89 Degrees Offers Insight for Optimal Customer Experience

Recently, Loyalty360 spoke with Phil Hussey, Managing Partner and President at 89 Degrees, which offers strategic services designed to help brands efficiently design and operate customer management, communications, and loyalty programs. In addition to loyalty marketing, the company has specific expertise and practices in customer journey management, advanced marketing analysis, and marketing technology enablement and implementation. 89 Degrees partners with some of the industry’s leading best-of-breed technologies for tailored client solutions and also offers its own platform technology.
Hussey’s background is in market research, and while he performs the strategic functions of leading for innovation and growth as its top executive, he states that he “likes to keep his irons in the fire.” He takes a data-driven, hands-on approach to working with his brand’s loyalty partners.
Hussey’s background both influences and shapes 89 Degrees’ work. “We’ve done thought leadership pieces from time to time utilizing market research. We also use market research in some of our loyalty program development and other things” he says. “[These] get us into topics of interest that we think are going to start proactive discussions with clients.”
Hussey spoke with Loyalty360’s Mark Johnson about a new report titled “Consumer Perceptions of the Digital Experience,” available to read along with other valuable resources on both the 89 Degrees and Loyalty360 websites. The report highlights the fact that, while 80 percent of respondents use digital channels as part of their purchasing habits, the travel, financial, and automotive industries are lagging behind. Only 6 in 10 consumers use digital channels for travel purchases, and less than 50 percent of consumers use digital channels for financial and automotive purchases. In addition, the report states that only 9 percent of US respondents feel that digital communications and offers are always personalized. Finally, the report shows that millennials, and some Gen Xers, find more value in the digital experience than other generations. The full report can be found here.
So, the new report assembled through Lightspeed/Kantar—what was the genesis of that?
We had some specific ideas about the line of questioning we wanted to pursue, and leveraged Lightspeed to help us efficiently identify the target consumers from within their panel, and to capture all of the respective data elements to garner insights.
How did the study’s findings hold up against your expectations?
There were a few surprises, I would say. I was expecting a little bit more concern about data, and that’s why we asked questions like, “Do you feel like your data is being used in a beneficial way?” There’s been so much opinion out there about the latest breach and claims like “Marketers have been targeting consumers using data excessively.” So, there’s some of that sentiment resonating in the marketplace, but I think there’s equally or more strongly the sentiment that it’s not necessarily the case, that there’s a real benefit to collecting the data.
We did this study in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. I did a road trip with our SAS partners in Mexico City and Monterey, and we conducted some meetings with about 120 brands. We presented the Mexican results (soon to be released), and it was actually very interesting that Mexico is leapfrogging the US and Canada in certain areas, like customization and some others. That was interesting to see, and it was also interesting to realize that Canada was pretty far behind the US in some of those areas as well.
It was also interesting to see the differences by country and also by vertical. In particular, we saw that in some ways retail is ahead, but in others, retail is behind. When we talk to clients, we feel like retail is always the bellwether of where things are going, but if you look at it, single-platform things like streaming video or telecom that don’t have brick-and-mortar locations—they can actually get further ahead, because they don’t have so many channels to manage.
The one thing I did expect to see and wasn’t too surprised about was how much more positive and receptive millennials are than generational segments.
There are a lot of studies going through the industry and brands often have difficulty selecting the ones that resonate and will prove useful to them. How will your study be used?
When we presented this at the data marketing conference in Toronto before Thanksgiving, it received a great reception, and people were super interested. I think they could envision what these key measures might be for their own brands. For example, would their customers feel that their online and offline experiences “always, often, sometimes, or never feel integrated”? It’d be interesting for them to know what those results were.
I see the study as a legitimate benchmark, and it’s a way to say this is where it stands for this industry and vertical, but the more interesting subject would be, “How does your brand stack up?” and “How can your brand stand out?” That’s honestly why we focused on three or four primary dimensions: “Does that consumer feel connected, based on the different channels?” and “Do they feel like they’re getting personalized information?”
I don’t think most people in all their studies ever ask those questions. They ask, “Are you satisfied?”; “Did you like the product?”; but I haven’t seen many of these questions asked before, which is why we wanted to go out and ask them once and for all.
91 percent of companies say they haven’t reached “transformational business intelligence levels.” What does that mean and how do you reach that level?
My take on it is that it’s just like the stats that we’ve all heard for many years: 70 percent of all CRM implementations are failures, etc. etc. My personal perspective—and it was born out in the Gartner report—is that if you look at the reasons companies give for feeling held back, none of them are technology. They’re all strategy related, that they don’t have a comprehensive strategy that’s sold across the organization.
My personal observation is that marketers are always focused on the platform, wondering, “What can your platform do for me?” In all my experience, I’ve never seen a platform do anything for anybody. It’s how you use the platform and most times, if you look at all these things, there’s a parity between the platforms, so it’s really about how strategically you are using it.
Another thing we touched on is that marketers are challenged on how to demonstrate value and return on investment from projects. Whenever we’re helping clients with their roadmap development, there always comes this stage where it comes down to, “I need help with a business case, because I’ve got to prove that this is going to work.” I think that that’s another barrier within this subject matter.
Several insights can be gathered from the 89 Degrees report and from the Loyalty360 interview with Phil Hussey. Brands need to leverage the heightened acceptance of data-driven marketing among millennials and develop strategies to bring others, particularly boomers, further along. They should also focus on building up successful strategies to use technology, rather than hoping that a platform will be the silver bullet. In addition, industries lagging in digital experience purchases have a real opportunity to improve growth and revenue by refocusing on digital channels. Brands should also make sure to integrate across channels, double down on personalization, and improve real-time experience adaptation. By paying off the data collection with more relevant and integrated experiences, brands will enlist consumers and develop greater participation in data-driven marketing.

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