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Trends Driving CX Design in the Hospitality Industry: Q&A with Marriott International’s Christine Kettmer

Prefer a high-level recap of the conversation? Read it here.

Q&A with Marriott International’s Christine Kettmer

Jesus Ramirez: With me today is Christine Kettmer, Senior Director of Global Enterprise Insight and Strategy at Marriott International. We’re going to be talking about the future of travel, but before we get to started, I did want to share some sad news. Many of you may have seen that Marriott’s president and CEO Arne Sorenson passed away. I wanted to acknowledge this unfortunate news and also send a heartfelt condolence to his family, his friends, and everyone at Marriott. Christine, is there anything you would like to add?

 

Christine Kettmer: Thank you so much, Jesus. Thank you for those sentiments and to everybody who’s reached out so far. It definitely is a very hard day, and a tremendous loss for the hospitality community and the Marriott extended family. Arne was just an amazing person. He was incredibly approachable, humble and brilliant and just such a visionary. He transformed our company. He was the first non-Marriott family member to serve as CEO and only the third CEO in the company’s history. We’ve been around for 94 years. Mr. Marriott said it really well: [Arne] was an exceptional executive, but [even more], an exceptional human being. So, [it is a] huge loss. Thank you for those sentiments. We’ll definitely be continuing to pray and think about him and his family. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire community.

 

JR: Thank you, Christine. Perhaps a good way to start our conversation is for you to tell us a little bit about yourself and your professional journey.

 

CK: Sure, I’m happy to do that. Thank you for the opportunity to be here. As you said, I’m the Senior Director for Global Enterprise Insights and Strategy, which is a function at Marriott International. I’ve been at the company for about seven years now in different roles… I’ve always been interested in marketing and communications and consumer insights and behavior, so started off working at a nonprofit at the NGO in Geneva, Switzerland. right out of college. I moved there and did [marketing and communications] work for a human rights organization. Then I pivoted to working on different campaigns for health and education and safety accounts here in Washington, DC… I used to tell people all the time that I worked on social marketing. I [could] teach people to brush their teeth, but I [didn’t] know how to sell toothpaste.

 

I really wanted to get back into the product side and the innovation [of business], that allowed me to pivot and go back full-time to business school. After business school, I [took] the traditional CBT route. I worked at Johnson & Johnson for three years on [their] baby brands [and] a couple of the beauty brands, and really learned how to run a PNL [and] be responsible for new product development. But I always just loved the “Why?” – [why] people purchased different brands or were attracted to different products. So, that’s really what led me into the consumer behavior space. As I said, I’ve been at Marriott for about seven years now in a couple of different roles. I went back to brand management for a little while and worked on the GW global brand team, and the JW Marriott global brand team for a couple of years, but I’ve been in different roles related to insights, strategy, customer experience, [always focused on] helping to represent [the] voice of the customer? What is it that’s important to [them and] where [can] we take their travel experiences… in the future?

 

JR: That’s awesome, thank you for sharing that. It’s a great journey. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about your teams, responsibility and what you do at Marriott [now]?

 

CK: Sure. Ours is a relatively new team, but it’s a great group that basically thinks about where we [are] heading as a company. What are we seeing in the trends and [what are the associated] implications for our business? How do we create strategic opportunities for our leaders and for our brands for the different business lines that we’re involved in? [We focus on] leaning into the perspective of what’s happening in the marketplace, what we’re seeing in the data, and what our guests are telling us, and [try to represent] that point of view. So, we’re thinking a lot about all the things and information that are happening right now, as a result of our business, but also, [identifying] where opportunities [are]. Where are those bright spots are? Where are the things that we can lean into and where can we go in the future, so that we’re meeting the guests where they are, but we’re also [driving] loyalty and commitment to our brands [for] the long-term?

 

JR: The travel and hospitality industry [was] hit fairly hard [this past year] but there have been some bright spots. You and I have spoken [previously about] some really interesting [themes]… What have been the bright spots for you and your organization during this time?

 

CK: People are definitely looking forward to booking their next trip. And if anything, they’re going to be more appreciative and [more] cognizant of what that will mean when they’re first on that airplane ride, or they’re checking into that hotel, or even if they’re getting a rental service [or] mode of transportation. So, I think one of the bright spots is – even though [it took] a little longer than obviously anybody would have hoped or anticipated – there is that excitement [and] enthusiasm, that when people want to plan a trip, they’re willing to do so. They’re looking for that next vacation, or even [feeling] excited about conferences or in-person networking opportunities to reconnect with colleagues.

"I am optimistic that travel will come back, and I think it's going to come back with a vengeance. I use the term 'revenge travel'. People are willing and excited, but they're also ready. And so again, if it's taken a little bit longer than the anticipated, I think people will be certainly more appreciative of it."

So, the enthusiasm, that’s something that really strikes me as a blind spot. I would also say, in general, there are lots of opportunities for our guests, when they have a good day, they’re more inclined to tell other people about it. So, we’re seeing some bright spots in social media and in our Guest Voice, which is our platform. We look at all of the survey responses that come in, once they’ve had a really good experience… [We’ve found that they’re] more inclined to book something, and either stay longer or post about it [and] share with others. It really is about restoring that confidence. Making sure that we’re doing all the things we’ve always done – the standards are incredibly high – but reinforcing cleanliness and safety protocols, and really making sure that we’re still enabling that high-touch high-tech service combination. So, leaning into our associates: Making sure that they’re feeling trained to demonstrate the [right] protocols, but also like deliver or welcome [guests] with a smile, even if [when] wearing a mask. [We’re] really trying to make sure that the experience is still there and that we’re ready to welcome our guests, whenever that time is right for them.

 

JR: One of the things that I found really interesting in our last conversation was that Marriott was one of the first to mandate mask requirements. To me, this is an indicator of leading through values, and really placing an importance on not just guest safety – obviously that’s important as we go forward – but also your associate and employee’s safety.

 

CK: Completely. Yes. The founding principle of the company is all about putting people first. So, we always have said that if you take care of your associates, they’ll take care of the guests, and the guests will come back. That’s been the underlying business model since the beginning. So, it [seemed] really groundbreaking last summer, [but] we look back on it now, and it’s almost a no brainer. Of course, [employees] would wear [masks]…. But at the time, when it was announced in July, it was really forward-thinking for the industry. And it was in the spirit of “We’re all in this together, but we’re trying to protect each other and do [whatever we can to] allow our guests to feel more comfortable, but also reinforce the fact that we [prioritize] health and safety so much…” We really want to make sure our guests feel comfortable. However, that might look, we’re doing everything on our part to make it happen.

 

JR: That’s fantastic. There are signals that indicate there’s pent-up travel demand. There’s an uptick in consumer confidence as it relates to travel. So, how are you anticipating and preparing for this eventual resurgence of travel?

 

CK: As I mentioned, our brand standards and our maintenance and safety protocols are certainly paramount. We want to make sure that we have those physical cues, that they’re being demonstrated on a regular basis, and that our guests are prepared. They know expectations going in – from the time that they’re planning and booking a trip, to the pre-arrival communications, [and] the on-property experience. And then, hopefully [providing] something that really feels positive and resonates with them, so that when they’re wanting to rebook, or that they’re sharing with others, they have a good story to tell. [We hope that sentiment will make them more] inclined to come back again in the future. I think, also, just in general, it’s about like flawless execution of the basics, right? Meeting our guests where they are.

 

So, you know, making accommodations [and doing] all the things that we had in place before, but now [elevating them]. So, [for example, updating] our technology with keyless entry, or [allowing guests to] get keys downloaded [through] the app; [messaging] through the app for housekeeping requests [or ordering] in-room dining or room service. Just making sure that we’re still providing that high-tech high-touch service model, and that our guests [feel like] our associates… care: They want to make sure that they’re comfortable with their stay, and that they feel like they’re being taken care of. When guests come, [we don’t want them to] have to really think about much. It’s all sort of available for them… And hopefully, again, having a great experience.

 

Also read: What’s In Store For the Future of Travel?

"The little thoughtful gesture, and small touches accumulate. They really go a long way. I think that gets remembered, and then guests sort of expect that elevated level of service.

JR: I want to double down on something that you had mentioned, which I found really interesting. There’s this talk of contactless and, obviously, that’s important given some of the safety concerns, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not personal and the experience and those moments of truth and those touch points are still opportunities to create personalization. I think that’s something that you guys have really focused on.

 

CK: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, a lot of our associates are tremendous detectives. They’re really good at getting information without people operating too much. They do a great job of just making sure that the little elements and experiences and touch points, they feel really personalized. But it’s not something like, “Oh, we just happened to have extra of this…,” or “This is something I’m going to do to be nice.” It’s actually through an authentic and genuine kind of connection. And so, I think a lot of our properties… I can think of examples when I was working on the JW Marriott brand. I hear stories like it’s almost expected, if you check in, you mention [you’re there for an] anniversary or birthday – that you’re celebratin –if somebody happens to find that out ahead of time, and there’s a special amenity or gift, [like it’s recognized by the on-site] restaurant or something. It’s just a nice touch. And I think, you know, a lot of our hotels do a good way of making the guests feel uniquely recognized and special, but also, in a way that it’s not burdensome. It’s just actually a true pleasure and [an] opportunity for our associates to shine and to do something that they feel is really unique, too.

 

JR: Yeah. It’s those little moments of delight that are really human in nature, and they don’t have to be big things. They can be small little things, and they make a big difference.

 

CK: Exactly… It sounds obvious, but sometimes, if you’re waiting for a car to pull up as you’re checking out of the hotel, [providing] cold towels available, or bottles of water if it’s a hot day. When people are arriving, [giving] them like a little cloth or something, so that they can wipe the airport [off of] them, or whatever it is. [The] little thoughtful gesture and small touches accumulate. They really go a long way. I think that gets remembered, and then [guests] sort of expect that elevated level of service. But it’s really foundational at the end of the day. It’s about getting those basics, right?

 

JR: That’s fantastic. I’m going to switch gears a little bit… Travel just isn’t about travel. It’s always had a larger meaning and, you know, it’s quite possible that the meaning of travel is going to change or has changed during this time. What are your thoughts on this?

CK: Yeah, it’s interesting… People are definitely planning still for that next big trip. [Maybe it’s] something that they wanted to take five [or] 10 years from now, but [now], it’s more immediate. So, once the timing again is right, they’re taking advantage of it. But I also think that people are going to be a little bit more intentional with their travel. They’re not necessarily [going to] try to go… Like if they go to Europe and do seven countries and seven days – [travel] might be a little bit slower, a little bit more focused and deliberate. And certainly, I think a little bit more introspective. People might just be more appreciative of the opportunity to travel. And we’ve seen this shift towards, what I would call: The intentional or the slow travel, where people pace themselves, again. Maybe they take a longer route – it’s a little bit more scenic – or, of course, [they’re] blending business and leisure travel… People are taking more extended time to have some time maybe for work, but also tacking on a few extra days to spend with family members or friends… Everybody is just excited to be with their loved ones… People are comfortable, but they’re kind of experiencing virtual meeting or Zoom fatigue. So, having the opportunity, nothing replaces in-person connections. We know that, whether it’s a chance to go visit extended family members or at our hotels [at] conferences and meetings [or] events: People miss being with other people, and you can’t ask them to replace that in-person connection. So, having the opportunity to really foster those moments, I think people [will] be more appreciative of them, in general…

 

JR: Inherently, we’re social creatures.

 

CK: Yeah, exactly.

 

JR: I heard somebody say a little while ago, I can’t remember where I read it, but it was something along the lines of: “Travel used to be for escape. And now, it’s more for connection.” That’s connection to others or connection to yourself, which [aligns with your idea of] introspection and slowing down and being more intentional.

 

CK: I think, in general, people are just more appreciative… We’re just going back to our roots and a little bit more appreciative of the gifts of the world around us and what we can give back, in turn.

 

JR: That’s fantastic. So, in your role in particular, you mentioned this at the top of the session… in your role, you’re really looking at insights and trying to have a pulse on your guests and travelers, in general. So, what are some of the things that you’ve seen? What are some of the new consumer trends or needs or behaviors either that you didn’t expect and were sort of a surprise [about], or things that you’re seeing that are thematic?

