To each their own cocktail
You know that great feeling when you walk into a bar and the bartender already knows what cocktail you’re going to have?
Or even better, he automatically prepares it for you the instant you walk in? Maybe he even manages to offer you a new variant of your favourite cocktail, fruity but not too fruity, that you are sure to like. Considering that during the course of the evening the bartender comes into contact with a very diverse clientele that demands increasingly varied customisation… margarita melon, gin lemon, whisky on the rocks, negroni ’sbagliato’… being able to make the experience unique is really the key to loyalty.
This could be a good metaphor to explain the Next Best Action (NBA) paradigm.
Offering at the right time, with the right channel, the most suitable content for each customer has become the new normal for marketing campaigns. In order to effectively anticipate the users, however, one must know them, and today marketing teams have several factors on which to base a customer-centric strategy.
Furthermore, with the evolution of engagement techniques, expectations on the customization of messages by the final target have also increased. Almost as if customers expect to be understood and treated according to their preferences. For example in the pharma world, 58% of clinicians agree that at least one pharma company has spammed them with digital content and in general, 68% want more customized communication (COVID-19: Healthcare Provider Survey | Accenture).
As a matter of fact, it is precisely this sector that is moving earlier than others to put the Next Best Action rules into practice. In this context the benefits are indeed very clear, acting sensitively on Open and Click Through Rate.
The hidden value of data
To put into practice these methodologies, the basis of it all is data: monitoring the user in their behaviour (“they prefer email”), their habits (“they open the email in the afternoon”) and their preferences (“they searched on the site for a particular product”), provides a series of valuable information to adapt the customer journey and make it as effective as possible for that particular user.
And we need data also to monitor and verify that investments and communication strategies generate a return on investment, both quantitative and qualitative.
Generally, however, data is difficult to aggregate, and this is where the various tools that have changed the way we do marketing in recent years come into play, bringing automation, increasingly precise segmentations and cause-and-effect processes that guide our lead within a predetermined path. Thanks to CRMs, digital channel analytics dashboards and agency reports, data is now more accessible and so it would be a shame not to use it.
They have become a real internal value of companies.
Omnichannel approach for all
Another phenomenon of great relevance, also accelerated by the pandemic, is the increase in communication channels (especially digital ones). A necessary condition for being able to speak of an omnichannel approach.
As Forbes describes in its study “100 Stats On Digital Transformation And Customer Experience”, 70% of companies already have a digital transformation strategy or are working on it. For the most part, this means an omnichannel approach; but even if everyone says they use it, few really implement it.
In fact, the omnichannel approach doesn’t mean sending messages across all channels hoping that something in the bunch will arrive at its destination. The omnichannel art on which NBA is based is one where, depending on user behaviour, one channel is preferred over another, triggering an accurate and customized orchestration of customer engagement. This requires a single, cross-channel decision centre, making all customer-related decisions: no small feat.
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Content is king!
Of course, if the cocktails weren’t good, we wouldn’t have even gone to that bar. Fortunately, the marketing culture of recent years has led to the established assumption that content is everything in communication. By now we are overwhelmed, overexposed and no longer willing to waste time on something that is not in our interest.
But how do we make the best use of the content that agencies and marketing departments produce? How do we ensure that the message is designed in a predetermined manner? How can we verify the delivery of a message with certain KPIs? Here again, technology comes to our rescue. An increasingly common practice is to give a text, image, video,… a ‘tag’ that then makes it possible to use it and track it.
I am talking about content tagging, a practice that, in a Next Best Action logic, allows to add also content information to the equation. Imagine having to launch a promotional campaign and choosing the main tags that represent the key messages that need to get through to the target audience. In the magic world of Next Best Action, the whole process of building a customized journey is defined and put into practice autonomously in the best possible way.
Returning to the pharma world, this new trend is very well described by Animesh Gandhi (Gartner Life Science Analyst) in his article “Quick Answer: How Life Science CIOs Can Revitalize Content IT Systems to Deliver Modular Content”. The benefits in terms of time, reliability of the tagging process and potential for utilization and monitoring are extremely high and are definitely a competitive advantage for those who are able to implement it.
Maximising the Next Best Action with AI
To use all the available data, manage content in the best possible way and have a very high level of customization, the human brain is not enough, but with the help of Artificial Intelligence, things change. CRMs are full of information that says so much about our users.
But are we really so ready to rely so much on algorithms and automation tools? Perhaps not, and so the transformation will be slow to allow today’s generation of marketers to change their mindset and embrace a new way of communicating. In fact, only 34% of marketing leaders believe that AI will lead to the greatest improvement in customer experience. (Forbes, 100 Stats On Digital Transformation And Customer Experience).
There is still a long way to go, but Next Best Action is definitely the new way to define the customer relationship and to recreate that authentic and above all win-win experience of the bartender who knows and pampers his customers.