Jun
01
2021
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4 proven approaches to CX strategy that make customers feel loved

Customers have been “experiencing” business since the ancient Romans browsed the Forum for produce, pottery and leather goods. But digitization has radically recalibrated the buyer-seller dynamic, fueling the rise of one of the most talked-about industry acronyms: CX (customer experience).

Part paradigm, part category and part multibillion-dollar market, CX is a broad term used across a myriad of contexts. But great CX boils down to delighting every customer on an emotional level, anytime and anywhere a business interaction takes place.

Great CX boils down to delighting every customer on an emotional level, anytime and anywhere a business interaction takes place.

Optimizing CX requires a sophisticated tool stack. Customer behavior should be tracked, their needs must be understood, and opportunities to engage proactively must be identified. Wall Street, for one, is taking note: Qualtrics, the creator of “XM” (experience management) as a category, was spun-out from SAP and IPO’d in January, and Sprinklr, a social media listening solution that has expanded into a “Digital CXM” platform, recently filed to go public.

Thinking critically about customer experience is hardly a new concept, but a few factors are spurring an inflection point in investment by enterprises and VCs.

Firstly, brands are now expected to create a consistent, cohesive experience across multiple channels, both online and offline, with an ever-increasing focus on the former. Customer experience and the digital customer experience are rapidly becoming synonymous.

The sheer volume of customer data has also reached new heights. As a McKinsey report put it, “Today, companies can regularly, lawfully, and seamlessly collect smartphone and interaction data from across their customer, financial, and operations systems, yielding deep insights about their customers … These companies can better understand their interactions with customers and even preempt problems in customer journeys. Their customers are reaping benefits: Think quick compensation for a flight delay, or outreach from an insurance company when a patient is having trouble resolving a problem.”

Moreover, the app economy continues to raise the bar on user experience, and end users have less patience than ever before. Each time Netflix displays just the right movie, Instagram recommends just the right shoes, or TikTok plays just the right dog video, people are being trained to demand just a bit more magic.

Nov
24
2020
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Adobe expands customer data platform to include B2B sales

The concept of the customer data platform (CDP) is a relatively new one. Up until now, it has focused primarily on pulling data about an individual consumer from a variety of channels into a super record, where in theory you can serve more meaningful content and deliver more customized experiences based on all this detailed knowledge. Adobe announced its intention today to create such a product for business to business (B2B) customers, a key market where this kind of data consolidation had been missing.

Indeed, Brian Glover, Adobe’s director of product marketing for Marketo Engage, who has been put in charge of this product, says that these kinds of sales are much more complex and B2B sales and marketing teams are clamoring for a CDP.

“We have spent the last couple of years integrating Marketo Engage across Adobe Experience Cloud, and now what we’re doing is building out the next generation of new and complementary B2B offerings on the Experience platform, the first of which is the B2B CDP offering,” Glover told me.

He says that they face unique challenges adapting CDP for B2B sales because they typically involve buying groups, meaning you need to customize your messages for different people depending on their role in the process.

An individual consumer usually knows what they want and you can prod them to make a decision and complete the purchase, but a B2B sale is usually longer and more complex, involving different levels of procurement. For example, in a technology sale, it may involve the CIO, a group, division or department who will be using the tech, the finance department, legal and others. There may be an RFP and the sales cycle may span months or even years.

Adobe believes this kind of sale should still be able to use the same customized messaging approach you use in an individual sale, perhaps even more so because of the inherent complexity in the process. Yet B2B marketers face the same issues as their B2C counterparts when it comes to having data spread across an organization.

“In B2B that complexity of buying groups and accounts just adds another level to the data management problem because ultimately you need to be able to connect to your customer people data, but you also need to be able to connect the account data too and be able to [bring] the two together,” Glover explained.

By building a more complete picture of each individual in the buying cycle, you can, as Glover puts it, begin to put the bread crumbs together for the entire account. He believes that a CRM isn’t built for this kind of complexity and it requires a specialty tool like a CDP built to support B2B sales and marketing.

Adobe is working with early customers on the product and expects to go into beta before the end of next month with GA some time in the first half of next year.

Sep
09
2020
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Sprinklr raises $200M on $2.7B valuation four years after last investment

Sprinklr has been busy the last few years acquiring a dozen companies, then rewriting their code base and incorporating them into the company’s customer experience platform. Today, the late-stage startup went back to the fundraising well for the first time in four years, and it was a doozy, raising $200 million on a $2.7 billion valuation.