 

CK: In terms of behaviors, I touched on [this] briefly earlier, about “B-leisure:” The blending of different trip purposes. Whereas before, people might’ve tacked on an extra day or two, now, because of the extended breaks that people are taking, or even temporary relocations – you’ve heard the stories of some of these different countries that are offering temporary work visas or opportunities for people to scoop up a house for a dollar in different markets and stuff – I think people are really being a little bit more deliberate with their tips and trying to blend the experiences. So, then it’s that balance. And I think in general, just focusing on their personal and mental wellbeing has been tremendous. It’s been really important. So, I, I would say leaning into some of the more wellbeing-focused travel. That’s something that we’ve seen pick up quite a bit. People are thinking, “Okay, how can I incorporate physical exercise or mindfulness experiences and our hotels?”

"Focusing on their personal and mental wellbeing has been tremendous. It's been really important. So, I, I would say leaning into some of the more wellbeing-focused travel. That's something that we’ve seen pick up quite a bit."

I have to say, they’ve just done an amazing job pivoting and re-purposing different spaces. [For example], we have family yoga sessions. There are hotels where they reconverted old rooms into spots and sanctuaries… It’s really been interesting to [see] what guests are wanting and requesting, and how we’ve been able to accommodate… And then, I think also just in general, one thing that is so important for our guests is feeling very comfortable when they come to the properties through all elements of the journey. So, from the moment that they arrive, they have a good experience, to the times when they’re enjoying some of our food and beverage outlets… [it’s also important to] make sure that like we’re offering opportunities for work arounds. Some of our hotels, again, have done an amazing job when it comes to redesigning some of their guest rooms to be private dining spaces or [hosting] evening social events where we have like cocktail cards or places where people can choose to have a happy hour kind of experience…

 

And then just also being able to [provide] partnership [experiences in] local areas if they want to leave the hotel. We have this great program called Eat Around Town. Guests can go, earn points through local establishments and partnerships and restaurants. I don’t know if people realize this: We have over 7,000 hotels globally. Multiply that times the communities in which those properties are located, and you’ve got lots of chances to really enjoy your points, [and do stuff] off property, as well.

 

JR: Let’s talk about the whole notion of transforming spaces. I think that’s a really interesting thing that we’ve seen, [and] not just in the travel industry. It’s been a common theme. Restaurants, as an example, have had to rethink their floor plans [and] their entire delivery system. It’s also created an opportunity for different businesses [and] industries to really rethink their spaces and things that are not being used. How do you repurpose them to really serve your customer? I thought that was really interesting… I’d love to learn a little bit more about your partnerships and what your perspective is on how partnerships will evolve going forward, given that there’s [not] a single entity that owns the full end to end customer experience, but there’s a lot of alliances and partnerships.

 

CK: We have so many different types of partnerships. I think some of the ones that really resonate with people right now are the ones where, again, you’re drawing meaningful connections or experiences, too, or that it’s relevant or applicable to what they’re doing every day. I think about last summer. We launched a program where you could earn a grade. It was, like, six times the amount of points for groceries, and again, it was through our credit card program. It was meeting people, our guests, where they are and what they’re using their different points on, or their credit card dollars with, at this point. Our Marriott signature brand [also] partnered with Ted. I think some of the talks that are out there are [focused around] those meaningful moments or connections or experiences – just taking the chance for people to feel like travel really enriches the soul. And when they’re traveling, people feel a little bit more open to new experiences and to opportunities. And so, if it’s that intellectual stimulation or learning [opportunity], I think that’s a great way for people to feel like, “OK, I can be more balanced and full of life and present in the moment.” And I think that some of that comes through in those little moments or those different pockets of inspiration that we try to activate through partnerships.

 

JR: I think that hits on a couple of things. It hits on this notion that rethinking travel – the partnerships that you’re forging are – different than they were even several years ago. And it’s more about learning in these really meaningful and intimate experiences. I think that’s really interesting.

 

CK: Definitely. I think the balance is now a little different… You touched on things like our spaces and the redesign, you can’t necessarily always do it in community or with others. So, thinking through, “How do you benefit individually, but then share that out collectively?” How does that balance occur, where you’re able to do something for yourself, but you also can share it with others, even if you have to be a little bit more socially distant or physically not in the same space? There’s still a way to feel that enriching experience.

"How does that balance occur, where you're able to do something for yourself, but you also can share it with others, even if you have to be a little bit more socially distant or physically not in the same space?"

JR: What are you doing or what is Marriott doing to really position itself to be able to offer those types of experiences or be a part of that experience?

 

CK: There are a lot of different things that our hotels have done. We have a partnership where we do tours and activities. There are off property chances where people can take advantage of different versions or experiences. Some of our properties have farms where you can go and pick your own food, almost [be a] farmer for the day, which is pretty cool. [Also], when [people] go to a hotel, they don’t want to stay at [the] hotel the whole time, so having the chance to experience some of those off-property locations. I can think of one of our hotels in Thailand, [it has] a great partnership with a local aquarium. They do an activation where they actually bring kids who are staying at the hotel to the site and they teach them about all the different animals that are there.

 

[Also], I think [it’s] the Ritz Carlton down in Amelia Island. they have an onsite Marine Biology, which is pretty cool for families. It’s [about] trying to bring some of the elements of what’s around them, [and weaving it into] the experience at the hotel, or even off-[property], if it’s a partnership or local activation. I think, in general, people just want to [have] tangible, sensorial experiences, really getting back to [their] roots and back into nature… I think people are feeling a little bit more appreciative and intentional with that nature perspective.

 

JR: Yeah, that’s great. You mentioned being a farmer for the day. I went to this [goat] farm in Pescadero a couple of years ago [where you could] pet the [animals]. That’d be a great experience through one of your hotels.

 

CK: Totally. I mean, I remember a couple of years ago, goat yoga was all the rage, right? One of my colleagues said something the other day that. There is a local alpaca farm here in DC, and you can bring people there. It’s just amazing that, connection to animals [and] sense of nature. It’s just really important to people. So, that’s fantastic.

 

JR: One of the things that I’d love to spend a little bit of time on is this notion of understanding your traveler and understanding your guest and understanding customer sentiment. [I’m] curious to hear your thoughts on what can brands do to get closer to their customer, to really understand what are their needs [are], and what role does data have in this?

 

CK: I think a lot of it is, just like I was saying earlier, going back to the basics. Really listening to your customers, understanding what’s important to the guests and paying attention. And I think this comes through. We have great resources that we can utilize from social media where we’re getting that real-time feedback as people are staying in our hotels, but also just looking at the data like the post-day surveys, and looking at what worked well, [and where] could be opportunities for improvement? We always love it when our guests are recognizing special associates, or they share an experience that they’ve had. [It’s about] really paying attention to what’s important and making sure that we’re doing all the right things. So, it’s a combination of… signage in the right place or the high-tech service that’s available, or just ensuring that we’re adapting and adapting, [again].

"I think a lot of it is going back to the basics. Really listening to your customers, understanding what's important to the guests, and paying attention."

[For example], I think all of our restaurants pivoted really quickly to offer QR codes, instead of having tactile menus or having different technologies… The app was able to [accept] housekeeping requests on demand – people could [message] through the app and the interface [to] request services. A lot of it is just recognizing, what are the patterns or the trends that are emerging and the common themes? And therefore, ensuring that we’re doing it right. [Are we] setting the expectations so that our guests… [know what they] can expect to have happen? … It’s really just about getting the basics right. And making sure that we’re listening to them and meeting them where they’re at and delivering [with] flawless execution wherever we can.

 

JR:  You and I had a conversation earlier this week, and you were mentioning that you’re a founding board member for the women leading travel and hospitality group I found [that] really interesting and fascinating. I’m wondering if you might be able to share a little bit more there.

 

CK:  Sure. Yeah. I’m happy to talk about it. And thank you for the opportunity. So, Women Leading Travel & Hospitality is a relatively recent group. We just launched in January. So, if people are looking for it, they can find more information on LinkedIn. We have some social channels through Instagram, [and] they do a newsletter that comes out once a week on Tuesday mornings. And it’s really a network of different women throughout the different hospitality industry. So, of course, [there is] me from the hotel space; there are a couple other women leaders who are from other competitor companies, or peer companies, but then it’s also about representation from airlines, from transportation services. We have some relative startups, like where people are working on things that are related to RVs and alternative accommodation. There’s a woman who is running the innovation center at DFW at the Dallas Fort worth airport.

 

So, I mean, it’s the whole gamut of different experiences, but one thing that I’ve really appreciated… We have peer groups where we talk about all sorts of different topics. What we’re seeing in our respective industries and sectors, but then also like, what are some of the challenges that we’re all facing in this remote environment? Or how are we going to lead performance evaluations this year, or even just like, you know, what does it mean to be a really effective leader? And so, it’s a whole gambit of different topics, but I think that there’s a tremendous amount of respect and appreciation for people’s different viewpoints and their input. And it’s just a great way to network with other people. So, I would really encourage people to be looking at their website. We have an event actually next Thursday, which will be February 25th. [Anyone] can participate in that, but it’s a relatively nominal membership entry point for people to join. And it’s just a great network and a way for people to really [come] together from different industries and different perspectives.

 

JR: Yeah. I love that. I love the fact that there’s this spirit of partnership and it’s not competitive. And, you know, I think that was a topic that was hit on in the previous session as well, that I think this time has really shown that the industry is stronger as a whole. When everybody comes together and partners, it’s much more operative…

 

CK: Yeah. I’ve been very impressed with a lot of the different groups. I know, in particular, the U.S. travel Association has been really pivoting to get all of the different sectors involved in terms of planning a vacation day or thinking about like that next trip… IT goes through all the different stages [of] that customer journey experience.

 

JR: I have a few more questions and then I think we should probably pivot over to the question in the Q&A… What are you optimistic about? What are you most excited about looking forward?

CK: I am optimistic that travel will come back, and I think it’s going to come back with a vengeance. I use the term “revenge travel”. People are willing and excited, but they’re [also] ready. And so again, if it’s taken a little bit longer than the anticipated, I think people will be certainly more appreciative of it. I think in general, I’m optimistic that people are going to be a little bit nicer, a little bit more patient… We know that travel is such a gift, and that people won’t take it for granted… And so, I’m optimistic that every time that people travel going forward, you’re just going to realize what a tremendous gift it is and what an experience it is to be able to do it, whether it’s personally, or professionally, or some combination.

 

JR: One of the things that we’ve seen probably over the last year is also the approach that companies have had to take days off. There’s been a lot more flexibility and acknowledgement that it’s an important thing – that people’s wellbeing is important. There’s going to be challenges, as we go forward. And I think I’m optimistic and hopeful that companies will value that going forward or will continue to value that.

 

CK: I agree. I definitely think so. And I’ve seen, even among our leadership, people taking advantage of opportunities to have those blended experiences… But that balance is really critical.

 

JR: Yeah. So I know we’re wrapping up. I can I ask a few of the Q and A’s. One of them is: How has your loyalty strategy been impacted over the last six months?

 

KC: Sure. So we’ve made a couple of different changes to our loyalty program. And if people are curious to know a little bit more, they can certainly go online and see about some of the requirements as it relates to status and tiers and weeknights and all that. But I mean, as it is today, of course we want people to love our brands, to be those brand ambassadors, to have great experiences. [We] focused on what I was talking a little bit earlier, in terms of [providing] opportunity to earn points [at] different ancillary revenue sources. But also, we want to give our guests the chance to burn points, to use their points, [and] actually take advantage of those redemption days. To really plan that next big trip [and to] be excited for it. So, it’s just more of a shift in terms of where the spending is. In general, I think our five-point program has been consistently recognized as a really amazing program with wonderful perks and privileges, and members just love it. So, we want to keep that train going, I would say.

 

JR: One last question. What is the pivot at Marriott that you’re most proud of in the last year?

