Blog Archives

Email; it’s time to seriously invest in this overlooked channel

Email is a channel that Warren Buffett would invest in! Read more ›

Posted in Multichannel

Implications of “Mobile Only” as a Business Strategy

Due to client commitments I wasn’t able to attend Econsultancy’s Future of Digital Marketing event. Reading up on the event afterwards, one of the quotes that struck me came from Ashley Friedlein:

Not mobile first, mobile only!Ashley Friedlein
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Posted in All Channels, Business, Multichannel, Strategy

Download: 2015 Marketing Technology Landscape

With the help of some my good colleagues at CACI, we’ve released the 2015 Marketing Technology Landscape paper that you can download. Read more ›

Posted in Marketing, Multichannel, Web Technology

Amazon Machine Learning will provide marketers with greater ability to personalise

Amazon Machine Learning will provide marketers with greater ability to personalise across channels, predict results and ultimately drive a greater ROI.

Let me explain why. Read more ›

Posted in Marketing, Multichannel, Web Technology

Thoughts on Omnichannel Loyalty Programmes

Rewards and points cards are common place for retail, leisure and travel companies. Whether it’s a simple points for pounds scheme, a Quidco powered cash-back mechanism or some other form of reward, the principle is the same – reward customer’s for their business. In this post I’ll examine the application of loyalty in the multichannel age.

Why establish a loyalty programme

Before focussing on the omnichannel implementation of rewards I’d like to examine the key principles behind loyalty programmes.

Crucially for businesses transacting across channels, the loyalty card or central loyalty account provides a method for linking customer activity across channels. Particularly the loyalty card that identifies the typically anonymous cash customer. The 16 digit code on each loyalty card provide you with a unique identifier that links your current purchase with a record of all your other activities with that retailer.

Like many of you I have a wallet packed full of these types cards; Tesco Clubcard, Nectar, Marriott (Gold of course) and now even the barber I use has given me one. Alongside this I have Quidco and my bank has recently started offering me rewards too.

Reviewing Harvard Business Review research and articles on the loyalty topic shows that many of these programmes are breaking the cardinal rules of loyalty schemes. These rules include:

  1. Time delays reduce perceived value – provide rewards instantly where possible. Time lag creates reduces the perceived value of the reward
  2. Maximise motivation to buy again – use the scheme to encourage the next purchase
  3. Don’t create another commodity – probably the most broken rule of all of them as most schemes I’m aware of create a new points based commodity. Points are prescribed a monetary value regardless of whether or not this is convertible directly to cash or product
  4. Don’t give-away the store – provide benefits that don’t require you to hand over free or heavily discounted goods or services. Instead focus on using what you already have to treat the customer. A good example is express check in for gold loyalty card holders
  5. Don’t reward volume over profit – this is highly connected with financial and business modelling. Be aware of rewarding those who do a large volume of business with you at low margin. Incentivise the behaviour you want to see
  6. Don’t reward the disloyal – similar to the above point, reward those who demonstrate real brand loyalty. This may include rewarding frequency of business rather than size of each order
  7. Don’t promise what can’t be delivered – if you promise fast check-in times and free upgrades; deliver them

I think the whole concept is relatively simple, a loyalty programme should give extra value to the customer for their loyal behaviour. This doesn’t have to include points or discounts but it should certainly enhance your existing brand proposition.

Defining a strategy for omnichannel loyalty

Loyalty strategy for multichannel brands needs to include the following elements:

Create a multichannel communications loop

Engage your loyal customers with interaction rich communications. These should allow them to interact with the brand in ways that transcend a transaction. For example why not use your loyalty base as a casual market research group? A simple email or message could ask their opinions on new products. Each interaction provides you with an opportunity to learn more about their tastes and improves your ability to send the best messages.

Use the data to personalise

Unwittingly – and perhaps even unethically – customers give away a huge amount of data about themselves. All of it can be valuable in improving the customer experience if it is applied well. Personalisation throughout the customer experience provide you with a way to leverage the data and show each customer that you care about them. It includes personalising marketing comms to the individual (both the message, time and channel) and also serving them as a known individual.

