Tackling the digital transformation

Although we haven’t met face to face with Esteban Contreras, Director of Strategy at Sprinklr and former social media marketing manager at Samsung USA, we have had the opportunity to digitally share our thoughts with him about the ultimate challenge, how enterprises can successfully face the digital transformation. It has been really edifying to hear his opinion on this evolutive process and its effects on different business fields. As part of the Social & Connected Business division of everis, we are looking forward to meeting Contreras the next time he comes to Spain or we travel to Vancouver (his home) or NYC (where Sprinklr is headquartered).

 According to your experience at Samsung and your wide experience in the marketing and digital fields, we would like to know your opinion about the best ways to approach customers during this social and digital transformation era?

Technology has converged with every business unit: from sales, to human resources, to logistics. From a marketing perspective, technology is allowing brands to do things that they were not able to do before, which is exciting. And there are people around the world who are moving from never having a landline telephone to directly using WhatsApp for text messaging. In Hong Kong, there are people using FireChat to send private messages and using Bluetooth instead of an Internet connection. We are seeing a major shift in how people communicate globally, and brands are supposed to communicate with these consumers and change what they’ve been doing for years in a seamless way. But they must do so without over-communicating and risking alienating extremely informed and highly engaged customers, and instead providing value with targeted, well-timed content and marketing that improves the brand experience at every touch point. That is a radical change from both a marketing perspective and from a customer care perspective, and companies are having to find ways to catch up with consumers.

Could you give us an example of the complex interactions between companies and their customer?

If someone has a problem with their smartphone, they now have several touch points to reach the company. In the past, customers sent a letter, called by phone, or sent an email. Today, a customer can visit the company’s Facebook page, Instagram profile, Twitter feed, and retail store to voice their concerns—the touch points are complex and constantly changing. It is increasingly challenging for a company to be able to build a consistent, integrated experience, because even though a customer is a single person, there are 20, 30 or 40 profiles of that person in company’s systems, from marketing databases to customer care files, to public relations contact lists and more. But the customer doesn’t want to explain the same issue several times at each touch point, and that is why all touch points must be integrated to provide one complete voice of the customer.

In your opinion, are companies successfully tackling the challenges of the digital era?

I think there are leaders in each industry. From a marketing perspective, companies leading in digital innovation will benefit in the long term. Take banking, for example. In the U.S., we see a lot of banking institutions evolving, not only in the back-office but also in the front-office. They understand that if they don’t continue to evolve digitally and socially, they will miss the next wave of financial innovation. As we see advancements like Bitcoin — just as we heard about PayPal separating from eBay — and as we’re introduced to new forms of processing payments, like Stripe, digital innovations in the financial services industry will continue to disrupt the way global organizations due business and create risks that will make digital and social innovation indispensable.

For me, the ultimate goal is to transform how a global enterprise does business by providing them with social media management technology to break down silos and inspire collaboration across departments to deliver the ultimate in customer experience.

What are the clients asking for, what are the trends, hot topics, and challenges that Sprinklr is facing?

Our clients want to understand their customers across a variety of different internal databases, social media networks, and touch points, measure the success of their marketing, public relations, and customer care efforts — especially at the C-level — and optimize in real time, so we’re providing them with a fully-integrated social media management platform so they can stay ahead of the curve, anticipate trends, and be prepared to react effectively.

The concept of real time marketing is also a hot topic, as brands are still trying to find the best ways to plan, create and manage assets, and gain internal approvals across silos.

There are many companies that still think that technology is on one side and customers experience is on the other side. What’s your opinion about this attitude?

I think that most companies would agree that the customer experience is important. But the problem is, as you said, that technology is often seen as a complex piece of the puzzle. If a company wants to know how to invest in customer experience, they need to understand not only how consumers are behaving in real time, but also how to converge strategy, resources, processes and technologies in one place. Customer experience and technology must be deeply integrated, not only in theory but also in practice. As we’ve seen, technology has multiple layers in the customer experience. So to ignore technology is basically to ignore the customer.

The future that we envision is a connected environment, with more devices and people behaving in a different way. Do you think marketing people have to transform their behavior and develop new business models? 

Right now, most companies are not using technology to make sense of the world. I think the main challenge for brands is to be able to give context to ‘big data’, meaning that companies should be slicing big data into smaller pieces and analyzing it. That’s going to help us understand not only groups of people, but also individuals. Some say that by 2020, most of the world might own some version of a smart device. This begs the question: What are we going to do with all of this powerful data?

Sprinklr is one example of a complete social media management technology that truly allows brands to understand their individual customers by creating universal profiles. Many of our clients are early adopters looking to understand the true customer voice and experience, and they are experimenting with new approaches. I think marketing personalization is going to be a hot topic in the next few years, and it is imperative that such personalization be relevant, timely, utilitarian – not creepy or intrusive. The big question is which brands are going to make sense of all of that data, in order to provide context and create meaningful experiences based on a clear understanding of the data.