KC: The last year? I would say the authenticity that people are showing. I think that people are really just so genuine in terms of their experiences now. It’s a little bit vulnerable, but people have shown their home lives; It’s intersecting with their professional lives. But I think a great example of going back to what we were kind of talking about at the beginning… Displaying empathy from the get-go and really acknowledging and recognizing that people are going through all of those stirred up emotions: The ups, the downs, the peaks, the valleys. And so, just having the courage and conviction for people to say, “I can’t be on-call at six o’clock at night because that’s the time that I put my kids down for a bath,” or at 7:00 AM… It’s just, again, “That’s not going to work for me because that’s the time that my husband and I read the newspaper together and have coffee.” The little things like that, it’s showing everyone’s authenticity, but also the expectations that people will continue to give their all and that everybody is working together and we’re not going to let go of short and long-term plans, but we want to be supporting each other. [Whatever] that looks like.

 

JR: Yeah, yeah, we’ve really sort of brought down the facade that everything is flawless. It’s not.

 

CK: It’s real.

 

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This Week in CX: CDK, Neiman Marcus Group & Qualcomm Invest In a Better Future

Week over week, we unpack emerging trends, data developments, business model innovations and new technologies that are changing consumer behavior and driving CX expectations of tomorrow. But there are other factors that, especially in 2021, impact how consumers relate to brands long-term: Social impact, responsibility, and philanthropy.

 

We’ve known for many years that authentic corporate philanthropy increases employee satisfaction, morale, and retention, but new studies are revealing just how much it also impacts the overall customer experience, as well. Case in point:

 

  • A survey by Nielsen discovered that 50% of consumers will pay more for a product or service if the business prioritizes sustainability.
  • The 2019 Aflac Survey of Corporate Social Responsibility found that 77% of consumers would “be motivated to purchase a company’s products or services if the company shows they are committed to making the world a better place.”
  • A survey conducted by Clutch found that shoppers believe environmentally-friendly business practices (71%), social responsibility (68%) and giving back to the local community (68%) to be the most important attributes of a company, even above price. Additionally, 71% said they believe it’s important for businesses to take a stance on social and cultural issues.

“We all have a responsibility to make this place better than we found it,” says Tallwave Senior Consultant Erin Nielsen. “That can come in many forms but it shouldn’t just be up to a residential individual. There’s strength in numbers, and money talks. Why shouldn’t companies be the ones driving toward larger, bigger actions? They have the people, the podiums, the funds, and the opportunities to make a bigger difference.”

 

Not only should businesses care about making social, environmental, and/or cultural differences because, well, they should, as the metrics above highlight, it is becoming increasingly paramount to consumers as they decide who deserves their money.

Millennials have proven that commitment to causes is a driving factor behind whether they buy from a company or not.

“Consumers are smarter than they have ever been,” Erin explains. “They have information at their fingertips and are becoming more and more informed about what organizations truly stand for and are empowered to make decisions based on that alone. You see that in specific segments of the market: Millennials have proven that commitment to causes is a driving factor behind whether they buy from a company or not. Let’s take Toms, for example. When they entered the market with a buy one, give one model, they were a disruptor from that perspective. It made me want to give my money to an organization that’s going to do something with it. I can buy Toms or I can buy from a company that doesn’t share where my money goes – whether it be towards an advertising campaign, brick and mortar, or in their pockets. Consumers have choices and they care. Now more than ever, people don’t trust companies at their word. They need to prove that they’re doing what they say they’re doing. They need to live their values and integrate their beliefs into their work.”

 

Basically, if you’re focused on crafting excellent customer experiences and building a bond with consumers that can last a lifetime, you can’t only drive materialistic or time-saving value. You have to cultivate a brand that your consumers can see themselves in and rally around. You’ve got to stand for something, and find a way to embed that into the DNA of everything you do.

Like many of you reading this, we’re still figuring out how we want to show up in the world and be a catalyst for change.

Now, before we share the top stories we’re talking about this week, we do have to make a confession: While we’re experts in many areas, this isn’t necessarily one of them. Everyday, we’re learning, growing, and figuring out how to do better. At Tallwave, we put employees above everything and execute our work from the heart with humans’ best interests at the core, but, like many of you reading this, we’re still figuring out how we want to show up in the world and be a catalyst for change. And that’s OK. We believe, in order for this kind of work to transform our brand and the communities we touch, we must approach it like a marathon, not a sprint. We’ve built a DE&I task force and broken them up into four categories, each focused on cultivating and operationalizing strategies most important to us: Talent outreach, client and marketplace engagement, internal culture and training, and community outreach. We’re listening, we’re learning, and we’re putting actions behind our words to develop the social impact and philanthropic programs that are right for us.

 

These stories and these brands are paving the way. We look to them for guidance, inspiration, and motivation, and can’t wait to join them in the corporate and social responsibility ranks.

CDK Global Doubles Down On Their Promise to Support Inclusive & Equitable Quality Education For All

Last August, CDK Global – a leading provider of integrated data and technology solutions to the automotive, heavy truck, recreation, and heavy equipment industries – announced their commitment to increasing accessibility to quality education and lifelong learning for all. Since then, they’ve directed 90% of their corporate giving to education-related causes, and this past Wednesday, doubled down on their promise by pledging a total of $70,000 to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeast Louisiana, greenlight for girls, and ASE Education Foundation.

“Now more than ever, we understand that not everyone has equal access to a traditional learning environment where they can receive a quality education,” CDK Global’s Executive Vice President, Chief Human Resources and Communications Officer Amy Byrne told Business Wire. “Through our corporate philanthropic partnerships, we are investing in programs that help create the next generation of leaders by improving access to knowledge and enhancing the skills of people from all backgrounds.”

 

CDK Global chose to donate $25,000 of the $70,000 total to the Boys and Girls Clubs chapter in Southeast Louisiana after they were forced to cancel their in-person National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) trade show – which was scheduled to be hosted there – and transition to virtual setting due to COVID-19. The change of plans caused a blow to the community’s projected local economic growth for the year. To make up for it, the funds will make CDK the first-ever sponsor for a new literacy program planned for the 2021-2022 school year – one that will reportedly help 75 children per day to alleviate social challenges, increase school performance, and better prepare for standardized tests.

 

CDK’s partnership with greenlight for girls (g4g) also isn’t brand new. The two organizations joined forces to develop educational materials for girls in STEM subjects back in July 2020. According to the founder and chairman of g4g Melissa Rancourt, the $25,000 donation will help them “achieve significant reach, impact, and resonance to our sustainable development and societal goal… [to] inspire local communities of girls and boys to build their curiosity, abilities, and aspirations in STEM.”

 

Lastly, CDK plans to donate the remaining $20,000 to ASE Education Foundation to help educate, prepare, and inspire a new generation of automotive service workers. The funds will fuel an assessment to evaluate the diversity, equity, and inclusivity of ASE’s educational programs, and will empower their curriculum to reach and attract varied student populations. “The future of the service industry is brighter because of their contributions,” said ASE Education Foundation Present Michael Coley. Neiman Marcus Group

Launches New Campaign Focused on Fostering Black Excellence

 

February is Black History Month so there was no more appropriate time for Neiman Marcus Group to announce their new campaign, “Celebrating Black History By Supporting Black Futures.”

“NMG is a place where everyone belongs, where diversity is valued, and where showing up as your full and authentic self is expected."

Unveiling a multi-pronged strategy that consists of both new and ongoing initiatives, Neiman Marcus plans to use corporate philanthropy dollars to support the Boys and Girls Club of America, as well as improve internal learning opportunities and marketing efforts designated to source and empower Black talent. Additionally, Neiman Marcus Group plans to host a fireside chat for associates and customers between Nikole Hannah-Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winner reporter of racial injustice for The New York Times, and Tracy Pereston, the company’s Chief Legal Counsel. People can RSVP for the virtual event on their site. Upon the event’s culmination, Neiman Marcus Group will make a donation to the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting on behalf of Hannah-Jones.

 

“NMG is a place where everyone belongs, where diversity is valued, and where showing up as your full and authentic self is expected,” said Chief People & Belonging Officer of Neiman Marcus Group Eric Severson. “As we progress on our Belonging journey, our people and their voices are a priceless way we highlight the excellence that makes up our company.”

 

To read more about Neiman Marcus Group’s philanthropic work, visit The Heart of Neiman Marcus.

Qualcomm Releases 2020 Corporate Responsibility & Reveals Plans Through 2025

Qualcomm Incorporated, the world’s leading wireless technology innovator, released its 2020 Corporate Responsibility Report last week, recapping the company’s environment, social, and governance performance (ESG) for the year.

 

“We have had many successes over the last year despite the unforeseen challenges of 2020. As we continue to work toward our 2030 Vision, I am proud to report we successfully met or exceeded our 2020 corporate responsibility goals,” said Steve Mollenkopf, Chief Executive Officer, Qualcomm Incorporated.

Qualcomm Instagram post about corporate social impact

Also read: Solving For a Lack of Diversity in CX

 

Qualcomm is hoping to make significant impacts across four key areas: Purposeful Innovation, STEM Education, Responsible Business and Our People. And they made some significant strides in recent years:

 

  • Over the last two year, Qualcomm increased their female engineer workforce by 17% worldwide
  • They increased racial and ethnic group engineers in the technology sector by 12%
  • Employee satisfaction towards Qualcomm’s workplace inclusivity increased by 10%
  • They launched a Small Business Accelerator program, which helped 33 small businesses transition to a mobile-first digital infrastructure
  • Their Wireless Reach program benefitted more than 20 million people across 48 countries by enabling access to their technology for education entrepreneurship, healthcare, public safety, and environmental sustainability purposes.
  • They conducted their first climate scenario analysis, of which insights are included in the report

Qualcomm's Pledge Through 2025

Despite making major strides, Qualcomm isn’t satisfied yet. While crafting strategic corporate plans through 2025 and beyond, they defined quantitative targets designed to measure improvements pertaining to diversity within their workforce, enforcing more sustainable practices in all areas of business and transforming industries with their new technologies to “build a more resilient economy, and catalyze social change for billions of people across the globe,” said Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf.

 

“In the year ahead, we will start working toward achieving our newly launched 2025 corporate responsibility targets, prioritizing environment, diversity and inclusion, and reporting,” Qualcomm’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Akash Palkhiwala said in a statement. “Among these, we will continue to address and improve our environmental performance through greenhouse gas reduction strategies, reduce power consumption, and work to build a more diverse workforce.”

 

Learn more about Qualcomm’s 2025 goals and ESG performance in 2020 in the full report here

Categories
Innovators Series Uncategorized

Innovators Q&A: How Johnson & Johnson Is Pairing Data With Creativity to Connect With Customers Like Never Before

A big brand name is no longer a differentiator. In fact, according to the Customers 2020 study, neither is price or product. While those factors may naturally drive more awareness or familiarity, they no longer drive trust and credibility or dependably convert consumers to buyers and advocates. Actually, if you think of it, big legacy brands might have even larger hurdles to overcome in achieving the cross-functional alignment and agreeance it takes to transform customer journeys and craft personalized, valuable experiences at every touchpoint.

 

There’s really only one way huge companies – like Johnson & Johnson – can be innovative in a fast-changing marketplace. They must learn how to pair data and analytics with design and creativity to cultivate authentic strategies that place the humans they serve at their core. Even if that means spending money to create experiences that have no guaranteed ROI.

 

To learn more about how Johnson & Johnson is thinking about and approaching customer experience, we talked to Matthew Fantazier, Senior Brand Manager for Johnson & Johnson’s Baby businesses, including Aveeno Baby and Desitin. As you’ll learn during the conversation, hosted by our very own Founder and CEO Jeffrey Pruitt, Matthew is passionate about bringing together insights, data, and technology to connect authentically with today’s consumers.

 

Prior to his current role, Matthew led digital strategy and media at J&J’s OTC business for Digestive Health, Cough Cold Flu and Eye Care. He has also worked on brands such as ZYRTEC®, SUDAFED®, and BENGAY®. Through his experiences and first-hand interactions with evolving customer experiences, Matthew shares his unique insights and perspective as it pertains to the future of CX.

