcomes.
Tell us more about the changing nature of Customer Data Platforms and how it affects B2B Commerce initiatives?
To some degree, CDPs are becoming table stakes for large enterprises. It isn’t enough to just have customer data managed and standardized; companies need to go that next step and begin applying data from their CDP solutions to their business challenges. This is a big reason why SessionM is ahead of the game when it comes to customer engagement and loyalty. We have CDP capabilities that underpin everything that happens on our platform, but our core competency is loyalty technology. That’s a powerful combination that others are trying to replicate largely through partnerships and integrations today.
How do you see Big Data and Customer Intelligence coming together to solve information management-related issues?
Some of the biggest information management issues we see today are around rationalizing data into a usable format and then deploying it in a way that improves business agility. Solutions for managing big data and extracting customer intelligence from it, such as CDPs, are addressing these challenges head-on.
Tell us about the various steps of the AI-powered Customer Engagement journey.
As we’ve been discussing, data unification is a key first step in turning information into something usable. When thinking about customer engagement, data should come from inputs such web, mobile and POS, as well as back-end customer touchpoints like customer service, support and usage or engagement statistics. With those inputs in place, AI tools can interpret data to provide insights on trends and behaviors (preferably in real time), make predictions and recommend the next best course of action based on business context.
There is a myriad of ways that these AI-powered insights can be applied to customer engagement. They can help brands to identify products that a defined audience may be most likely to purchase, or inversely, to determine what not to offer certain customers. They can be used to empower customer service agents and other relevant customer-facing roles with the information they need to know in order to give each individual consumer the best experience possible. Most of all, AI-powered insights should be used to make customers feel special by personalizing interactions with them in new and unique ways.
What are the different scenarios AI could be applied to in Marketing, Sales and Customer Service?
In marketing, AI can be applied to campaigns and offers, creating tailored messages, content and experiences that catch individuals’ attention and encourage them to continue along the path to purchase. This can be anything from featuring products they may be interested in to giving a discount they can’t pass up, or sharing information that they might find valuable.
In sales, AI can put data at the salesperson’s fingertips or predict customers’ preferences based on past behavior to help sales create opportunities to “close the deal.” Similarly, in customer service, AI helps give full context to every interaction, enabling service representatives to better address customer needs while understanding where they’re coming from on a more human and personal level.
Tell us about your customer experience products. How can MarTech customers benefit from AI/ML applications?
The SessionM Platform primarily encompasses customer data management, campaigns and engagement, point-of-sale (POS) offer management and loyalty management. From a customer data management standpoint, AI enables our clients to stream data into the platform as it’s created, store it in the cloud, and operationalize it for use across any of an organization’s departments and systems. From there, campaigns and engagement use ML and applied AI to calculate the most impactful customer experience and delivers it across any of the client’s channels in real-time with triggered campaigns or pre-schedule for a specific time. As one such tactic, our POS offer management enables brands to deploy single use coupons and other forms of personalized closed loop offers at the point of sale through SessionM’s proprietary native POS integrations. Sitting over these components, SessionM’s loyalty management solution uses AI and ML to determine the most profitable means of driving incremental behavior with personalized loyalty programs designed to derive the greatest benefit for the smallest cost.
Which is the most outstanding Digital Marketing campaign you have witnessed so far in 2019?
Chipotle launched its Chipotle Rewards loyalty program earlier this year and has been executing some very compelling campaigns along with it. As a high-frequency company (one that sees customers repeatedly – sometimes more than once per week), it has several touchpoints and interactions to use as a foundation for understanding its individual customers and what makes them happy. However, as with any quick serve-type restaurant, it needs everything to be responsive in real time. It’s a challenge that we see tons of brands face and Chipotle is a great example of one company building its marketing stack and campaigns to address these issues head on. That’s setting it up for even more creative and exciting engagement efforts to come.
What are the major pain points for Product Management and Innovation teams in building/ scaling customer experience?
One of the biggest pain points is deciding whether to build vs. buy. On one hand, each business is unique – it has its own set of technologies, data inputs, business rules, workflows and customer journeys, which makes “build” seem like the best option for achieving their ideal outcomes. As with anything, however, building something yourself is a time and resource-intensive endeavor with uncertain outcomes. On the other hand, it’s difficult to buy an existing solution that works with your existing stack and is also proven to work for your specific business needs. We’re working to offer the best of both worlds at SessionM – we have several existing integrations and are also agile when it comes to customizing our platform to the individual factors that make a business unique.
One piece of advice to all Marketing and Sales technology vendors and customers for 2019-2020 –
Practicality and consolidation are going to be key words when it comes to marketing and sales technology in the year ahead. We’ve gone through the “land rush” phase when it comes to buying up mobile, CRM, big data, cloud, AI, IoT solutions and more; now is when we need to pare down and ensure these investments are working together to improve the bottom line.
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Patrick Reynolds is CMO at SessionM, a customer engagement and loyalty platform empowering the world’s most innovative brands to forge stronger and more profitable customer relationships. The platform serves brads including Chipotle, Coca-Cola, L’Oreal, and Kimberly-Clark, and scales for the enterprise, globally. Prior to SessionM, Patrick ran marketing and strategy for two successful startups in the streaming audio industry.
He also has client-side experience as CMO of a publicly traded retailer and has held multiple leadership positions with leading international advertising agencies. Patrick has contributed articles on mobility to Forbes, TechCrunch, and VentureBeat among others, and spoken at CES, NAB, and SxSW. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University.