Calculate customer profitability

I’ve never understood why this is considered off limits, but I believe a good well built loyalty database should be able to calculate customer profitability. Real-time calculations like this may prove difficult as a number of data sources will need to be brought together. I’d suggest that you remember that it needn’t be accurate but it should reflect how much marketing is spent on the individual, what channels they transact in and what products they purchase.

This profitability calculation can then be used to find your most profitable and unprofitable customers. With them identified you can alter your approach to rewards.

Rewards in real-time

If customers ascribe greater value to rewards that are delivered in a timely fashion then surely this needs to be put in place. On the spot, personalised rewards matter. This could be an upgrade or even just recognising the customer by name.

Find ways to lose the loyalty card

My wallet’s thickness is sadly the result of too many loyalty cards rather than too much cash. Seven of them in total.

There are options to dump the loyalty card. Mobile apps, key fob style miniature cards, and online booking systems linked to your account are all methods in use. Other methods worth considering are the use of other identifiers that a customer can easily provide such as postal/zip code, mobile number or email address. Social sign-on and the monitoring of bank card use in store is another route forward.

Staff can be trained and empowered to give special rewards to customers they’ve dealt with before. The ladies at the make up and fragrance concessions in department stores are very good at this. It’s not uncommon to walk away with a bag full of little freebies when making a purchase.


Marriott and IHG have both jumped on this area of loyalty rewards with me. Both schemes operate a grading scheme to qualify my loyalty. Being a gold, silver or platinum member unlocks additional rewards at the hotel such as free wifi and drinks in the room.

Similarly both brands have sent me marketing around special gamified rewards opportunities. In these promotions I can gain additional points for altering my buying behaviour. For instance I can get major bonuses for booking a room at different IHG brands within a 6 month period. I’m not sure of the economics of such schemes but they have worked on me.

I won’t go into every element and best practice relating to gamification as there are far better papers on the topic. I will state though that it’s a critical element of creating an engaging and potentially fun loyalty programme.

Consider the omnichannel element

Finally, create your loyalty strategy around the use of all channels.

Whether its social, mobile, store, web, app or call centre the same loyalty mechanisms should be applied. There’s nothing worse than trying to use points online when you hit a problem and call the service desk to be told that you can’t use your loyalty points on a call.

I’ve recently put together the multichannel planning framework that can be a vital tool in planning your loyalty strategy.

Omnichannel loyalty

Creating a successful loyalty programme requires a blend of brand proposition with an understanding behavioural economics. The nature of the scheme should be tightly coupled with the promises that your brand makes to the customer. This same promise and value proposition should also be at the heart of your communications. Behavioural economics is the study of what incentives lead to certain behaviours and relies upon an understanding of psychology, sociology, finance and economics.

Making this programme work across all of your channels requires a centralisation of the scheme’s database and rules engine. They should not be tightly coupled with one channel as this will affect the ability of other channels to connect with the programme.

Gamification engines such as Badgeville and Gigya can provide a great starting point for a rewards programme. Their simple interfaces will make it easy for customers and rewards teams to update rules and monitor what is happening.

Perhaps its the geek in me but personally if I were asked to build my own loyalty programme, I’d opt to start with a cloud based marketing orchestration platform linked to a scalable data warehouse. The marketing orchestration platform would collect data from customer channels, store this to the data warehouse and then apply rules. Being a marketing orchestration platform, it would be important to design the solution to allow real-time messaging back to the customer end-point to create personalised experiences.

Photo Credit: Emma Farrer via Compfight cc

Posted in Multichannel

Getting social channel strategy right

If your business stopped all investment in social media what difference would it make? Would sales slip? Would website traffic be noticeably lower? Would your market share erode? Would customer complaints spike? Read more ›

Posted in All Channels, Multichannel

Omnichannel Resources

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Omnichannel Powerpoint Download

Crafting good looking slides is hard-work. Download this PowerPoint file to get some great graphics to use in your business presentations on omnichannel or multichannel retail.