Q&A with Johnson & Johnson Senior Brand Manager Matt Fantazier

 

Jeff Pruitt: We’d love to hear a little bit about both your personal and professional story. I saw that you interned at Deloitte at the beginning of your career and then took a job as an analyst. So, you’ve always been very tied to brand strategy.

 

Matt Frantazier: I’ve been at J&J (Johnson & Johnson) for about 14 and a half years now, but I did start out as an accountant way back when. I studied accounting, got my CPA, and spent about seven years in finance at J&J, actually. I made the switch to marketing about eight years ago. And that’s definitely been a hallmark of my experience – combining the data and analytics side with creativity. That’s the exciting thing about what I get to do for work now: Combining those two things – data/analytics and creativity – to connect with consumers.

 

JP: That’s great. I actually am, too, a CPA and studied accounting. I don’t know why I actually got into it, but I love [working] more on the marketing and branding side. We’ll get into how data and brand connect, but first, how do you believe marketing strategies have been forced to change for big legacy brands like Johnson & Johnson during COVID?

 

MF: Well, you know, I think the evolution really changed before COVID and… this has been talked about a lot, but the last 10 months or so just accelerated a lot of things that had been advancing maybe at a medium [or] slow pace, but the need to change has been right in our faces. I think one of the biggest evolutions is brands and companies thinking about moving away from advertising and retail and [instead, thinking about] enabling access. How do we enable access to consumers and how do we foster discovery versus just advertising? I think that’s one of the biggest changes that I’ve seen in what we’re thinking about [at Johnson & Johnson]. COVID forced consumers to adopt all sorts of new habits and behaviors. More research is happening online [and on] social media. Consumers are becoming accustomed to different shopping experiences and we have to be there.

"Brands are being pushed to change as fast as the world around them is changing, and we can't wait for perfection."

There’s just countless specific things that have changed from a commerce perspective: E-commerce media habits, [and] consumer demands for brands to stand for something. There’s so much that has changed in the last 10 months. I think brands are just being pushed to change as fast as the world around them is changing. And we can’t wait for perfection. I think that’s the biggest challenge right now: So much has changed so fast that we have to try. You know, we’re in uncomfortable territory of not knowing – doing new things, operating differently – but we have to try to learn and adapt.

 

JP: Yeah. So, when you think about that and you’re pushing out different work streams or different approaches to drive an experience through your brand with your customer, how are you looking at that in conjunction with data, analytics, and creativity and design?

 

MF: The intersection of data and creativity – I think it’s just so much more prominent now. And it’s one of the bigger challenges we’re facing right now: Unlocking this data. There’s so much, and as more commerce and media consumption and interaction – on websites or wherever – happens online, there’s a data trail there. But, “What do we do with it?” is really the next big question. You can have all the data in the world, but if you don’t know what it means, – if you don’t understand what to do differently, or if it’s good or it’s bad – it’s sort of meaningless. So, you know, we seemingly know more about consumers as digital media matures and data becomes more robust, but you have to have that feedback loop to consistently learn and adapt…

 

One of the challenges there is that it can’t [just] be a machine.

 

At the end of the day, we’re talking to humans… They may be online and buying things online, but you still have to make that personal connection. I think that’s where the tension point really lies. Algorithms don’t make purchases. People do. So, the data can be incredibly powerful in understanding what’s working, what’s resonating, but you still need to grab attention and make a human connection there. The data is allowing us to try more things and push further, but I think it can be used as an enabler because you can quickly figure out [if] something is working or not, versus feeling trapped in [the mindset of] “We’re going to do what we know because it’s safe.” We can do unsafe things because of data – it’s unsafe from a performance standpoint – but it’s making that connection and creating that loop. That is really the biggest challenge, right now.

Also read: How We Created a Contemporary Experience For a Strong, Timeless Brand

 

JP: So, getting more specific, what kind of data do you look at? And how does that influence, for example, design – how you test design and get it out into the real world?

 

MF: Yeah, I mean, I think one of the things is that it’s not just one data source. It’s important to not get too myopic and focus on [something like] short term ROI, is a good example. It’s paying the bills. It’s keeping the lights on. That’s important, without a doubt, short-term ROI matters. I would lose my job if I ignored it. But it’s one data point. So, brand awareness or different equity metrics – those are important for long term health assessments to understand [if] what you’re doing [is] driving relevance with your consumer. Is it something that they like? Do people agree with what [you] stand for? You need both. You need to know: Is what you’re doing selling products? Is what you’re doing getting people to respond positively? It’s that mix. You need to understand all of it, which can be hard. It’s easy to anchor on the one good metric and declare a success, but we do need to take a broad approach to it.

 

JP: All too often, we’ll focus as marketers on the bottom of the funnel because it’s the most trackable, but at the same time, as you look at the upper- or mid-funnel, you are now able to track some brand awareness. And it’s important to make sure that you do measure it, but it shouldn’t get the same level of ROI expectation that you do at the bottom of the funnel.

 

MF: Yeah, it’s a different job to be done. You need all of it. I think it’s easy to [say], “My job is to sell product,” but really, it’s to create awareness, drive consideration, and sell product. You need to do all [of] that stuff.

"You can have all the data in the world, but if you don't know what it means, – if you don't understand what to do differently, or if it’s good or it’s bad – it's sort of meaningless."

JP: So, taking this to the experience you’re driving for your customer: How does Johnson & Johnson measure customer experience, both digitally and in store? What are the key components of understanding that experience and ensuring that it’s seamless – that it’s one of value – and that you’re educating the customer correctly?

 

MF: It’s really taking a look at the entire journey. There are so many touch points [within] consumer journeys today. And, I think when you look at it, the consumer journey being very non-linear is a reality that we’re dealing with.

 

So, customer experience [or] consumer experience takes a lot of shapes and forms… I’m thinking about what they need. What are the consumer’s current needs and expectations? You know, in my business, I talk to new parents a lot and they’re very information hungry. So, providing them with knowledge, information, education – about ingredients, or what our products do; how to give your child their first bath, [for example] – that’s relevant. They need that, that’s a lower purchasing barrier. But it may be tips, if it’s a more complex product. If you’re in a category that [doesn’t naturally provide an] intuitive process, or it takes some skill to use your product, you’re going to have to provide support. We see a lot of good examples from hardware stores – they do DIY videos on YouTube. That’s super important. If you don’t know how to install a toilet, you’re not going to go buy one. So, they need that – as far as the consumer journey and experience goes. It’s really [about] putting the consumer at the center, which is a little bit of a trite thing to say, but I think it’s true. First thing’s first.

 

JP: Implementing these strategies is really, really difficult for a lot of brands internally. When brands have a customer acquisition group, a brand group, and a customer experience group – the reality is that it’s still the same customer, they’re just entering your brand through different touch points and avenues. Your experience is resonating, you’re working on the acquisition, but then when you bring them in, it’s still that customer that you’re driving the experience to. Sometimes this journey spans across  multiple teams and stakeholders. How do you manage integrating all the good data that you get around the experience – like you mentioned, talking to actual mothers and parents – and then, embed that through a multitude of strategies that provides a seamless experience to the customer?

MF: We talk a lot about how consumers don’t actually know if they’re getting an ad from me, or from a retailer, or whomever. They see an ad for Johnson’s, and 99% of the time they just see, “Oh, it’s a baby shampoo,” or whatever. But in reality, to your point, there [are] so many parts of the ecosystem at play. It could be an ad or an experience that’s managed by a retailer partner; it can be managed by me, PR, an influencer. It’s so important to be coordinated and to have that partnership. We put a lot of effort into that discussion and alignment upfront: What are our objectives? How are we achieving these together? What is our one communications plan to make sure we’re not operating in silos? From a creative perspective, [that] it’s not different messages; From a data perspective, that we’re talking to the right people, and retargeting the right people, and bringing it all around and feeding insights to one another. It’s all the same consumer. We just trick ourselves into thinking it’s different, but it’s not.

 

JP: Right. Different stakeholders and sometimes different measurements, which drive different initiatives, but trying to align all those is, I think, where Nirvana sits both internally and [for] companies like ours: Trying to find that alignment for the customer sitting in the center.

 

MF: Yes, for sure.

 

JP: So, from a digital first strategy perspective, J&J is a huge legacy company with over 200 companies inside it. How do you drive that overall digital-first strategy as an organization?

 

MF: Yeah, we think about, again, putting the consumer at the center and thinking about, well, first, where are they actually spending their time? What are their actual behaviors in the real world [and where do] we want to interact with them? And digital-first, I think, can be misconstrued as digital only, or digital media, but there’s also a performance mindset that is important within a digital-first mindset of data collection, iteration, optimization, that also needs to be fed into this. But, from a consumer journey perspective, what are those moments along their journey where we can deliver a transformational brand-building experience? Where does it matter? Where is it really high stakes? And put our time and effort there to really make a difference. And, you know, it could be communications, it could be commerce technology, it could be an app experience, whatever. But really, digital-first doesn’t mean anything unless the consumers are there – it’s [zeroing into] a behavior of: They’re working from home, or they like to shop on their phone, or watch how-to videos before they buy something. So, putting ourselves in their shoes and then leveraging digital technology e-commerce to really enable those kinds of brand-building experiences.

"There's also a performance mindset that I think is important within a digital-first mindset of data collection, iteration, optimization, that also needs to be fed into this."

And then, as I mentioned, what have we learned from that, and how do we get better? That performance mindset, I think, to me, that’s what digital-first actually means, which is a lot, and pretty complex. But it’s not, “We’re going to run Facebook ads, and now we’re more digital-first.” That’s objectively not true. A lot of brands do that, and they’re totally not, but it’s a mindset shift, really.

 

Also read: Why Customer Experience Can’t Be All Data-Driven

 

JP: And it’s also a mindset shift to really understand that, even upfront, when you’re identifying your strategies, data can be utilized to understand deeper sentiment and intent from the persona. And also being able to look at engagement metrics, engagement features, and overall demand that does drive both your online and offline strategy through that journey. I think that’s missed a lot.

 

MF: Yeah, it’s getting back to that feedback loop. We don’t want media plans to live in silos. We don’t want insights living in silos, either. So, if you run a programmatic campaign and find out that “Claim X” drives twice as much conversion – it would be pretty good to know as you’re developing other communications or strategies that, “Hey, this is a behavior-changing message. This matters. Let’s think about that. Let’s iterate on this a little bit…” And that’s what we strive for. That’s, I think, Nirvana for me: Getting to that place, but to the extent [in which] you can use it as a research tool. I think that’s one of the less leveraged aspects of digital media right now, and why you’re seeing more and more CPGs getting [into] DTC commerce. I can’t imagine that a lot of these companies are making any money on having a DTC website, selling snacks or soda, but the data they’re getting from it is invaluable. And that’s why they’re doing it.

 

JP: Right. 2020-2021 has been a really interesting year. And COVID in many ways, like you said at the beginning of the [interview], drove the need to really understand the customer experience. If you were to define the experience that you want with your customer, as you continue to go into 2021, what does that relationship look like for J&J?

"If our mission is to make sure babies have the healthiest start to life, how do we not address a global health pandemic? That's crazy.".

MF: I think at a very high level, that relationship is one that is meaningful and relevant. That we are listening to what our consumers need and expect, and we’re delivering on that expectation. [It came into] real focus in the last year with brands: [the need] to think about how they adapt their communications in the face of COVID, and the face of social unrest and racial inequality, and all these different things. There’s a lot on consumers’ minds. It’s not just a product. It could be what’s happening at home or – [for example] – having to homeschool a child for the year, which is a huge challenge, as a lot of us know, right now. But really finding ways to resonate with them on that personal level. We’re a relevant brand, we’re meaningful, and we deliver against those expectations.

 

For us, a lot of new parents are coming into the category [during] a very challenging time. Right now, being an expecting parent is incredibly challenging, which is why last year we launched our #InItTogether program, which is a partnership with Meredith [in which] we created all sorts of different content and videos around what questions to ask your doctor before you go to the hospital; what to expect when you’re giving birth; can your partner be in the delivery room with you. All these sorts of questions we know were rattling around in parents’ minds. There was no tie to sales there, that was purely equity, but we knew we couldn’t talk about shampoos and lotions without addressing this enormous stressor that is happening in the lives of millions of people, right now. We had to talk about this. If our mission is to make sure babies have the healthiest start to life, how do we not address a global health pandemic? That’s crazy.

