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Modern Customer Experience 2019: An encounter with the future of CX

June 06, 2019

World’s cutting-edge digital marketing solutions descend on Las Vegas

For three days from March 19 to 21, the Modern Customer Experience 2019 (MCX) (presented by Oracle) was held at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. The biggest CX event featured 62 company exhibits and 323 sessions by 424 speakers, and attracted more than 4,000 marketing, sales, and service professionals from 37 countries around the globe. The event was a showcase of the future B2B marketing trends.

The Markie Awards was also held on the second night of the event. Hopes were high for NEC, nominated for the third consecutive year, to bring home Japan’s first Markie Awards trophy.

Mandalay Bay (pictured on the right)

Applying CX to the entire business process

Inside the always-packed MCX venue

This year, the MCX was held jointly with Modern Business Experience (MBX), an event focusing on business systems, such as supply chain management (SCM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), and human resources (HR). Oracle CEO Mark Hurd, in his keynote speech, talked about the integration of marketing and sales processes and the automation of the entire series of processes, the redesigning of organizations from the CAPEX and OPEX perspective, and the adoption of better strategies using more efficient and globally optimized models. He emphasized the need for across-the-board consistency between business and marketing from the experience standpoint. According to Sirius Decisions, only 14% of B2B organizations have established plans that connect products, marketing, and sales.(*)

This year’s keyword: “hyper-personalization”

“According to Google’s research, an increase of only 1 second in loading time of mobile web pages results in 20% decrease in conversion rate. This means that for every second lost by the customer, businesses lose one out of five potential customers,” explained Oracle’s Executive Vice President Rob Tarkoff. Indeed, “time is money.”

Response must not only be quick, but response time must also be optimized for all phases. This points to the need for visualizing situations in real time, and shifting from the conventional classification of customers by segment into personalization in the true sense, where customers are handled 1-to-1. Since the personalization thus far widely used in the marketing world was at most based on customer segmentation level, there was a need to come up with a new term to distinguish from conventional personalization, by adding the prefix “hyper.”

Oracle EVP Rob Tarkoff

In response, Jennifer Storms, CMO & Executive Vice President of NBC, whose customers are almost the entire American population, said in regard to personalization that they have consolidated scattered data within the company, built a DMP from DWH, and implemented data-driven marketing. NBC made good use of their media channels covering 93% of the American population (2 broadcast stations, 14 cable TV channels, and 50 websites) to personalize contents tailored to each of their customers.

Hyper-personalization was a common theme throughout all events, and in some sessions was termed “B2Me,” in reference to B2C and B2B.

“CX Hero Hub”: Humans play the lead role

Representing Japan at the CX Hero Hub were Masaaki Takayama from Saison Information Systems and the author.

This year, too, the CX Hero Hub was open for the entire duration of the event. As its name suggests, the place was a venue for CX heroes to come together. The CX Hero Hub was not open to everyone but by invitation only. After the event, the venue was moved to an online location since the excitement of a once-a-year event may not translate into motivation that lasts for an entire year. The online hub, therefore, aims to serve as a venue for stimulating each other and for sharing and commending each other’s achievements, even after the CX heroes go back to their own workplaces.

This means that the role of a CX Hero does not end at the MCX. As early as mid-April, while writing this article, I already received some new assignments from the event organizer asking about whether we are applying and practicing the things we have learned at MCX. The assignments are not too frequent and stifling, and it is good to have a sense of staying “loosely connected.” The continued interaction serves as a personal reminder and provides encouragement that others are also working hard. Everyone will meet again face-to-face at the CX Hero Hub in next year’s MCX, and those who have made stellar achievements will be honored on stage as heroes. The hub thus provides a means to continually motivate members.

MCX tends to be regarded as an event that puts too much emphasis on digital, like how marketing technologies are used, but it actually focuses also on people and areas that cannot be expressed in numbers, such as the difficulties of collaborations between sales and marketing. Participants have a common awareness that technology, after all, is simply a tool; and that the issue is not about the superiority or the inferiority of the tools used, but sometimes, what is more crucial is how those tools are used, how the problems are viewed, how the targets are set, or how motivated the members are.

Undeniably, however, data have become a key factor in determining success or failure of business. Data are essential in comprehensively understanding and building long-term relationships with customers and maximizing their lifetime value. And the latest technologies are crucial in fully leveraging those data.