Included slides

  • Single Channel to Omnichannel: Defining single channel, multichannel and ominchannel
  • Web vs Store Experience: Key differences in two retail channels
  • Five Staff Capabilities in the Omnichannel Age: How staff need to be prepared in order to support the Omnichannel experience
  • Centralised IT Capabilities Deliver the Omnichannel Experience: Technical and marketing capabilities should not be siloed by channel
  • Current World to New World Swoosh: Identifying our route forward with Omnichannel

Further reading:


Can I use the slides in my paid for work?
Yes. The download entitles you to use the slides as you please in a single project. Of course I can’t enforce this but please try and be honest in your use of my work.
Do I need to attribute you as the source?
It’s not necessary to do this providing that you paid for the file. I won’t mind if you do attribute me in your final work but there’s no imperative to do so.
Can you make some custom slides for me?
That’s not really my thing but do get in contact if you have specific requirements – contact page.
I need some help downloading the file...
After making payment you should be redirected to a download page and receive an email with the download link. If this doesn’t work, get in touch with your order details and I’ll email you the file directly – contact page.
I need some help with PowerPoint
Not sure that I’m the best person to help with this. If you’re struggling with PowerPoint then I suggest turning to Google for training videos.

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Posted in Multichannel

Introducing Marketing Orchestration Platforms

There’s an important new category developing on the marketing technology landscape which I’m labelling Marketing Orchestration Platforms (MOPs). They are not connected with any specific channel, data source or analysis method. They allow marketers to select the best channel execution tools for their needs rather than relying on the tight product coupling which exists in the emerging marketing clouds from IBM, Oracle and Adobe. They are the digital nervous system for real-time, personalised, multichannel marketing and customer engagement.

Defining the Marketing Orchestration Platform

MOPs share a feature set that sits between a middleware platform (like Informatica or Mule) and a multichannel campaign management tools (like Adobe Campaign or IBM Campaign). MOPs are separated from the campaign management platforms in the following three ways:

  • Firstly they are not linked to any delivery mechanism. I may get some heat from vendors here, but Adobe, IBM and Oracle’s marketing suites have a heritage in specific channel execution.
  • The second difference is that MOPs are not tightly linked to common marketing objects of campaigns, programs and promotions. They have a greater deal of flexibility in the objects they work with.
  • Thirdly they have open connectivity with multiple data sources and execution platforms. If it has an API or web service, the MOP will be able to communicate with it.

Think of a policeman directing traffic. He is aware of the traffic queues and flow. He is also aware of laws governing what traffic is allowed to do and can therefore direct traffic appropriately.

So it is with MOPs. They are connected to a range of data sources that provide information on what is happening. Rules are built within the MOP to determine how to respond in a given situation. Based on these rules, the information can then be directed to the appropriate system for an action to occur.

Marketing Orchestration Platform Example

For example, a MOP may be used to better merchandise a retail website:

  1. The MOP would receive AdWord impression data and process that data to identify spikes in data.
  2. Complex statistical models built in R could then be applied to the data to determine whether a certain product group or category is more popular.
  3. If a popular product is found, competitor websites could be scraped to find live pricing information.
  4. This data would then be sent over API to the e-commerce platform to change the product price and place it on the homepage as a featured product.


Screenshot of Provenir

Screenshot of Provenir

A simple comparison is to think of an MOP as being a complex version of IFTTT (which stands for If This Then That). For the uninitiated IFTTT is a website that connects a number of popular channels. For instance one of my favourite recipes is for Star Wars Day: If the date and time is equal to 8am on May 4th, then send a tweet saying “Happy Star Wars Day”.

Another popular IFTTT recipe is to save Instagram photos that I post to DropBox.

Business benefits of the Marketing Orchestration Platform

In preparing this post, I reached out to Scott Brinker of Chief Marketing Technologist Blog. In my view he’s the leading expert on the categorisation and grouping of marketing technology. If you haven’t seen his Marketing Technology Landscapes, you need to go check it out – after reading this post of course.

Scott offered the following view on MOPs:

“I think the concept of marketing orchestration platforms are incredibly promising.