The money came from private equity firm Hellman & Friedman, which also invested $300 million in buying back secondary shares. Meanwhile the company also announced $150 million in convertible securities from Sixth Street Growth. That’s a lot of action for a company that’s been quiet on the fundraising front for years.

Company founder and CEO Ragy Thomas says he sought the investment now because after building a customer experience platform, he was ready to accelerate and he needed the money to do it. He expects the company to hit $400 million in annual recurring revenue by year’s end and he says that he sees a much bigger opportunity on the horizon.

“We think it’s a $100 billion opportunity and our large public competitors have validated that and continue to do so in the customer experience management space,” he said. Those large competitors include Salesforce and Adobe.

He sees customer experience management as having the kind of growth that CRM has had in the past, and this money gives him more options to grow faster, while working with a big private equity firm.

“So what was appealing in this market for us was not just putting some more money in the bank and being a little more aggressive in growth, innovation, go to market and potential M&A, but what was also appealing is the opportunity to bring someone like a Hellman & Friedman to the table,” Thomas said.

The company has 1,000 clients, some spending millions of dollars a year. They currently have 1,900 employees in 25 offices around the world, and Thomas wants to add another 500 over the next 12 months — and he believes that $1 billion in ARR is a realistic goal for the company.

As he builds the company, Thomas, who is a person of color, has codified diversity and inclusion into the company’s charter, what he calls the “Sprinklr Way.” “For us, diversity and inclusion is not impossible. It is not something that you do to check a box and market yourself. It’s deep in our DNA,” he said.

Tarim Wasim a partner at investor Hellman & Friedman, sees a company with tremendous potential to lead a growing market. “Sprinklr has a unique opportunity to lead a Customer Experience Management market that’s already massive — and growing — as enterprises continue to realize the urgent need to put CXM at the heart of their digital transformation strategy,” Wasim said in a statement.

Sprinklr was founded in 2009. Before today, it last raised $105 million in 2016 led by Temasek Holdings. Past investors include Battery Ventures, ICONIQ Capital and Intel Capital.

Jul
14
2020
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New Acquia platform looks to bring together developers, marketers and data

Acquia, the commercial company built on top of the open source Drupal content management system has pushed to be more than a publishing platform in recent years, using several strategic acquisitions to move into managing customer experience, and today the company announced a new approach to developing and marketing on the Drupal Cloud.

This involves bringing together developers and marketers under the umbrella of the new Acquia Open DXP platform. This approach has two main components: “What we’ve been working on is deep integration across our suite and pulling together our new foundational Drupal Cloud offering, and our new foundational Marketing Cloud offering,” Kevin Cochrane, senior vice president of product marketing at Acquia said.

The offerings bring together a set of acquisitions the company made over the last year including Mautic for marketing automation in May 2019, Cohesion for low-code developing in September and AgileOne in December for a customer data platform (CDP).

Cochrane says that the company is leveraging these acquisitions along with tools they developed internally and the upcoming release of Drupal 9 to offer a platform approach for customers where they can build content on the Drupal Cloud side and leverage customer data on the Marketing Cloud side.

On the Drupal Cloud, the company is offering a set of tools that includes an integrated development environment (IDE) where developers can build services, while marketers get a low code offering, where they can drag and drop content and design components from a library of offerings that could come from internal sources or the open source community. It also includes other components like security and content management.

The Marketing Cloud is the data layer where companies collect and manage data about customers with the goal of offering a more personalized and meaningful experience in a digital context.

Marketing automation tooling has shifted in recent years with the goal of providing customers with a unique and meaningful experience using the vast amount of data available to build a more complete picture of the customer and give them what they need, when they need it in a digital context. This has involved building a digital experience platform (DXP) and a customer data platform (CDP).

By pulling together these different elements, Acquia is attempting to put itself in a position to compete directly with big players in this space like Adobe and Salesforce offering a similar unified approach.

Vista Equity Partners bought Acquia last September for $1 billion. At the time, company founder Dries Buytaert said one of the advantages of being part of Vista was to get the resources to compete with larger companies in this space, and today’s announcement could be seen in that light.

Jan
13
2020
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Adobe Experience Manager now offered as cloud-native SaaS application

Adobe announced today that Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) is now available as a cloud-native SaaS application. Prior to this, it was available on premises or as a managed service, but it wasn’t pure cloud-native.

Obviously being available as a cloud service makes sense for customers, and offers all of the value you would get from any cloud service. Customers can now access all of the tools in AEM without having to worry about maintaining, managing or updating it, giving the marketing team more flexibility, agility and ongoing access to the latest updates.

