Smart Focus: Jess Stephens Chief Marketing Officer
WHAT DOES YOUR COMPANY DO?
SmartFocus is a personalised marketing cloud that covers contextual marketing from top of funnel acquisition right through to retention marketing and content for retention marketing.WHAT IS YOUR USP?
It revolves around three things: content, context and crowds. More than any other vendor in the marketing cloud space, we are committed to those three things. In terms of crowds, we enable our customers to access new customers, so they advertise to customers who are more likely to purchase your product and more likely to book your services. We do that through the power of data, managed in real time.
We contextually advertise to anonymous users based on lookalike attributes and on what we understand about them. We acknowledge that in a multichannel, connected world, more content is needed for marketing moments that convert. We provide this through content curation, content management and user generated content (UGC).
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE VISION THAT YOUR COMPANY HAS FOR THIS AREA FOR THE FUTURE?
For the last decade, brands have been focused on channel, rather than customer. We’re finding that some of the more advanced companies are moving beyond a siloed approach in order to create customer-centric organisations. Staff look after new and returning customers, so that whether they are coming into store today, or interacting through live chat tomorrow, they always get the same experience.
There’s a lot of talk about how you provide that, but it comes from one source – from structuring your company in that way. Most notably House of Fraser and John Lewis have changed their marketing organisation to be less channel-siloed and much more cross-channel, and therefore customer-focused in its approach.
That’s true for us too. We have one solution to create all marketing output, and trigger all of those contextual moments. That means it doesn’t matter what channel the customer interacts with: what they see is based on their behaviour in real time.WHAT NEW FUNCTIONALITY DOES THE LATEST VERSION OF YOUR SOFTWARE GIVE TO RETAILERS?
For a while now we’ve had a Smart Content product, around sourcing content and enabling the marketer to use it within the platform. We also have a retargeting tool that enables marketers to contextually advertise to new customers. In the next update, we are combining those two products.
Let’s say you are an automotive brand, you’re suddenly in someone’s Facebook feed with a photo that someone has taken on their phone with the brand of their car in it. Because that looks like it fits much more into the rest of the timeline, it’s going to get higher engagement. The stats say customers trust user-generated content 80% more than brand-created content. We’ve been increasing engagement in social ads by a factor of two, three and sometimes four when UGC is used at scale. Where brands were able to do five or 10 campaigns a month they can now do hundreds, all massively populated for them – and that encourages conversion.
HOW DOES THIS COMPARE TO WHAT YOUR COMPETITORS
We’re the only marketing cloud that combines UGC and social advertising. We’re also the only vendor able to deliver content creation for social, and across all digital channels because of our commitment to cross-channel. Let’s say a holiday company wants to create a series of images of people on beautiful beaches. Our system uses deep-learning algorithms to find beach images, or, very simply, looks for a hashtag. Then that content can be distributed to any kind of digital channel, from email to mobile, in-store displays and websites. It’s that commitment to content across channels that really separates us out from the rest.
WHO ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS?
We have House of Fraser, T.O by Lipton, Nestlé, Levi’s, Waterstones, TM Lewin, Heals, Age UK, Hobbycraft, Majestic Wines. Large retailers make up 58% of our customer base.
IS LIFE GETTING EASIER OR HARDER FOR MARKETERS?
I think we’ve gone through a step change when it comes to marketing. We did a study that asked for marketers’ pain points. Unsurprisingly the number one pain point that every single marketer came back to was data, and their access to it. I think the most sophisticated marketing clouds now give access to that data – we’re entering into a golden age where the question is about what you want to do with it, and what problems you want to solve with it. That’s going to change on a case-by-case basis for all marketers.
What I’ve noticed in this golden age of data and marketing technology is that things are now resource-light, but the output you get is very much greater. Personalisation means it should take less time to send out a batch and blast email. Understanding data and acting on it should take less time than just looking at your data as a whole.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS CHALLENGES IN THE COMING YEAR AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO MEET THOSE CHALLENGES?
I think the challenge is also a huge opportunity, this idea of the proliferation of content, and how marketers can both leverage that while dealing with the fact that customers are potentially seeing so much content from competitors.
The area of our business that drives the biggest value for our customers is our world-class data product, built out of Seattle by ex-Amazon and Microsoft engineers. It’s from this data platform that we’re able to deliver real-time moments regardless of context, content or crowds. The challenge, as companies require more and more data, is how they are able to access that in a meaningful way. Rather than pushing companies to this single customer view, we try and encourage a first step with the single marketer view, so that you can see every touchpoint your customer has interacted with, every ad they may have been exposed to, and every offer they interacted with. Being in possession of that information is a source of constantly changing energy, leaving the machine to do the work and find the next best content to provide to that customer. The challenge is about the influx of data – the ability to stay on top of it and make the most of it and deliver the best possible outcome. Then, coming back to content, being able to use your own brand content as well as UGC for your own purposes. We live in a world now where content is currency. We, if you like, provide a bank for our customers to put their input into and withdraw output.