Customer Centricity Driving Ad Tech & Martech Convergence: Q&A with Yiorgos Hadjiandrea, Google & Jess O'Reilly, Salesforce

Following a lively on-stage discussion about the new era in the convergence of ad tech and martech at ATS Singapore in June, ExchangeWire speaks with panelists Yiorgos Hadjiandrea, head of media buying solutions, Southeast Asia, Google; and Jess O’Reilly, regional sales director, marketing cloud, Asia, Salesforce (both pictured below) about why the quest for customer centricity is one of the major driving factors of this convergence.

ExchangeWire: What do we mean by ‘customer-centric’ marketing?

Yiorgos Hadjiandrea, Google: Customer-centric marketing means putting the customer at the centre of all decision making. This means structuring your organisation – both teams, as well as business intelligence – around a single view of the customer, and using that to create personalised experiences across all their interactions with the brand. Doing so makes marketing more effective and efficient and grows customer lifetime value beyond just short-term sales.

Jess O’Reilly, Salesforce: Customer-centricity really boils down to customer experience. How often does a marketing team pull together their annual marketing plan or prepare their budget and ask the questions: “What would our customer want?”; “When would our customer want it?”; and “Through what channel would our customer want this?” Marketers need to shift their focus from just media budgets and great content to incorporate the customer into that equation; and with the use of all the data at marketers’ fingertips, this shift can be very powerful. Terms are being defined not by the brand/organisation, but by the customer. GDPR has brought this to light more than ever. Some organisations see this as a problem, we see an opportunity – a chance to build trust and talk to people and customers how they would like to be talked to.

Why should customer-centric marketing be important to marketers?

O’Reilly: Customer experience is the modern battleground for brands and companies, in any vertical. Product is no longer enough, and consumers’ level of expectations has increased significantly, and will only continue to do so, particularly amongst millennials and Gen Z. Combine this with the fact that 89% of customers are likely to change brand/product based on a negative customer experience, as well as the knowledge that acquiring a new customer costs up to six times as much as retaining an existing customer, and the importance is very clear.

Hadjiandrea: McDonald's Singapore, for example, wanted to increase delivery orders, but advertising to drive order volume could negatively impact customer experience by causing longer wait times. They used real-time volume data from their order management system to target ads only in neighbourhoods where there was spare capacity. They also tailored promotional messaging to customers with personalised estimates of wait time. The result has been a 58% increase in advertising ROI.

A customer-centric approach requires partnership of, and support from, constituent players across the industry. How is this being addressed to help marketers achieve their objectives?

Yiorgos Hadjiandrea, Head of Media Buying Solutions, Southeast Asia, Google

Hadjiandrea: We work with a wide range of service and technology partners, which we believe are critical to our vision for an open and inclusive ecosystem that gives CMOs and CTOs the ability to choose what works best for their businesses.

O’Reilly: I absolutely agree – partnerships are required across a range of different technologies, consultants, agencies etc., and I see this being best executed when marketers take the lead in mandating that these partners work together, by defining the overarching strategy, but, most importantly, the swim lanes of each party so that everyone knows the role they are to play to get to the objective. If I were to be honest, I don't see this happening enough: it’s often the partners that are taking the initiative to ‘get to know each other’ and work out who should do what, who are doing so, because they are dependent on each other’s outputs to get a project live.

What is required by the marketers themselves to drive success in achieving customer-centric marketing?

Hadjiandrea: Marketers need to work with their IT, procurement, and other teams to work out what they need from their tech stack and then to evaluate and select the right combination of solutions from the thousands out there in the market.

O’Reilly: To expand upon that, there needs to be an emphasis on data and the importance of using this for planning, execution, and iteration (a loop that needs to be continually worked upon, versus a project with a start and end date). A marketer’s role is to be the custodian of the customer: when a decision is made, ask “what would our customer say/do/feel about this?” and then lay down objectives so that external partners and other internal business units know the direction. I am seeing a bigger emphasis on marketers (or should we say the 'customer custodians'?) breaking down the silos of their organisations to work more closely together. There is no such thing as a 'customer service message' or a 'billing message' – these are customer touchpoints and, as such, need to be orchestrated as a cohesive experience from a central strategy. The marketers need to pull these departments together to make this happen – it’s an exciting time for them!

Should marketers be looking for one provider to deliver a solution for everything, or should greater importance be placed on innovation through partnerships between technology providers?

