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Oracle’s Michael Ricci explains why companies need to invest in customer experience

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Michael Ricci is the Master Principal Solutions Architect at Oracle. As a key contributor to Oracle's Digital Marketing Center of Excellence, Ricci works closely with enterprise customers to architect solutions to their complex digital marketing challenges, and unify customer data to deliver true one-to-one personalization across the entire digital customer experience.

In this two-part series, we ask Ricci to comment on mobile customer experience innovation, and the hurdles enterprise leaders face as they race to outmaneuver the competition.

Where do you think enterprise marketers should be investing today to prepare for the future of mobile customer experience?

I’m a little bit biased, but fundamentally, I think it’s all about data — and you’re seeing that play out in real time. Marketers more and more are trying to begin to bring together data that used to be in silos — be it a mobile silo, an email silo, a web silo, an analytics silo, so on and so forth. And they’re doing that because what they’re trying to do is understand intimately the behaviors, the preferences, the desires of the consumer that they’re trying to engage with.

If you look at the martech space, one of the hottest sectors today is the customer data platforms. This is because marketers have gotten over the notion that they need these complex, omnichannel marketing clouds. What they really need to be doing is cohesively bringing this data together, and orchestrating data-driven engagement that drives both engagement and conversion. Because inside that data lie all kinds of signals that allow marketers to create highly personalized and relevant consumer experiences. And candidly, this is vital for success in mobile.

If you think about it, mobile is arguably our most personal channel, and the ability to personalize the experience for the consumer is, honestly, table stakes for success today.

I’m starting to see a profound movement toward bringing this data together. And the brands that are doing it at scale — and by “at scale,” I want you to think Amazon, Netflix, Uber, Spotify, Pandora — brands like those are using data to literally disrupt the respective marketplaces they’re in.

What do you think the biggest hurdles are … be those financial, operational, or even shortcomings of mindset?

I think it all boils down to operational hurdles. And by “operational hurdles,” what I mean is, historically, what’s ended up happening is, marketers have embraced these best-of-breed solutions and they’ve siloed data. So in that sense, they are their own worst enemies. The process of breaking those silos down is tough work. And it requires a different mindset and a partnership with IT.

The last time we spoke, you said, “All marketing is digital; the largest majority of brands out there are still struggling to get their minds around this fact.”

What would you say are the indicators of companies that are on the path to growth, innovation versus those that aren’t?

We’ve become an internet-centric culture and consumer, if you will. You and I, today, shop on Amazon. We’ve become very reliant on the notion of going, finding the best price, getting that item shipped directly to our doorstep. That’s fundamentally changed the nature of brick-and-mortar retail. Look around you. We’re seeing malls close. We’re seeing brick-and-mortar retailers downsize their footprint, reduce the sheer number of stores that they have. And a lot of it is because of the digital disruption that’s taken place. It’s far more convenient for consumers to switch on and buy what they’re looking for online and, again, have it delivered to their house, or alternatively pick it up at kiosks at the local Whole Foods. So when you start to think about the digital consumer, the brands that are attuned to them, the ones that I just mentioned, are generating breathtaking results. The ones that are stuck in the mindset of yesterday — the whole thought that “I’m going to be in this mall” — are failing.

And the failure is: We as a society behave differently, and we’ve become accustomed to not only buying things over the internet but, increasingly, buying things on phones. I want to say, eight years ago, someone said “Consumers will never buy things on their phones. They’ll browse, and they’ll do research and what have you.” That’s no longer true. The statistics from Black Friday in 2019 show 39% of e-commerce transactions were completed on mobile devices.

Think about that for a minute. That’s breathtaking. That means the consumer has become super-enamored with the convenience of the mobile device, and is super-comfortable transacting there.

And a lot of that’s been made possible not just by smartphone technology but by some of the security that’s now built in there. When I decide to buy something with my Apple phone, it reads my fingerprint so it knows that it’s me. The consumer feels relatively safe transacting there. I think the brands that have switched on to that fact are changing and disrupting industries. The ones that are stuck in the old mindset, increasingly, are trying to wake up and get on with the program.

You mentioned earlier that mobile is a very personal experience: It’s in your pocket; you’re looking at it all day.

Can you talk a little bit about the challenges companies face, given that very personal connection? What are the “must dos,” and well as the bright lines companies should not cross?

It’s fascinating to me, working for a company that delivers email,  social and mobile experiences. The vast majority of marketers we see don’t have a mobile strategy. They treat mobile as a channel. They treat it almost as an extension of their email messaging program, and they approach it the same way — meaning that the same failed technique that’s been in play with email for eons, which is this notion of batch-and-blast email (i.e., you get the same email that I do) is how they tend to approach mobile. And then they wonder why they fail. They wonder why consumers aren’t engaging and/or converting on their mobile devices.

When you take a step back, it’s super simple to understand. If I’m a consumer, mobile is arguably the most personal medium I have at my disposal, and yet you’re treating me like I’m like everybody else. Candidly, companies are failing because the consumer expects you to leverage the data you have about them to deliver personalized relevance. Meaning that, on my mobile device, I have precious little time, so I don’t have the time to sort through all kinds of different options. I would prefer that you understood — through my behavioral analytics, through my transactional history, through a variety of data streams — who I am and what I’m looking for … and deliver relevant offers or experiences to me. The brands that are doing that are winning. The ones that aren’t, again, are trying to find a new path forward.

Check back soon for more insights in part 2, or if you'd like to dive into our Mobile Consumer Engagement 2020 report further, you'll find it here.