This value proposition did not escape Loni Stark, Adobe’s senior director of strategy and product marketing. “It creates a compelling offer for mid-size companies and enterprises that are increasingly transforming to adopt advanced digital tools but need more simplicity and flexibility to support their changing business models,” Stark said in a statement.

AEM provides a number of capabilities, including managing the customer experience in real time. Having real-time access to data means you can deliver the products, services and experiences that make sense based on what you know about the customer in any given moment.

What’s more, you can meet customers wherever they happen to be. Today, it could be the company website, mobile app or other channel. Companies need to be flexible and tailor content to the specific channel, as well as what they know about the customer.

It’s interesting to note that AEM is based on the purchase of Day Software in 2010. That company originally developed a web content management product, but over time it evolved to become Adobe Experience Manager, and has been layering on functionality to meet an experience platform’s requirements since. Today, the product includes tools for content management, asset management and digital forms.

The company made the announcement today at NRF 2020, a huge retail conference taking place in New York City this week.

Dec
13
2019
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Adobe turns it up to 11, surpassing $11B in revenue

Yesterday, Adobe submitted its quarterly earnings report — and the results were quite good. The company generated a tad under $3 billion for the quarter, at $2.99 billion, and reported that revenue exceeded $11 billion for FY 2019, its highest-ever mark.

“Fiscal 2019 was a phenomenal year for Adobe as we exceeded $11 billion in revenue, a significant milestone for the company. Our record revenue and EPS performance in 2019 makes us one of the largest, most diversified, and profitable software companies in the world. Total Adobe revenue was $11.17 billion in FY 2019, which represents 24% annual growth,” Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen told analysts and reporters in his company’s post-earnings call.

Adobe made a couple of key M&A moves this year that appear to be paying off, including nabbing Magento in May for $1.7 billion and Marketo in September for $4.75 billion. Both companies fit inside its “Digital Experience” revenue bucket. In its most recent quarter, Adobe’s Digital Experience segment generated $859 million in revenue, compared with $821 million in the sequentially previous quarter.

Obviously buying two significant companies this year helped push those numbers, something CFO John Murphy acknowledged in the call:

Key Q4 highlights include strong year-over-year growth in our Content and Commerce solutions led by Adobe Experience Manager and success with cross-selling and up-selling Magento; Adoption of Adobe Experience Platform, Audience Manager and Real-Time CDP in our Data & Insights solutions; and momentum in our Marketo business, including in the mid-market segment, which helped fuel growth in our Customer Journey Management solutions.

All of that added up to growth across the Digital Experience category.

But Adobe didn’t simply buy its way to new market share. The company also continued to build a suite of products in-house to help grow new revenue from the enterprise side of its business.

“We’re rapidly evolving our CXM product strategy to deliver generational technology platforms, launch innovative new services and introduce enhancements to our market-leading applications. Adobe Experience Platform is the industry’s first purpose-built CXM platform. With real-time customer profiles, continuous intelligence and an open and extensible architecture, Adobe Experience Platform makes delivering personalized customer experiences at scale a reality,” Narayan said.

Of course, the enterprise is just part of it. Adobe’s creative tools remain its bread and butter, with the creative tools accounting for $1.74 billion in revenue and Document Cloud adding another $339 million this quarter.

The company is talking confidently about 2020, as its recent acquisitions mature and become a bigger part of the company’s digital experience offerings. But Narayan feels good about the performance this year in digital experience: “When I take a step back and look at what’s happened during the year, I feel really good about the amount of innovation that’s happening. And the second thing I feel really good about is the alignment across Magento, Marketo and just call it the core DX business in terms of having a more unified and aligned go-to-market, which has not only helped our results, but it’s also helped the operating expense associated with that business,” he said.

It is no small feat for any software company to surpass $11 billion in trailing revenue. Consider that Adobe, which was founded in 1982, goes back to the earliest days of desktop PC software in the 1980s. Yet it has managed to transform into a massive cloud services company over the last five years under Narayan’s leadership.

Aug
05
2019
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Segment CEO Peter Reinhardt is coming to TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise to discuss customer experience management

There are few topics as hot right now in the enterprise as customer experience management, that ability to collect detailed data about your customers, then deliver customized experiences based on what you have learned about them. To help understand the challenges companies face building this kind of experience, we are bringing Segment CEO Peter Reinhardt to TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise on September 5 in San Francisco (p.s. early-bird sales end this Friday, August 9).

