During good times, relevance has been a hallmark of quality marketing and customer experience. In the crazy year that has been 2020, it has taken on even more importance.
The four-hour Relevance 360 virtual event, presented by artificial intelligence (AI) search and recommendation engine Coveo, highlighted the importance of remaining relevant to customers in good times and bad.
Coveo CEO Louis Têtu kicked off the event by remarking that “relevance begins and ends with the ability to engage people,” adding later that “marketing is the art of engagement.”
He then interviewed Netflix CMO Bozoma Saint John, who has spent her career revolutionizing big brands like Apple, Uber, and Pepsi. Several attendees noted that Saint John epitomizes relevance both with her personal brand and the major brands for which she’s worked, making her an ideal choice for the morning keynote session.
Saint John warned viewers not to look too far ahead into the future, insisting that “understanding what’s happening right now helps us prepare for what’s to come.” She also shared a message of unity during a tumultuous time in the world, saying that “regardless of all the labels that are put on us, there is connectivity among people.”
And in a message that particularly resonated during Election Week in the United States, Saint John encouraged the audience to seek out differing opinions.
“If we are surrounded by folks that say what we say or feel what we feel, then we won’t innovate,” she said. Têtu added: “You never find innovation with homogeneity.”
Speaking of the COVID-19 pandemic, Têtu said that it didn’t change the course of customer experience that was already in motion, it simply accelerated everything. Saint John agreed, adding that speed and agility have been critical for companies responding to a new way of doing business.
“We used to think that we had time,” she said. “But that is not the case anymore. We cannot wait. So being nimble is extremely important.” She later added: “Innovation is going to be key to the survival of any business.”
Coveo then offered four breakout sessions covering ecommerce, customer service, human resources, and search.
In a session entitled “Create Customers for Life with Relevant Service Experiences,” Ansa Sekharan, Chief Customer Officer of enterprise cloud data management platform Informatica, noted the importance of customers seeing value in doing business with a company.
The key, he said, is to help each new customer avoid buyer’s remorse and immediately believe that “you have made the right decision to invest in us.”
At the “Reinvent your Commerce Strategy with AI to Engage and Convert” session, Artie Sharpe of jewelry company Hearts On Fire, noted that his company is modeling its digital experience off of the physical experience, using AI to enhance it. This is particularly relevant today given how many customers have missed in-person experiences due to COVID-19.
AI has helped Hearts on Fire formulate user data into a story, and machine learning has generated half of the search-result clicks on the website. By focusing on the digital customer experience, the company was able to increase time on site and ecommerce revenue, reduce bounce rates, and perhaps most importantly, reduce customer service calls because users are able to find what they are looking for on the site.
Speaking of finding things, Humana’s digital channels director Bruce Buttles noted that the health insurer redeployed its provider and pharmacy finder into a COVID-19 test site finder for its members. He referred to Humana’s way of working during the pandemic as “hyper-agile” in a session entitled, “Digital Is Redefining Your Competition.”
Finally, in the “The Future of Work: Empower Employees to Drive Innovation” session, Adobe’s Senior Product Manage Rosanna Stevens explained that the company has developed an employee knowledge management system that has the ability to generate content “just in time” instead of “just in case” – in other words, it is created in real-time as someone types in a question.
After a series of Coveo product-related breakouts, Interim CMO Candice Faktor introduced marketing guru Seth Godin, someone who has remained relevant in the business world for more than two decades.
The entrepreneur and bestselling author noted that relevance is everywhere in the customer experience, and it is expected both in digital and in-person experiences.
“People don’t want to get email, they want to get ‘me-mail,’” he said, adding that customer experience has “spoiled” customers in a “permanent” way.
When the topic turned to Amazon’s experience leadership, Godin pointed out Walmart’s concurrent success.
The secret, he said, is the recognition that “you can’t out-Amazon Amazon.” The giant retailer is the best at what it does, but other companies big and small can succeed by being the best at something else.
Godin added that it is way cheaper to make a product or service that is high quality the first time than it is to fix it later.
“If you exceed expectations, people will talk about you and stick with your brand,” he said.
Indeed, remarkable customer experiences often lead to word-of-mouth marketing.