 

So, I think it’s thinking about that and knowing that we have to be relevant and, if we can continue to do that – if we can continue to make connections, meaningful connections with modern consumers – we’ll be okay. But it’s being agile enough to adapt with the needs and what’s happening in the world around us.

#InItTogether Campaign on Johsnon's Baby Instagram

Also read: How Avidon Health Is Solving the Patient Engagement Problem in Healthcare

 

JP: It’s really made prominent and propelled customer experience forward, faster than I think a lot of people would have expected and the authentic, transparent, empathetic approach to really understanding where people are in their day and their mindset. It’s different for everybody, but being able to – I don’t like the word “market,” as much as I like the [practice of being] able to connect with them with your offering, which is an offering of support, in many respects. So one last question for you. How do you define innovation for both the business that you’re in, and for J&J?

 

MF: I think it is finding what consumers actually want and need, and delivering on it. That could be product innovation to meet emerging needs. We see that across industries in response to the at-home economy now. People’s lives have dramatically changed in the last year. So, there’s new physical needs.

 

We’re also seeing a communications evolution and innovation. So, it could be: What are the needs of consumers, or what are their new questions? What are they wrestling with now? Like the example I gave with parenting information and around COVID. But, I think, regardless, again, it needs to be meaningful. And innovation can’t just be a fresh coat of paint. You can do that, that can work, but ideally it’s evolving with changing needs. If we’ve seen anything in the last year, we’ve seen that needs are changing really rapidly, and the brands and the companies that can continue to evolve and keep pace with what people are looking for, that’s the magic combination. It can be tough. Product innovation obviously takes time. For us, everything we do is backed in science and research. So, we can’t just quickly [get] new products out the door in a couple of weeks, but taking those insights and really thinking about: What are new parents or new consumers looking for? Are they looking for germ-killing characteristics in a wash, right now? Okay. Let’s think about that. How do we deliver on that? But it could also mean information, like the last example, too.

 

JP: Yeah. Well, Matt, from your background – from the very beginning to all the work that you’ve done at J&J – very, very insightful and great to have you on for the Innovator Series. So, I really appreciate your time and look forward to connecting again, soon.

Categories
Innovators Series Strategy Uncategorized

Innovators Q&A: How Genexa Is Challenging the Pharmaceutical Industry & FDA

Welcome to our first of many interviews with innovators, mavericks and leaders across the globe who are challenging convention and changing the CX status quo!

 

To kick off the series, our Partner Robert Wallace who leads Tallwave’s strategic market and growth opportunities interviewed Kelli MacDonald, Chief Marketing Officer of the world’s first clean medicine company Genexa. Founded in 2014 by two dads who were concerned about the ingredients in their family’s medicine bottles, Genexa has one simple mission: To put people over everything. They believe in expanding health education and improving accessibility to clean medicines for all. And in 2021, they’ve got some pretty big goals – some backed by data, and others inspired by their ‘StoryDoing’ ethos. 

 

Learn how Genexa plans to evolve from start-up to household name, Washington D.C. lobbyist, and the brand that changed the over-the-counter (OTC) industry for good. 

Q&A with Kelli Lane MacDonald, Genexa CMO

Robert Wallace: To start, I think it would be worthwhile for you to give us a brief overview of your background and an introduction to Genexa.

 

Kelli Lane MacDonald: Sure! I [started my career cutting] my teeth at various different advertising agencies up and down Madison Avenue, if you will, in New York City. I went back to school while working at one of those agencies to really dig into customer experience, human centered design – to expand my knowledge.

 

Through that process, I landed at a brand strategy firm that really focused on putting the person at the center of the experience. [They] hung their philosophy on this idea of ‘StoryDoing’… [it’s] the concept that you [not only] need a really powerful story and mission – you need to do that story in the world. The best brands in the world – [the ones that] are most famous, impactful and giving back to society – are the ones that follow that kind of philosophy. So, through that work – through my previous agency where I was the Managing Director – we started working with Genexa to help them finalize their brand and really take them to the next level with the launch into stores – 40,000 different retailers like Target and RiteAid, Walgreen, Whole Foods and many others. So, I bring a lot of experience with marketing, communications and consumer insights – how to speak with, touch and provide value to consumers everyday.

 

What really drives me every morning to wake up and [makes me] excited to do this job with Genexa is what they’ve built. The founders of Genexa, David Johnson and Matt Spielberg, are two dads. About five years ago, they looked at what was in their children’s medicine and couldn’t believe the artificial dyes, colors and ingredients – literally the poisonous ingredients in substances like Antifreeze – that are being used in micro-doses in our medicines and we ingest to make us feel better. They felt there had to be another way and so they embarked on a journey to really create alternatives that are just as effective and have the same active ingredients, which is the reason you take a medicine – acetaminophen, diphenhydramine… the reason you take Tylenol or Mucinex or Benadryl – but take out all of the dirty, inactive ingredients and replace them with organic, non-GMO alternatives. Our whole company is built around this philosophy ‘People over everything…’ That everyone deserves access to cleaner, better for you medicines. And you know, we’re thankful to all of our retail partners who are helping us bring that to everybody.

"Our whole company is built around this philosophy ‘People over everything…’ That everyone deserves access to cleaner, better for you medicines."

RW: Thank you for that. It’s a really interesting concept. When you looked or are looking at building out Genexa, do you take into consideration any specific touchpoints in the over-the-counter buying journey? What user experience components do you believe to be most critical to customer conversions and loyalty? 

 

KLM: That’s a great question. There’s really two kinds of OTC drug shoppers and all of us are those two personas depending on the situation that we’re in. There’s the emergency situation: Your child has a 103 degree fever. It’s 11pm at night. You need to go get relief for them to bring that fever down. Or you are not in a moment of crisis and are thinking about how to improve your health, be prepared and clean up your medicine cabinet or find alternative options.

 

As consumers, there’s been a clean revolution in all kinds of industries – food, beverage, beauty – to me, it’s actually the most counterintuitive thought in the world that the medicine we put into our bodies to make us feel better would be the products that are still dirty and have dirty ingredients.

 

As we think about those two personas – the emergency shopping persona versus the non-crisis but trying to prepare [persona] – there are different needs, right? If you’re in an emergency situation, [you’re] not ordering something online and waiting two days for it to [arrive]. It’s not useful, at that point. Where as.. If you’re thinking about how to live a less stressful life or help with sleep at night because of the changing of time zones, you’re more in that reactive mode. Because of that, we made a really conscious decision to be the only pharmaceutical company that sells omnichannel. We, obviously, have an in-store presence with retailers. We have a .com, we have Amazon, we’re selling through instacart. [We’ve made] a conscious decision that we never want to force a consumer to shop in a way that is not natural or useful for them, and, therefore, we had to build out sales and marketing strategies that supported that.

RW: How did you come to those realizations that it needed to be a 360 customer experience or to understand that those were the two primary personas that you were looking at? Did you do audience research?

 

KLM: Yes, we did quite a bit back in [quarter one] of last year. To give my counterparts that run sales internally at Genexa credit – they started having retailer conversations long before the marketing team did tons of audience research and segmentation and said this was the right decision: To go have those conversations. I think, originally, like any entrepreneurial culture, there’s probably a little bit of gut feeling, a lot of talking to people in aisles. Everybody on our executive team walks into retail aisles and just talks to customers – well before COVID. We don’t do that currently. And so, it starts by understanding the customer – we used research to validate that – and also find additional insights to understand how to reach them, how to add value and [to uncover] what their need states were.

 

Also read: What Is CX & Why Does It Matter

RW: How did you identify or evaluate which channels to go after first? You have DTC, big and small retailers, instacart – how did you prioritize those or even think of those when crafting omnichannel funnels? What was most important to you and your strategy?

 

KLM: It’s chicken and egg, honestly, because from my perspective, depending on who you are as a brand – that’s where I think you need to really start: Do some soul searching, figure out what is authentically you. Then use that to inform how you think about your business and where to build, invest time, money and effort first. But I think the egg side of that is – especially with more entrepreneurial startup environment – you have to get your product into people’s hands. So, really organically, our sales team went to the Erewhons and the Sprouts in LA [where it was founded] with backpacks of product… and just asked for some time with the decision-makers of those stores.

 

But I also think, coming back to the brand point, part of what makes Genexa so different is that we call ourselves the only human funnel. We are pharma with a face. Our founders phone numbers are on every single product on the box. We have Founder Fridays where our two founders actually call customers. Our customer service team are people, they’re not robots or offshore. They sit in the office with the rest of the teams. It was really important to us to make sure that, when we’re thinking about where we’re going to show up, we do that in a way that ladders back to the brand and that humanity.

RW: Is that a good example of ‘StoryDoing?’

 

KLM: Yes! My team gets tired of me saying this, but I constantly say, ‘Living out our purpose is not the job of just the marketing team.’

In order for a company to be successful – [for] a brand to be built and have long-term loyalty and really impact change in a society – every single person in the company, whether in quality or compliance or legal or sales, they need to understand what mission we’re on and they need to shape and drive their actions accordingly.

"Every single person in the company, whether in quality or compliance or legal or sales, they need to understand what mission we’re on and they need to shape and drive their actions accordingly."

RW: I agree. You think about brands people truly love – truly covet – and have an emotional connection to. Those people that have that kind of affinity, they don’t talk about it in terms of a product thing or a customer service thing or a marketing thing. It’s a brand thing and that means every touchpoint has to be right in line. You’re making a promise as a brand – you have to question if everything else is fulfilling that promise.

 

KLM: Right, [you have to consider] every interaction [a person has] with the brand: Opening the package of a medicine bottle, where [they shop for that, calling customer service or, obviously, the social impact work that we do. All of [those are] our brand touchpoints. [They’re all] opportunities for consumers to create a relationship, good or bad, with the brand. The companies that are doing it poorly are only thinking about advertising – they’re talking, they’re not walking. It’s those that are on the flipside of that – that understand that purpose has to be embedded into everything you do as a business – that are most successful.

 

Also read: Real People Told Us What They Want From Healthcare in 2021

RW: It’s that idea of authentic awareness. It’s not just about doing a mass market campaign, but doing something authentically that actually speaks to people in a way they care about. It’s not just driving eyeballs, that’s only part of it. So, you have the authentic awareness part of things, you have the culture storytelling… you obviously have a product that’s cleaner, better and healthier for people. Those are departures from other OTC brands out there, but is there anything else you’re doing that’s different from other legacy brands you’re competing against? Not that those two alone aren’t enough.

 

KLM: Yes. We’ve been working on a [longer term] impact strategy, so we’re going to have a couple of pretty significant initiatives kick off this year that are in service of driving change at a systemic level. So, with the FDA – I don’t know if you know this but Europe actually has the European standard, which is the equivalent of the FDA in Europe, and the standards that they put out are incredibly more strict than they are in the U.S. All of the ingredients that are on Genexa’s ‘X List’ – which is our growing list of ingredients that we vow never to put in our products and are in our competitor’s products – 98% of those are banned in Europe. So, it’s not even a question for European products. That really gets you thinking. How come European citizens have access to carte blanche better products than there are in the U.S? It doesn’t seem sensible. So, Genexa is really leading the charge. I don’t want to give too much away, but we’re going to be partnering with some other brands that you know and love to really drive that change at a systemic level in Washington D.C. [and with the FDA.

 

We’re also really looking at – I said the word access earlier – [increasing] knowledge. First and foremost, people don’t know that these ingredients are in their medicines. Then, [it’s about getting people] access to the actual product. We’re standing up an initiative that will help bring education and actual products to communities that otherwise don’t have access, have been forgotten about or are often overlooked because – especially with clean products – I think marketers realized a couple decades ago that they could mark those products up to be premium pricing. Genexa does not believe in [in that]. Our products are more expensive to source because they are better-for-you products – they’re not synthetically made in a lab – and so what we’ve done is kept those price points as competitive as possible. They’re never more than 15% of the leading skew. That’s really driven by this idea of ‘People over everything’. Everybody deserves knowledge and access to better products.