At the root of customer experience management is data — tons and tons of data. It may come from the customer journey through a website or app, basic information you know about the customer or the customer’s transaction history. It’s hundreds of signals and collecting that data in order to build the experience where Reinhardt’s company comes in.

Segment wants to provide the infrastructure to collect and understand all of that data. Once you have that in place, you can build data models and then develop applications that make use of the data to drive a better experience.

Reinhardt, and a panel that includes Qualtrics’ Julie Larson-Green and Adobe’s Amit Ahuja, will discuss with TechCrunch editors the difficulties companies face collecting all of that data to build a picture of the customer, then using it to deliver more meaningful experiences for them. See the full agenda here.

Segment was born in the proverbial dorm room at MIT when Reinhardt and his co-founders were students there. They have raised more than $280 million since inception. Customers include Atlassian, Bonobos, Instacart, Levis and Intuit .

Early-bird tickets to see Peter and our lineup of enterprise influencers at TC Sessions: Enterprise are on sale for just $249 when you book here; but hurry, prices go up by $100 after this Friday!

Are you an early-stage startup in the enterprise-tech space? Book a demo table for $2,000 and get in front of TechCrunch editors and future customers/investors. Each demo table comes with four tickets to enjoy the show.

Mar
26
2019
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Adobe announces two new analytics tools to help marketers fill in the customer picture

Today at Adobe Summit in Las Vegas, Adobe announced some enhancements to its Analytics Suite that are supposed to help marketers understand their customers more deeply, including a new tool to track the entire customer journey, and one to help see the relationship between advertising and marketing success, which is surprisingly harder than you would think to understand.

The first is called Journey IQ, and as the name suggests, the idea is to provide a better understanding of the entire customer journey. That in itself isn’t new. It’s a task that marketing analytics vendors have been trying to solve for more than 10 years.

John Bates, director of product marketing for Adobe Analytics, says that understanding the customer journey can help focus marketing efforts in the future, and this tool is designed to help. “It’s really focused on helping find a complete view of a past experience and helping separate those good experiences or moments from the bad,” he explained.

Adobe wants to provide actionable data and analysis to help users understand what happened as their customers engaged with their site, in order to provide better experiences in the future. For marketing vendors, it’s always about the experience and the more data focused on understanding that experience, the more vendors believe their customers will have greater success.

This solution involves looking at elements like churn analysis, time-lapsed analysis to follow the journey step by step and look-back and look-forward kinds of analytics, all with a goal of giving marketers as much information as they can to turn that visit into positive action in the future. For marketers, that means you end the journey next time by buying (more) stuff.

The second piece, called Advertising Analytics, is a new integration with Adobe Advertising Cloud, which allows marketers to see the connection between their advertising and the success of their marketing campaigns. Given the insight digital advertising is supposed to provide marketers about the ads they are serving, you would think they would be getting that already, but advertising and marketing often operate in technology silos making it hard to put the data together to see the big picture.

Adobe wants to help marketers see the connections between the ads they are serving customers and the actions the customers take when they come to the company website. It can help give insight and understanding into how effectively your advertising strategy is translating into consumer action.

Taken together, these two analytics tools are designed to help marketers understand how and why the customer came to the site, what actions they took when they got there and give deeper insight into why they took an action or not.

In a world where it’s all about building positive customer experiences with the goal of driving more sales and more satisfied customers, understanding these kinds of relationships can be crucial, but keep in mind it’s challenging to understand all of this as it’s happening, even with tools like these.

Nov
12
2018
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Analysts weighing in on $8B SAP-Qualtrics deal don’t see a game changer

SAP CEO Bill McDermott was jacked up today about his company’s $8 billion Qualtrics acquisition over the weekend. You would expect no less for such a big deal. McDermott believes the data Qualtrics provides could bridge the gap between his company’s operational data and customer, data wherever that resides.

The idea behind Qualtrics is to understand customer sentiment as it happens. McDermott sees this as a key piece to the company’s customer management puzzle, one that could propel it into being not only a big player in customer experience, but also drive the company’s underlying cloud business. That’s because it provides a means of constant feedback from the customer, one that is hard to ascertain otherwise.

In that context, he saw the deal as transformative. “By combining this experience data with operations, we can combine this through Qualtrics and SAP in a way that the world has never done before, and I fundamentally believe it will change this world as we know it today,” McDermott told TechCrunch on Monday.

Others who follow the industry closely were not so convinced. While they liked the deal and saw the potential of combining these types of data, it might not be the game changer that McDermott is hoping for after spending his company’s $8 billion.

