Consumers want to know that brands aren't sending promotional content just because they want to sell something. They want to know that brands are sending information that aligns with their interests, making them want to engage more with the brand and its messages. That’s the view of Jeremy Swift, CEO and co-founder of Cordial, a customer engagement platform - and he’s right!
Consumers are tired. They are inundated with irrelevant messages and offers from brands they have bought from in the past and new ones they are looking at. And the messages are inconsistent across channels, so they can never know what offers are good.
The question is, can brands truly overcome these challenges? Because let's be honest, marketers have been talking about the "right time, right place, right message" requirement for a long time.
The answer is yes. But that 'yes' depends on a few things. Is the the right team in place to build the right strategy? And does the underlying technology support that strategy and its evolution, given how fast things change?
Is this a technology problem?
Swift argues that there has been a lot of rhetoric over the years around delivering personalized content, but it's been this way because the platforms marketers are using aren't built to do it. Most platforms - we're talking about the ones that have been around for 10-20 years - were built for a different time and need. There was no mobile, no cloud, and the software and hardware used weren't designed to integrate and interoperate well, if at all. As a result, their ability to deliver intelligent customer experiences is questionable.
This is a reality for many brands, especially the ones that have been around for a long time. Newer brands have been able to take advantage of modern technologies because that's where they have started from. But large, more mature enterprises have established relationships with long-term vendors and have spent time and money on customization and custom integrations.
As Swift points out, brands are stacking technologies together and trying to build a better customer experience. But the integration efforts are on the client side, and they must figure it out for themselves. The thought of changing that would entail even more time and money; things brands don't have.
None of this touches on the operational pains that marketers face dealing with multiple systems. There is so much pressure on marketing to help generate revenue and drive customer retention that marketers can't afford to spend a lot of time figuring out the technology.
I have always been a proponent of designing the right strategy first, then applying the technology to that strategy. But Swift makes a good point in this regard, namely that marketers have been hamstrung by the technology they have. They create a visionary strategy and watch it slowly shrink or dwindle because their technology doesn't let them execute against it. As a result, that great strategy becomes less sophisticated and can quickly return to the "batch and blast" ways.
So is this a technology problem? For many, it is.
Building personalized experiences
Swift wants to change all this with Cordial. Cordial is a customer engagement platform supporting B2C brands, media publishers, and other consumer-based industries (travel, hospitality, gaming). It focuses on providing personalized, cross-channel messaging across email, SMS, MMS, app, and inbox messaging, as well as helping to automate campaigns on Facebook, Google, and even direct mail.
Cordial works with customers that deal with large quantities of data, either about customers, SKUs, products, or content. For example, a retail or e-commerce company may have millions of customers and tens of thousands of product SKUs; how does it figure out how to mix, match, and serve up the right products to each customer?
What Cordial does it it ingests customer data from other systems - it recently announced integrations with mParticle, Segment, and Amperity - providing a central location where marketing can see how customers engage with them. It then provides tools like Message Builder, Cross-channel Orchestration Builder, and Audience Builder for marketers to create and build campaigns that work across channels (e.g., drive purchases or engage with content).
The firm launched in 2014, so it's a young company, but even so, a lot has changed since then and the platform needs to be kept modernized. Swift is not new to the software industry. He and his partners had another company that developed an email marketing platform. But it was built on old architecture and for email alone. When it came time to add new channels, he recalls, it was impossible. So they knew when they architected Cordial that they didn't want to do anything that would paint them into a corner in the future.
To that end, Cordial is architected to allow the flexibility to connect to different systems. It has an open architecture that allows it to integrate with different systems (including CDPs and other systems that store the data needed) and channels so that it can easily incorporate a new one when it comes along. There is also a strong services team supporting the entire onboarding process. Swift says he believes in the adage about teaching people to fish. His team wants to help teach marketers, and IT teams how to use the platform, so they feel empowered to go out and be successful. At the same time, they also provide the services to do the work for a brand if needed.
The truth is that having the right technology greatly impacts a brand's ability to deliver personalized experiences across channels. And yes, if a brand is tied down in relationships with established vendors that have sliced, diced, and cobbled together messy architectures, they will struggle. They may get the personalized experience they want, but it will come at a cost, the most significant being late to market.
This is not a new story. D2C brands have competed with brands that have been around for years because they are more nimble and not restricted by old processes and technology.
Cordial isn't the only B2C-focused customer engagement vendor. Braze, Iterable, Klaviyo, and MessageGears are a few other modern alternatives. And then there are the more prominent, older vendors like Oracle, Salesforce, and Adobe.
But I would question if the older vendors aren't working to keep up with the newer ones. I can't speak for them all, but I know we're seeing some new solutions and capabilities coming out that are helping marketers (and sales) create better experiences.
The most important thing to do is do your homework. Know what you want to achieve and look for the technology that can help you do it quickly and easily. And if you are stuck with technology that won't do that, figure out how to make the change. Because you will need to.