RW: How do you measure ‘People over everything’? You have this idea of people – it feels qualitative… super important but qualitative – but then you have to measure that somehow. How are you measuring your impact or how are you using data to measure whether you’re on the right track or not?

 

KLM: There are some really incredible brand impact partners that have built out tools to help do that. I think there’s probably a more formal way to do that, which we’re working on standing up.

 

I think informally, we do donate quite a bit of product to different organizations – new moms that don’t have health insurance… Baby2Baby does a lot of really good work with new moms. We don’t shout it off of the rooftops. We feel we’re privileged enough to be in a position where we can give the product to people [who] need it. And that’s our duty, we are fortunate to be in that position. Two years back, we actually built a clean water well in Central America because access to clean water is really the fundamental starting point for good health, or better health.So, we’ve really acted out quite a few initiatives over the past few years that we can more informally measure.

 

Also read: Why Customer Experience Can’t Be All Data-Driven

But to answer your question, there are tools that – when you design your brand impact strategy – you look at societal and cultural health and there are all these different metrics that you can measure the impact your brand is having over time to help move that needle. One of our goals over the next few years is to start getting the FDA to cross out previously approved ingredients in all medicines, [so] Genexa [is not] the only [brand] that has better ingredients. That’s a tangible measurement. If we can get five of those products removed – or however many ingredients removed – across the U.S., that’s longterm going to incrementally have an incredible impact on people’s health.

 

RW:  If you’re successful in what you’re setting out to do, that will disrupt the OTC market quite a lot. Do you feel that disruption is a prerequisite of innovation or do you think that you can innovate and do cool things that aren’t necessarily disruptive but still effective?

 

KLM: The latter. If you go back to the famous Henry Ford quote of 1920-something, when he said ‘If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.’ He wasn’t necessarily looking to disrupt horse and buggy [businesses], he was identifying an opportunity to create a better product, a better experience. [He was identifying] a need state for people. So, I think disruption is one way, but I also think consumer insight – understanding where people are and what they need most – [can be disruptive].

 

I love the Swiffer example, too. They went in people’s houses and looked at how women, primarily, homemakers were cleaning floors. One woman wet a paper towel and mopped up the coffee grounds off the floor. Again, not setting out to disrupt vacuums, but trying to define a better option. In-between the vacuum happens to be a Swiffer.

"It was really important to us to make sure that, when we’re thinking about where we’re going to show up, we do that in a way that ladders back to the brand and that humanity."

RW: I love that example. The spinbrush is another one. So, this has been a big year for everyone, obviously: 2020. But Genexa went through a rebranding, released a new line of products, launched some campaigns and even established a partnership with Nintendo. That’s a big year. What do you see as your mandate as CMO for 2021?

 

KLM: To make 2020 feel like it was just a step on the journey. This year is all about growth. Last year was about foundation and reinforcing foundational elements and starting to put the pieces in place for serious growth. Obviously, getting a presence in 40,000 doors is growth, but it was really just starting to reinforce that foundation. This year is about taking us to the next level. Ultimately, I want Genexa to be a household name. I want everybody to understand that they don’t have to settle for less than acceptable ingredients in their medicines. Then we can start thinking beyond just OTC… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

RW: We’re marketing people. It’s what we do. Thank you so much, Kelli! I love what Genexa is doing. I love your passion for it and I love the idea of really being authentic in how you’re doing your business and at scale. Genexa looks like it’s well on its way.

 

KLM: Thank you, Robert!

Want to learn more about Genexa? Visit their website and check out their latest advertising spot below.

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This Week In CX: Brands Put Humans, Connections & Post-COVID Plans First

In a week like the one we’ve all had, it’s hard to sit down and write a blog with banter and applause. In fact, many of us at Tallwave have had moments of staring at our computer screens in astonishment, disappointment, disapproval, and tears. And while we try to move forward and learn from every experience we face, we know that being sad is more than okay. It’s absolutely crucial to take breaks and allow space to breathe. To question, ponder, and search for, “What next?”

 

The fact is, something unprecedented happened to all of us – it impacted our friends, families, communities and democracy. But if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we can not stop trying to be the positive change. We can’t let divisiveness, ugliness, or hate win. We must support one another with empathy, put our fellow neighbors and citizens first, and evaluate the role we play and want to play in our ever-evolving world.

 

In honor of looking for the helpers – in this case, the people and brands who are doing some good – here are the biggest business, tech and data developments that occurred this past week and will most certainly impact how we design and deliver the customer experiences of tomorrow.

If we put humans first and work together to create positive change, we can and will prevail.

Bringg & Uber Announce Partnership to Enhance Delivery Capabilities For All

Shopping has changed immensely since the onset of COVID-19, and so have business demands on retail delivery.

 

Well, to answer the troubles and tribulations felt by many business owners who strive to deliver exceptional customer experience – which involves availability of delivery providers and proper operational engineering of delivery workflows and driver engagement (ahem, because employee experience impacts customer experience) – Bringg (a leading delivery and fulfillment cloud provider) and Uber announced their plans to join forces for one common good.

 

“The world is rapidly changing, and retailers need to adapt to meet customers where they are,” said Niko Avrutov, VP of Alliances at Bringg. “Our partnership with Uber provides retailers with more flexibility in the delivery cycle, not only ensuring that our customers get their orders when and where they want, but enables them to do so without compromising quality or profitability in the delivery cycle, which is key to an excellent customer experience and maintaining a healthy business.”

But the partnership isn’t only beneficial for the delivery cloud provider; it will enable Uber to expand its services into the retailer space, as well – and fast.

 

“The partnership between Bringg and Uber is neat,” Tallwave’s Senior Product Designer Alyssa Hayes thinks. “It demonstrates how two different companies can find opportunities and adapt their services to suit this rapidly changing landscape. By leveraging and combining their respective strengths and products offerings, they’ll be able to provide a better experience for their own customers (businesses), which in turn enables those businesses to confront the challenges of access and fulfillment for their customers.”

 

The partnership is a perfect silver lining result of the new normal we’re all living in.

 

“By not being able to go into stores as easily, as frequently, or even at all in some cases, our shopping experiences may extend across days and weeks as we now depend on the abilities and bandwidth of couriers to facilitate the hand-off from store to buyer,” explains Alyssa. “For some, this is simply a minor inconvenience of being forced to delay gratification between purchase and use. For others, it has caused significant issues in not being able to access essential and necessary items for daily living. And for businesses, this has created friction in the ability to maintain sales and get products delivered quickly and easily.”

"They'll be able to provide a better experience for their own customers (businesses), which in turn enables those businesses to confront the challenges of access and fulfillment for their customers."

The Bringg-Uber partnership will help to resolve this. According to Alyssa, strategic partnerships like this – ones that create stronger, more efficient and more flexible delivery networks – will help people get what they need, when they need it. “Think prescriptions, medical supplies, or food for those without access to their own transportation,” she says.

 

And it may even make way for people to support local businesses more. “I would love to see this as a way to potentially help people shop smaller and sustainable businesses in their community rather than leaning on Amazon as the go-to for (literally) everything.”

 

Alexa, you can take a break. We’ll order our goods elsewhere.

Also read: Solving For the Lack of Diversity in CX

Connection Still Matters. New Survey Reveals 46% of Consumers Still Want to Shop In Store

The days of in-person shopping aren’t over – or at least, consumers don’t want them to be. A new survey conducted by Raydiant found that 46% of respondents, when given a choice, would choose to shop in-store rather than online. Now, while this figure is down 9% compared to 2020, it’s vastly better than many businesses were expecting.

 

The most crucial takeaway from the survey, though, was the emphasis on a store’s in-person experience and its impact on a customer’s likelihood to return. Sixty percent of respondents said they’d abandon a retailer after a poor offline shopping experience. Conversely, 65% said they’d likely support a business both online and in-person after a good in-store experience.

 

What makes a good experience, you ask? The top five factors contributors were reportedly quality of service, variety of products, store layout and organization, health and safety procedures, and checkout efficiency.

These survey results weren’t a huge surprise to Tallwave Chief Operations Officer Ed Borromeo. “In-store and in-person experiences are still very important to overall brand experience,” he says. “While we’ll continue to see this shift to digital, I’m witnessing some of the most progressive brands – even those that started as digital-only – strongly consider and implement useful and valuable in-person experiences. In the post-pandemic world, those who can integrate health & safety into seamless in-store experience will have an advantage.”

 

The question is, as businesses attempt to return to some version of normalcy in 2021, how will they ensure the trust and safety of all shoppers who wander in, whether they’ve been vaccinated or not? Be it a phased approach, mask mandates regardless of vaccination, continued limited capacities or badges that signify vaccination, we’ll have to see. One thing is for sure: It’s no longer “Shop ‘til you drop!” It’s now “Shop ‘til you feel your health is at risk.”

"In the post-pandemic world, those who can integrate health & safety into seamless in-store experience will have an advantage.”

Scotiabank & Cineplex Join Forces to Enhance Loyalty Programs & Serve Customers Right

In more partnership news from overseas, Scotiabank and Cineplex announced their plans to collaborate on an improved loyalty program that will deliver more desirable benefits and rewards for users. Not only will points be redeemable for entertainment and dining, but members will soon be able to use them to purchase brand-name merchandise, book flexible travel, or pay off credit bills.

 

This is big news because loyalty programs are where it’s at in 2021.

 

“Consumers are increasingly looking for ways to leverage their interactions with brands,” says Tallwave’s Senior Consultant Jason Edwards. “As price variations in many markets like entertainment, travel, and retail becomes tighter, brands are looking for ways to further engage with their customers. Loyalty programs have the ability to provide a boost.”

 

But, there’s a catch.

 

“The structure of the rewards plays a very important role in the success of a program. The opportunities to ‘earn’ rewards along with the ability to ‘burn’ (redeem) earnings are key elements to creating the right loyalty program,” explains Jason.

While Scotiabank and Cineplex are certainly on a fruitful, consumer-centric path, there’s a new key element Jason says they – and any consumer brands – may want to consider incorporating into the near future.

"Consumers are increasingly looking for ways to leverage their interactions with brands"

“Now loyalty programs need to be more than simple ‘earn & burn’ opportunities for customers. There is a limit to the impact loyalty programs generally provide. In part, since customers must spend money to earn rewards, these kinds of programs often don’t provide value to occasional customers or those with lower spending habits.”

 

What does that mean brands that are wanting to improve and innovate their loyalty programs should do? Strategize through a holistic lens.

 

“Consider providing rewards earlier in the customer’s engagement,” Jason suggests. “This could include non-monetary benefits of programs, or by lowering the threshold for reward accumulation. Another way to further empower loyalty programs is to find ways to make the customer feel a part of a group. American Express’s tagline ‘Membership has its privileges’ is a good example of the thinking that brands should be invoking.”

 

Community is everything. Serving humans should be prioritized above all else. Place these values at the forefront of your strategic planning and consumers will celebrate you with their own rewards – satisfaction, loyalty, and long-term support. And, if you ever need a helping hand, Tallwave is here for you.

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Social Media Mission Statements: What Are They & How Do They Help Your Social Strategy?

Year over year we see just how important social media is. It’s where companies can find their ideal clients and customers organically learning, connecting, supporting, and sharing. That’s why brands not only need it, they need to excel at it. But most business persons working tirelessly to improve customer acquisition, engagement, and loyalty have one common question: How?!

 

While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, there is a singular pitfall that many organizations run into: They don’t spend enough time – or any time – crafting a social media mission statement that speaks to the core of what they want to achieve.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, there is a singular pitfall that many organizations run into.

What Is a Social Media Mission Statement?

Simply put, a social media mission statement is a formal declaration that summarizes your reasons, goals, and hopeful outcomes for having a social media presence. It’s a small but mighty sentence (or series of sentences) that serves to inform all your content decisions and activities, including what platforms you pour your sweat, tears, and soul time and effort into. It’s an activity that should be completed in the middle of creating your social media plan.