What could marketers do with Millennials or the “skip” generation, by this we mean people who have a really high consumption of digital content, but are used to skipping online advertising? What are the trends in this area?

The Millennial generation is complex, and they’re making a big impact on the way marketers do business. Edward Snowden is a Millennial. So is Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg. Millennials are the first generation to have grown up with the Internet, video games, and total mobile connectivity. Everybody is a source of entertainment — images on Instagram, videos on Vine and Snapchat, and posts on Tumblr are the typical ways in which Millennials absorb entertainment and content – sometimes much more than what we now see as traditional media. I can watch my favorite football or soccer team online – while discussing it with friends – instead of having to go to the stadium, and that affects the soccer league, the sponsors, the media providers, the people recording, the photographers, and the journalists. This generation seems to want to be captivated all the time; the Internet has made it possible for us to be learning all the time, communicating all the time; being entertained all time. It’s difficult to reach that market and cut through the noise, which means brands have a big challenge: figuring out how to engage with this demographic amidst an ongoing influx of information.

What is your opinion about the collaborative economy and the new business models? As you know in Europe we have some problems related to Uber and AirBnB business models and we are interested in your point of view about these issues.

The collaborative economy is a macro trend that cannot be ignored. While some people call it the “sharing economy,” I like to call it the “all things crowd”. I link this phenomenon to a new generation that started things like open source technology, projects like Wikipedia, and crowd funding. This collaborative economy allows people providing services and underutilized resources to connect with the public, creating an interesting problem for certain industries. For example, the travel and hospitality industries worldwide have been affected by once-small, disruptive startups in California: Uber and Airbnb. Why? These companies are transforming entire industries around the world by providing better, more personalized experiences to their customers. It’s a new way of doing business and no company can afford to ignore this trend.

The business problem is that many companies have been resting on their laurels and clinging to old business models, instead of ensuring that they are providing the best experiences for their customers. A company in the hotel industry could have created something like Airbnb, but it would have been difficult to build within the established system. Instead, Airbnb said, “Let’s create a company that improves the hotel experience.” This is a good lesson for every other industry: There will always be a small startup trying to disrupt what has been there for a long time.

We’d like to know some examples of traditional companies that are doing the right things in the digital environment, companies that are developing top-notch models of engagement with their customers and developing disruptive capabilities in customer care.

The first company that comes to mind is Nike (full disclosure: they are a Sprinklr client and these comments are reflective of my personal opinion and not Sprinklr’s). In a largely traditional industry, Nike is home to some of the world’s smartest and most creative marketers. The retail giant makes great use of customer data and they understand current trends in order to develop new ones. Nike conceives fashion trends and sets marketing and advertising trends that everyone follows because their marketing team invests in the right technology to provide the best possible customer experience.

Personally, Nike is one of the few consumer brands with which I have constant interaction. I have three Nike mobile applications on my smartphone and I use at least one of them every day. There are very few companies that can get to that level of engagement with their customers without really having to put forth effort, beyond the creation and maintenance of an application. In many ways, Nike is thinking and behaving like a startup. The brand understands that their customers want marketing to evolve to serve their needs and to be relevant beyond a 30-second spot and the most recent real-time marketing program. In my opinion, more than anything, Nike is thinking the way human beings think. Every company needs to be contextually relevant – and that goes beyond advertising, beyond technology; it’s about having empathy for your customers and genuinely caring about them.

About Esteban Contreras, Director of Strategy, Sprinklr

As a director of strategy at Sprinklr, Esteban leads the strategy and management of new product initiatives and services for several Fortune 500 clients. Prior to joining Sprinklr, Esteban led social media brand marketing, emerging technologies, digital communities, and emerging event activations for Samsung in North America. At Amdocs, Inc., Esteban was a technology and strategy consultant working with brands like AT&T, DIRECTV, Comcast, and Verizon. With over a decade of experience at the convergence of technology and marketing, author of “Social State” and the founder of Social Nerdia Consulting, Esteban also serves as an advisor to tech startups. Esteban’s work has been covered by The New York Times, The Next Web, CNN, and TechCrunch, and he has presented at global industry conferences, including SXSW, CES, BlogWorld, and LeWeb. Originally from Guatemala City, Esteban lived in Dallas, Texas, and New York City before moving to Vancouver, British Columbia where he now resides with his wife and their two dachshunds. Follow Esteban @socialnerdia.

About Sprinklr

Sprinklr is the most complete enterprise social media management technology in the world, purpose-built for large companies to drive business outcomes and manage customer experiences across all touch points. Called “the most powerful technology in the market” by Forrester Research, Sprinklr’s fully integrated social media management software powers more than four billion social connections across 77 countries. Headquartered in New York City with more than 550 employees globally, Sprinklr is revolutionizing customer engagement for more than 675 top enterprise brands, including IHG, Intel, Microsoft, Samsung, and Virgin America. For more information, visit sprinklr.com or tweet us @sprinklr.

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