Customer expectations are continually rising, and technology is what inescapably pushes these expectations higher. As Rob Tarkoff said, “70 to 80% of the sales process is completed even before the sales staff meets the customer.” There is, therefore, a heightened competition among companies to use whatever tools are necessary to visualize these components that are out of sight of the sales.

Data are indeed changing marketing and business.

Introduction of sessions: from Magic Johnson to therapy dogs

The following are some of the sessions I have attended.

In the storytelling session, video commercials of some companies were presented to examine storytelling and its connection to the B2B domain.

(You have to watch till the end to know what the commercial is about. See the YouTube links).

The speaker then incited great interest into how these examples, which were seemingly mutually exclusive with B2B, could be applied in the B2B domain, because they seemed to be very unrelated with each other. At first, he tried to forcibly connect them with the B2B domain, but as if giving up along the way, he left the participants to discuss among themselves for the remaining half of the session. And so the participants, receiving the baton from the speaker, went on to talk about their own storytelling stories: “the story and good content are not related,” “it is a means to re-connect with customers,” etc. It was as if the participants were creating their own sessions.

The speaker was Taj Forer, CEO of Fabl.

There were a total of 323 sessions over the three-day period. Even if you listened the entire day, you could only listen to at most eight sessions in one day. There were also various seminars, etc., so you actually end up missing most of the sessions; but one of the real charms of the MCX lies in finding these “gems” among the many sessions and seminars.

Earvin “Magic” Johnson

Next was the session featuring Magic Johnson, former professional basketball superstar. He spoke at the event as a businessman. He now manages various businesses, and has been hugely successful in opening cinema complexes and coffee chain stores. He is also co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team. “My determination to win is the same for basketball and for business,” he said. When asked about which of the lessons he learned in basketball have been very useful for him now, his response was unforgettable: “resourcefulness, readiness, and teamwork.” He walked around, talked with people in the audience, and made them laugh. You could almost feel how these lessons have made him successful in business.

This year, too, therapy dogs figured prominently in the event. There were more breeds, and around 7 to 8 dogs stationed in their area at any time. While there were some quiet sessions, the area where the dogs were was always lively. Clearly different from ordinary dogs, they were “professional hospitality dogs.” Two years ago, the MCX was also held in Mandalay Bay, but because this year was a joint event with MBX, the exhibit area was only around half of the area two years ago. Although some exhibit areas were clearly downsized, others like the CX Hero Hub and the therapy dog areas were evidently reinforced. It shows that the event is radically being improved every time.

The NGO Pet Partners running the therapy dog area

Of course, there were also rigorous seminars, such as those explaining how to operate apps or systems. Some seminars featured apps that are data-driven and are aimed at visualizing and understanding customers, e.g., an app that connects to the customer service system and displays a customer’s purchasing history and other behavior data when an inquiry from the customer is received, an app that visualizes customers 360° on all channels and devices, or an app for sales that displays in real time the next proposal to make and when and how to make it. AI, big data, IoT, and other latest technologies are playing a very active role in the world of marketing.

Sometimes the participants actually using the apps were more knowledgeable about them, and the speakers would get corrected for their mistakes by the audience. After most of the sessions, participants would flock and bombard the speaker with their unending questions, leaving the speakers with no time to rest. MCX participants were indeed very enthusiastic.

Markie Awards: testimony of exemplary achievements in CX

The Markie Awards venue. NEC fell just one step short.

The much-anticipated Markie Awards was held on the second night. Now on its 13th year, the Markie Awards, the longest-running and most authoritative awards in the digital marketing industry, recognize exceptional marketers for their stellar achievements. There were high expectations for NEC to win, but unfortunately NEC failed to take the prize also this year. Nevertheless, it was a great honor to be a three-time nominee for the digital marketing world’s highest acclaim. I heard that the scope of the awards has expanded, and the number of submissions is increasing several fold every year. For sure, the prize will come naturally if we continue believing in our own marketing strategies, working as one with sales and other departments, producing results, and contributing to profits.

To be honest, however, I think Japanese companies still have a low presence at the MCX. Those three days have been a precious time to directly learn and experience real cases from America’s marketing leaders.

*: https://www.siriusdecisions.com/blog/how-to-align-sales-and-marketing-summit-2018

(Photos of the Markie Awards, Rob Tarkoff, and Magic Johnson were provided by Oracle Japan)
(Other photos were taken by the author: Kawasaki Yukiomi)

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