Where Should You Start?

Before you can develop a social media mission statement – from which you will develop your overall social media strategy – you need to figure out who you want to reach. To do that, start by answering the following questions:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What social channels is your target audience most active on and why?
  • What other channels do they follow?
  • How do they typically engage?>
  • What are they talking about amongst their peers and how do they speak? (You want to speak the same language as them!)
  • What resources are most helpful to them?
  • What problems or questions can your company help resolve?
  • What qualities do they look for in companies that they support?

One mistake that brands often make is thinking they must have a presence on every social platform that exists.

Then, you need to define how you plan to reach, relate, and speak to them. The more detailed, the better:

  • What is your voice and tone? (Note: This can vary from platform to platform as they all serve different purposes and audiences)
  • How should your content – written and visual – make your audience feel?

One mistake that brands often make is thinking they must have a presence on every social platform that exists. While that may be nice to have and something you can eventually build up to, it’s certainly not essential to start. In fact, it can be detrimental to your overall reach and impact. By determining your brand’s audience, social identity, and goals, you can narrow down the channels that will work best and ensure energy (and money) isn’t wasted developing the ones that won’t.

How to Write Your Social Media Statement

Your social mission statement should define two things: What a social presence will do for your business and what your channel will do for your audience.

 

First, what you want your audience to do on your social page. Do you want them to like and share? Comment? Buy something? Visit your blog? As with any marketing efforts, you can’t be all things to all people. The more specific you can make your answers to these questions, the more effective you’ll be.

 

Second, determine how you’ll deliver value to not just your current followers, but potential new ones. What type of content will you post? What main topics, categories or messages will your brand support? How will your strategy contribute to the overall customer experience your company wants to design? Most importantly, how does heart inform everything you do? Don’t just make social media about you. Create your overall strategy and mission with the true intention to serve humans first, and increase business needs second.

People are savvier than ever these days – they can sense dishonesty and ulterior motives. You have to say what you mean and mean what you say. To be successful, ensure everything you share and create comes from a thoughtful, authentic, and transparent place with a pure intention to help connect and serve.

 

Now you’re ready to give your social media mission statements a shot! When you feel confident in your answers for the previously listed questions, you can begin to articulate your mission for each individual channel. Here’s a model you can follow:

 

We’re on [social channel] to [summary of activity & purpose], which in turn will [how it will support your company’s goals].

 

It might read like this: 

 

“We’re on Instagram to help companies – big and small – evaluate their customer experiences, which in turn will empower them to make data- and design-driven decisions with humans at their core.”

People are savvier than ever these days – they can sense dishonesty and ulterior motives. You have to say what you mean and mean what you say.

How to Gauge Effectiveness & Performance

Your social media mission statement is not the endpoint of your social strategy, in fact, it’s far from it. It simply should provide a starting point that helps drive what and how to strategically, yet authentically, share content and build community.

 

To be sure you execute against your mission and work toward your business goals, build a comprehensive social strategy that aligns with and serves your new social media mission statement. Surf other successful channels to see what they’re posting and find ways to put your own spin on content that’s performing well. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you just have to give it a fresh coat of paint that’s unique to your brand.

 

Once strategic social posting is well under way, evaluate performance by measuring growth against previously-established key performance indicators (KPIs). There are countless social metrics to gauge your month-over-month social success. It’s crucial to decide which ones are most important to you. Do you want to increase your follower count? Post impressions? Referral web traffic? Share of voice? Clicks, likes, shares, comments, lead conversions… the metrics go on and on. The KPIs you decide are most important should directly contribute in some way to getting closer to your company’s bottom line.

Most importantly, be creative and have fun! Create content that you find inspiring, helpful and motivating.

Keep a running record of your progress and dive deep into what’s working and what’s not. Just like societal trends and expectations seem to change and evolve overnight, so do social media best practices and user behavior. Be prepared to make adjustments to your social content strategy frequently while staying committed to and aligned with your human-centric mission.

 

And most importantly, be creative and have fun! Create content that you find inspiring, helpful and motivating. If you don’t enjoy the posts you’re sharing, it’s likely no one else will either.

 

Need help identifying your ideal audience, creating customer personas, increasing your social media reach or refining your brand identity and voice? Contact us now. We’d love to help!

 

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Real People Told Us What They Want From Healthcare in 2021

Despite good intentions, healthcare has been a point of contention for those who work in it and those who receive it far before the pandemic knocked down our doors. Through numerous stakeholder interviews, we’ve seen, heard, and felt this first hand. Practitioners and patients often believe that healthcare no longer lives up to its ideals of putting and serving humans first – which is precisely the kind of business we’re in. 

 

But the question remains: What do we do and how should it change? There’s no time like the present and zero time to waste. Organizations in every marketplace, especially healthcare, must answer the call to evolve. Despite challenges, we believe the way forward is to return to serving the patient first by rethinking and redesigning experiences that can ultimately help rebuild trust.  All internal and external customer experiences must be evaluated with the organization’s core values in mind or risk being left behind as the new normal (namely Telehealth, concierge medicine and digital therapeutic offerings) stakes its claim.

“The churn and burn business of medicine is doomed to fail us all.”

Where Do We Start?

The answer to this question always lies in the same place: In the hands of the people to whom it impacts the most. 

 

So to kick-off our solution mapping journey, we asked patients and practitioners to share what pain points of the industry curtail their customer loyalty and experience the most. After just a few hours, we had hundreds of responses from both sides of the aisle, and that’s not all that surprising. Health is a crucial corner of interest for every human being (and every living thing) on this planet.

While some frustrations were unique to the individual, most were ubiquitous. Here is a summary of what we heard:

From the patient perspective: 

  • Patients don’t believe their time or business is valued
  • They consistently feel tricked and lied to for monetary gain
  • They feel judged for their appearance, sexuality, lifestyle, or lack of knowledge 
  • They feel like a means to an end when it comes to monthly quotas – not seen, heard, and appreciated as humans
  • They worry they’re misdiagnosed for time’s sake and ultimately uncared for
  • They feel overwhelmed by complexities involved in navigating health solutions and don’t know who to turn to or trust
  • They feel easily forgotten and largely unimportant 

“I feel like the healthcare system is up to me to figure out solo. For example, if I never went to a doctor again, no one would care. No one would even know.”

From the practitioner’s perspective: 

  • They feel they aren’t given enough time in the day to provide patients with the care they want to give
  • They worry the educational materials they’re provided to share with patients is too general and doesn’t actually deliver the information that’s needed
  • They feel overlooked when important organizational decisions are made that will inevitably impact the their work
  • They don’t believe enough functional and progressive options for patient communication are available
  • They don’t feel they’re given proper tools to enable and empower patients to ask the right questions in tumultuous situations
  • They believe the world quickly and technologically advanced, but the way health is provided is behind

If you look for patterns or trends in the concerns we received, you’ll notice that the challenges patients and practitioners reported circulate around the way their experiences with healthcare made or make them feel. Healthcare patients and practitioners alike are craving more connection, understanding, and transparency, and feel they’re being let down at nearly every turn. 

 

 

But does it have to stay that way? Of course it doesn’t. The healthcare industry is just suffering from a bad customer experience problem – and luckily, we can change that.

Also read: Our Unique Approach to Successful Businesses

What To Do Next

We believe that true innovation happens when you solve human needs first, business needs second, and that all experiences (which encompasses every workflow, process, and deliverable!) should be crafted with intention and care. Even though the underpinnings of the healthcare system and healthcare organizations are complex, to a patient, it’s all about their own personal end to end experience. 

 

By implementing data- and technology-driven processes that enable practitioners to meet patients where they are, you can begin to craft customer experiences internally and externally (remember, your employees are customers, too) that increase overall satisfaction and loyalty, and in turn make positive impacts to your bottom line.

Here are just a few approaches to keep in mind: 

Do Your Research

Execute in-depth market research and interviews to redefine audience personas, pain points, competitors, and growth opportunities in the given industry. Using these qualitative and quantitative insights, come up with strategies to reach your ideal demographic more often and improve retention and engagement throughout the entire patient lifecycle. Pro tip: Look to other industries for innovative ideas and solutions.

Figure Out Where You’re Falling Short

Compile data related to search results and social conversations to identify when, where, how and why your organization is showing up the way it is. Uncovering your audience’s motivations and behaviors – what matters most to them, what they actively search for, how they make key decisions – will help inform new and improved strategies to reach, acquire and engage more of your core and adjacent audiences. Let these learnings not only improve reach, but differentiate your organization’s identity, offerings, and voice. 

Discover the Root Cause

Identify communication and decision-making breakdowns that impact the customer experiences for patients and practitioners alike. Then  explore and implement solutions to mend bridges and fill those efficiency-barrier gaps. 

Strategize New Ways of Operating & What They Would Entail

Reimagine business operations through a streamlined lens exploring options for subscription models, virtual care (also known as telehealth), easy-pay and other technology-driven practices that lend to a more functional customer experience.
 

Develop & Implement New Products

Based on your previous learnings, develop and implement new telehealth offerings, scheduling apps, and A.I. tools focused on providing general health information, mental health assistance, patient-practitioner connection, and nutrition advice related to managing chronic diseases from a whole-person perspective.

Lean Into Digital Content

Ensure your website is structurally sound through a content and SEO strategy that provides cleaner data results and enables you to grow faster. This strategic planning will build on itself, reducing the need for continued high dollar investments in other channels like paid search. Pro tip: Don’t forget that the words you use and how you use them on your website impacts patient acquisition and retainment, too.
 

Evaluate Your Digital User Experiences

Evaluate and redesign external customer mobile and web experiences for easy navigation, clear communication, customized patient portals and visual differentiation and identity. Simultaneously, implement new internal data-focused dashboards to cut through bureaucracy and siloes, enable cross-functional collaboration and inform decision-making and provide real-time updates related to monthly, quarterly or yearly goals. 

Find Progressive Ways to Connect Patients & Practitioners 

Use social media and technology to increase transparency via digital events, educational seminars, interactive practitioner profiles, video live streams, 24-hour question portals, and more. 

“I want to see what kind of person you are. What are your hobbies and what makes you unique? I want to know these things so I can decide whether or not I think we are going to jive.”

Also read: How Successful Companies Adapted Their Customer Experiences When COVID Hit

The Bottom Line

Healthcare is innately and uniquely personal to each individual. From the moment each of us are born, we must interact with it in some way. But just because healthcare is organically woven into the fabric of our lives doesn’t render it safe from evolutionary needs. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Now more than ever, healthcare needs to meet humans where they are which means crafting experiences and related processes in transparent, uncomplicated and truly thoughtful ways. Doing this isn’t easy – it requires a lot of work – but the final end product drives more meaningful results for everyone and everything (including the bottom line) involved. 

 

By choosing the road less traveled to innovate and solve for the root cause, healthcare organizations will set themselves apart and ultimately contribute to enriching the lives of the patients, employees and communities they serve – just as they initially set out to do. 

 

So, are you ready to get to work? 

Be the change you want to see. Tallwave can help you reimagine the future and holistically transform. Contact us now.

 

 

*Stats pulled from a report compiled & published by Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease: Vision For a Healthier Future

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The COVID-19 Diaspora: What’s Driving City Dwellers to the Suburbs

Following decades of densification of urban living, recent data points to an outmigration of urban residents in 2020 the likes of which have never been seen (at least not in our lifetime). In a recent New York Times article, FlatRate Moving reported a 78% increase in moves from New York City to Connecticut; a 48% increase to Long Island; and 38% to New Jersey from March 15 to April 28, 2020, compared to 2019. 

 

In a pre-pandemic state, living in the city made everything wonderfully accessible. Workplaces, apartments, your social circle—and the eclectic mix of bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues where you mingled with them—were all close at hand. Add a pandemic and a shutdown to the mix, and the city suddenly doesn’t seem quite so compelling. At the time of writing, the majority of workplaces for office workers are still closed as are all those bars and restaurants. Plus, you can no longer spend time with your social circle and that apartment with no private outdoor space is making your cabin fever worse the longer you’re forced to shelter-in-place there.