“To me, they are a part of this emerging category of “marketing middleware” — software that helps you connect all the other software applications in your marketing technology stack and, in doing so, makes all of them work more effectively together.

“I believe such marketing middleware is incredibly important (a) in keeping a company’s overall marketing ecosystem “open”, i.e., not locked in to a single vendor suite; and (b) in reducing the overhead associated with integrating new software applications into your marketing infrastructure.”

Scott pulls out two important business benefits which I’ll expand on here:

  1. Keep the organisation’s marketing eco-system open. Whilst the vendor brochures will tell you that the new marketing clouds offer you the ability to market across every channel the truth isn’t that simple. There are other vendors with a really strong product that you may want to integrate with instead. You may love Adobe Campaign for email marketing and hate Adobe Sitecore (or whatever they call it these days). The MOP ensures tight integration, therefore allowing you to pick the tools you prefer rather than being locked into a vendor’s suite.
  2. Reduce the future overhead of integrating new software. I’m not a betting man, but if I were, I’d happily wager that channel choice is going to continue growing and individual channels will become more sophisticated. An MOP will allow you to be prepared for these eventualities and give you the infrastructure necessary to integrate the new channel functionality into your marketing.

Marketing Orchestration Vendors

MOPs are still very much in the early stages of development although there are some strong players in the market. If I’ve missed your company or you know of an alternative vendor please let me know in the comments.

CACI partner, Provenir describe their software as “a real-time customer engagement hub that allows agencies to orchestrate customer journeys and experiences across their client’s data”. Bit of a mouthful but the sentiment matches my definition of a MOP. Gartner have also struggled to place Provenir in a specific category and have instead opted to refer to them as a “cool” vendor [note that Gartner’s previous cool vendors include Siri and Eloqua].

Provnir’s VP of Marketing, Jeff Nicholson sent me the following comment on the growth and success that Provnir is enjoying:

The marketing world is in a great moment of change. Today’s brands already own enough commodity software such as email, campaign management, digital asset management, web content management and CRM. These assets are strewn across the enterprise, each one provided by a different vendor, and none of it ever designed to work together. Meanwhile, today’s constantly connected consumer expects a completely seamless experience as they move across touch points, often using several touch point at the very same time.

And this new consumer doesn’t want “campaigns”, but rather genuine interactions that are contextual and compelling.

No wonder why brands are struggling to keep up. But what are businesses to do… rip it all out and start all over again? Until recently, there has been little other option. This is the great opportunity we saw with Provenir. Provenir serves as the conductor of the customer journey, enabling brands to connect their existing touch points and infrastructure that they already have in place and then orchestrate a connected customer journey in real-time.

Relevvant discuss the marketing orchestration capabilities of their platform although the general tone is that the platform is digitally focussed single customer view. The FAQs page makes it clear though that the software is designed to integrate with any inbound data source and any outbound comms channel.

ION Interactiveion-logo
As decribed by Scott Brinker, ION have switched to become a Marketing Apps platform (full post describing the strategy). However it can begin to fall into the marketing orchestration platform category given it’s ability to consume data and pass out actions to variety of downstream and upstream systems.

Having worked with Responsys before I was suprised to see their press release suggesting a pivot away from being simply an email service provider with SMS and retargetting capability to a full MOP. However this pivot appears to be in name only with Responsys’ discussion around this area existing only in a single article and a sponsored Forrester paper (free download to the Forrester report here).

What’s your take on Marketing Orchestration Platforms? Are they a needless additional category of marketing technology? Or are they the vital element of the marketing technology stack that is need to deliver a real-time, personalised experience across any channel?

Posted in Multichannel

Omnichannel pizza: Domino’s case study

I recently published a case study on Domino’s omnichannel strategy at MyCustomer. You can read the full article at:

Read more ›

Posted in Multichannel

Key Findings: Disruptive Innovation in Retail Consumer Markets

Last week the University of Sheffield sent me the great news that I’d passed my MBA with Merit. Something I’m absolutely delighted about. This post summarises and expands on the key findings in my dissertation and provides an opportunity to download the report for those who are interested. Read more ›

Posted in Multichannel
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