Paul Greenberg, who is managing principal at The 56 Group and author of the seminal CRM book, CRM at the Speed of Light, says it’s definitely a big acquisition for the company, but he says it takes more than an acquisition or two to challenge the market leaders. “This will be a beneficial acquisition for SAP’s desire to continue to pivot the company to the customer-facing side, but it isn’t a decisive one by any means,” Greenberg told TechCrunch.

Customer experience is a broad term that involves understanding your customer at a granular level, anticipating what they want, understanding who they are, what they have bought and what they are looking for right now. These are harder problems to solve than you might imagine, especially since they involve gathering data across systems from a variety of vendors that deal with different pieces of the puzzle.

Companies like Adobe and Salesforce have made this their primary business focus. SAP is at its heart an ERP company, which gathers data by managing key internal operational systems like finance, procurement and HR.

Tony Byrne, founder and principal analyst at Real Story Group, says he likes what Qualtrics brings to SAP, but he is not sure it’s quite as big a deal as McDermott suggests. “Qualtrics enables you to do more sophisticated forms of research which marketers certainly want, but the double benefit is that — unlike SurveyMonkey and others — Qualtrics has experience on the digital workplace side, which could complement some of SAP’s HR tooling.” But he adds that it’s not really the central CEM piece, and that his company’s research has found that SAP still has holes, particularly when it comes to marketing tools and technologies (MarTech).

Brent Leary, who is founder at CRM Essentials, agrees that SAP got a nice company, especially when combined with the $2.4 billion CallidusCloud purchase from earlier this year, but it has a ways to go to catch up with Salesforce and Adobe. “Qualtrics does provide a more broad perspective of customers because of operational data from back and front office systems. The Callidus acquisition helps to turn insights into certain B2B-focused customer experiences. But I think more pieces may be needed in terms of B2C experience creation tools that companies like Adobe and Salesforce are focusing on with the marketing/experience clouds,” he explained.

Whether this is an actual game changer as McDermott suggested remains to be seen, but the industry experts we spoke to believe it will be more of an incremental piece that helps move the company’s customer experience initiative forward. If they’re right, McDermott might not be finished shopping just yet.

Sep
25
2018
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Salesforce wants to end customer service frustration with Customer 360

How many times have you called into a company, answered a bunch of preliminary questions about the purpose of your call, then found that those answers didn’t make their way to the CSR who ultimately took your call.

This usually is because System A can’t talk to System B and it’s frustrating for the caller, who is already angry about having to repeat the same information again. Salesforce wants to help bring an end to that problem with their new Customer 360 product announced today at Dreamforce, the company’s customer conference taking place this week in San Francisco.

What’s interesting about Customer 360 from a product development perspective is that Salesforce took the technology from the $6.5 billion Mulesoft acquisition, and didn’t just turn that into a product, it also used the same technology internally to pull the various pieces together into a more unified view of the Salesforce product family. This should in theory allow the customer service representative talking to you on the phone to get the total picture of your interactions with the company, thereby reducing that need to repeat yourself because the information wasn’t passed on.

Screenshot: Salesforce

The idea here is to bring all of the different products — sales, service, community, commerce and marketing — into a single unified view of the customer. And they allow you to do this without actually writing any code, according to the company.

Adding a data source to Customer 360 Gif: Salesforce

This allows anyone who interacts with the customer to see the whole picture, a process that has eluded many companies and upset many customers. The customer record in Salesforce CRM is only part of the story, as is the marketing pitches and the ecommerce records. It all comes together to tell a story about that customer, but if the data is often trapped in silos, nobody can see that. That’s what Customer 360 is supposed to solve.

While Bret Taylor, Salesforce’s president and chief product officer says there were ways to make this happen before in Salesforce, they have never offered a product that does so in such a direct way. He says that the big brands like Apple, Amazon and Google have changed expectations in terms of how we presume to be treated when we connect with a brand. Customer 360 is focused on helping companies achieve that expectation level.

“Now, when people don’t get that experience, where the company that you’re interacting with doesn’t know who you are, it’s gone from a pleasant experience to an expectation, and that’s what we hear time and time again from our customers. And that’s why we’re so focused on integration, that single view of the customer is the ultimate value proposition of these experiences,” Taylor explained.

This product is aimed at the Salesforce admins who have been responsible in the past for configuring and customizing Salesforce products for the unique needs of each department or overall organization. They can configure the Customer 360 to pull data from Salesforce and other products too.

Customer 360 is being piloted in North America right now and should GA some time next year.

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