 

An online Harris Poll of 2,050 U.S. adults nationwide from April 25 to 27 asked whether they would consider moving to less-populated areas once the pandemic ended.

 

  • Nearly 40% of U.S. adults living in urban areas indicated they would consider moving “out of populated areas and toward rural areas,” compared to 29% of overall respondents. 

  • Forty-three percent of urbanites – a significantly higher percentage than of suburban (26%) and rural (21%) residents – said they’d recently browsed real estate websites such as Zillow, Redfin, and Realtor.com for homes or apartments to rent or buy.
supporting data graphic

What’s enabling this trend?

If you think about it on a human level, it’s easy to understand some of the forces that are driving this flight to the suburbs. Let’s imagine for a moment you’re a Millennial couple without kids fortunate enough to hold down two safe, well-paying jobs that allow you to live in an apartment on the Upper West Side. If you further imagine you have a dog, that’s almost 30 round trips each week in a small elevator to get her outside for a walk. Whereas if you were in any number of airier, greener spaces outside the city like Maplewood, NJ, Greenwich, CT, or Westchester County, chances are you could just open your back door to let the dog out.

 

Similarly, if you’ve spent the past four-plus months working from home with no loss of productivity, how important is it to be a short 1 Line ride to your office in Bryant Park? If the plan for the future is to attend the office in person once or maybe twice a month and work from home the rest of the time, perhaps it’s fine to be an hour or so away from Grand Central on the Metro-North.

 

There are financial implications to this movement as well. In a recent study, Zillow found that homebuyers can expect to pay 26.5% of their income each month for a median-value home in a city, compared to 20.2% for a similar home in the suburbs. 

 

COVID-19 has forced us to think differently about our safety and to make changes where we can to preserve our physical and mental well being. And while the examples above focus on the Northeast, this is not a New York or even a coastal cities issue. Even in landlocked Dallas, apartment occupancies are falling in city center markets but rising rapidly in the suburbs. Suburban apartment communities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area saw a 40% rise in searches in recent months, according to a study by Apartments.com.

 

“Shelter-in-place orders have driven renters in tiny city-center apartments to wish they had more space to move around inside, a yard to play outdoors or even a quiet neighborhood in which to exercise,” said the Apartments.com analysts.

The rise of blended service models in response to this migration.

Many aspects of everyday life are predicated on the high-density lives some people are now attempting to leave behind. Significant adjustments and innovation will be required as businesses and other organizations adapt to a shrinking geographical customer base. They’ll be forced to deliver their existing service/value or new forms of service/value through new digital means that don’t rely so heavily on in-person interactions. While this investment is potentially daunting, it also poses an opportunity for businesses to reach entirely new audiences and customer bases. They’ll also be much more resilient and able to better withstand future challenges with blended service/value models.

 

Consider the rapid emergence of Telehealth. While gradually growing in acceptance before the pandemic struck, it has made remarkable progress in recent months. Philadelphia’s Jefferson Health network went from conducting a few dozen telemedicine sessions per week to scheduling 500-600 such visits per day in March, reflecting an effort by the network to move outpatient visits to virtual ones.

 

Aside from its safety benefits during a public health crisis, could telehealth be a mechanism to lower the cost of providing primary healthcare services? The potential would appear to be there. The demand is most certainly there. A survey by Sage Growth Partners and Black Book Market Research found that 25% of consumers had some experience of telehealth prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fifty-nine percent of consumers reported they are more likely to use telehealth services now than previously, while 33% would be prepared to leave their current physician for a provider who offered telehealth access.

 

Back to our fictional Millennial couple. These telehealth developments would give them the option to maintain their relationships with their primary care physicians in Manhattan even while they head to the suburbs. At the same time, providers in their new environs will be happy to welcome them to their practices which would help with advanced and critical care should specialist treatment or hospitalization be needed, for example.

59% of consumers reported they are more likely to use telehealth services now than previously

Will the shift to the suburbs be sustainable? Or will it pass when COVID is somehow controlled?

This pandemic has forced much introspection as to what really matters to us as individuals. The flight to the suburbs is a flight to quality—specifically, a flight to an enhanced quality of life. If you think back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs from your Psych 101 class, the needs at play here are what Maslow describes as ‘deficit needs,’ meaning we are only focused on them if they are absent or threatened. Serving physiological and safety needs may be what drives people out of high-density urban environments in the short term but will likely not be what keeps them in their new surroundings in the longer term. We would expect the lifestyle enhancements of having more personal space and a better environment to enable permanent work from home arrangements to be the key drivers moving forward.

 

As has been the case in earlier population migrations, it’s likely that if Millennials head for the suburbs in the coming months and years, their places in the cities will eventually be taken by members of the upcoming Generation Z once safety is no longer a primary concern.  

At Tallwave, we see the challenges facing businesses to understand and innovate around these societal changes as an opportunity. If you need help thinking through how your business should respond, give us a call. We’d welcome the chance to work with you to evolve your customer experiences to help you prosper in the new paradigm of customer care and service delivery.

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The Zoomie Awards: 2020 Winners

It’s been a few strange months of not being around each other every day, but we found a way to get around that. We wanted to create a little engagement with each other while we worked from home, so we decided to create the first ever Zoomie Awards. For these awards, we nominated our co-workers for some fun Zoom-related awards, including “Most likely to turn themselves into a potato” and “Always has the best Zoom background.”

 

Winners of each category received bragging rights and commemoration in the form of this blog post.

 

Without further ado, the winners of our first ever Zoomie Awards!

zoomie awards
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What’s in Store? The Future of Retail in a Post-COVID-19 World

The lockdown and economic fallout caused by the emergence of the novel coronavirus pandemic has had far-reaching consequences for many industries. While for some industries interruptions to consumption habits may prove to be temporary, some trends affecting the retail industry look set to become more enduring or even permanent.

COVID-19’s Early Impact on Retail

  • Discretionary spending has contracted sharply, down by almost 9% in March 2020
  • Sharply reduced demand for new apparel, footwear and accessories
  • May 2020 retail sales data for the US showed a 17.7% increase—a new record—but more time is needed to understand whether this is an anomaly reflecting consumers unleashing pent-up demand from March and April or if it’s the beginning of a new upward trend
  • eMarketer forecasts US total retail sales will fall more than 10% in 2020 and won’t return to pre-COVID-19 levels until 2022
  • eMarketer is also calling for e-commerce sales to increase by 18% this year
  • Coresight Research predicts between 20,000 and 25,000 store closures this year, of which 55% to 60% are within malls—a new record
  • The previous high was a loss of 9,300 locations in 2019 

Even before COVID-19 came along, retail has been engaged in a gradual, decades-long transformation. However, the pandemic has rapidly accelerated many of the changes that were either already happening or inevitable. Retailers must now quickly adjust and prepare for new customer experiences in a post COVID-19 world. 

The Impacts of COVID-19 on Brick & Mortar Stores

As noted above, traditional retailers were engaged in a battle for survival long before the pandemic emerged. Many vanguards of the brick-and-mortar retail world have been closing stores and shedding debt and lease obligations through bankruptcy proceedings for years. To date in 2020, we’ve seen JCPenney, Neiman Marcus,  J. Crew, Stage Stores, Pier 1 and Tuesday Morning all announce bankruptcy. Other venerable names, including Brooks Brothers, a leading force in apparel retailing for over 200 years, are said to be appointing advisors and may not be far behind.

 

Of course, bankruptcy can be an opportunity to regroup, reorganize, recapitalize and, hopefully, emerge as a more viable competitor. Many of the bankrupt retailers will return with a leaner physical footprint and fewer employees. For those who didn’t get their digital footprint and e-commerce strategy right the first time around, they’ll have a welcome chance for a reset.

 

There are other implications for the brick-and-mortar retail landscape, including issues impacting operational complexity and the supply chain as well as what to do with the overbuilt and now unneeded shopping mall space throughout America.

 

The oversupply of mall space has been worsening for decades. Changes to the US tax code enacted by Congress in 1954 encouraged mall development by permitting accelerated depreciation. As a result of this financial engineering, the growth rate of shopping malls between 1970 and 2015 in the US was twice the rate of growth of the population over the same period. In recent times, fewer shoppers were heading to malls. In the period following the financial crisis of 2007-2008, mall visits declined by 50% and have continued to fall since even as the economy rebounded.

 

Fashion and apparel retailers are now stuck with high inventories of the wrong season’s products, having been forcibly closed since the first days of Spring. This not only drives up storage costs but can also contribute to the tendency for retailers to sweep away distressed inventory through deep discounting. The problem is, when consumers become accustomed to buying at a discount they are less willing to consider paying full price again when the economy recovers, as we saw following the Great Recession twelve years ago.

The Impacts of COVID-19 on E-commerce

As destructive as the pandemic has been for traditional retailers, it’s been the opposite for e-commerce retailers. While there is a long-established trend of switching shopping habits from brick-and-mortar retailers to online stores, COVID-19 has accelerated this change considerably. In just three months, it caused movements that may have taken five years to manifest without the tailwind of a pandemic.

 

Italy, the European country with the highest number of infections and deaths from COVID-19, has seen e-commerce transactions rise 81 percent since the end of February. Across Europe, an additional 13 percent of consumers said they would browse online stores for the first time. While in China, large groups of new customers—specifically those aged 36 and above and those living in smaller, less prosperous cities— have begun shopping online in greater numbers.

 

But for all of its growth and potential, online shopping misses out on at least one aspect of in-store shopping— the impulse purchases that take place in-store. 89% of women and 78% of men report adding additional items to their cart during an in-store visit. 

How are Retailers Responding to COVID-19?

With the decline in in-store traffic, it’s no surprise most retailers have seen a corresponding dip in their sales. But there are opportunities to be found and nurtured with services such as curbside pickup and BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick up In Store).

 

These hybrid marketing approaches offer convenience to consumers by allowing same-day (often within two-hour) collection with no additional shipping or handling costs. However, they also create new challenges for retailers in the areas of labor, inventory management, software and point-of-sale systems and even parking lot space utilization. 

 

Orders placed online for collection by these methods increased by 208% in the first three weeks of April 2020 compared to the same period of 2019. They are proving to be a popular choice with consumers who may wish to continue shopping this way even when regulations can be relaxed and stores can fully reopen. It remains to be seen whether retailers will eventually try to de-emphasize these methods due to their higher costs. 

 

Many of the hundreds of thousands of new jobs created by grocery retailers in recent months have been to staff these hybrid shopping models. And while that’s a welcome storyline at a time when millions of American workers have been furloughed or displaced altogether, time will tell whether grocers will continue to bear the additional costs when other options are once again viable.

What Will the Future of Retail Look Like?

Retailers need to evolve by redefining the role of the store and integrating technology at the right points in the customer journey to streamline and improve the shopping experience. 

 

We hope to see more integration of contactless, self-serve technology that allows customers to navigate the store and find what they need as quickly and safely as possible. Already in some retail environments, such as Apple stores, customers are able to make purchases from anywhere in the store rather than gathering in a line at a register. Integrating voice assistants and mobile technologies can assist customers in achieving their goals inside the store with innovations like wayfinding—directing customers to the aisle displaying the products they’re seeking. Elevating the customer experience and improving customer service will be key.

 

The opportunity exists to better integrate the online and in-store shopping experience. For example, customers could engage with content about a styling experience or menu plan online then be able to purchase everything needed conveniently pre-packaged and ready for purchase in the store.

 

Even once COVID-19 is somehow controlled, consumers are likely to respond well to open spaces, or at the very least the feeling of openness. Store layouts need to be reworked for a better flow of customers.

 

In certain areas of retail, it’s possible we could see wider use of some of the concierge-style services luxury merchants previously reserved exclusively for their VIP customers. Personal shoppers, private or semi-private store access and other exclusive privileges could become additional, optional elements of the shopping experience.

 

At Tallwave, we see the challenges facing retailers as opportunities to reimagine a new shopping experience. If you need help thinking through the evolution of your retail operations, give us a call. We’d welcome the chance to work with you to evolve your customer experience and keep your customers coming back time and again.