Hadjiandrea: It varies so much, it’s hard to say – what works for one brand may not work well for another. The advantage of an integrated platform solution is that all systems speak the same language, reducing the risk of information leakage. When marketers try to piece together custom integrations on their own, it could take a long time and lead to errors.

O’Reilly: We believe in ecosystems and it’s important that customers can answer the 'why?’ question (objective) before they ask the ‘what?’ question (technology). Once the objective is defined, then marketers should work to understand what is best-in-breed for their requirements.

Hadjiandrea: Partnerships between technology providers give marketers the best of both worlds in terms of choice and convenience.

O’Reilly: The Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Google360 integration is a great example of using best-in-breed for parts of the marketing journey. Factors to consider when evaluating best-in-breed include:

- Is this future-proof?
- Can I make a small investment now, but scale as my needs mature, or will I need to replace in a couple of years?
- If the systems are from different providers, what is the ease/speed of integration and maintenance of that integration?

Are such partnerships helping to bridge ad tech and martech, and how they’re defined within the industry?

Hadjiandrea: Historically, advertising has been a subset of marketing, with traditional associations – for example, marketing is one-to-one; advertising is one-to-many; marketing uses first-party data; advertising uses third-party data; marketing works across earned channels; advertising works across paid channels, etc. However, due to convergence across both ecosystems, in principle, ad tech and martech are essentially the same. They both use technology to turn information into actionable insights that enable brands to deliver the right message, to the right customer, at the right time.

Jess O’Reilly, Regional Sales Director, Marketing Cloud, Asia, Salesforce

O’Reilly: I am excited about the day that we don't speak about ad tech or martech any more, and instead we talk about ‘customer experience tech’, where we understand that technology underpins all experiences of a customer, and the channels those experiences are delivered by are orchestrated from a central point around the customer.

Hadjiandrea: Partnerships between ad tech and martech platform providers are turning principle into practice by enabling marketers to bring together what has in the past been siloed sources of information to form deeper insights about their audiences.

O’Reilly: If a customer is complaining to the call centre, don't serve them an ad promoting an upgrade of the product they are complaining about. If the customer has just installed your service and commented on social media how much they love it, then serve them an add cross-selling or up-selling more of the features.

Do marketers understand the opportunities of such partnerships and why they exist? What education is required and where does the responsibility lie?

Hadjiandrea: There’s evidence they do understand: BCG research commissioned by Google in Europe showed that a majority (93%) have started integrating customer touchpoints into a single view.

O’Reilly: Responsibility lies on both the partner- and customer-side (i.e. the marketer) to work together – when this happens, I have seen amazing things achieved. Sadly, I don't see this happen as often as it should. Marketers need to drive their partners to co-own the customer experience together – the more this happens, the more innovation and collaboration will occur.

Hadjiandrea: For the industry to grow, all players share a joint responsibility to build up the ecosystem. At Google, we are doing our bit in two ways. One, by developing capabilities through bootcamps for programmatic practitioners, marketer trainings, and joint hackathons with agencies. Two, by building partnerships with other tech providers such as Salesforce, Tableau, and SAP. Today, Google Marketing Platform maintains over a hundred integrations with exchanges, measurement solutions, and other technology providers.

How do technology partners help marketers to break down organisational silos and plan for a customer-centric future?

O’Reilly: I am obsessed with the three Ps: people, process, and product. In a perfect world, an organisation would have the right people, great processes, and would be buying a product to drop into that ‘nirvana’ to execute the most amazing customer experience. Sadly, there are generally some Ps missing out of the three; and often it’s the technology (product) that is the catalyst for a change in process and, at times, a change in people. 

Hadjiandrea: From our perspective as a business, Google’s mission is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. And that’s exactly what we’re doing for marketers. Our integrated stack allows them to connect information collected from sources spanning paid media activities to CRM, and transform them into actionable insights. Through API access and partnerships with other tech providers, we provide choice to marketers looking to create a solution that works best for their business.

O’Reilly: When we are implementing big transformation projects, we expect the process and the people to be disrupted – if it’s not uncomfortable and causing friction, then it’s probably not transformative enough or worth the investment. This friction is often caused because customer centricity doesn't suit the business-centric organisational structure, and I like seeing marketers be that voice of change and transformation to drive the silos to ‘lean in’ around the customer versus their business unit's metrics.